Aggro in Core D&D?

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From WotC_Miko's Playtest Blog:

I’m happy with the paladin, even on short acquaintance. She’s sufficiently "tanklike" without feeling like an over-armored turtle, and she’s got enough healing ability to keep the party fighting without overshadowing the cleric or warlord. Her divine challenge "come hit me, not the squishy wizard" ability makes her look like the most attractive target for attacks. Just like a defender should.

Apparently the Paladin killed the Knight, took Test of Mettle, and renamed it Divine Challenge.

RE Aggro:

Pros:
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The Paladin has high AC, hit points, and the ability to heal itself. In order to make these abilities relevant, he needs to be able to get people to hit him more then his fellow party members. Otherwise, theres no reason to play a Paladin instead of a Striker.

They've eliminated iterative attacks, and have expressly said that they want to make D&D more mobile, so that every class can Move and then Do Something every round. So it will be a lot easier for enemies to just walk around the Defenders to beat down the party members with fewer hit points, and then gang up on the Defenders.

You can play 4th ed online. For better or for worse, this will essentially be another D&D video game. Aggro is clearly an important part of most team play video games out there. So it makes sense to include it in 4th ed, even if its less then desirable for the more roleplaying intense 4th ed played on the tabletop in my basement with friends.


Cons:
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DMs don't use optimized tactics. They use appropriate tactics. And thus Aggro really isn't as necessary as it seems. Although its possible that the orcs understand that they should run around the Paladin and kill the Wizard first, they don't. They try and hit the Paladin first because he's wearing big shiny armor and standing in front. But maybe the Drow are magic savvy, and recognize that they need to take the other Arcane enemies first. Divine Challenge clearly undercuts the DMs abilities to have enemies with distinct motivations, personalities, and tactics.

It makes combat monotonous. Almost every combat will feature enemies who charge the Paladin, regardless of the plot, and perhaps regardless of the enemies. Monotonous combat makes for a boring game.

It forces DMs to use silly workarounds. Lets say there's a cult that hates arcane magic, and always targets try to kill magic users on sight. Or I have an BBEG who's the sworn enemy of the Wizard in the party, because he foiled the BBEG's previous attempt at world domination in an earlier adventure. Now, I also have to make the enemies immune to the Paladin's Divine Challenge somehow in order for my plot to make sense. Except there's no in-plot reason to do so. "Its just a coincidence that the arcane hating cult is made up entirely of plant people who are immune to Divine Challenge. Really."

Instead of a Divine Challenge, they could just make the Paladin have powerful Shield Another abilities. That way they could just stand next to the Wizard, and every time an enemy hits him, I have a X% chance of having it apply to me and my AC and hit points instead. You can be a Defender without having psuedo mind control abilities. And it make more fluff sense.

It makes tabletop D&D more like a video game. I don't want D&D to be a video game. I want it to be D&D.

They could always include it as a non-core ability in a supplement book. People who didn't like the Knight just excluded it from their games. But enshrining it in Core makes it a regular part of most D&D games, which will change the entire structure and feel of 4th ed.


On balance, I think I'm anti-Aggro. But I'd like to see the details before I make a judgment. Hopefully, it won't be a required core mechanic. Perhaps its just a class option that can be worked around, like broken Tome of Battle maneuvers.

Discuss.
Man, if that is true, then it really sucks...

Now we are going to have the game play itself out for us?
I agree it's a bad idea. For any intelligent enemy, it doesn't make sense that they'd fall for this so easily. For any non-intelligent enemy, it would be unaffected by taunts period.

Plus, this has all too much potential of turning combat into a bunch of "Yo momma" jokes.
But as this taunt ability is now divinely powered that might make it a little easier to swallow. Magically compelled by the power of the paladin's god?
I agree it's a bad idea. For any intelligent enemy, it doesn't make sense that they'd fall for this so easily. For any non-intelligent enemy, it would be unaffected by taunts period.

Well, that's the way it works in D20 Modern, the target has to have at least a 3 int. And it's not a bad mechanic. It's been out for years, it's not a new thing at all.
But as this taunt ability is now divinely powered that might make it a little easier to swallow. Magically compelled by the power of the paladin's god?

Well... How would you flavor that?

"I'm so thankful my god gave me the ability to be attacked! I just love to be hit by my enemies!":D

Ok, serious now: Perhaps it is possible to make it work flavorwise, but I don't think it is an interisting ability. As the other posters noted, it will probably be hard to make this ability entertaining for the player and non-headache-inducing for the DM.
it will probably be hard to make this ability entertaining for the player and non-headache-inducing for the DM.

But that brings up the fact that they are really trying to get away from DM headaches with this edition, so I have a little hope.

Of course there will always be DM headaches, but you know what I mean.
Well, to be honest when we were told that the two PHBI 'Defender' classes were mugging the Knight and taking his stuff...this sort of thing was probably inevitable. That said, I don't expect this to be any worse or better than the Knight's current Test of Mettle mechanic, and it surely doesn't add up to a full-blown aggro system.

I don't have a reference, but I heard somewhere that the Fighter would have abilities that allowed them to punish enemies that didn't attack them. If the Fighter is getting that, the 4th edition Test of Mettle will likely be restricted to the Paladin. I don't think that Test of Mettle mechanics are going to be terribly widespread.
I don't have a reference, but I heard somewhere that the Fighter would have abilities that allowed them to punish enemies that didn't attack them.

I've also heard mumblings about once you're next to a fighter it's hard to get away from them.
I'm sure I read something from WotC that said we would *not* have WoW-style aggro to deal with in 4e....

Now if I could only find where I read that.

Update: Here's the link: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?p=8025804#post8025804

Not quite an official source, I guess. But I'm still holding out hope that it's the truth. I *really* hate the idea of "pulling mobs" and "holding aggro" on my kitchen table.
I believe the objection is overblown. Divine Challenge is, after all, a paladin ability.

Which means that unless your players always play multiclassed paladins, it won't come up that often.

We also don't know how often a paladin can issue a Divine Challenge. If it is anything less than an at will ability, the paladin won't spamming the battlefield with challenges. (and given the "power" level of the ability, I suspect it isn't at will) If it functions like test of mettle, the instant another PC attacks the victims of a Divine Challenge, the "aggro" effect ends.

Does this power have the ability to screw with the DM's plans? Yep, and why not? That's part of the fun of being a PC. Will it end all tactical options for DMs? Probably not. If it did, how exactly would that be fun for the DM?

I don't have blind faith in WotC's staff, but neither do I think them idiots. If the power was that 1337, awexome and a giant heap of total win, it wouldn't be in the game. (note 3.5 examples of total win, which exist, are either high level powers abilities and spells or combinations of stuff from different splat books.)

Also, keep in mind... Classes are always available to NPCs. How do you think the PCs are going to feel when evil priest's paladin bodyguard unleashes an optimized Divine Challenge and they have to waste a round attacking him instead of the BBEG?

It seems to me that this power makes the Divine Defender good at his job. Meatshield.
I'm sure I read something from WotC that said we would *not* have WoW-style aggro to deal with in 4e....

Now if I could only find where I read that.

Update: Here's the link: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?p=8025804#post8025804

Not quite an official source, I guess. But I'm still holding out hope that it's the truth. I *really* hate the idea of "pulling mobs" and "holding aggro" on my kitchen table.

We obviously don't have the 4th edition Paladin mechanics in front of us, but the PHBII mechanics from the Knight class were far, far from being a MMORPG-style aggro system.

I'm not terribly thrilled about the idea of a Taunt, myself, but if that's as far as it goes, it won't offend me any more than the Knight did, and I can handle that. Especially since I was sort of expecting it.

One thing to note in all of this is that there is a certain design space value to the notion of a Divine Challenge/Test of Mettle/Taunt mechanic. Before the Knight class, there was no way for a Fighter or Dwarven Defender to become relevant on the battlefield if they didn't still have some sort of massive offensive power they could use. They could always try to get in the way, but creatures could always step around them and just ignore the resulting attack of opportunity unless the combat environment was extremely restrictive. It was too hard to do the job of a defensive melee combatant in 3.5, and in the end, the Knight didn't even really fix the problem.

Ideally, the Paladin will have to make some sort of attack against a creature's Will defense and the power will only be usable once per encounter, or something to that nature. That would give the Paladin a way to defend their allies against an opponent that had slipped through the cracks, but they wouldn't be able to do it all that often and it wouldn't always work. A Divine Challenge that worked along those lines could be quite healthy for the game, and it comes nowhere close to being an aggro system.
Did anyone see one mention of aggro in that post?

Any one mention of a hate scale?

I didn't.

There are no aggro mechanics, and nothing that hints at aggro mechanics. We have a single 'Charm Monster/Person Special: Directs attacks at you for X Rounds'.

Not aggro.
Well... How would you flavor that?

"I'm so thankful my god gave me the ability to be attacked! I just love to be hit by my enemies!":D

"By the might of the gods, you will deal with the champions before the laity, the warriors before the weak, and me before him!"

Ok, serious now: Perhaps it is possible to make it work flavorwise, but I don't think it is an interisting ability. As the other posters noted, it will probably be hard to make this ability entertaining for the player and non-headache-inducing for the DM.

How is it not interesting?

"Bob the wizard's gonna die!"
"I use my Divine Challange and pull the beasty off of Bob, smacking it around with my mace and calling it a pansy for attacking men in fashionable skirts."

Really, we've had this in D&D before. There are other d20 games with the same ability. I really don't see what the issue is here. There is no aggro mechanic, there is no hate schedule.
Aggro in D&D is a big issue. In early drafts, there were much more explicit rules for it, where monsters had to attack the fighter or paladin or a creature's tactics dictated that it attack the nearest foe. All that stuff is gone.

First, it isn't fun playing the guy whose job it is to get beaten up. In early playtests, the fighter soaked up all the attacks and then.... soaked up some more attacks. It was the cleric problem, but even worse. At least the cleric doesn't take damage for spending all his spells healing other people. So, those mechanics went right out the window.

Second, it restricts DMs needlessly. We don't want to tell DMs, "You have to do this." It's pretty lame to force DMs to walk through a monster script. It might be interesting for a specific monster (the clockwork knight programmed with three specific routines) or encounter (the zombies in the temple of Orcus attack good clerics above all other targets), but not as a core rule.

Third, we want playing a fighter or similar class to be fun, and we think we have mechanics that make it fun to sit in front of the party and hold back the monsters while beating on their asses.

The paladin does resemble the knight, but (we hope) that the paladin's use of the knight's toys solves the problem some people had with the knight. Namely, that the knight's compulsion felt like a magical effect, but didn't use magic. In the paladin's case, he's doing something similar with his mastery of divine magic. However, his ability does not say that the monster must attack him. It makes it a better option, but doesn't eliminate other options.

The fighter is just nasty. In design, we figured that people who play fighters do so because they want to kick the crap out of monsters. If you're next to a fighter, and you take your eye off him to deal with someone else, you aren't going to be happy. We hope that this sort of mechanic leads to good teamwork (the fighter holds down the hill giant) while also speaking to why people play the class (the fighter player gets to have fun beating down the hill giant).

There are no mechanics that compel the monster to attack anyone (well, a specific spell might do that, but we already have that in D&D). We want DMs to make NPC fighters and paladins, and it would be really dumb if the DM had to impose a threat or aggro mechanic that dictated who the PCs had to attack.

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Answers to rules questions are meant to be helpful advice or insights, not canonical R&D dictates. Treat them as unofficial, but (hopefully) useful.

Thanks Mike.

This is why you w1n Mr. mearls.
Sounds to me like the paladin gets to inflict some kind of penalty on a target that chooses to avoid him in combat. So that the target doesn't HAVE to attack the paladin, he's just a bit suboptimal if he doesn't.

Basically, if someone ignores the paladin's challenge, he gets penalized because he's "looking over his shoulder." At least, that's the impression I get from what Mike said.

I like.
There are no mechanics that compel the monster to attack anyone (well, a specific spell might do that, but we already have that in D&D). We want DMs to make NPC fighters and paladins, and it would be really dumb if the DM had to impose a threat or aggro mechanic that dictated who the PCs had to attack.

So, it seems like it might be like the D20 Modern Charismatic Talent Captivate, where "the hero becomes the target's sole focus?' I always used this ability to distract monsters so I could defend other PCs or to let other PCs move around the battlefield unmolested, but it hardly forces the target to do anything other than ignore your other party members for a time. And, it's an attack action, so you can't do it and still fight.

I suspect that in 4th ed it won't be an attack action so you could do it and also fight, but that's just my guess...
Thank you for stopping by, Mike. Great news too!
...

Sounds good. I'm glad you nixed the explicit aggro mechanics. I like that fighters kick ass.
Sounds to me like the paladin gets to inflict some kind of penalty on a target that chooses to avoid him in combat. So that the target doesn't HAVE to attack the paladin, he's just a bit suboptimal if he doesn't.

Basically, if someone ignores the paladin's challenge, he gets penalized because he's "looking over his shoulder." At least, that's the impression I get from what Mike said.

I like.

From Kushiel's Chosen (Jacqueline Carey):

One died quickly, too slow to raise his guard, thinking, somehow, still, that it was all a terrible mistake until David Rocheille opened his chest with an angled, two- handed blow. The second fought better and might have lived longer if he had drawn his sword instead of trusting to his daggers...By that time, Joscelin had arrived, and his sword sang free of his sheath as he drew it. "David de Rocaille," he said softly. "Turn and face me."

The remaining Cassiline backed slowly away, covering Ysandre's retreat. In the stillness, David de Rocaille turned to meet Joscelin Verreuil.

I remembered this passage from a fantasy series while considering this- it helps that the character described is the very model of a paladin.

Whatever the logic, I see a lot of interesting roleplaying potential. I would prefer a low-magic version, by all means- but I am definately intrigued. I think that so long as the DM manages to capture this feel correctly, it might work.

Mind you, 4th is all about getting the rules to reflect the fluff, so we will see...
While I'm glad that the designers removed elements from the game that dictated what the DM "had" to do, I would still like some sort of "aggro" mechanic.

Why? I play D&D with my friends, and I don't play with a "I'm trying to kill them mechanic." One of my frequent players is my girlfriend. It's very difficult some times to run the monsters fairly and to not play favorites. A system, or even suggestions, such as certain actions will draw attacks (if a rogue sneak attacks a target and doesn't get away, they're going to get the opponent's attacks).

I don't think taunts are unrealistic, or necessarily magical.

Poe's Law is alive and well.

While I'm glad that the designers removed elements from the game that dictated what the DM "had" to do, I would still like some sort of "aggro" mechanic.

Why? I play D&D with my friends, and I don't play with a "I'm trying to kill them mechanic." One of my frequent players is my girlfriend. It's very difficult some times to run the monsters fairly and to not play favorites. A system, or even suggestions, such as certain actions will draw attacks (if a rogue sneak attacks a target and doesn't get away, they're going to get the opponent's attacks).

I don't think taunts are unrealistic, or necessarily magical.

Agreed. At the same time, I don't want to force a PC's hand. However, from the sounds of it, attacking the Paladin will be the clear option as he/she will draw fire with Taunts and (possibly) auras that protect their allies while not protecting themselves (effectively making them a more attrractive target).

Fightes, on the other hand, seem to be taking the "ignore me and I will punish you with additional attacks and techniques" rout of "drawing aggro". Basically, a fighter can make it crazy dangerous to not focus on the fighter.

Personally, I like it.
And it sure seems like they'll work together very well.

Paladin: "Don't focus on me and take penalties."
Fighter: "Don't focus on *me* and get your ass kicked."
I prefer the title Target Priority. Though the name is not official, the concept of Target Priority is a real military concept. The general assess the battlefield and figures out what unites engage what targets in what order, and generally speaking a gun nest would be snipered (ranged striker or controller) to death while a massive tank would be attacked by tank-busters (either other tanks (defenders) or specialized stealth troops with high damage explosives (strikers)). The Taunt/Aura/Goad/Challenge/whatever ability makes it well known you are the biggest most dangerous target on the battlefield, it is like being a single panzer outside of an encampment. Big, scary and "HAHA you have to fight me to get to anything behind me" written all over it.
Y'know, this sounds like a combination of maneuvers from the Bo9S:

Iron Guard's Glare (Stance)

While you are in this stance, any opponent that you threaten takes a -4 penalty on attack rolls against your allies. This penalty does not apply to attacks made against you. Enemies you threaten become aware of the consequences of the stance.

As well as possibly...

Thicket of Blades (Stance)

While you are in this stance, any opponent you threaten that takes any sort of movement, including a 5-foot step, provokes and attack of opportunity from you. Your foes provoke this attack before leaving the area you threaten. Your opponents also cannot use the withdraw action to treat the square they start in as no longer threatened by you.

It keeps the enemy where you can see them while almost compelling them to attack you. Not directing them at you, but they'll have the least negatives attacking you than they would the wizard behind you.
Maybe the taunt is in the form of some Britney Spears medley...:P
First, it isn't fun playing the guy whose job it is to get beaten up.

Maybe. But it's a huge amount of fun to play the guy whose job it is to get beaten on (not up), but whose armor and high HP (and a little help from the Priest, mebbe) keep him up and fighting, so that his friends aren't being cut down by those same attacks which he is taking on his shield or the edge of his blade, or shrugging off due to being the toughest Barbarian from the North / Knight in service of the King / Steadfast Dwarven Defender / &c there ever was.

Quoting slightly out of order, but it helps me make my point while preserving the integrity of Mearls' post:

There are no mechanics that compel the monster to attack anyone.

I personally would love to see a sensible aggro system put in place. Mechanics may be a bit of a strong-arm approach, I'll grant. But there should be something, even if it's just a few pages of suggestions for DMs, which helps Fighters (and their brothers-in-arms of similar class/role) to protect the weaker members of the group.

Or perhaps some out-of-turn maneuver options. Something which prevents the "Hey, I know that your reach as a size M creature with a light flail is only 5', so I'll skip by at 10' and be perfectly safe", playing to the mechanics which keeps warriors from stopping foes from running past them "just" out of range. Would you run past a man with a 3' sword at 10' distance? That's taking a pretty big chance since only a step or two will let him swing at you, unless of course you happen to know that you live in a turn based game system where the man has to await his initiative to move.

Here's an example from the current game I'm playing in:
I'm a BRB2/FTR1, and the campaign is primarily overland. We've had a few fights in town settings but mostly they occur in the wilderness, and as such there is pretty much an open map as the battlefield.

Three Orcs are ahead of the group. They charge. I'm in front, as the group's warriors should be. Maybe two engage me. Maybe just one. The other one or two run past me and get stuck in against the weaker members of the party. Because it's a turn based game, I can do nothing about this. The Orcs can run 10' away from me and I'm helpless to prevent it. No amount of "Hey you stupid Orcs, I'm going to be the death of you, fight me!" stops them from moving as they like, since the mechanics don't allow me to shift even 5' while it's not my turn to take an AoO against a passing foe.

After seeing monsters run past my Barb/Fighter to engage the other, less physically imposing and save for the Priest lighter armored members of my adventuring party, I became frustrated and looked for some rules which would help me be the protector of the weaker members. Class restrictions keep me from the Test of Mettle and things like Iron Guard's Stare. So at 3rd level I ditched my light flail and shield, bought myself a spiked chain, EWP:Spiked Chain, and Combat Reflexes and started using my 25' diameter reach to issue my challenges for me. And I do think it's a bit cheesy and I think I'd much prefer to hit things with a big stick or a sword than the spiked chain. But there is scarce other option if I want to be able to fulfill my role within the group.

The fighter is just nasty. In design, we figured that people who play fighters do so because they want to kick the crap out of monsters. If you're next to a fighter, and you take your eye off him to deal with someone else, you aren't going to be happy. We hope that this sort of mechanic leads to good teamwork (the fighter holds down the hill giant) while also speaking to why people play the class (the fighter player gets to have fun beating down the hill giant).

That's great, and it makes sense from the point of view of someone trying to cut down the Wizard standing next to the Fighter. But that doesn't happen much. This makes me think I'll be using a spiked chain again, because the foes who can run past me just out of reach usually manage to get themselves stuck in against the guys in the back, and I'm kinda busy up here with the foes at the front. I don't see any indication from Mearls' post that this will be addressed.
Snip

You sir, get a big bag of w00t. And here's some bonus w00t, please spread it around to everyone else that helped on this issue. Great thinking all around!
The paladin does resemble the knight, but (we hope) that the paladin's use of the knight's toys solves the problem some people had with the knight. Namely, that the knight's compulsion felt like a magical effect, but didn't use magic. In the paladin's case, he's doing something similar with his mastery of divine magic. However, his ability does not say that the monster must attack him. It makes it a better option, but doesn't eliminate other options.

Thank god! My opinion of the paladin's ability just went from 'terrible' to 'awesome.' Thanks, Mr. Mearls.
@Kompera

I agree that it's tough for a defender type to actually protect his more vulnerable allies, but I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, or at least it's not terribly unrealistic. It's just a smart move for any military organization to bypass the tougher elements of their opponent and deliver a devastating strike to the rear. That's the theory behind cruise missiles, and the reason why carriers have an entire fleet surrounding them to keep enemies at bay. Since this is a real-life problem and real-life people have come up with solutions, I don't think we should gimp the make-believe world so this actually quite interesting tactical challenge never arises. I.E., I don't think the solution is to create mechanics which just make the problem go away. The problem should be addressed tactically, and mechanics should exist which enable those tactical solutions.

To take your example, say your group is set upon by a few orcs. Before the battle even begins, the group should make sure that the easier targets are already in a defensible position. Put the fighter and the cleric on either side of the wizard, within 5 feet, to minimize the number of potential attack vectors. Alternatively, stand 10 feet out in such a way that you can get an AoO on anyone charging in and try to trip them. Next, use 5 foot steps and readied actions to simply move in the way of any charging foe. They can't charge through another foe, so intercepting them eliminates the attack pretty quickly. That brings up another point--manipulate the terrain to minimize attack vectors on your defended target. Get them behind cover, or throw out obstacles like caltrops in the way of those who are trying to attack them. Another thought is that the wizards should take care of their own safety, namely by using withdraw actions or mobility spells to move to a position where they're less vulnerable to attack.

Part of the problem here is being properly equipped to deal with the challenges you're facing. If you're traveling over open road, then being a dwarf in full plate with 15' movement is going to restrict your options considerably. So how about using a mount to increase your mobility? And while you're at it, get a wagon with high, sturdy walls for the wizard to hide in. You can't charge the wizard if you've got to climb into a moving vehicle to get to him. Does the terrain make such vehicles impractical? Then stealth might be a good option. Don't forget, for all of these options, the wizards might be able to provide some aid. A readied Wall spell, or summoned/golem-craft creatures can be used to block lines of attack. And if you can't fight through, find fortifications against, or sneak past your opponents, well, you might just be in over your head. Perhaps you should hire some help.

Another tactical approach, which the fighter as described by Mr. Mearls exemplifies, is to give them a bigger problem than the wizard to deal with. Attack their vulnerable assets, force them into the position of defending something. Finally, and this can't be emphasized enough, there's the matter of good intelligence. If you know you're going to be attacked, say by your scout being a bit ahead and discovering the ambush, then you're much more able to defend against it. Same goes for knowing the capabilities of the things that are going to be attacking you.
Divine Challenge sounds to me like a "charm" type effect.
I believe I would generally allow a save against that type of thing.

Goblins etc will fail theirs and be unable to swarm past the front lines. (sweet for the fighter!)
Darkelves etc will more often make the save and ignore the effect and attack where they see the most opportunity.

Just my opinion
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