Making the Best of a Bad Situation: New Players + Epic = Eep!

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So, it looks like my group may be getting up to two new members (by which I mean both new to the group and new to the game) soon. We just hit Epic (today was our first session at level 21), and we're loving the complexity and the challenge . . . but we're not sure if these new folks will. I don't know them very well, but I do believe they're decently smart people . . . but Epic is a pretty scary beast to take on when you have no system experience and you're pretty much starting from zero.

I want to be clear: I don't think having new players will be a bad thing. New friends are good, and the group could use a little expansion. The "bad situation" is not that we have new players. The "bad situation" is that the new players will be starting at Epic. And no, I don't think the group would be willing to start a new game down at Heroic, since we've been running this one continuously from level 6, and we're all dying to see what Epic has to offer.

Anyway, to get to the point, I'm wondering what kinds of classes will hold up at Epic without either being too much for newbies to handle or making them look boring and weak next to our mid-op group (who mostly love relatively complex characters). I don't want to just throw Essentials classes at them, since 1) my understanding is that most of them don't hold up very well in Epic, and 2) these people are just inexperienced, not stupid, and I don't want them to feel like they can't do anything as cool as what the rest of the group is doing. That said, I feel like giving them something too tricked-out is just going to be asking for trouble. Since I have no real firsthand experience with Epic, I'm asking for help finding a middle ground.

I have no idea what roles they'll be leaning towards, though I have a hunch at least one of them will be interested in a controllery-type. Here are some brainstorms I had for classes with a moderate ratio of complexity to functionality, but I'd love some other thoughts. I will mention that our current party is very big on off-turn functionality (immediates, AoOs, and granted attacks all feature prominently in our games), so that's what I'm really trying to calibrate . . . a class with very limited off-turn functionality (or no off-turn functionality beyond a leader telling them to smack something) will probably be boring when compared to the rest of us, but a class like a Swordmage or Warlord with the full suite of immediates will probably be overwhelming.

Controllers: Invokers are probably the most newbie-friendly (since it's so easy to build one that's totally party-friendly), though a Wizard with War Wizard's Expertise and War Wizardry might also work. A Protector seems like it could be fun, but I don't know how Druids hold up in Epic without Wild Shape, and I'm a little wary of giving a neophyte the full Wild Shape Druid.

Leaders: Runepriests and Shamans are probably too complex, but a Bard might be good if the powers are chosen carefully. I think if the newbies are comfortable with the PP system, an Ardent is a good mix of complexity and functionality, but again, I don't know how good they are in Epic. I'm torn as to whether a Warlord will be too complex, and as to whether a Cleric would be too simple. An Artificer might work, but I've never seen one in play, so I have no idea what they're really capable of, especially at high levels.

Defenders: Probably the hardest to manage in Epic, so I could really use some help here. Maybe a Chaladin? I've heard over and over that defenders just don't work the same way in Epic that they did in Heroic and Paragon, so my lack of experience is really working against me here.

Strikers: This is probably the easiest role to calibrate, based on how many conditional mods and off-turn actions the player feels comfortable with. I think a Sorcerer would be a good simple baseline, or maybe a Barbarian. Should be easy to calibrate, though.

But really, I'd like some ideas from the knowledgeable folks here. Obviously, a lot will depend on the preferences of the new players (for all I know, one might just fall in love with the idea of a class I'd ordinarily dismiss as too complex or too simple, and after I explain the disadvantages, who am I to stop them if they persist?), but having some suggestiions to lead off with can only help. My biggest concern is that I don't yet have a good firsthand understanding of how things change in Epic; if this were in Heroic or Paragon, I'd have a much easier time calibrating this, but I know that Epic is, well, different. I'm just not fully sure how it's different quite yet.

Any help is appreciated.
What is the rest of the party?
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
barbarians and archer rangers are both excellent throughout epic, and aren't particularly complicated. Archers are moreso, because they have multiple interrupts, but the triggers are really simple, and the effects are badass, so they'll learn to remember them pretty fast. 
Controllers: Invokers are probably the most newbie-friendly (since it's so easy to build one that's totally party-friendly), though a Wizard with War Wizard's Expertise and War Wizardry might also work. A Protector seems like it could be fun, but I don't know how Druids hold up in Epic without Wild Shape, and I'm a little wary of giving a neophyte the full Wild Shape Druid.

I would definitely suggest against druids.

There are some very solid wizard and invoker options that can be made newbie friendly. 

Leaders: Runepriests and Shamans are probably too complex, but a Bard might be good if the powers are chosen carefully. I think if the newbies are comfortable with the PP system, an Ardent is a good mix of complexity and functionality, but again, I don't know how good they are in Epic. I'm torn as to whether a Warlord will be too complex, and as to whether a Cleric would be too simple. An Artificer might work, but I've never seen one in play, so I have no idea what they're really capable of, especially at high levels.

Artificer / Battle Engineer / Spellshaper can be very straight forward, as long as the party is willing to have at least one or two people hang around you. And you can take some powers for moving other PCs, to make it easier.

I'd recommend against Bard. I feel it's a trap for newbies (too many ways to confuse yourselves with implement vs weapon, MC feats, etc, etc). Though it is possible if you help a lot. Valor Bard / Warchanter is awesome.

As always, Warlord rocks, and there are ways to make a slightly simpler one. It might be worth avoiding, say, Hail of Steel though, as requiring too much setup work.

Defenders: Probably the hardest to manage in Epic, so I could really use some help here. Maybe a Chaladin? I've heard over and over that defenders just don't work the same way in Epic that they did in Heroic and Paragon, so my lack of experience is really working against me here.

I'd recommend against having someone start as a level 21 defender unless they really know what they're doing. I'm a big fan of defenders in epic, and I play one as my primary character, but it's very easy to get disappointed if you're not used to the ins and outs of the system.

Strikers: This is probably the easiest role to calibrate, based on how many conditional mods and off-turn actions the player feels comfortable with. I think a Sorcerer would be a good simple baseline, or maybe a Barbarian. Should be easy to calibrate, though.

Barbarian and Ranger are all easy gotos without having to worry too much. There's actually a ton you can work with here - Rogues (Thieves), Sorcerers, Avengers (with a bit of extra work), etc. I'd definitely recommend striker for the new players, assisting them to get the relevant damage bonuses (typed damage, dragonshard, multiattacks, etc)

How familiar are the players with other roleplaying games (tabletop, video game, whatever)?
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
What is the rest of the party?



I left it vague, since I'm not sure if any of us will be dropping or changing characters in consideration of the new folks. That said, the party is currently as follows:

Human Runepriest, not very traditionally optimized (let me put it this way: my ED is Sage of Ages, and I wouldn't trade it for anything), but still fully capable of throwing out a steady stream of buffs and enabling a goodly number of attacks.

Kobold Rogue, pretty much the ultimate fifth man, engages in lots of permahidden AoO shenanigans and lots of party mobility through Evermeet Warlock.

Pixie Storm Sorcerer, pretty bog-standard thunder package with Voice of Thunder (houseruled to have Rolling Echo only get one "echo").

Thri-Kreen Brawler Fighter, uses a nasty combination of WSG and God Warder to inflict prone and restrained whenever he hits his grabbed targets, and pretty darn hard to escape.

Gnome Psion, Unseen Dread/Stealth build capable of both decent hard control and Warlord-style enabling (Forced Opportunity is godlike). There's a 90% chance that this character will get benched or retired, since both she and the Runepriest are my characters, and I don't need to be running two characters if we're getting two new party members—and I'm far more attached to the Runepriest.

That said, there's a chance that either the Sorcerer or the Brawler might end up morphing into something else if the needs of the party dictate it (as a group, we believe strongly that it'd be better for the veterans to adapt to fit the group than for the newbies to be forced into a role they wouldn't relish, within reason of course), so it's hard to say.
How about Human Slayer Adroit Explorer MC Barbarian Reincarnate Champion Gnoll? Should be fairly straightforward: charge with Rain of Blows, AP Rain of Blows.
i'd highly recommend making them both strikers, and i'll elaborate on why an archer is a fantastic pick as well.

an elven battlefield archer has excellent dpr with twin strike spam, can immobilize multiple targets with encounter powers or focus on even better multiattacks, can stun with dailies (that are still multiattacks), can negate 1 enemy attack/encounter (disruptive strike), and can tack on a huge immediate hit when an ally makes a ranged attack 1/enc. and he gets an action point every encounter, to keep things fun. if you want, it's very easy to build one to be better than a hunter at control, which makes losing the psion sting a bit less. ranger|seeker hybrid is extremely fun as well, if you want to focus even more on the control side.  

 
I'd avoid hybrids just to save on the 'class features only working on certain powers' complexity. You can get plenty of powerful single class characters without needing to add another level of bookkeeping for them.
A Beginners Primer to CharOp. Archmage's Ascension - The Wizard's Handbook. Let the Hammer Fall: Dwarf Warpriest/Tactical Warpriest/Indomitable Champion, a Defending Leader. Requiem for Dissent: Cleric/Fighter/Paragon of Victory Melee Leader Ko te manu e kai i te miro, nona te ngahere. Ko te manu e kai i te matauranga e, nano te ao katoa. It's the proliferation of people who think the rules are more important than what the rules are meant to accomplish. - Dedekine
How are Runepriests more complex than a Warlord or Bard?
The latter is nearly infinitely complex, and the former relies on knowing when to drop which hammers. Both of which are more complex than a class with few options, and fewer good ones.
Fiddly doesn't equal complex. 
10/10 Would Flame Again: An Elite Paladin|Warlock The Elemental Man (or Woman): A Genasi Handbook The Warlord, Or How to Wield a Barbarian One-Handed The Bookish Barbarian Fardiz: RAI is fairly clear, but RAZ is different That's right. Rules According to Zelink!
How are Runepriests more complex than a Warlord or Bard?
The latter is nearly infinitely complex, and the former relies on knowing when to drop which hammers. Both of which are more complex than a class with few options, and fewer good ones.
Fiddly doesn't equal complex. 



Runepriests can offer a lot to keep track of, and can be a bit much for a new player when trying to determine what is most tactically effective to throw down.

Not overly complex, but a lot for a total newb.
Regarding complexity, I'm thinking of play complexity, not build complexity. The veterans will surely be playing a big role in the creation of the newbies' characters. (We probably won't just build the characters for them, but we'll probably be doing most of the fiddly legwork.) I repeat that these people are just inexperienced, not stupid, but there's still a lot to keep track of in Epic, and I'm trying to find a good balance between "overwhelming amount of stuff to keep track of" and "looks boring next to the rest of us." Even fiddly can be quite a detriment when you're totally unfamiliar with the system and you're trying to fit in with a bunch of people who are way more experienced. I'm actually thinking a class with a decent number of immediates but not too many conditional bonuses would be ideal . . . the off-turn functionality keeps them engaged with the rest of the party, but they won't have to keep track of too much that's not already right there.

I'd really like some more input on defenders. As I said up top, I keep hearing that defenders end up playing very differently in Epic, but I'd love it if I could get some specifics (or at least some more detailed generalities) how that is the case. I don't think they're likely to end up in the defender role, but I want to be prepared for that eventuality.
Without asking everyone to restart the campaign, perhaps the group would be willing to participate in a few "flashback" encounters.

Whatever you decide to go with for their characters, make versions of them at...say...1st, 6th, 11th and 16th level. Then the rest of the group can make themselves some one-shot characters at this level - not versions of their existing characters. Then run one encounter at each of those levels.

This will help acclimate the new players to 4E, and help them see some of the fundementals about their characters. The veterans can try some fun one-shot ideas out. You might even give your DM a chance to get out from behind the screen for a change, and let another player DM these encounters.
Shoot to Thrill (maybe without all the magic item switching and stuff).  New people love killing stuff, you get to roll lots of dice, and the couple interrupts are easy enough to remember.  It also has enough stuff to help them learn how all their actions work, though they won't be severely gimped if they forget to Quarry or something.

Cry Havoc!  And let slip the hogs of war!

I'm actually going to vote in favor of Cha-paladin as a relatively easy to grasp Epic defender.

You mark a bunch of stuff to attract attacks.
You are hard to hurt due to high defenses, surges.
You punish mark violation with easy-to-remember no-action radiant damage.
Occasionally you pop an immediate to stack punishment. (Certainly no more often than an archer ranger!)

This is conceptually not that hard to remember, and avoids some of the needlessly fiddly parts of 4e defendering (like the Fighter's marked-enemy-movement-provokes-OA-but-that's-different-from-an-immediate mess).
I'm actually going to vote in favor of Cha-paladin as a relatively easy to grasp Epic defender.

You mark a bunch of stuff to attract attacks.
You are hard to hurt due to high defenses, surges.
You punish mark violation with easy-to-remember no-action radiant damage.
Occasionally you pop an immediate to stack punishment. (Certainly no more often than an archer ranger!)

This is conceptually not that hard to remember, and avoids some of the needlessly fiddly parts of 4e defendering (like the Fighter's marked-enemy-movement-provokes-OA-but-that's-different-from-an-immediate mess).



The Inexhaustible Dragon Sovereign is a good example of a pretty easy-to-use Chaladin.  It's tough and basically DCs/Sanctions everything every round until the strikers do their job.
Without asking everyone to restart the campaign, perhaps the group would be willing to participate in a few "flashback" encounters.

Whatever you decide to go with for their characters, make versions of them at...say...1st, 6th, 11th and 16th level. Then the rest of the group can make themselves some one-shot characters at this level - not versions of their existing characters. Then run one encounter at each of those levels.

This. It's just a really bad idea to throw someone into 4e at level 21. Like bad enough to sour them on 4e forever, or at least ensure they will not be having much fun for the first several encounters. I have seen this happen.

I can understand your group is excited for epic levels, but it wouldn't kill you to run a few sessions at lower levels.  If you want to mix things up, the rest of the group can actually play different characters that played a part in the new characters' rise to power. Have some patience and ease them in. I'm sure they will appreciate your patience and it will absolutely allow them to better enjoy the game as they learn it.

This will also allow them to put a little more feedback into what they want to do in epic, and allow them to take a little more part in the evolution of their characters. Playing your own character is a lot more fun than playing one someone made for you.

Basically, bring them in right and you have some new blood hooked on the game. Drop them unceremoniously into an epic level fight and they may be "too busy" to play in a few weeks.
We had a new player join in for epic gameplay, and she had played 3.5 but never 4th. She wanted me to make her a character, and I could have given her something easy, but since I knew her, her style, and what she liked, I made her something similar to the mini blender build (of which my DM nerfed down to where it is currently anyway). Not only a hybrid character, but an incredible complex one at that. For her, I knew that giving her something somewhat difficult would also force her to learn the most possible about the game, instead of just her character. Within just a couple months, she's a natural and can build her own characters just fine. Optimizing is still a bit difficult for her, but that only because of the sheer amount of stuffs compared to how lond she has been around to look at it all.
I agree about easing them in.  I played a sun warpriest in an epic one shot and that is a relatively simple class I was very familiar with and it was still a lot to take in since I had never played epic before and there was so much to keep track of.

If you are going to do epic defenders I agree that paladin is the best choice, probably Chaladin with a bunch of debuffs on its divine challenge.  Paladins still are actually defending well in epic and can defend against whatever the fighter ignores.

Clerics at that level can be fairly useful and are probably the easiest leader to play.  Either do something like a storm, domination, sun, or oghma warpriest (if you want more enabling) or a ranged build with party friendly AOE.  Morningstar battle cleric can also work well, though that may feel a lot like the runepriest you are running.  I think the AOE build would be fairly easy for a new player to run and you can give them a couple of immediate powers to make it interesting.  Warlord would be the other leader I would recommend since you can make a relatively simple epic one and still be very effective.

For strikers go with something relatively simple.  Bow ranger for range and barbarian or slayer for melee.  Maybe avenger for melee too.  Rogue would be a good choice too, but you already have one.

Invoker is a good choice for controller, but I would consider the pyromancer or envoker mage build.
We had a similar (if not as extreme) example in our group wherein we took on a new player in mid paragon that hadn't played ay D&D since 2nd edition.  We picked a role that suited his personality (striker), picked a class he thought sounded cool (avenger), and only gave him feats, powers, and items that added minimum to no additional tactical choices in combat.  The character came out pretty strong; feats and powers that add static bonuses tend to be the best ones.
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