Combat in 4e Dungeons & Dragons is a tactical affair. The effective use of conditions and the importance of movement demand that an effective party do more than just attack. The party needs to attack as an efficient cohesive unit, where every resource is used to best advantage.
This requires that someone call the shots. A default assumption might be for the leader in the party to be that person, after all leaders lead. But is that really the best decision? Is the leader dazing, stunning, slowing, moving or immobilizing their opponents?
Didn’t think so, no that duty rest primarily with the party’s controller.
In a recent poll over 50% of respondents indicated that the controller was the one role that a party could do without. Since that time I’ve taken the opportunity to play the controller at the various tiers. This hands-on experience caused me to re-evaluate my own thoughts on the controller.
I’ll be the first to admit that at the low heroic tier the controller really doesn’t shine. Little more than a glorified minion killer, the controllers abilities to manipulate the battlefield have little impact on the overall battle. The reason for this is simple – everyone else is doing enough damage to quickly kill the monsters in the encounter. As a result the true strength of the controller is lost. Where this starts to change is the high heroic tier and above. In short, when enemy monsters have enough hit points that they aren’t dying in 2 or 3 hits.
Now some of you are probably thinking, Wimwick, I don’t buy it. I’d rather have an extra striker than a controller anyday. Perhaps you’re right, strikers are great and are probabily my favourite roll to play. But consider this: when playing the final encounter of the level 30 dungeon delve my group did it with only 3 PCs. Two controllers and one striker. We walked all over the encounter, in fact if our leader could have been there he would have been bored because we didn’t need any healing.
This is why you want a controller in your party. The controller is able to remove combatants from the encounter until the party is ready to deal with them. With a controller calling the shots, the defenders and melee striker know where to move to, what squares are safe and which ones are about to be hit with a blast or burst attack. As the controller is the member of the party that’s initiating most of these effects, it makes sense that they are also directing the battle, ensuring that the party’s resources are best used.
The result, quicker combats, less healing surges used and the feeling that your PCs are truly legendary in their ability to deal with all encounters. If you’ve dismissed controllers as a role that can be done without, I’d urge you to give them a second look especially in the paragon and epic tiers.