For all the grief I give D&D 4e, it was pretty well-designed from a gaming standpoint. Sure, it went too far with killing some of the game’s “sacred cows,” but as a balanced game and one that tried to provide options to every class, it accomplished its job admirably. The separation of classes into concrete roles and power sources made things pretty balanced, even if it became more difficult for classes to distinguish themselves from one another as time went on. They did a decent job of naming unique mechanics, but who really wanted to see, say, the Seeker as a class?
We’re not going to use their classification system, however. Well, not exactly. Sure, Defender, Controller, Striker, and Leader make sense and work pretty well, but I also like the monster categories that were even broader: Artillery, Brute, Controller, Leader, Lurker, Skirmisher, and Soldier. Sure, there might be overlap, and it could be useful to think of secondary features of certain classes, but today we’re going to look at the first three roles and see what might be missing based on the current class options we have.
Artillery characters have strong ranged attacks but weak defenses. As it is, this role would be covered by Sorcerers, Wizards, and Warlocks for magical characters, Fighters for martial characters, and Rangers for something in-between. To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be too much room for innovation here. Yes, you could think of some more ranged tricks for a character to do with weapons, but it might be just as easy to make them Battlemaster Fighter maneuvers if so. The best option for making new classes in this role might be to introduce more advanced technology for a grenadier or sniper-type class or develop a non-magical Ranger (even if Wizards of the Coast has suggested a variant for that).
Brutes are strong characters with powerful attacks and generally high health, though they are usually fairly easy to damage. The Barbarian is the archetypal example of this class, but you could make similar characters of other classes depending on how you allocate resources. Fighters may also fit here, as would Moon Druids, Abjurer Wizards, and Tome of the Blade Warlocks. I still think there might be some room here for class options, but new classes themselves don’t seem to come into mind.
Controllers have a lot of utility power, and in D&D this usually means magic. Most Wizards will fall here, and depending on spell selection Bards, Clerics, Druids, and Warlocks do well in this role. However, there really isn’t a martial Controller or a half-caster that focuses on it, though Rangers get some spells for it. The Battlemaster comes fairly close, but it’s not a role that can be played from level 1. It’s easy to see why the Warlord might be a popular idea. It’s also easy to think of a gadgeteer or trapmaster pulling off some control abilities with technology, which might be another good option for design. You could also introduce an arcane half-caster that would work well here: 4e’s Swordmage had a lot of control abilities to make it a better Defender, while the Hexblade of editions past was also sort of designed to fill that role.
Next time we’ll consider additional new classes for the other roles. Happy gaming!