Battle Cleric’s Lore hit the character builder, so I thought I would start the theorycrafting in preparation for D&D Lair Assault (Rules for character creation can be found here.) with the defender slot. To be honest, when it comes to “hardcore” encounters, I always tell people to “optimize the party, not the character.” I can make strong characters for the Lair Assault, but the real ass-kicking comes from groups with deep synergy.
- I expect that a fair number of parties will swap out either the second defender or the controller for a second striker, especially if that striker has strong survivability.
- Party resources, especially heals, are going to be at a premium (The rules set a limit of two consumables per character).
- The defender is going to have to minor in control (repositioning/knockdown), debuffing, damage or healing.
- Level 5 presents some interesting challenges and appears to be a thoroughly considered choice on their part, as it restricts each character to one level 6+ magic item. This, in turn, means that you have to decide between AC, non-AC defenses and weapon.
We start with Thonz, Unbroken, the hybrid Fighter/Cleric that I’ve been salivating to build. 48hp is a little low, but defenses of 25/17/15/18 are about where we want to be for a competitive environment. The character also has two encounter heals, two daily heals and an Amulet of Life. I would be more worried about running out of healing surges than heals. Part of the problem here is that Fighters don’t really hit their stride until 7th level.
Pros: Makes an excellent “half-healer”.
Cons: Lacks the AoE and multi-attacks that Fighters are known for.
Then, of course, we come to the Paladin, Esstess Bloodscale. This build is so disliked in my group that it has been effectively banned from the table. Imagine a joyless abyss where hope is a distant, almost disbelieved, memory. That is how effectively this build sucks the fun out of play. 60 hp and 25/17/16/20 makes the character very sturdy. It will be tedious, but Enfeebling Strike spam is very effective.
Pros: High defenses. Very effective debuffs.
Cons: You have to live with yourself for playing this build.
Every other Thursday night, I get to play in a campaign and I run a Dwarf Battlemind. Lysis Tarlyn is a little more tuned than what I play and I have a “gentleman’s agreement” not to use Conductive Defense, but the basic premise remains the same. I would not run this as the only defender in a hardcore comp, but the build works very well in 2-defender sets. 59 hp (without Toughness) and a defense line of 24/20/17/18 is nothing to sneeze at.
My chief complaint against this build is that it is almost as boring to play as the Paladin: Lodestone Lure them next to you, Iron Fist until dead. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Pros: Excellent synergy. Solid field control.
Cons: The worst melee basic in existence. Uninspired “encounter” powers.
My friend Josh likes for people to underestimate him and our next presentation, Pethani, bears all the hallmarks of his design philosophy. The 22 AC makes the character look soft, but then you see the rest of the defense line. 21 Fort and 20 Will are easily the equal (or better) of any other defender. 54 hit points puts this character toward the middle-rear of the pack… until you notice that it’s a Battlerager Vigor Fighter with a +12 to hit (+15 on opportunity attacks) that gains 2 or 4 temporary hit points each round. You’ll also notice that Josh chose a lot of stances. This is so that you have the option of defaulting to Resolute Shield each turn, which gains you another +1 to hit with the Master’s Blade Longsword.
The chief strength of this build is that it is almost impossible to derail. If you’re looking for reliable, this is a good way to go.
Pros: Solid non-AC defenses, very self-sufficient, highly accurate.
Cons: Not especially exciting.
Jett is another of Josh’s creations. I would not use it as the only or primary defender, but its ability to cause havoc as the “off-tank” is second to none. This character picks the most annoying skirmisher, soldier or brute, marks them with Aegis of Shielding, then just walks away, leaving the victim to the not-so-tender mercies of the main tank (usually a Fighter for Combat Superiority). Aegis of Shielding takes an astonishing nine damage off the top, a crippling amount for something that deals single-target damage.
Choosing to invest two feats into improving Earthshock instead of taking Superior Fortitude and/or Superior Will is another hallmark of how Josh “thinks around the corner.” 57hp and 25/20/17/18 for defenses would put this character solidly in the #2 position. Instead, Josh gives us a reliable tool that can get us out of all sorts of problems. Need to turn off that aura for a round? Done. The monster is trying to pull the lever or sound the alarm? Kind of hard to do those things from another dimension…
Pros: Can effectively neuter one monster’s damage, strong positional tricks.
Cons: May be more complicated to drive than other characters.
You might ask, “Okay, Michael, what are you going to do with the Warden?” Honestly, I’m not seeing anything that makes the Warden stand out enough to make me want to put in the effort. Don’t get me wrong; I like the class, I’m just not seeing anything that makes me want to play one in a Lair Assault.
Have fun and feel free to comment.