Avoiding the 4 Striker Party

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In the game I'm currently playing in, we all created our characters independently and ended up with a party of 4 strikers. We've managed to do already though thanks to multi-classing and very controler-like powers between all of us.

Now, it will soon be my turn to DM again and I have to recognize that we all love doing high levels of damage, to the detriment of other things. I will be sure that we get together to plan out the party roles but now comes this question: what can I offer my players to make the other roles enticing choices?

I was thinking about offering a house-ruled striker mechanic to all non-striker classes, perhaps playing off the primary role of the class so they get extra damage by doing their job.


Anyone else have ideas on how to avoid another 4 striker party?


EDIT 04/June

For anyone still giving their 2 cents. Turns out, when I got them all together to discuss their characters and party composition, they made a balanced team all on their own (1 striker, 1 defender, 1 controller, 1 leader).

Even when I offered each of them a bonus class feature from another class, they all took options to improve their primary roles.

Thanks for the feedback. Looks like we got this one down.
I don't see it as something to avoid. Regardless, you should be having a Session Zero before starting any new campaign. Talk about the tone and style, the campaign world, the kinds of adventures, the role of the adventuring party in the world, and the place of each character in that adventuring party. Only then will you be ready to start something new on the right foot. This may have the side effect you're intending. Or it might simply give more form and purpose to a new party of strikers. Either way, you'll have done it in a way that gets everyone on the same page and generates some excitement and buy-in on the campaign.

You don't need any house rules for this. And challenging a party of strikers is simply a matter of making the goal something other than killing everything on the map, then threatening that goal.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Independent character creation is something I don't like. Like everything else in the game, character creation should be collaborative, with people playing off one another. If you're familliar with the mechanics, tell them why they should have a variety of roles. If they still wanna play strikers, that's fine. Experience is a hard teacher, but a good one too. Throw balanced encounters at them, and don't be afraid to pull punches. If you do, they'll learn very quickly why four strikers isn't such a good idea, and will probably make the switch in time.
I have come to embrace the 4-Strikers party as a Player and DM.

Not useful to help your case, but to me the best status I can inflict on an enemy as a PC is "Dead" and slightly optimized Strikers can do that in no time.
With the plethora of Strikers minoring in Controller, Defender and Leader, my group and I found that the other classes are stricly for flavor and in a combat-intensive game can even be viewed as "weaker".

In terms of what you can offer the players to make other roles enticing, go for story or RP goals and purposes. Make it less about killing enemies as iserith points out and focus on skills and RP flavor. If the players feel that their strikers are overkill and do 150 points of damage on minions, they will realize that a leader or controller could do the same and have other options along the way.

They also might need to see what the other roles can actually do, and you can help that by giving them advice or integrate it in-game. A NPC companion controller that exploits terrain features with its cool sliding abilities, a defender that can hold an otherwise unsurmontable number of enemies when the rest of the group is trying to save peasants, just to give examples.

If all else fails, sit bakc and enjoy the 4-Strikers party, there is no wrong way to play D&D and have fun. Design appropriate challenges.
Independent character creation is something I don't like. Like everything else in the game, character creation should be collaborative, with people playing off one another. If you're familliar with the mechanics, tell them why they should have a variety of roles. If they still wanna play strikers, that's fine. Experience is a hard teacher, but a good one too. Throw balanced encounters at them, and don't be afraid to pull punches. If you do, they'll learn very quickly why four strikers isn't such a good idea, and will probably make the switch in time.



We've been playing for years now but this was one of those few times where we did character creation separately. (I wasn't DMing this time). And amazingly, we've been doing okay.

Between our Vampire multi-classing to get some Skald healing and my Blackguard/Sorcerer Hybrid using lots of controller/leader-like powers thanks to the Templar theme, and our Hexblade and Rouge also having a few lockdown attacks, we've actually managed to come out ahead without trouble.

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Regarding this next game:
Thing is, I want them to be able to choose their next class more based on style and not on damage output. Hence my idea to try to level the damage playing field.


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EDIT:
This is some pretty nice feedback. It doesn't answer the question directly but rather points to why that was even a question to begin with. I think I may roll with this.
Regarding this next game:
Thing is, I want them to be able to choose their next class more based on style and not on damage output. Hence my idea to try to level the damage playing field.



This is a simple matter of a conversation, not house rules.

Why can't they both have style and damage? I'm not sure what the goal is here other than "I don't want to DM for 4 strikers."

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
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Why can't they both have style and damage? I'm not sure what the goal is here other than "I don't want to DM for 4 strikers."



I'm okay with DMing for 4 strikers. I've DMed for a party of 3 strikers before.

My concern is making sure they'll have the tools to survive and deal with a variety of encounters, from balanced 1v1 skirmishes to big giant solo brutes to minion swarms.

When it was looking like it was going to be all strikers last time, I gave a free power or other tool to each striker for either survivability or crowd control.

I guess I was just thinking of doing the opposite this time: rather than have strikers with an extra set of tools, having a balanced team each with an extra striker toolset.

(It's my style of DMing to always do something extra with the PCs to where they have an item or power that's iconic to the adventure they're currently in.)
The DM designs adventures taking the abilities of the PCs into account; he should not force design on the PCs to account for his adventures.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I see nothing wrong with the party. Let the campaign build around them being 4 hardcore killers, and then have the campaign world respond by upping the challenge progressively until you find out how many extra monsters are needed.

Also, find other ways to resolve combats. Being a good striker won't help you against a monster with DR 500, or an infinite horde of minions, or a race out of a burning airship.  

Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.

The DM designs adventures taking the abilities of the PCs into account; he should not force design on the PCs to account for his adventures.



That's certainly one entirely valid style of play; the world adapts itself to whatever choices the players make so that everyone gets to play the way they want to play.

It's not for me though.  I prefer a model where the players adapt themselves to the world (within reason).  I find that players enjoy the challenge that this presents, and it makes for a more immersive experience.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and creativity seldom thrives when everything is served up on a platter.

So my advice is: don't worry about their survival; that's their job. 
I'm DM'ing my group through the published "Against the Giants" campaign, currently on "Steading of the Hill Giants."  And if there's one thing our guys love, it's min/maxing damage and finding exploits.

With a party at level 12, we have a thri-kreen monk that did 320 points of damage with two attacks, flurries, action point, something else...  An Assassin who rolls a handful of dice in damage, and a druid that phases while charging, shifts his speed away after doing it, and that rounds out the strikers.

These guys obviously traded defensive abilities for damaging ones.  Which works when they overwhelm the enemies in the first round (in one encounter the assassin dropped a daily to do 140 points of damage to a giant, one-shotting it.)  Some of the encounters they escape with little more than a scratch, but when they do get hit (in the fight with the chieftain) they feel it.

I told them that because of their ultra optimization, the only way I felt they could feel any stress or burn from the campaign was to run it from beginning to end without an extended rest.  Which is essentially as wizards intended it.

In my view, running them and challenging them is a game about endurance.  Because, what I want them to see, when the druid for example has 1 surge left after 4 encounters, is to maybe rethink their builds.  A great defense is a great offense and all, but sometimes you actually need to muster a defense.

That's just my approach to dm'ing optimized characters (and a party of 5 strikers and a leader).  Obviously they'll ace a few encounters, but the longer they go without that extended rest, it forces them to consider maybe saving a daily or two, or taking defensive utilities / items instead of offensive one.
In my view, running them and challenging them is a game about endurance.  Because, what I want them to see, when the druid for example has 1 surge left after 4 encounters, is to maybe rethink their builds.  A great defense is a great offense and all, but sometimes you actually need to muster a defense.

That's just my approach to dm'ing optimized characters (and a party of 5 strikers and a leader).  Obviously they'll ace a few encounters, but the longer they go without that extended rest, it forces them to consider maybe saving a daily or two, or taking defensive utilities / items instead of offensive one.

This is why I like to see time limits in every adventure. Give them 8 hours to complete a goal before it automatically fails, put in some travel, and they simply won't have time for an extended rest. They're not REQUIRED to kill themselves to achieve the goal, but if they don't choose that, they might not make it in time. That's ok; not even heroes always get there in time, and the adventure shifts to recovery or revenge.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Running a team of strikers can be a problem.  Talk about and address the issue, if they insist then let them.  Multiclass strikers tend to work well.


You shouldn't have do to anything to deter them.  How many skills are covered?


Diplomacy, Insight, Perception, History...if these type of skills are not covered by the group then might already be at a disadvantage.  Without the proper skills your party could easily fail skills checks causing them more problems.


Also saving throws could  be an issue too.  Unless well rounded the group could be dropped by a particualr type of enemy.


I'm not saying to exploit their weaknesses.  But this party should have some and they should come up.     


             
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Also saving throws could  be an issue too.  Unless well rounded the group could be dropped by a particualr type of enemy.


I'm not saying to exploit their weaknesses.  But this party should have some and they should come up.     


             



A good point.  If I'm getting this right from the OP, his party is a Vampire, Blackguard / Sorceror, and a Warlock Hexblade.  Depending on their builds I would assume their average fort defense is low.  Or will defense. 

And nothing makes a party regret low will saves like a monster that dominates.  Party of strikers?  Lemme know how it feels when one striker gets dominated into attacking another!

In terms of the game world they exist in, it stands to reason that if they become infamous enough, some kind of mind-controlling assassin might be hired to test their mettle.  Or poison them while they sleep. 
Also saving throws could  be an issue too.  Unless well rounded the group could be dropped by a particualr type of enemy.

I'm not saying to exploit their weaknesses.  But this party should have some and they should come up.



A good point.  If I'm getting this right from the OP, his party is a Vampire, Blackguard / Sorceror, and a Warlock Hexblade.  Depending on their builds I would assume their average fort defense is low.  Or will defense. 

And nothing makes a party regret low will saves like a monster that dominates.  Party of strikers?  Lemme know how it feels when one striker gets dominated into attacking another!

In terms of the game world they exist in, it stands to reason that if they become infamous enough, some kind of mind-controlling assassin might be hired to test their mettle.  Or poison them while they sleep. 



As I said about this particular group, through multiclasses and looking to cover our flaws with feats (at least two of us) we've been managing. Though a fitting end to the party needs to be worked out soon and we aren't opposed to a TKP in this particular situation.

Regarding the new group, I had the players get together first to discuss what they would each play and it looks like we'll have one of each role. No further incentives necessary.

All I need to do is explain to the guy who made a Sentinel Druid\Shaman hybrid exactly why having two companions looks good on paper but you won't actually have enough actions to command them both effectively.

It sounds like it could work well, just be sure that they have potions (either in loot drops or via shopping) and you should do fine. They'll still be limited by their surges, but it will give them more than 1 or 2 ways to spend a surge per encounter.
There are a handful of defenders that can do a pretty sick amount of damage, not to mention status effects or knocking enemies prone to help grant combat advantage.  You should try pointing that out to your players.  I would never encourage a player to go Leader or Controller.  In fact, I cringe whenever my players suggest they want to.  But there are some solid Defender builds that are every bit as fun and effective as a Striker.

Half-orc Brawler Fighter and dwarf Warden are amazing Defenders.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1

Since we don’t know your players we can suggest but without knowing everything you’re not going to get the perfect answer.


You have four party member as stated by you:


Vampire Multi-class Skald, Blackguard /Sorcerer hybrid, Hexblade, Rogue


The issue doesn’t seem to be effectiveness in combat, any by your previous statement it doesn’t seem to be skills or saving throws.  The problem is that you would like adversity.
 
  The problem 

4e is a numbers game.  A live monster is a threat, a dead monster isn't.  Damage is what causes the monster to die, you can use control effectss to stop a monster from attacking but its really a stall. 
 
Strikers are supposed to deal great damage and most of them do.  A Defender keeps a group alive to kill the monsters, the Leader gives benefits or hinders enemies long enough to kill the monsters, a controller also hinders enemies from being able to do damage.  Strikers get to kill monsters therefore they get the credit for the kill.  They get to brag about it at the taverns.  Defeating an enemy is good feeling and most of the other positions on the team do not give the same rewarding feeling.

 


Possible solution ideas


- You could waste the party.  Any DM can do this you don’t need to exploit their weaknesses do to it.  But if they might take it more of an DM assassination than a simple TPK.    You could study the weaknesses of each character or the group as a whole.  Some monsters working on concert can be devastating.


- You could introduce the players to NPC of other Classes, A Defender her, a Controller there, if you make them higher level and show them in combat the players could see what they are missing.  Perhaps if a player sees a High level Battlerager Fighter laugh off damage that would severely harm them they may reconsider the striker concept.  If you do this I suggest you select classes that multi-classing into them won’t give them the same benefits.  Also as already stated some classes do great damage on their own.

-  You could also do above but as a group, if they see a well designed group locking down and wasting monsters with teamwork they could see the benefits.


For example I ran a Keep on the Shadowfell.  The entire party made what they wanted to play.  Eventually they all got captured by hobgoblins.  I had the party made a new group but had them make them together and discusses group tactics.  They managed to build a much better party and liked it so much they decided to keep their new characters after saving their own ones.  


Currently my four friends and I are looking at building a group for RPGA we have the following: Warlord, Monk, Mage (Enchanter), Warden


The strategy is simple; except for the Warlord we all have some power that moves the targets around.  We herd them into a corner then the Wizard lays either Grease or Fountain of Flame (sometimes both).   The Warden marks as many as possible using abilities to lock them down or punish them for movement.  Warlord gives bonuses to the monk while he flies around the semicircle we’ve created taking down foes by the score.  Everybody has as job and everybody does there part. 

Thank everyone for your feedback.
Simply making sure they were all together when they discussed party composition was enough to get them into a balanced team.

Each player is focusing on their position in the group. So we have a defender looking to protect, a controller looking to lock down, a leader looking to heal and buff, and a striker looking to kill. :P

Thank again everyone.
Thank everyone for your feedback.
Simply making sure they were all together when they discussed party composition was enough to get them into a balanced team.

Each player is focusing on their position in the group. So we have a defender looking to protect, a controller looking to lock down, a leader looking to heal and buff, and a striker looking to kill. :P

Thank again everyone.



Sure thing, but don't thank us - thank Session Zero!

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

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