Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Race/Class Synergy in 4e: An Analysis

I came across an interesting article on 4e at Incredible Vehicle Tuesday. The part about the three tiers of race/class combinations in particular I found thought provoking:
Some races are particularly well-suited for some classes. I think of it almost as a tiered system, where the top tier race/class combinations get you 20/16 or 18/18, second tier can get you 18/16 or 20/14. The bottom tier? I suppose you can always have an 18/14.
What this really comes down to is that since each race (except humans) gets +2 to exactly two scores, those scores can overlap with 2 (top tier), 1 (second tier) or 0 (bottom tier) of the primary abilities of each class. Matthew goes on to say in the comments:
But basically it seems reasonable that every race should be a top-tier contender (e.g. 20/16) in one or two builds, and a second tier (e.g. 18/16) contender in a bigger number of others. I’m not sure whether that’s the case, but I suspect that some races fare better than others.
I have the same suspicion, and I want to see it spelled out, so here's what I'm going to do: I cross each race with each class. For each class build in the PHB I take the abilities suggested as best/second-best score and compare to the abilities boosted by the race. For each match the race/class combo scores a point. Humans score 1 point for every class, presuming the ability boost chosen matches a primary ability of the human's class. I'll color every top tier match green and bottom tier red, leaving second tier white.


Str, ChaCon, WisDex, IntDex, WisCon, ChaDex, ChaPick oneInt, Cha
ClericStr, Wis11010010

Wis, Cha11011111
FighterStr, Con11001010

Str, Dex or Wis1.5.5.750.510
PaladinStr, Cha20001111

Cha, Str20001111
RangerDex, Str10110110

Str, Dex10110110
RogueDex, Str10110110

Dex, Cha10111211
WarlockCha, Int10101112

Con, Int01101011
WarlordStr, Cha20001111

Str, Int10100011
WizardInt, Wis01110011

Int, Dex00210111

Synergy "score"165.510.58.75811.51612

So only four of the eight races are "top-tier contenders" in anything, and only one (the dragonborn, with a whopping 3 top-tier builds) is a contender in more than one. The eladrin war wizard and halfling trickster rogue are unsurprising, though it's interesting that the stereotypical tiefling infernal pact scourge warlock is actually a suboptimal choice compared to the deceptive warlock (based solely on ability bonuses).

The rest of the races run pretty even, except for the poor dwarf, who (ability-wise) is only suited to cleric, fighter, scourge warlock (even moreso than the tiefling, really, which is weird) and control wizard. Now, having seen a dwarf paladin in actual play I can state with some certainty that this table doesn't tell the whole story. Most of the dwarven racial powers are very handy for paladins, and the wisdom bonus synergizes with the tertiary ability of both paladin builds as well. Maybe in a future post I'll redo the table and tinker with the scoring system to give a higher score for synergy with the primary ability and a non-zero score score for synergy with the tertiary ability.

I also find it interesting/annoying that there are no top-tier PHB races for my two favorite 4e class builds: the tactical warlord and the control wizard.


szilard said...

As you allude to in reference to the dwarf paladin, this is a two-dimensional analysis. Racial powers and feats can make an enormous difference.

Gregor LeBlaque said...

Right, and even my ability score analysis is thin at best. Mostly I wanted to get this published while the Incredible Vehicle post was fresh in my head. Maybe in the next week or two I'll find time to do more in-depth analysis, doing a better job of taking tertiary abilities into account and maybe even racial powers/feats.

Precocious Apprentice said...

Maybe the bar should be set differently. It seems from your analysis that most races are "second tier" for many classes, "third tier" for a couple, and a few races are "first tier" at several. That sounds pretty good to me.

Maybe the bar should not be "Every race should be top tier at someting" but instead it should be "every race should be second tier at most things".

Just a though, and not necessarily my last on this subject.

greywulf said...

It's a very good starting point for the analysis - thanks for that.

When it comes to building a race that's optimal for a Control Wizard, I guess the best solution would be to retool the Half-Elf into being a Half-Eladrin with bonuses in Con and Int. That would work.

Ripper said...

This table does have its merits. But again, looking forward to seeing a more in depth analysis.

I have noticed that besides dwarven paladins, dwarves arent chosen as a race much...

xero said...

I noticed one critical thing left out of your table though:

Most of the builds mention three abilities, and with some of the builds the tertiary ability is actually far more useful than the secondary one. So, for instance, an elf gets bonuses to dex and wis, and the archery ranger build lists dex, str, and wis as key abilities (in that order), but str is essentially useless for an archery ranger, so dex and wis are the two important abilities. Thus the elf is a top tier choice for archery ranger build.

Gregor LeBlaque said...

@Ripper - looking at the table made me want to try running a dwarf star pact scourge warlock just to see if the Con bonus alone made the build effective.

@xero - I've started working on a followup with the tertiary abilities added in. So far I've simply gone with the order suggested by the PHB, but you might be right about it being wrong for archer rangers. Can anyone think of other builds where the PHB has the abilities in the wrong order?

Kapoue said...

Good analysis there, it should have been more varied in my opinion. But, if the only classes we would ever get were those 8 originals, it would be pretty sad indeed. Luckily, we are getting more classes with the FR Player's Guide and the PHB2.

New classes who have been previewed or released :
Bard (Cunning) : Cha, Int
Bard (Valor) : Cha, Con
Artificer (Battlesmith) : Int, Con
Barbarian (Rageblood) : Str, Con)
Barbarian (Unamed build) : Str, Cha
Swordmage (Assault) : Int, Str
Swordmage (Shielding) : Int, Con
Warden (Earthstrength) : Str, Con
Warden (Wildblood) : Str, Wis
Druid (Guardian) : Wis, Con
Druid (Predator) : Wis, Dex
Invoker (Preserving) : Wis, Int
Invoker (Wrathful) : Wis, Con

But we'll probably get more classes too in PHB2

Gregor LeBlaque said...

I was already thinking I would redo this analysis on the PHB 2 classes as soon as I get the book.

I find the swordmage interesting, but since the Realms hold zero interest for me I'm not planning to buy an entire book just for that class.