Making the control wizard in 4e

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First, let me say this is currently a work in progress. Currently presented at 1st level with a little looking ahead.

Definitions
A Control Wizard is not about AoE damage. That's a Blaster. Control is about using status effects and terrain modification to limit the effectiveness of your enemies. Damage is a secondary concern.

Now, will killing a creature limit its effectiveness? Sure. But that's only an effective control mechanism at really low levels when monsters die pretty easily. As 4E turns into padded sumo fairly quickly, dealing damage fails as a control mechanism against everything except Minions - and as minions have 1 hp and virtually all spells do some damage, control wizards who don't focus on damage still don't have much trouble killing a bunch of them in one shot.

What control wizards do care about is putting monsters down and keeping them down until their allies can deal with them. Sleep is the premiere example of the control wizard ideal - it can potentially knock a monster unconscious and keep it that way until its allies are dead and it can be coup de graced. Now, that's not likely to happen given just the spell by itself, which is where optimization comes in.

Theory
The first thing to notice is spells which apply various disabling conditions, the most useful at 1st level being the daily Sleep, but others have some effects that we could care about. The second thing to notice is in order to maximize the effectiveness of a spell with a disabling effect a wizard must both hit the target and then get them to continue to fail a saving throw. As saving throws are now 50-50 affairs, this is as important as maximizing to hit chances.

There honestly isn't much we can do about to-hit except ensure we have a decent intelligence and hope our allies take some cool powers to help in this department. However, there are some feats we'll take a look at that might help here.

Fortunately, skewing saves in our favor is possible. The orb implement specialization lets a wizard 1/encounter make a foe take a -wis mod penalty to all saves against a particular power under which it suffers that was cast by the wizard. Bizarrely enough, wisdom is now *really important* for wizards, almost more so than intelligence. Yes, this only works 1/encounter against one enemy, but you should be able to get to a point where chances are when you put that enemy down they will stay down, making the combat much easier for team hero.

Some conditions are more desirable than others. Helpless is by far the best condition, followed by stunned. Dazed and immobilized both have their uses and are relatively common in the wizard's arsenal. Other possible useful conditions include slowed, weakened, and so forth.

Attributes
One of the things I've noticed about 4E is how much of the game is about attributes. As such, the attribute layout of the build is one of the most important decisions to make. For a control wizard, I'd argue that the following is the optimal attribute set (using standard PB).

Str 8*
Con 12
Dex 10*
Int 16
Wis 16
Cha 12

*can probably be switched with little downside

The cha 12 is important because when the character gets +1 to all stats then she'll have the 13 necessary to qualify for Spell Focus right away at 11th level, which will help with the penalizing opponent saving throws.

Int/Wis/Con gives you one decent stat boosting all of the defenses - as a wizard you can basically ignore strength and dexterity (as we passed up wand specialization), and charisma past 13 isn't important. More constitution would be nice, but we care a lot more about the intelligence and wisdom because that's where our offense is.

Dexterity may be a tempting distraction with Arcane Reach available. However, its really painful to get the dexterity necessary for it, and dexterity does very little for a wizard as a stat otherwise. Every point in PB is precious now. I recommend passing on Arcane Reach, and just choosing a good range of powers to reduce your need for it in the first place.

Races
Strangely enough, you want a race that's going to boost your wisdom more than your intelligence. Basically, each is a 5% shift in your favor either on to hit or on their saves, but you get to activate your orb ability *after* you hit, meaning as long as you've got multiple useful disabling attacks the limiting factor really is the saves - and we want to make it count. So wisdom is more important.

This gives us a choice of Dwarf, Elf, or Human. Elf is clearly a bad idea - we don't care about dexterity. Human lets us access the human feats (which are actually pretty good), but loses the boost to constitution. It also gives us another at-will power, which mostly means we can pick up something random like Magic Missile as we'll already have all the useful control at-will powers. Human and Dwarf are probably even picks.

Powers
There are a few things to consider with choosing powers. The first thing to look for is secondary effects - as a control wizard your job is to slap some sort of debilitating condition on the monster(s) to make them less effective. The second thing to look for is a diversity of defenses the attacks target. While defense scales with level, there is certainly variation within the MM, and individual monsters have weaker and stronger defenses. Being able to have a spell which targets their weak defense can prove to be really handy.

at-wills: Ray of Frost and Thunderwave give you the two at-wills that have useful secondary effects, which means some control in your at-wills. If you're human you get to grab some pure damage, ie MM, because everything else is crap.
encounter: There are actually a number of useful options here. However, both our control at-wills target fortitude, and sleep is a shoe-in for daily which targets will. This leaves Icy Terrain as the only useful reflex targetting control option for 1st level encounter spells. If one isn't as interested in diversity as that, Chillstrike and Ray of Enfeeblement are both decent options, and target fortitude.
daily: You take sleep, because everything else sucks. Your other option for your book can be any of the remaining - you're going to use sleep every day until you get better options, so your other pick isn't really that relevant.

Feats
Spell Focus is the only feat that really helps us with saves, and that's paragon level, so what we're looking for is feats that make us hit more often.

If we're human, the feat Action Surge gives us a fairly large to-hit bonus when we use our action point for a standard action, and a likely shoe-in. Other than that, straight up bonuses to hit are non-existent in the feats section.

The other tack we can take is looking for ways to get combat advantage. Wintertouched works with two of the powers i've recommended (Icy Terrain, Ray of Frost - could also work with Chilltouch), and gives you automatic combat advantage some of the time (for +2 to hit). It also combos well into a paragon level feat (Lasting Frost) to enable its conditions more readily.

Outside of that we're looking at general use feats. Improved Initiative is always good, and feats like Jack of All Trades or Linguist is actually mildly tempting (especially with the dearth of useful feats for a wizard). If you're human, you'll want Human Perserverance for the sweet +1 to saves. You may eventually be interested in Expanded Spellbook, but certainly not at 1st level, and given that virtually all your powers are combat options, having more options probably isn't going to be all that relevant (ie, without 3.x's crazy divination, you'll have to go generalist most of the time anyway). However, finding 6 (much less 7) feats you want before paragon tier is going to be really hard - here's hoping for a splatbook with some feats we'll actually care about in the not too distant future.

You can of course always set feats on fire for +1 damage, but you're playing a control mage, not a blaster, and +1 damage is so little you could forget to add it in and not even notice.

Skills
Choose some stuff. No seriously, it really doesn't matter. I'd probably load up on knowledges to be able to identify monster weaknesses so you can target low defense values. Avoid diplomacy - with zero guidance on proper DCs for various situations, diplomacy is magic tea party. So you might as well play magic tea party and not bother to roll.

Paragon Paths
While every wizard path is potentially of interest, the Blood Mage is by far the best package.

Battle Mage's "Battle Action" is pretty good to ensure you get that hit in, but his other abilities and his powers aren't anything really exciting if what you're interested in is control.

Spellstorm is playable, but its a type of control that doesn't benefit from our wisdom focus as much. Its best ability is the ability to get access to a power again, except what you really want is to renew a daily, which is hard.

Spiral Tower isn't the easiest to get into for most wizards (needing proficiency in longsword is mildly annoying), runs one ability off charisma, and generally seems more geared towards multiclassed characters than straight wizards.

By contrast, Blood Mage is absolutely amazing. Blood Action can turn your crippling control spell into a killer power simultaneously. Bolstering Blood would seem to just add damage, but its psychic damage which means it adds the psychic keyword to the spell. This is useful if you're interested in the feat Psychic Lock, which you probably should be as a control mage, as it lets you use it on any spell you want. And Burning Blood is the 'spend a healing surge to kill every minion in a 121 square area automatically' power. Which is awesome control through damage at any level, and the only type of damage-based control that exists at high levels (killing minions). And then there's the daily power, destructive salutation is simply one of the 5 best wizard powers in the PHB, regardless of level, and it stuns (save ends), which is perfect for a control mage. The Utility power isn't bad either. You may or may not care about the encounter power - highly dependent on what your party is doing.

Epic Destinies
There are two really tempting options here.

Archmage is the obvious choice, and has a lot of really great abilities. However, the best of them doesn't open up until 30th level, meaning you'll get very little use out of it. All the abilities are generally useful, and tend to make you more versatile or increase your staying power. The 30th level ability is power, but for such a short time its easy to discount it.

Demigod is the other good choice, and its +2 to two stats (int and wis for control wizards) is a great number boost that aids you in performing your role. You also get this benefit right away, meaning you'll be using the epic destiny benefit you really care about for most of your epic career. (and you get the satisfaction of turning into a god at the end of the campaign - no complaints with that). Demigod is the raw power choice.

The other epic destiny you can qualify for is Eternal Seeker, but given your strong stat focus on int and wis you really don't want to be selecting powers from many of the classes. If you haven't chosen to multiclass into cleric, you might search the cleric power list for some useful powers. But wizard powers often a pretty good control set - this seems to be a novelty epic destiny choice for a control wizard rather than something that usefully furthers your role/schtick.

Future Power Choices
In progress...

Edit: I completely misread Human Perserverance, its actually pretty awesome. Must've had 3.x on the brain. Recommendation changed.
Teeny quibble about diplomacy:

If you end up in a social Skill Challenge, the numbers will matter and the magic tea might not support your weight...
Teeny quibble about diplomacy:

If you end up in a social Skill Challenge, the numbers will matter and the magic tea might not support your weight...

Chances are if you end up in such a skill challenge, one of your knowledge skills will come in handy. Let someone else handle the diplomacy.
You might actually want a higher Dex than that for Arcane Reach. Thunderwave is a nice at-will, but it's also a close blast that hits your allies as well as you enemies, which means it can't be safely used from behind the defensive line unless you can use Arcane Reach to place it's origin two squares away. Arcane Reach also helps with Color Spray and the various Prismatic spells, as all of them have Close range targetting.
Not to diss thunderblast.

But I'd grab scorching burst over it. Having an At-will AoE sounds much more useful than a push strike.
Dumping 4 points in dex for arcane reach just doesn't sound worth it. Seriously. That's a huge hit to other stats we actually care about. We can wait until spell accuracy to use it while our allies are surrounding us, and move to minimize friendly fire until then.

And this character isn't about AoEs, its about hindering monsters. Dealing damage is boring. That you now have to do damage for most spells doesn't mean selecting spells which only do damage is of interest to all players. But if you're human you can seriously take whichever at-will spell you want as your 3rd one, because all the interesting choices are already taken. And thunderwave is AoE...
Teeny quibble about diplomacy:

If you end up in a social Skill Challenge, the numbers will matter and the magic tea might not support your weight...

Seriously, when the DM is making up arbitrary numbers he's probably looking at what your bonus is (or what the best bonus in the party is). So it actually doesn't matter if you take it trained or not - the party will have the same chance of making the check no matter how much effort you put into being good at diplomacy. That's the problem with magic teaparty, if you want a roll the DM generally spits out a number that gives you a chance of success and of failure based on your actual numbers, meaning there's no point in trying to specialize in it.
And this character isn't about AoEs, its about hindering monsters. ... And thunderwave is AoE...

Killing monsters does hinder them. When there are several minions on the table, 1 long range AoE can wipe out most of them.

If I made a Human Wizard, I would probably take Magic Missile, Thunderwave, AND Scorching Burst because then I have a Magic Missile for those Basic Ranged attack options, a Thunderwave for the Close descriptor (i.e. those times where shifting might get you into trouble), and Scorching Burst for minions at a distance.

Unless the PHB says that you can elect any single target at-will ability to count as your basic ranged attack (i.e. it isn't just magic missile that does this), not taking Magic Missile makes your entire theory worthless. There are things in this game that grant you attacks not on your turn. For instance, the Warlord might grant you an attack, without Magic Missile you might not get to use it. That is 2d4+Int damage lost.

In summary: Your rejection of raw damage because it is boring (especially when minions have 1 hp!) and rejection of Magic Missile make this a 1 out of 5.
Killing monsters does hinder them. When there are several minions on the table, 1 long range AoE can wipe out most of them.

If I made a Human Wizard, I would probably take Magic Missile, Thunderwave, AND Scorching Burst because then I have a Magic Missile for those Basic Ranged attack options, a Thunderwave for the Close descriptor (i.e. those times where shifting might get you into trouble), and Scorching Burst for minions at a distance.

Unless the PHB says that you can elect any single target at-will ability to count as your basic ranged attack (i.e. it isn't just magic missile that does this), not taking Magic Missile makes your entire theory worthless. There are things in this game that grant you attacks not on your turn. For instance, the Warlord might grant you an attack, without Magic Missile you might not get to use it. That is 2d4+Int damage lost.

In summary: Your rejection of raw damage because it is boring (especially when minions have 1 hp!) and rejection of Magic Missile make this a 1 out of 5.

You'll note that I think MM is a great 3rd power. I'm also not sure why you wouldn't be able to use any spell on a free attack since they're all standard actions... But perhaps I've missed something in the rules? Of course, I haven't read the Warlord carefully yet.

And funny, Icy Terrain does area damage and exerts control. You probably won't need more than that for minion control until higher levels. Thunderwave does area damage and exerts control. What's so impressive about something that does *just* damage. When you only have to do one point, and virtually everything does damage, I'm not concerned about taking a power who's only feature is area damage when i can have area damage and control at the same time.
Some warlord abilities specify melee attack, others don't.
It's not that bad to get the Dex for Arcane Reach if you aren't human. Instead be either Elf or Eladrin (whether you prefer Wis or Int):

Base Stats:
Str: 8
Con: 10
Dex: 12
Int: 16
Wis: 16
Cha: 12

Once you hit 11, your Dex will be bumped to 15 and your Cha to 13 for their respective feats.
It's not that bad to get the Dex for Arcane Reach if you aren't human. Instead be either Elf or Eladrin (whether you prefer Wis or Int):

Base Stats:
Str: 8
Con: 10
Dex: 12
Int: 16
Wis: 16
Cha: 12

Once you hit 11, your Dex will be bumped to 15 and your Cha to 13 for their respective feats.

I'd rather have the +1 fortitude defense from 12 Con, not to mention the extra hp and other benefits. (And heck, human for another +1 fortitude defense).

Seriously, when you're virtually guaranteed to be on the RNG, shoring up defense is really important. (And by the time you have access to Arcane Reach you have enough spell options you really don't need it).
You'll note that I think MM is a great 3rd power. I'm also not sure why you wouldn't be able to use any spell on a free attack since they're all standard actions... But perhaps I've missed something in the rules? Of course, I haven't read the Warlord carefully yet.

Some powers specify BASIC attacks, as opposed to powers.
That is really sad what happens to wizz in 4th edition... almost all important spells are gone and only left damage ones(low dmg btw).

My guess about the wizard class is to use the few utility spells left. Especially the ones that deal with ground/grid control and movement.

- Ice wall(ice wall cage can hold 4 medium size creatures - 50hp per square - continual damage)
- Fire wall(continual damage)
- All spells that make "dificult movement"(web, ice terrain)
- Clouds(continual damage)
- Push and slides
(Note that the majority of these dmg do not need atack roll... so it is a quite safe kind of damage)

The idea is to never let an enemy reach you(since many of the 4e combat options are based to slide/push) while you do area continual damage.

But if the enemy fly... well.... at least you can take a raise dead scroll with you... in the hope that a good soul passes by.
Seriously, when the DM is making up arbitrary numbers he's probably looking at what your bonus is (or what the best bonus in the party is). So it actually doesn't matter if you take it trained or not - the party will have the same chance of making the check no matter how much effort you put into being good at diplomacy. That's the problem with magic teaparty, if you want a roll the DM generally spits out a number that gives you a chance of success and of failure based on your actual numbers, meaning there's no point in trying to specialize in it.

Actually there are guidelines in the DMG, rules about such things. Easy, medium, and hard are defined by the rules to be certain values. As such, it isn't completely off the top of the DM's head, as if he actually follows the rules for easy, medium, and hard, you know the DCs you're shooting for (15, 20, 25 in the case of first level characters; 30, 34, and 38 for 28th-30th level ones). That is to say, if he wants to make a hard diplomacy check, he can simply reference the table and spit out that number.

So it uh, does make a difference if they actually follow, you know, the rules. Which we do, being the character optimization forum.
Actually there are guidelines in the DMG, rules about such things. Easy, medium, and hard are defined by the rules to be certain values. As such, it isn't completely off the top of the DM's head, as if he actually follows the rules for easy, medium, and hard, you know the DCs you're shooting for (15, 20, 25 in the case of first level characters; 30, 34, and 38 for 28th-30th level ones). That is to say, if he wants to make a hard diplomacy check, he can simply reference the table and spit out that number.

So it uh, does make a difference if they actually follow, you know, the rules. Which we do, being the character optimization forum.

So, at 1st level we're just making a cha check, and that'll require a 14 to make with a +1 cha mod. By 30th level we have Jack of All Trades and a +2 cha mod, giving us +19 for an 11 to make the DC 30. Do we want to try for the DC 38? Not really, but the extra +3 (+5 -2 not using Jack of All Trades) for being trained wouldn't actually help much. Lets face it, you need a massive cha mod to have a good chance at making the recommended DCs. So wizards just aren't going to care about diplomacy in general.

Its still magic tea party even with those guidelines because there's no guidance as to what's a hard or easy task with diplomacy. The DM just chooses at random or on a whim. There's no way to predict what any DC is going to be. You're seriously better off roleplaying it than asking for a roll.

Aside:
Further, the idea that the DCs auto-scale with level is really stupid. If you convinced the king to help you 5 levels ago with DC 20, why is he suddenly DC 23 (assuming a request of similar magnitude). Heck, you might very well assume he'd get easier to sweet talk if you've been on good terms with him, not harder.

In general, the very idea of 'running in place' with 4E skills is moronic from a world design standpoint. There should be clear absolute numeric benchmarks for various things. Now, should Diplomacy DCs scale somehow? Probably. But it should be based on the *level of the person you're trying to convince*, not your level. Why does it get harder to convince people because *you* got more awesome? Where's the sense in that? Its like getting worse instead of getting better.

However, given the rules as they are, I see no reason to *ever* ask the DM for a diplomacy roll unless my character has a massive cha modifier (eg, because he's a warlock). And if the party has to make a roll I'll leave it to the face, because he actually has a chance of succeeding that isn't awful.
Its still magic tea party even with those guidelines because there's no guidance as to what's a hard or easy task with diplomacy. The DM just chooses at random or on a whim. There's no way to predict what any DC is going to be. You're seriously better off roleplaying it than asking for a roll.

ALL roleplaying situations are ultimately arbitrary. Period. That's the point of roleplaying.

Further, the idea that the DCs auto-scale with level is really stupid. If you convinced the king to help you 5 levels ago with DC 20, why is he suddenly DC 23 (assuming a request of similar magnitude). Heck, you might very well assume he'd get easier to sweet talk if you've been on good terms with him, not harder.

No. The point is that you're facing greater and greater challenges as you level up. Your argument is this:

At higher levels, monsters should be weaker relative to your party.

You notice the horrible fallacy there?

Skills should be the same as monsters - always challenging, and certain levels of success and failure make people happier. Running in place is entirely appropriate because it keeps the balance of the game intact.

When you're gaining levels you aren't doing the exact same stuff; that's the point. You're doing bigger and better things. You're convincing the king that those raiders you told him about three months ago were actually financed by the financial minister in an attempt to discredit him; you aren't convincing him you need help with yet another set of raiders unless those new raiders are all the more dangerous and likely to kill many of his men if he sends them out to defend his kingdom. You're doing harder tasks.

And yes, maybe helping him in the past DOES help you out. Then again, maybe it doesn't outweigh the fact that these are giant flaming elementals, not badly-shaven human bandits.

In general, the very idea of 'running in place' with 4E skills is moronic from a world design standpoint. There should be clear absolute numeric benchmarks for various things. Now, should Diplomacy DCs scale somehow? Probably. But it should be based on the *level of the person you're trying to convince*, not your level. Why does it get harder to convince people because *you* got more awesome? Where's the sense in that? Its like getting worse instead of getting better.

The people you are trying to convince are getting higher level, or you're trying to convince people of things which are much harder to convince them to do. Trivial things of trivial DC aren't even worth rolling for. These are the challenges appropriate to your heroes, not the challenges appropriate for you ten levels ago.

You're basically missing out on the fact that this is the way things must work to keep the game balanced and fun. Fun, you remember that? The thing the game is supposed to be?

However, given the rules as they are, I see no reason to *ever* ask the DM for a diplomacy roll unless my character has a massive cha modifier (eg, because he's a warlock). And if the party has to make a roll I'll leave it to the face, because he actually has a chance of succeeding that isn't awful.

Except you can't, because skill challenges involve the whole party. That's the beauty of skill challenges; you can't leave it to the face, you're going to be needed as well.
No. The point is that you're facing greater and greater challenges as you level up. Your argument is this:

At higher levels, monsters should be weaker relative to your party.

You notice the horrible fallacy there?

Nice strawman. Now lets be reasonable.

You should certainly have some new harder challenges each level, but you'll also end up doing certain things over and over again.

For instance, lets say you've got a bugbear in your party, and every time you go to a new town you need to convince the local populace not to lynch him. This should be a fixed DC with circumstance modifiers if a particular town has suffered egregiously at bugbear hands - as you go up in level you should become better at convincing the locals that your buddy is actually hero for two reasons: (1) hopefully he actually is a hero, and people might have heard of him ('this is Jophan. You've heard of him'). (2) You're getting better at convincing people of things. Now, these aren't really challenges that are worth xp necessarily - although the first couple times might be - but these are things where you don't want it to just be automatic for a little while. And some time you will have to enter a town bugbears just made a mess of, and then you have a challenging task to convince them your buddy is a hero, but most of the time it just isn't that hard.

Skills should be the same as monsters - always challenging, and certain levels of success and failure make people happier. Running in place is entirely appropriate because it keeps the balance of the game intact.

Characters should have some feeling of advancing. Certain tasks should in general get easier, and newer harder tasks should present themselves. This doesn't mean that they stop doing the old things all the time, and they can get a sense of accomplishment by doing those tasks with greater ease. This is how players know their character is being rewarded for leveling.

Skill checks should not always be challenging - that trivializes the actual hard situations. I mean, by analogy to the diplomacy assumed system, a thief could buy a lock to practice on at 1st level, and it would be of some difficulty. Five levels later its just as hard. 15 levels later its just as hard. It never gets easier because the DC keeps scaling, despite being the same lock. And that's stupid. Now, lock DCs don't actually work that way, but we can all agree it would be really stupid if they did. Similarly, diplomacy. Because sometimes you want to just make sure you don't insult the King's cousin, and that really shouldn't be challenging for a 15th level character. Sometimes you just want to remember which fork to use first, and while that could be a challenge for a 1st level character, by 10th level that same character probably doesn't automake the check the 1st level character was challenged by, but it hardly even qualifies as an 'easy' challenge and certainly shouldn't have a higher DC than it did before.

And monsters aren't always challenging. New monsters are challenging, old monsters get easier. Skills should work the same.

When you're gaining levels you aren't doing the exact same stuff; that's the point. You're doing bigger and better things. You're convincing the king that those raiders you told him about three months ago were actually financed by the financial minister in an attempt to discredit him; you aren't convincing him you need help with yet another set of raiders unless those new raiders are all the more dangerous and likely to kill many of his men if he sends them out to defend his kingdom. You're doing harder tasks.

And yes, maybe helping him in the past DOES help you out. Then again, maybe it doesn't outweigh the fact that these are giant flaming elementals, not badly-shaven human bandits.

The people you are trying to convince are getting higher level, or you're trying to convince people of things which are much harder to convince them to do. Trivial things of trivial DC aren't even worth rolling for. These are the challenges appropriate to your heroes, not the challenges appropriate for you ten levels ago.

You're basically missing out on the fact that this is the way things must work to keep the game balanced and fun. Fun, you remember that? The thing the game is supposed to be?

What about 'same magnitude' didn't you understand? You often do attempt tasks of the same difficulty over the course of multiple levels. Its why heroic tier locks are always DC20. That's why most skills have set DCs for various things, or their DCs scale based on the target of the DC - when you encounter multiple weaker opponents its ok if its easier to use a skill on them.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be level appropriate challenges using a skill. I'm saying there should be other challenges which aren't quite trivial, but which are easier than they would have been.

Its not even like a diplomacy test makes for an interesting challenge. There is no social system. There's nothing about what the effects of passing a diplomacy check are - completely arbitrary. How difficult a particular request should be is arbitrary. There is no system here, so talking about the DMG guidelines creating some sort of balance is ridiculous because we don't know what kinds of actions require a diplomacy check and what kind of success you enjoy for making one. Does the princess kiss you or take you to her room? Who knows. Hello magic tea party.

Except you can't, because skill challenges involve the whole party. That's the beauty of skill challenges; you can't leave it to the face, you're going to be needed as well.

Uh.... huh? Assume that you're trying to persuade a mob not to lynch your buddy, and that a successful diplomacy check means they don't (a big assumption, as we don't actually know what a diplomacy success means). Someone steps out and talks to the mob - what's the rest of the party doing? No, really. Furthermore, you're making it sound like everyone better be trained in every skill or else you're doomed. As that is quite frankly not possible, and you'll never have a good shot at a hard DC without a good attribute bonus on that skill check, specialization is essential. A Cha 12 character isn't going to be able to do hard diplomacy checks at 20+ level effectively, even if its trained.

And why must every skill use be a 'skill challenge'. Skills get used all the time. They should get used whenever the situation warrants it, not just in some artificial 'challenge' scenario.

So to clarify, when i say running in place is stupid, i mean its stupid that *all* diplomacy checks apparently scale to your level. To get a sense of advancement/accomplishment some checks should get easier (keep same DC), and you'll be faced with new checks that are level appropriate to your new level. You face new checks that are just as hard to make - but that's not running in place, those are new things. Doing what you did 5 levels ago should not get harder, however, it should remain just as hard (and therefore you got better at doing it), just like fighting the monsters you fought 5 levels ago is easier now than it was then.

Edit: Btw, we are now seriously off topic
There are things in this game that grant you attacks not on your turn. For instance, the Warlord might grant you an attack, without Magic Missile you might not get to use it. That is 2d4+Int damage lost.

If the warlord is giving me the free action then the ranger, rogue and fighter are already dead, so it doesnt really matter if I have mm or not. :P

Im also firmly in the camp that's dissapointed to see wizards have basically been reduced to blasters with secondary effects. I loved my 3.5 wizard who literally had no means of doing damage. Now everyone is a damage dealer, only difference being what our secondary effects do... Bleh.
If the warlord is giving me the free action then the ranger, rogue and fighter are already dead, so it doesnt really matter if I have mm or not. :P

Im also firmly in the camp that's dissapointed to see wizards have basically been reduced to blasters with secondary effects. I loved my 3.5 wizard who literally had no means of doing damage. Now everyone is a damage dealer, only difference being what our secondary effects do... Bleh.

Warlords can do stuff that gives everyone else an attack, not just a single person. And what if no one else is in a feasible position to use the attack?

Sure Wizards do damage now, but they still debuff like crazy when you take into account Orb of Imposition (Wis more important than Int? This is madness! No, this is 4th Edition!), Spell Focus, and a possible paragon path.
Warlords can do stuff that gives everyone else an attack, not just a single person. And what if no one else is in a feasible position to use the attack?

Then he shouldnt be using the power until a striker is in position. I'm sorry, MM is not good enough to justify taking just so in the event a warlord happens to be in your party and is dumb enough to give you an extra attack that attack doesnt go to waste. And if he has a power that gives everyone an attack, I'll probably carry a bow.
Then he shouldnt be using the power until a striker is in position. I'm sorry, MM is not good enough to justify taking just so in the event a warlord happens to be in your party and is dumb enough to give you an extra attack that attack doesnt go to waste. And if he has a power that gives everyone an attack, I'll probably carry a bow.

And just how will you use the bow? Your hands will be full with your implement, unless you want to drop it. But oh wait, you still won't be able to draw unless you use a feat on Quick Draw as well. For a Human, there is absolutely no reason NOT to take Magic Missile, and a Human Wizard with the +2 stat in Wis is pretty decent indeed.
Skill challenges
Nice strawman. Now lets be reasonable.

It isn't a strawman. That's exactly what you're advocating.

For instance, lets say you've got a bugbear in your party, and every time you go to a new town you need to convince the local populace not to lynch him.

We're positing we're in a campaign with a bad DM, here? C'mon. If you let a bugbear in the party, this shouldn't happen; if this would happen, then you need to not allow the bugbear because the bugbear is inappropriate for the campaign.

Every town is just unreasonable. It is okay for the odd town to be racist, but why especially penalize a character of a given race for no real reason?

Characters should have some feeling of advancing. Certain tasks should in general get easier, and newer harder tasks should present themselves. This doesn't mean that they stop doing the old things all the time, and they can get a sense of accomplishment by doing those tasks with greater ease. This is how players know their character is being rewarded for leveling.

Thing is, you -are- better - the problem is that outside of certain skills, you're looking at something you're "past". At low levels, it is hard to talk your way to the king, and even harder to convince him you matter; now you can talk to the king (the advisers are easily swayed to give you an appointment) but your demands are much less reasonable because the situation is much less reasonable, and you have to convince the king to fight those frost giants instead of pretending they aren't stomping across the northern quarter of his kingdom.

This is not how you are rewarded for levelling is the problem. A skill which you succeed on on a three is pretty trivial - if you succeed, why did you even roll, you were awesome anyway? And if you fail, then you feel stupid.

Skill checks should not always be challenging - that trivializes the actual hard situations.

If a skill check isn't challenging, then why make the skill check at all? This is the problem - it doesn't enhance the game.

I mean, by analogy to the diplomacy assumed system, a thief could buy a lock to practice on at 1st level, and it would be of some difficulty. Five levels later its just as hard. 15 levels later its just as hard. It never gets easier because the DC keeps scaling, despite being the same lock.

The problem is that this IS a strawman, one I specifically set fire to. You aren't DOING the same thing over and over again. Now when you're convincing the king, you're convincing him of something harder, or worse for him, or you're convining a minor deity or some powerful archon. You aren't doing the same thing over and over again.

That lock is trivial ten levels later, and convincing the mayor of the town you were in at level 1 of the same thing you convinced him of at level 1 is a trivial task not even worthy of being rolled.

Sometimes you just want to remember which fork to use first, and while that could be a challenge for a 1st level character, by 10th level that same character probably doesn't automake the check the 1st level character was challenged by, but it hardly even qualifies as an 'easy' challenge and certainly shouldn't have a higher DC than it did before.

You may not automatically make the check by the numbers, but you shouldn't roll it - it is a trivial task, and if you fail, again, you feel stupid, not like you're having fun.

And monsters aren't always challenging. New monsters are challenging, old monsters get easier. Skills should work the same.

And here's your problem:

Skills are monsters.

You aren't fighting the same monsters, you're fighting new monsters.

You aren't doing the same thing, you're doing a new thing.

That's the point.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be level appropriate challenges using a skill. I'm saying there should be other challenges which aren't quite trivial, but which are easier than they would have been.

Here's what you don't understand:

You're wrong.

Just think about this. You're saying you should fight trivial encounters now and again. But I've found that when I toss trivial encounters at players, they don't feel like they've progressed; their feeling is not of satisfaction, but that they wasted the last half hour doing something which was a foregone conclusion.

A thief with a +6 dexterity, training, and 16 levels has a +19 bonus to his skill check. That DC 20 lock is unlocked no matter what he rolls. At this point, if he breaks into some commoner's house, I just assume he succeeds. I don't care, even if his bonus is only 17; it just isn't worth the roll (and the chance of failure) because it isn't interesting.

Its not even like a diplomacy test makes for an interesting challenge. There is no social system. There's nothing about what the effects of passing a diplomacy check are - completely arbitrary. How difficult a particular request should be is arbitrary. There is no system here, so talking about the DMG guidelines creating some sort of balance is ridiculous because we don't know what kinds of actions require a diplomacy check and what kind of success you enjoy for making one. Does the princess kiss you or take you to her room? Who knows. Hello magic tea party.

Here's your problem:

At the core, the system is nothing but a mathematical one. The ideal rate of success for people to maximize enjoyment is X. Therefore, you should aim for X at all levels. If something isn't near X, then it is either too difficult and shouldn't be done or too easy and doesn't need to be rolled for.

The point of a game is to have fun. Having a certain challenge level is ideal for that fun.

What you don't understand is that there is no magic tea party; the system is very mathematical in nature in terms of DCs.

Roleplaying is meant to be open-ended, so the suggested DCs with Diplomacy do exactly what they're supposed to do: give the players and DM some rough idea of how hard this task is.

Crunch is the foe of roleplaying, but the friend of game. You need a balance of the two in a roleplaying game. As combat is crunch heavy, non-combat needs to be fluffier. That's just the way things go. You could have it be the other way around, or have it be roughly equivalent, as Alternity does. More to the point, the system is fine because you can't readily QUANTIFY emotion; previous systems showed why that just didn't work.

All you ultimately want a diplomatic scenario to be, in terms of crunch, is a fun overlay of characters debating with NPCs, convincing them in various interesting ways, with the underlying dice rolling being a fair way to arbitrate how much of what the PCs want, the PCs get. It will ultimately ALWAYS come down to DM fiat; if I don't want the PCs convincing the king, I'll just make him level 30, but that's stupid. And heck, why should higher level characters be harder to convince in the first place? Its really about what you want.

Uh.... huh? Assume that you're trying to persuade a mob not to lynch your buddy, and that a successful diplomacy check means they don't (a big assumption, as we don't actually know what a diplomacy success means). Someone steps out and talks to the mob - what's the rest of the party doing? No, really. Furthermore, you're making it sound like everyone better be trained in every skill or else you're doomed. As that is quite frankly not possible, and you'll never have a good shot at a hard DC without a good attribute bonus on that skill check, specialization is essential. A Cha 12 character isn't going to be able to do hard diplomacy checks at 20+ level effectively, even if its trained.

Thing is, this isn't a skill check, flat up, do you convince the mob yes or no. That's lame. This is a great instance of a skill challenge wherein everyone can be involved. Yes, social skills really pay off here - you don't have to be all that creative. You might get a success by convincing the crowd that while bugbears in general are nasty, THIS one is good (diplomacy check). Another person might Bluff the crowd, saying that he'd raised him by hand since birth and was quite tame. The Bugbear himself may intimate he's just being nice and if things go south he's quite capable of killing them all (intimidate check).

Now, your character's turn. What do you do? Well, you aren't very good at convincing people of your way of thinking, your lies sound hollow, and your intimidation just makes you look silly and probably would make them think they could take you. So what to do? Maybe you're a historian, and you quote something about how a tribe of bugbears four hundred years ago helped hunt for a village which had a poor harvest so they survived through the winter (History check). Maybe you're a pastor and you come up with some parable about racial tolernace and how there is good in everyone (Religion check). Maybe you're stealthy and don't really care, and ultimately just want to create a distraction and escape, so while the others are talking, you go over and quietly set the barn on fire, either as an attempt to then be able to put it out and look like heroes and have everyone forget about it, or just make a distraction so everyone can flee (Stealth check to get over there unnoticed).

What was previously just a lame flat roll has now turned into something which involves the whole group, makes everyone engaged, and gets everyone thinking about what they're doing and how to best accomplish this task of not getting their friend lynched.

None of these were really specifically specified in descriptions of skills, but all seem reasonable and fun, right? And in the end, isn't that the point?

And why must every skill use be a 'skill challenge'. Skills get used all the time. They should get used whenever the situation warrants it, not just in some artificial 'challenge' scenario.

Not every skill use must be a skill challenge, but every skill use must be a part of a challenge of one sort or another.

Having traps just lying around in passageways just so the rogue can use his thievery skill is lame; its just "does he succeed or fail; oops, he rolled low, he takes 3d8 damage, there goes a healing surge." That's just dumb, and gets monotonous and doesn't really make anyone feel like they're having fun. A puzzle trap can be an interesting skill challenge (you can't just thievery to disable it, you have to go and figure out how to bypass it using what you've got, which is fun) or maybe the spear trap is blocking an escape and the golem can't fit down the passage, but you're sure the spears are posioned so you need to try and disable the trap before the rest of the party gets smooshed. Climbing over a wall, jumping over a 30 foot chasm, and similar is all very cool, but only in a situation wherein there is an ongoing challenge and it feels like this is part of something greater, not just a random 1-off check to see whether you lose HP.

And yes, we are off topic.


I think that Magic Missile is a fine power as it lets you use your intelligence for a basic attack. It isn't world-shattering, but it isn't horrible, either, and there are times when the warlord will want you to be able to launch off multiple attacks from range and he doesn't have the ability to shoot as well as you can.
I've added some material to the first post.

I think MM is probably the best 3rd power. But I wouldn't sacrifice Ray of Frost or Thunderwave for it as a control mage.

Titanium Dragon:
You realize you've turned Diplomacy into Magic Tea Party insofar as that if you can convince the DM that the task *is* sufficiently trivial, you shouldn't have to roll. So if you think you're pretty good at fast talking, any DM who thinks like you (Titanium Dragon) do may generally be persuaded to not bother with a roll at all. I mean, at some point you have to reward player cleverness (how they present their request to the king, etc...), and that should be a reduction in DC for good presentations - in your world that's suddenly no fun and they shouldn't have to roll right?

Also, I see no reason for the entire party to get involved in a situation like the 'save the bugbear from being lynched' one. Some of those responses seem really over the top and ultimately either counterproductive or quite possibly not in-character. You won't always have something to do in every social situation - and that's ok.

(As to why villagers would be racist towards bugbears...uh... they're a goblinoid race who are sneaky and like to stab people in the back solely because their god likes it and told them to. That's sort of like asking why most surface peoples are racist against Drow - because most drow are going to kill their men, enslave their children, and probably **** their women - though for obvious reasons they don't actually 'show' the last in any of the novels. When you have an evil race, most people are going to hate them on sight - exceptions to the generality will need to earn acceptance. That's half the fun of playing a social pariah race).
And just how will you use the bow? Your hands will be full with your implement, unless you want to drop it. But oh wait, you still won't be able to draw unless you use a feat on Quick Draw as well. For a Human, there is absolutely no reason NOT to take Magic Missile, and a Human Wizard with the +2 stat in Wis is pretty decent indeed.

Dropping is a free action. Picking up or drawing are both minor. So yeah. Warlord says "ready your bow this turn," I cast my spell for the turn, drop my implement and draw my bow. Next turn I pick up my implement and cast my spell.

And yeah, for a 3rd at-will mm is fine. No way in hell a non-human should take it though.
Skill Challenges
Titanium Dragon:
You realize you've turned Diplomacy into Magic Tea Party insofar as that if you can convince the DM that the task *is* sufficiently trivial, you shouldn't have to roll. So if you think you're pretty good at fast talking, any DM who thinks like you (Titanium Dragon) do may generally be persuaded to not bother with a roll at all. I mean, at some point you have to reward player cleverness (how they present their request to the king, etc...), and that should be a reduction in DC for good presentations - in your world that's suddenly no fun and they shouldn't have to roll right?

I talked about that range. Is my bonus going to be big enough to take it out of that range? No. That's why the standard generic bonus or penalty is +2 and -2.

And no, it isn't "magic tea party", because it is quite clear what IS a trivial challenge - something which isn't level appropriate. What isn't level appropriate? Consult the DMG, the numbers are right there.

Your argument holds no water.

Also, I see no reason for the entire party to get involved in a situation like the 'save the bugbear from being lynched' one. Some of those responses seem really over the top and ultimately either counterproductive or quite possibly not in-character. You won't always have something to do in every social situation - and that's ok.

Not every social situation, but the very idea of a face is a bad one. I know this is hard for you to comprehend, but having to sit out for long periods of time? Unfun.

Yes, this pissess off the guy who wants to play the face, but guess what? Tough cookies. The point is not to have people have discrete game time but for everyone to always have something interesting to do or think about or at least listen to. It needs to be continous, and you shouldn't turn on and off in different situations. It is fine for you to be a face, but the rest of the party shouldn't go play the Wii while you spend a half hour negotiating with the king with no input from the rest of us because you're "the face" and have the "best chance to succeed".

Continous play is a much better and more fun way of playing, and surveys show this. This is why skill challenges are good, and having a single face is horrible. This is also why characters don't sacrifice combat effectiveness for out of combat effectiveness or vice-versa - people shouldn't have to sit out.

(As to why villagers would be racist towards bugbears...uh... they're a goblinoid race who are sneaky and like to stab people in the back solely because their god likes it and told them to.

The point is this: if the villagers will try to lynch any bugbear who comes into their village, then a player shouldn't be playing a bugbear (and the DM, if he DID allow someone to do so, is probably being a jerk unless the campaign is specifically about racism and fixing it). If the campaign isn't about racism, then if racism is going to constantly come up the DM either needs to disallow the races which don't fit in the campaign setting or reconsider whether random xenophobia is worth denying player characters non-broken race choices.

That's sort of like asking why most surface peoples are racist against Drow - because most drow are going to kill their men, enslave their children, and probably **** their women - though for obvious reasons they don't actually 'show' the last in any of the novels. When you have an evil race, most people are going to hate them on sight - exceptions to the generality will need to earn acceptance. That's half the fun of playing a social pariah race).

So most people will kill humans on sight. Good to know.

And no, it isn't "half the fun", it is "massive annoyance and spotlight stealing". I'm sorry, unless the campaign is specifically about dealing with racism (which is okay), otherwise it is just a stupid distraction which takes away from the issue at hand, bogs down game sessions, and gets repetitive. Yes, it can be fun rarely, but there are campaigns where that is appropriate, and it simply isn't most campaigns. A bit of racism is okay, but lynch mobs in every village is just stupid unless that is the focus of the campaign.
Wow, this is getting sort of off subject.

I think the basic point is that Wizard is never going to be good enough at Diplomacy for it to matter, so for this Wizard in question, it is pointless. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since ideally you'll have at least one party 'face' for that sort of thing anyways.

Bravo on the overall concept though, I completely agree that Wizard's 'control effect' spells are much more interesting and, at least on paper, seem a great deal more effective than their straight damage spells.
*bump*

I agree on the Diplomacy point, but the point of the thread is the controller wiz. I like where this thread was going, and I'd like to continue it.

I've been working with the DM of my campaign to implement some house rules to let wizard still be an actual controller in 4e, and it's been kind of difficult. I'd like to see how effective a wizard can be at debuffing enemies and controlling the battlefield without trying to kill enemies. So... in summary: *bump*
*bump*

I agree on the Diplomacy point, but the point of the thread is the controller wiz. I like where this thread was going, and I'd like to continue it.

I've been working with the DM of my campaign to implement some house rules to let wizard still be an actual controller in 4e, and it's been kind of difficult. I'd like to see how effective a wizard can be at debuffing enemies and controlling the battlefield without trying to kill enemies. So... in summary: *bump*

I'm working on the Wizard handbook. Good stuff will eventually be in there that you'll like. It just takes time to lay it all out in a way that makes sense, because there's a lot more material to cover.
I think a separate guidebook (or at least compilation post) on optimizing saves might be in order. While the options for doing so are fairly limited right now, understanding them thoroughly is pretty darned critical to successful battlefield control.
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