Class versus Role


4th Edition

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For those who are currently playing 4E, have you noticed your word usage changing? I've recently applied to a second campaign. When I asked what everyone planned to play, I didn't ask their class (i.e., cleric, fighter, etc.) but what roles we would need (i.e., controller, defender, leader, and striker).


joela wrote:
For those who are currently playing 4E, have you noticed your word usage changing? I've recently applied to a second campaign. When I asked what everyone planned to play, I didn't ask their class (i.e., cleric, fighter, etc.) but what roles we would need (i.e., controller, defender, leader, and striker).

I think this is mostly just a continuation of what we had before. In 3.5 getting by without a divine healer is tough. You need a tank if there are any soft targets in the party. By the time your moving into mid to high level play its a very good idea to have a good arcane caster with the ability to control the battlefield, etc.

Considering all the classes available in 3.5 I think we've more or less been thinking in terms of roles for some time now. If the party needs some one to find traps it usually does not matter if the player takes a scout, rouge or ninja - so long as they can find traps.

Dark Archive

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Considering all the classes available in 3.5 I think we've more or less been thinking in terms of roles for some time now.

Good point. Many of us are used to calling fighters "tanks" though we also sometimes add less complimentary words like "meatshields" :)

The Exchange

joela wrote:
For those who are currently playing 4E, have you noticed your word usage changing? I've recently applied to a second campaign. When I asked what everyone planned to play, I didn't ask their class (i.e., cleric, fighter, etc.) but what roles we would need (i.e., controller, defender, leader, and striker).

Yeah! It's become a shorthand for tactical function followed by class.


I'm surprised at how quickly I've integrated "striker" into my vocabulary, but I'm still inclined to think of the other roles as "tank", "healer", and "crowd control".

It's just a matter of time before I refer to a DPS class as a "striker" while I'm playing Warcraft. :p

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Burrito Al Pastor wrote:
...but I'm still inclined to think of the other roles as "tank", "healer", and "crowd control".

"Crowd control"? That's cool. :)

Liberty's Edge

joela wrote:
"Crowd control"? That's cool. :)

Sorry, I could not resist: Move along, people... :-)


In 3E we often tried to fill the "roles" without really having a nomenclature to use. If there was no trap/lock worker, someone would roll one, no healer, someone would make one. No front-line fighter, next person who dies (and it would rarely take long!) gets to be one. That sort of thing.

In 4E, I definitely find my group asking who is filling what role, with what class they are using to fill it secondary information. Pretty nifty.

Cheers! :)


joela wrote:
For those who are currently playing 4E, have you noticed your word usage changing? I've recently applied to a second campaign. When I asked what everyone planned to play, I didn't ask their class (i.e., cleric, fighter, etc.) but what roles we would need (i.e., controller, defender, leader, and striker).

I still say 'magic-user' and 'thief' -- 4e is unlikely to change my vocabulary :)

I also occasionally fight the urge to order stats: Str Int Wis Dex Con Cha.

The Exchange

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Considering all the classes available in 3.5 I think we've more or less been thinking in terms of roles for some time now.

Yep. Same here. This is particularly true with RPGA Living Campaigns. To me it was not due to the multitude of classes but to the fact that you could create infinite combinations in 3.5 and so there was a great need to talk about role rather than class. It was easier to say that I was a tank rather than say BBN2,FTR2,CLR4,HoL7 and that was the PC with the fewest number of classes I had above 10th lvl.


I also tend to think about character classes by standards :

- Fighters, ie combattants, not only "fighter" per se :
Barbarian, fighter, paladin, ranger...

- Experts, as in the npc class, skill monkeys or professionals :
Assassin, bard, merchant, rogue, scout...

- Spellcasters, which themselves are divided into categories :
Arcanists : Bard, beguiler, sorcerer, warmage, wizard...
Spiritualists : Cleric, druid, paladin, priest, ranger, shaman...

- But there are also many Hybrids, which fit several roles :
Bard, beguiler, duskblade, mageblade, paladin, ranger...

Although i propose many options to players for them to pick a character class, including variants, i also remind them that the game is mainly built around 4 core classes : Cleric, fighter, rogue and wizard.
That implies that the world is mainly conceived around them, as well as the adventures.
It means that although playing a different class is possbile and can be exotic and refreshing, it can also ask for more work on the player's side, to fit in a group and in an adventure.


In 3rd Edition we would often refer to roles as well: tank, nuker, healer, etc. Someone would want to play a certain role, and then we'd start discussing the individual class that would work best for them and their concept.

In 4th Edition, its basically the same thing, except that now we just make sure to fill in the defender and leader roles (and we've been very successful in two-person games).


In a recent 4e game, a player asked what I was playing. I said, “A squire.” He stared blankly at me for a full second pause and then said, “I did not know there was a squire class.”

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