Paladin / Bard MC Needs Assistance

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The party I finally had the ability to join again contains: Dragonborn Warlord, Halfling Rogue, Dwarf Fighter and a Drow Ranger.  The party is obviously lacking a controller, but the Warlord has focused more on movement tricks than healing and the Fighter is as much striker as defender.  I was looking to create an Defender (Off-tank) sub-Leader to help allow the party to maintain sustainability.  The Warlord never seems like he has enough healing so the party tends to stay 'on the edge' as it were.  The real idea is to fill a mixed role of Tanking and healing so that the next person that comes in can take a true controller role or a striker/controller without any issue.  The Rogue also has a tendency to 'wander off' and get himself in trouble.  It's a homebrew so stats will be out of norm, but the campaign uses all the 4e material.

Human -- Paladin of Bahamut
Str 12 Con 16 (+1 level) Dex 5 Int 13 Wis 15 Cha 21 (+2 racial +1 level)
Skills: Religion, Heal, Intimidate, Diplomacy, Endurance and Arcana (Bardic Ritualist)
Level 1 Paladin Feature (Divine Mettle), At Will (Ardent Strike, Virtuous Strike, Enfeebling Strike), Encounter Power (Valorious Smite), Daily (Radiant Delirium)
Feats:  Bardic Ritualist (+Arcana, +Ritual Caster, + Bard MC), Devout Protector Expertise
Level 2 Utility (Virtue)
Feat: Arcane Familiar (Dragonling)
Level 3 Encounter (Invigorting Smite)
Level 4  +1 Con +1 Cha
Feat:  Virtuous Recovery
Level 5 Daily (Sign of Invulnerability)
Level 6 Utility (Wrath of the Gods)
Feat: Lend Health (Retrained to Skill Power at 8)

Items:
Flaming +1 Longsword, Dwarven Plate Armor +1, Ritual Book with lots of rituals

Planned Progression:
Level 7  Encounter (Resurgent Smite)
Level 8   +1 Wis  +1 Cha
Feat:  Adept Power (trading Skill Utility 6 for Revitalizing Incantation)
Level 9  Daily (Crown of Glory)
Level 10  Utility (Benediction, Cleansing Spirit or Winter's Arrival)
Feat:  Lend Health
Level 11  +1 all stats
Feat:  Swift Recovery
Level 12 
Feat: Improved Defenses

Questions:
Encounter 3 -- Invigorating Smite --  I like the bonus from weapon proficiency and attack on Will.  Is Hold Fast better overall though?
Daily 5 -- Sign of Vulnerability -- I like the radiant vulnerability, but without a Sunblade is it really worth it?  Is Name of Might better to help fill a controller option?  
Encounter 7 -- Resurgent Strike -- Too much focus on healing?  I'm just not a big fan of any of the other powers. 
Utility 10 --  Benediction, Cleansing Spirit or Winter's Arrival -- Extra Healing, more Save options or 
Paragon Path -- Hospitaler is good but I was thinking of going Adroid Explorer.  2 action points seems really, really tasty.  Any better options that you guys can think of? 
Does this look like this could work reasonably?  Am I focusing too much on Off-Tank/Off-Heals too much? 
A few initial questions...

It seems that all the Bard MC is doing for you is providing ritual use. Am i missing something?
If it really is just for rituals, there are better ways to get rituals and not use up your MC feat.
But if you do keep the bard MC, i'd grab the Bard of All Trades feat.

Dex of 5? I know you said stats may be off, but that seriously need to go, init penalties are bad juju, at the very minimum get the Battlewise feat in there asap.


Also i'd recommend Bolstering Strike over Ardent Strike. Ardent strike is good but it's generally for main tank multimarking, as a secondary tank, you probably shouldn't need it...
 

 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
As someone who has played a Paladin MC bard, I do have some advice. One, Invigorating Smite, although it looks good on paper, unless the DM spreads out the damage, by the time some people need that little bit of healing, others might be down and out. I would recommend Righteous Smite, being a little more proactive, and everyone loves temps.

Also I have to agree, Bardic Ritualist is not the best, especially if you are trying to be a secondary healer. I would go Bardic Dilletant. It at least gives you a daily heal.

Also right now at 6th level, you don't have a lot of healing. You have 2 Lay on Hands a day, Your Smite power (if you keep invigorating or get Righteous) If the party you are joining are always on the edge, i don't think you are bringing enough to make a difference, unless the party only does one or two encounters a day. Since you are going to trade it out anyway I might recommend Swift Recovery.  Encounter power allows an adjacent ally to use his/her second wind as a no action for your minor action. Until you get the mutlclass swap, that could be helpful.

Another note, 2 of your dailys are ranged, if you are in melee, you will provoke. Something to think about.

If you want to go with Resurgent strike as your level 7, might I also suggest that swap your level 3 encounter for Avenging Smite to put more focus on your off tanking (and 7 hp is a drop in the bucket by then) Avenging smite allows an off turn attack on an enemy that attacks someone but you. Stand next to the enemy the fighter has marked and you put it in a bad situation on its turn.

I don't know much about the level 10 utilities, as I took Mantle of Unity with my power swap, and have never looked back.  but at level 10, now that you have 2 encounter heals (although you need to hit to make one work) and 3 -4 daily heals, I wouldn't worry too much more about healing. If the warlord has no save granting, you might want to look at clensing spirit.

Also if your party is using themes, Guardian would work well for you. Boost your off tanking ability.

I hope this helps.

Dan



Bard MC is for ritual casting, gaining arcane as a skill and being able to nab Revitalizing Incantation at 8.  I do want to take Battlewise at some point, but I'm not sure when exactly.  I don't think that it really gets worth it until late; idk though, I've never been sold on the "needing to go first" aspect. Granted, I'd prefer to go earlier, but going off-heals makes going later a semi-advantage.  The main reason why I didn't go for Bolstering Strike (over Ardent Strike) was because THPs don't stack IIRC.  You bring up a really good point though on off-tanking not needing ardent strike as much.  Thanks Onikani.

I waffled between Invigorating Smite and Righteous Smite.  I chose the former mostly because it attacks will making it more likely to hit.  I strongly prefer Righteous Smite's ability, but I like hititing consistently more than I do anything else.   I should've explained why Ritual Caster is so important to me.  I'm very familiar with the DM and have played in many of his campaigns.  For the most part, they tend to be low magic campaigns (ala 2nd edition home games); as well, you don't often find that one special item you were looking for.  By going ritual caster we get a person to cast Raise Dead and get free access to the items we want/need.  I felt like a 1/day heal < Ritual Caster.  I'll go back and think about it some more; if it were an encounter heal I'd take it easily, but it's not that easy.  I'll have to look at things again and themes especially.  I'm not sure if we're using them or not.  Thanks Dan.

I'm going to take a look at what you guys said and talk with some other people on their opinion.  Any other suggestions? 
Going late is never an advantage.
Repeat: NEVER.
Especially for an off-tank - think about it. You want to get into a position where you can prevent your allies from taking damage, and then tank up and prevent yourself from taking damge. That is better than any kind of off healing you may do. 
Also if for some odd reason you actually don't want to go early, its still better to roll high and delay until you can get yourself in the exact perfect spot in the order.
I would probably drop the familiar for Battlewise, but if you really do want the Fam, then drop virtuous recovery, Resist all 2 isn't exactly stellar at this stage. 

As for the temps of Bolstering strike, its true they don't stack, Trust me tho, as an off tank you'll probably still lose them faster than you can make them. And if you don't... you have other powers!


Also, if the main reason you want to ritualist is to create stuff, then you may want to consider the Warsmith background. It lets you use magic item creation rituals...
One suggestion would be take Warsmith for your background, then take bardic dilettante, and still take the power swap later. It's still 2 feats, you get a daily heal now, and an encounter heal later, and you still can craft items. You'll lose out on raise dead, but hopefully you won't need it.


Overall i'm starting to see a bigger picture here, the combination of (presumably) rolled stats and low wealth/math are probably the reasons you guys are having such a hard time surviving; 4e system math absolutely depends on players getting specific amounts of gear at specific times. If your DM wants to run a low magic world, take a look at the inherant bonuses options, it fixes the math without relying on gear...

 
I'm currently playing a Paladin MC Bard with a three person party; we're currently at 11th level.  FWIW, here are my thoughts:

- At wills: go human!
- Encounter powers:  I use and love Valorious Smite, I use Hold Fast instead of Invigorating Smite (but I think either is a good choice for you since you have a fighter in the party), and I really like your choice of Resurgent Smite.  I've been using Divine Reverence (for the dazing), but both are good choices.
- Daily powers: all ranged; which I personally would never take on a melee character (especially combined with Revitalizing Incantation).  I use Majestic Halo (sticky), Hallowed Circle (good control and buffing), and Ray of Reprisal (damage prevention and off turn attack).
- Utilitites:  Virtue is amazing, and Revitalizing Incantation is good even with the AOO.  I have Benediction at 10th and I use it nearly every fight to heal.
- Paragon:  I'm a Questing Knight because I take the majority of the incoming attacks.  Take whatever you like, but I would take one or more of the feats and items that key off of spending action points if that if going to be your thing.
- Healing:  this is really a matter of play style.  I'm the sole healer in my party, so it's a bit tougher on me.  You basically have two choices:  multiclass Bard and swap for Revitaliziing Incantation, or multiclass Warlord and swap for Rousing Words then get some feats to support it.  Protective Scroll is an amazing utility at level 10 in Rune Priest, but that may be a bit too hard to wait for.  My character is a tiefling, so I will probably pick that up with Secrets of Belial.
- Feats:  I have Virtuous Recovery, and I don't like it much.  It saves me just a few points of damage each fight and has been a bit dissapointing; if your DM loves minions this could easily change, but I will probably swap it out next level.  I used to have Lend Health and I realized that I am just not doing enough healing to make it worth it.  Your dragonling familiar is cool, but it doesn't appear to add much to your build.  I have In Death, Life; which is some amazing party healing that is triggered by bloodying or killing an enemy and is linked to the Raven Queen.  Devout Protector is, of course, the bee's knees.  I'm pretty sure you can take multiple Bard MC feats, so you could pick up that daily heal with the shift (an excellent rider) and an additional skill.
- Initiative:  I agree with the majority that having a good init is good, but I don't think it is as critical for a leader/off defender.  Sometimes it is good to let the initial clash happen and go in there and mark, heal, grant a save otherwise fixing things so your strikers can operate freely at the beginning of the next turn.
 

 Initiative:  I agree with the majority that having a good init is good, but I don't think it is as critical for a leader/off defender.  Sometimes it is good to let the initial clash happen and go in there and mark, heal, grant a save otherwise fixing things so your strikers can operate freely at the beginning of the next turn.



He has a net +0 to his init at level 6! Going last is pretty much the same as skipping round 1 and going first in round 2.
Try to polish that turd all you want, but it's not something to strive for. Like was said before, it is always better to roll high and delay or ready an action. I agree that it's ok to let the strikers get the alpha strike, so the ideal init placement for the defender is after the strikers but before team monster (effectively ensuring the strikers are still standing in round 2). Going dead last means the strikers have taken damage and the party spends the rest of the encounter reactively trying to keep the strikers up. It is far better to get a tank in there early and be proactive about it...

I'm not saying that Init is the end-all-be-all of every build of every class in the game, just that his dice roll needs needs to be on the positive side of life. Devoting one feat to that should be enough. 

Luckily, we both agree that Virt Recovery isn't so great and should be dropped.
Let's get Battlewise in there, making his init a total of +5.
Ok let's face it, +5 init isn't amazing for level 6, but it is nicely on par, and he is netting a 5 point swing in init for one feat! And it goes to +6 at level 11. A feat granting a 5/6 bonus to init is better than Improved init's +4, and Imp Init is rated skyblue or gold in every class handbook on this forum...


FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
While I don't think that initiative is a 'do or die' for character effectiveness for a leader, it is definitely important for a defender.  When I roll crappy (notorious for rolling bad on init), I tend to go to leader mode and fix things that have gone wrong in the round, when I roll well on init I go to more of a defender role.

My paladin MC bard has Imperious Majesty and dex as a dump stat.  The rider power on that feat comes up only occasionally (if you hit somebody before they act, they take a -Cha Mod to hit you until the end of your next turn), but I have used it to effictively knock down an opponent in the first round (rider plus a mark).  You can attack me with a huge penalty, or attack my friends with a smaller penalty and some damage; crap. 

Another aspect of being the defender is enabling the striker(s).  Since my regular attacks do about half the damage as the party avenger (Painful Oath is crazy good), I try to get in there and set up a flank (or any combat advantage) for him to get that big damage landed.  I also try to use the small number of area effect damage powers I have to clear out the minions so they can beat up the tough guys.

Battlewise is a pretty awesome feat; I wasn't aware of it.
I do agree that depending on the leader build and party makeup, it is not strictly necessary for a leader to pump into a high init. But this quote from the OP... 



 I was looking to create an Defender (Off-tank) sub-Leader to help allow the party to maintain sustainability.

 

tells me that he wants to be a defender first and leader second, and Paladin (MC or otherwise) is a solid choice for this.
With a Dex of 5, and no init boosters he won't really succeed in early positioning (even as an off tank); this is why i have been so adamant in suggesting Battlewise for him.  

And yes, for the right class (cleric!) it is rediculously amazing.


FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
My DM is letting me rework things after this past session, but I only get 1 go at it.  Virtuous Recovery was disappointing at best.  Bolstering Strike seems like a reasonable option.  I'm not sure on Radiant Delirium vs Majestic Halo, but 2 ranged powers aren't really needed.  I do really like Sign of Invulnerability still.  I struck out the changes.  


Human -- Paladin of Bahamut

Str 12 Con 16 (+1 level) Dex 5 Int 13 Wis 15 Cha 21 (+2 racial +1 level)
Skills: Religion, Heal, Intimidate, Diplomacy, Endurance and Arcana (Bardic Ritualist)
Level 1 Paladin Feature (Divine Mettle), At Will (Ardent Strike Bolstering Strike, Virtuous Strike, Enfeebling Strike), Encounter Power (Valorious Smite), Daily (Radiant Delirium Majestic Halo)
Feats:  Bardic Ritualist (+Arcana, +Ritual Caster, + Bard MC), Devout Protector Expertise
Level 2 Utility (Virtue)
Feat: Arcane Familiar (Dragonling)
Level 3 Encounter (Invigorting Smite)
Level 4  +1 Con +1 Cha
Feat:  Virtuous Recovery Battlewise
Level 5 Daily (Sign of Invulnerability)
Level 6 Utility (Wrath of the Gods)
Feat: Lend Health (Retrained to Skill Power at 8)

Items:
Flaming +1 Longsword, Dwarven Plate Armor +1, Ritual Book with lots of rituals

Planned Progression:
Level 7  Encounter (Resurgent Smite)
Level 8   +1 Wis  +1 Cha
Feat:  Adept Power (trading Skill Utility 6 for Revitalizing Incantation)
Level 9  Daily (Crown of Glory)
Level 10  Utility (Benediction)
Feat:  Lend Health
Level 11  +1 all stats
Feat:  Swift Recovery
Level 12 
Feat: Improved Defenses

I'd like to go ahead and thank everyone who's made a comment on options.   I think I'm also going to end up taking the song of rest MC feat somewhere around 11 because giving +7 HP back per HS is nice.