Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Race/Class Synergy in 4e: Tertiary and Racial Abilities

At less than two weeks old, Race/Class Synergy in 4e: An Analysis is now the most-viewed post in my blog's history, so I will again take a break from my riveting campaign logs and write some more about the subject. A lot of the comments on my first two posts have to do with the parts I left out: tertiary abilities and racial abilities, so I'll take a look at those.

First, we need to consider the value of these factors next to the value of the primary and secondary ability bonuses. The value of a bonus to the primary ability is clear - +2 to that stat will typically translate directly to a +1 to hit with every attack power geared toward the build. For example, since the very definition of a battle cleric attack power is that it is a melee attack power that uses Strength to hit, a +2 Strength bonus (the primary ability of the battle cleric) translates to a +1 to hit with any of those powers (and, as an added bonus, with the basic melee attack as well).

The value of the secondary ability is, based on my limited research, much smaller. For example, for the battle cleric, the secondary Wisdom ability is used solely for turning undead or for picking up a few devoted cleric powers. In fact, the tertiary Charisma is used for the secondary effects of more attack powers that a battle cleric might take (strengthen the faithful, inspiring strike, and sacrificial healing). It looks like more in depth research is needed to determine the true value of the secondary and tertiary abilities. The PHB guidelines for the builds might be off for more than just the ranger and paladin (as we saw last time).

The racial abilities will have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and will probably be the source of some debate. Rather than map them to builds or classes, it might make the most sense to map the racial abilities to roles. For instance, taking the first racial special ability for the first race in the PHB:
Dragonborn Fury: When you’re bloodied, you gain a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls.
This is like getting most of the benefits of a primary ability boost while bloodied, so at first glance it seems about half as good as a primary ability boost for any class. However, some roles (melee striker, defender) tend to get beat up more than others (ranged striker, controller). This ability is probably worth about 3/4 as much as a primary ability boost to defenders and melee strikers, 1/4 as much to controllers and ranged strikers, and 1/2 as much to everyone else.

The other dragonborn racial abilities seem to me to reinforce their suitability as defenders. Draconic heritage is simply more hit points from surges. Good for anyone, but great for defenders. Dragon breath at first glance is a controller power, but controllers do the same thing better and more often. It's really another good defender ability, because defenders want to be surrounded by real foes, not minions, and dragon breath with its puny damage is a great minion eliminator.

I'll have to give some thought to how I want to factor these abilities into my table, and whether I want to revise it yet again in the light of the battle cleric ability order apparently being off. The first order of business regardless will be a general overview of how all the other races' abilities synergize with the roles. I'll plan to cover dwarves through at least elves next week, then half-elf to tiefling the week after, then finally come back to reevaluating the weight of the secondary and tertiary abilities in the various builds. This is shaping up to be a far more complicated project than I originally planned...

No comments: