The Fighter as a Striker

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 8, 2009

You’ve decided that your next character will be an archer and your primary weapon will be the longbow. But you’re not interested in playing a tree-hugging, one-with-nature Ranger. You want to play a tough as nails Fighter in plate armor who is a longbow master. Interesting character concept, but can you make this character using the 4e mechanics?

Remember when a character of any class could pick up a bow, choose a few bow related feats, and suddenly become a competent archer? It was a great time to play the guy wit the bow. And then we were introduced to 4e D&D and things changed.

Sure you could still pick up a bow, but none of your class powers work with a longbow – unless you’re a Ranger. Well I don’t want to play a Ranger. I want to play a Fighter, a Rogue, a Paladin or a Warlord. And I want to be threatening and dangerous from a distance. But the mechanics of 4e won’t let me do more than a basic ranged attack with my bow because I’m not a Ranger.

Yesterday Wimwick brought up the idea that classes are becoming secondary to roles. But if we take this argument a step further, I’d like to know why do any of the classes have to be limited to one role?

What if I want to play a Fighter but I don’t want to be a defender. What if I want to use a longbow and be a kick-ass, non-Ranger Fighter? Sounds to me like the role I’m looking for is striker, not defender.

I can choose my race, my feats, my class and my powers, but not my role. The roles and classes have been merged thereby limiting flexibility. All classes that fall into the defender role have class features that make them uniquely suited to melee combat. They can mark opponents and hinder their ability to move or take on other opponents.

Now if a defender attempts to use ranged weapons the advantages gained by marking an opponent are thrown out the window. If he tries to shift away what am I gong to do? I’m certainly not going to take an opportunity attack with my bow. That would only provoke on opportunity attack from the marked foe. But if I don’t attack him why bother marking him at all? If I don’t I’m missing out on a big part of what the Fighter class is all about.

Well, this is not entirely correct. I’m missing out on what the defender role is all about, and that’s an important distinction. If I could choose my class (Fighter) and choose my role (striker) then I’d loose the defender’s ability to mark my foes, but I’d probably gain some sort of striker bonus that allows me to deal more damage in certain circumstances just like the Rogue’s sneak dice or the Ranger’s hunter’s quarry.

After going through this example I’m betting that we’re going to see the roles play an increasingly more important part in character creation as 4e continues to grow. I’m also confident that we’ll see new rules (possibly in PHB3 or by a third-party publisher) that allow you to apply any role to any class.

Looking back at my original dilemma, I don’t see an easy way to use the existing Fighter model to make a really cool archer. For now, if I want to make a powerful archer I think I’m stuck playing the Ranger. I guess I’ll have to use role-playing to make him the PC I envisioned and not just another hippy elf with a bow.

1 Mad Brew May 8, 2009 at 6:13 am

I can definitely see this as the next step in Wizard’s playbook. They’ve expanded classes, paragon paths, etc. Now it’s time to introduce suites of powers to tailor classes for different roles. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a 3rd party publisher has this concept in development right now.

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2 Nick May 8, 2009 at 8:43 am

You have two options here:

Pick the Ranger class, but throw out all the background. You can pick all the cool ranged powers, use a feat or two to pick up extra hit point, healing surges, and such.

Wizard’s has recent previewed Multiclassing for PHB3. When that book lands, you will be able to make a Fighter/Ranger and dip a little bit into the powers of each class.

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3 Dungeon May 8, 2009 at 9:10 am

it’s true. you can’t choose your role in 4e, you can try but more than likely you won’t succeed. one thing you could do is take some powers from the ranger class (talk to your DM and you two can think of something to work out), or make some personally trait feats, which increase your skill with the bow. or you could do something similar.
I am sure WoTC is trying to fill in this need for customization.
Ameron, you and wimwick could make bonus power cards or powers that can do this for the fighter class, and other classes. that would be great.

4 Rising Phoenix May 8, 2009 at 9:12 am

I guess I just don’t quite understand why you don’t just pick a ranger. I mean, if the game functionality is there for a certain class, which also happens to be a striker, which is what you wanted, then just be that class.

Just because your class line on the character sheet says “Ranger” it does not mean you have to be a “tree-hugging, one-with-nature Ranger.” You can ROLE-play him anyway you want… just use the system in place.

I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but really… we know the fighter is a mostly melee defender…. the avenger is also mostly melee…. their powers dictate that… why is it such a big deal to play the ranged class for a ranged character?

5 Wimwick May 8, 2009 at 10:57 am

One of the fundamental short comings of fighters as they stand right now is that they have limited abilities to attack at range. If the party is fighting a dragon that is keeping its distance the fighter and all of his defender abilities become useless for the encounter. I feel this is a severe shortcoming of the role system, it doesn’t allow any flexibility on how your character can attack, with the exception of the ranger who can select powers that have melee or ranged as the keywords.

The arguement that Ameron has made is why can’t the fighter do this in 4e? Can a fighter be a striker? Or reword his question, Fighter As Ranged Defender. Why not, why does a defenders abilities need to be dependant on melee? Is there room to expand the class? Is there room to redefine roles and how they work? I think the answer to both those questions is yes.

6 Rising Phoenix May 8, 2009 at 11:07 am

Ok, now I can see the limitation a little more distinctly. I definitely can see the issue where a fighter is such a broad term, but really it encompasses anyone who can fight whether it is ranged or melee. Perhaps they should have called the class, soldier or something else. A fighter should be able to have more versatility than any of the other martial classes. I agree with you. The fighter, traditionally, was a weapons master. He always had the ability to pick up any weapon and be extremely deadly with it (ranged or melee). I suppose in the new edition, in their attempt to streamline everything, it kind of eliminated that as a possibility for them. That is a shame.

In the end though I just see it as this: If you want a more versatile (meaning melee or ranged) character, you have to go with Ranger (for now), or perhaps something from the multiclassing system.

Just a thought: If all classes are mathematically balanced…. and therefor their powers must be balanced to some degree… why can’t we play a sort of a class-less system where you just pick and choose your ability based on your power source? In other words… take ranger powers for a fighter. Is it optimized? hell no… but could it work mathmatically and be balanced?


7 Donny_the_DM May 8, 2009 at 11:26 am

Fighter, multiclassed ranger as a first level feat. Now that you can mark AND have a quarry, Ask your DM to make the slight change to the wording of your powers allowing you to use “weapon – ranged” instead of “Weapon – melee”. BAM! You have a bow fighter.

Thing is, with most of your primary powers being defender powers, the bow is an odd and rather ugly fit. Personally, I would do the exact opposite of what I listed above. Go ranger and multiclass fighter. After all, you want everything the ranger has, except the flavor right? A 1/2 a cup of fighter could give you a dozen reasons why you aren’t a granola-eating hippy ranger 🙂

Make yourself a half-elf and snag another nice attack power to round things out. You can build ANYTHING with the right class/race/multiclass combination 🙂 Paladin/rogue blackguard build is my current favorite.

8 Donny_the_DM May 8, 2009 at 11:31 am

The key is to remember that the classes are meaninless, it’s the power sources and roles that are important now.

Would you consider a demon worshipping cleric / warlock to be a striker? No? Laser beams and eldritch blasts coming from the defender?

How about A wizard / sorceror a chaotic mind constantly battling bloodline power vs. educated implimentation? Is this character now a controller or striker? How about the other way around?

I like the idea of stripping the classes completely from the system. A fighter is what I want it to be. Conan could be mighty sneaky when he needed to be, and most barbarians don’t recieve a thorough education from exotic weapon masters. Just what class IS he? Who cares 🙂 I just want to play that character!

9 Ameron May 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Time for me to weigh in on this discussion.

@Mad Brew
We’re going to take a crack at presenting our own Role Templates in the coming weeks. We’ll see how the gaming community feels about them and go from there.

Thanks for the suggestions Nick. I think multi-classing is the way most people wil go when faced with this kind of dilemma. I’m looking forward to seeing the new rules in PHB3 next year.

It seems that borrowing from the Ranger class is really the only way to get cool bow powers short of just making them up myself. Any power we make ourselves will just end up being clones of the Ranger powers anyway.

@Rising Phoenix
In the short-term I think you’re absolutely right. The best and easiest way for me to play the archer as I’ve described him is to just make a Ranger, but role-play him as a Fighter (much as I suggested in the conclusion of my article).

I don’t think you sound like a jerk at all. I think you make a good argument. And my post was written partly to see how other gamers felt about roles in 4e. I do like the ranger class, I’ve played quite a few in my day, but I’m bothered by the lack of ranged powers offered martial characters. Would it kill Wizards of the Coats to throw a couple of Ranged attack options that do 3[W] damage in the mix for Fighters or Warlords? That’s all I’m really looking for, some way to make a real difference with a ranged attack if I’m playing a Fighter or other defender.

Thanks for jumping in.

@Rising Phoenix
Watch for our new Role Templates coming soon. I think this will (somewhat) address the problems we’ve been talking about. Especially with the Fighter.

Ranger with 1/2 a cup of Fighter. That’s an excellent description of what I’m looking for. Great suggestion, thanks.

10 Anarkeith May 8, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I suspect WoTC looked at how people built characters in 3e when they decided that roles would be the true divider in 4e. That said, your typical historical bowman wasn’t heavily armored. Armor is expensive, and you have to put it where it does the most good: the front lines, defender territory.

The build suggestions others have made above will mostly accomplish your stated goals, but it seems like you will have to change your philosophy a bit. Think of your character as a striker, rather than a ranger?

11 kaeosdad May 8, 2009 at 6:20 pm

I like the new hybrid rules that Nick mentioned above. I think it completely solves this problem. Just make a hybrid fighter/ranger and fluff towards your concept and boom ranged fighter! A player in my group made a hybrid swordmage/wizard that rocked. He used his sword to cast fireballs and when the enemies closed in he switched to melee force damage attacks.

I can totally see a fighter/ranger hybrid kicking ass from both close up and far away. Depending on feat/power selection you could focus more on one or another but at least this way you have the options!

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12 Ameron May 11, 2009 at 11:51 am

You make a very good point about putting heavily armored characters where they’ll do the most good: on the front lines. However, in campaigns that revolve around a small number of heroes, those armed with ranged weapons (or ranged spells for that matter) are just as likely to be subjected to monster attacks as the heavily armored defender. It’s just the nature of the game mechanics.

I see a Fighter/Ranger hybrid kicking ass too, which is what inspired me to write this post in the first place. And I agree that the suggestions presented above seem to resolve my “problems.”

Thanks to everyone who’s offered their 2 cents worth. I greatly appreciate it.

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