Friday, August 13, 2010

D&D Lessons: How to Play the Striker

D&D 4E doesn’t have as stiff of a learning curve as past editions. With the exception of Controllers and maybe a few Leaders (i.e. Warlord), it’s not hard to pick up a class and use it well. Of course with min/maxing there’s always the idea of playing a class wrong, or not to its fullest potential. There’s an entire group of people out there who will condemn you for creating a Strength based Paladin who doesn’t have the Mighty Challenge feat, or creating a Warden that doesn’t use a weapon with reach. However there’s one role that you just can’t muck up. It’s the simplest role in the game so straightforward that you could put a monkey in the job and feel assured that you’re in good hands. This is the Striker role, and the only way to botch this job is to literally pass your turn every time it comes up. Why’s this role so easy? It’s because your job is very simple: Kill things dead.

Now every class in D&D has been min maxed to death and people out there have found ways to do 20 damage a turn At-Will, without the expense of encounter or daily powers at level 1. You don’t have to do that, and honestly I’d recommend against it. The fact is that everything you need to succeed is built right into the class. If you’re new to D&D and skeptical on how to play the game, I’d recommend a Striker.

From the above you might assume the Striker is the “dumb” role for players not of the mental conditioning to play one of the big boy roles, but it’s not. It’s just that the Striker is very basic in its job, so a new player doesn’t have to worry about building or playing the class wrong. With a Defender you have to worry about making yourself too strong, or making sure your mark is a threat, and Controllers are a headache all in their own, but a Striker is a simpler breed of character only concerned with dealing massive damage, and doing it as frequently as possible.

So, how do you play a Striker? Well, as I said, everything is built right into the class. Each Striker class has a particular way of dealing higher amounts of damage than other classes built right into Class Features like the Ranger’s Hunter’s Quarry, or the Assassin’s Shrouds. These are just parts of the class that only require you to be aware of them to be effective. The main problem people run into with this role is they think simple, or easy. Sort of like when you play Wolfenstein 3D and the mode above Normal was “Can I Play Too, Daddy?” It’s not a role for idiots, and it’s not “the easy way out”. The Striker has a very important role and if they fail to do it then it makes life a lot harder for the Leaders and Defenders in your party. No, the thing that makes Strikers appealing to new players is that it is very hard to screw up said job.

In addition it should be noted that Striker’s have the most noticeable effect on combat. You might not notice the Defender who absorbed the golem’s most powerful attacks for five rounds, but you will always remember the Sorcerer who threw a bolt of lightning that hit for 47 damage. If it were football, these would be the Wide Receivers and Runningbacks. They make it on the highlight reel, and they make the big bucks, but without the other players to support them, those plays never happen. Never forget the Quarterback/Leader who gave you the support necessary to make a play. Don’t ignore the Defenders/Linemen who held the line long enough for you to pull off your moment of glory. And as hard as it is, always remember the Coaches/Controllers who neutralized your biggest threats before they ever happened. Point is, it’s easy to see your Striker as the most important part of the party, but the truth is that your just one part of the game.

Now pulling off the Striker role effectively is easy as noted above. There are a few things to keep in mind however. First, Strikers are for the most part squishy archers or spell casters who don’t have any right standing in the front line alongside your beefier heroes. Heck, even the bulky Barbarian is seen in media wearing little more than a loincloth, so he doesn’t automatically deserve a place fighting alongside the guys decked out in Scale and Platemail. AC is not your forte, and HP even less so. It’s not uncommon to see a Striker start with 20 – 25 HP at 1st level, and if your AC is a 16 then you shouldn’t be the one risking your ass in the front lines. Learn to sit back and so what you do from afar. Let the Defenders take point and take the abuse. All you need to concern yourself with is dropping enemies fast, and that’s the best way you can help them. In addition staying out of combat is helpful since you stand less of a chance of taking a harpoon in the face and requiring a heal from your Leader’s limited supplies. Playing a Striker also means knowing what the biggest threats on the battlefield are. Most Strikers should avoid wasting time on Minions as much as possible (that’s the Controller’s job), and they should really focus on the deadliest enemy. One strategy is to look for the squishiest thing and pummel it into paste, then worry about the big things later, but most enemies are built to avoid that. Just do what you can to rip through the enemy’s ranks as quickly as possible, and try to set up potential combos with your allies. For example, don’t drop your Daily at the start of the fight. Wait until your Controller can stun or force the foe to grant combat advantage, or wait for your Leader to drop a big buff. Try to synergize easily with what your party can provide. You’re basic, but that doesn’t make you one-note.

D&D is a complex game, but at the same time, one that you can be more than content in if you keep it simple. Leave optimizing for those who want it, and just play something you think will be fun. Your best bet? Play a Striker.

The Striker class includes the Ranger, the Rouge, the Warlock, the Barbarian, the Sorcerer, the Monk, the Avenger, and the Assassin. With that many options first time players should really feel free to double or triple up on this role as many Strikers dabble in another role anyway. Next time I’ll talk about Leaders and how they’re much more than “healbots” as many might believe.


  1. A good ol' DPS class is always fun to play. It's easy to pick up but VERY hard to actually master. I know of only a handful of people I'd considered a master at it.

  2. Another very interesting read for sure. I'd love to listening to you break out into a tutorial mid-session it would be so random XD.

  3. I can't wait to hear what you think of Hybrid's. It's really something that I've been wanting to try for a while, and a few idea's would be good.