Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Streamlining Snags

4e classes are interesting because, by and large, they're pretty distinctive. There comes a point in play when you know they're working. The Barbarian rounds a corner and becomes a damage output machine. The Warden stands his ground against an impossible foe. The Warlock kills a lot of people, really horribly. It's the point where you really feel like the class has paid off.

It's a weird moment and hard to pin down. For some classes it seems to work right out the gate, while others seem to depend on a bit of maturation of feats and powers for things to gel. But it kind of fascinates me because it speaks directly to the idea of what the class is and what it's supposed to feel like. It's also kind of important because it reveals one of the big problems with playing a "stripped down" version of 4e. The fact that the essential elements of different classes can be found in different places can make it very hard to find a one-size-fits-all solution.

And, in fact, it even gets more complicated than that when you start drilling into specific classes. Some classes have very different "builds" within their possibilities. Rangers are probably the most obvious of these, but really almost any split stat class (especially Clerics) have some of this. Essentials muddies this picture, of course, but as long as WOTC keeps saying it's not a replacement, I'll work with that. Also, honestly, there are some classes that I'm not 100% sure about what they're supposed to feel like.

This is probably a limitation on my part, rather than a bigger issue with the game. For example, as much as I _love_ the Battlemind mechanically, I'm not sure what he's supposed to be like. The Warden and Swordmage have some very distinctive elements that distinguish them from a Paladin or Fighter, but I don't actually get what makes a Battlemind a Battlemind. Yes, it's Psionic typed, but that's not an answer in and of itself.

Now, assuming one was thinking about doing a streamlined 4e (perish the thought!) it would be perfectly reasonable to just set aside things like the Battlemind as problem cases, but that sort of saps the fun out of the whole process.

So I put this out there - Can anyone make a pitch to me about what the essential nature of the Battlemind (or, really, any Psionic class) is? And similarly I ask, are there any other classes that people have trouble seeing the shape of?


  1. The PH3 was really spreading way too little butter over an entire piece of player's handbook sized bread. The Battlemind and almost everything in that book other than the Monk doesn't have a clear fictional archetype corollary. Thank goodness Heroes of Shadow didn't follow the "we must have new classes for every role in this new power source!" policy. Battlemind in particular suffers because you can't simply call it the psychic warrior, because the Ardent is in that space too. Combine those classes into one clear and simple vision, you've got something like a Jedi. Other classes without clear archetypes: Runepriest and Seeker (PH3 again).

  2. Battleminds are damage negaters. Both for themselves at lower levels and to the party at higher levels. Most of there damage resistance effects are typed "ALL". They have an at-will that has damage resistance as an Effect (negating the need to hit to gain the DR), and a class ability encounter power that grants temporary damage reduction, and several utility powers that progressively grant more powerful damage resistance, one of which negates a specific attack's damage.

    This, too me, is the driving schtick of the battlemind, where "mind over body" grants damage resitance (all). "Mind over body" also seems like the only other way to grant such powers without treading on divine/arcane defender toes. They wanted a DR schtick class and Psionic was where to put it.

  3. I have always had trouble understanding the Ardent.

    Damage negation is a good way to put it, although that's technically one of the builds main features. "Tactics Negation" might better represent all builds, since lots of battlefield control (reaching where you normally couldn't, not letting the enemy shake you, or easily putting enemies where you want them with slides, teleports, pushes, etc) let battleminds not only soak damage, but do so wherever is most inconvenient to enemy tactics. They easily break lines of defenders, reach and harrass ranged foes, can follow enemies with a "flee/shift out of melee" gimmick, can walk on walls and ceilings, or interrupt with attacks out of turn, and can even be in two (or more) places at a time, multiplying the negating effects around.

    I played a Battlemind for a space last year, and it was the most fun with a character that I've had, but I got the feeling I would hate a Battlemind in my game as a DM. I could render nearly all the enemy's fancy tactics uncool or wasted. "Hit me and it'll do next to nothing. Hit anyone else and it'll hit you too, or I will bend space and time to interrupt you. Gain CA and I'll just increase my defenses to negate it. Try to leave and I'll bend space/time to be at probably be at your destination before you, or I'll just reach beyond normal ability and pull/teleport you back.. into the acid pool since I can. Shift to throw an area burst and you'll still see my AO. Good luck looking like a legitimate threat now buddy."

    With a spiked chain, and many no damage or just Mod damage powers, he definitely didn't put out damage, but he could sure mess up most of the enemies' gimmicks, and at-will teleport into damaging terrain or giving CA to all allies made up for lack of damage.

    So I'd say, Tactics Negation, or Enemy Neutering is what Battlemind felt like to me when it seemed to come into its own.

  4. Maybe it could be best conceived as an anti-warlord.

  5. @I have seen that Battlemind of which you speak, but more often I see the "heroic" Battlemind that still hasn't a clue what they are supposed to be doing. Until you piece together a suite of at-wills that make the Battlemind function like you want him to, the class is almost a resource drain on the party.

    That being said, I witnessed a Radiant Paladin and Radiant Hammer Battlemind duo shred and entire one-shot adventure. The rest of the party was just window dressing. So I know that even the damage limitations of the Battlemind can be overcome.

    Psionics could have used a bit more time cooking before it hit the market, but at least it wasn't as half-baked as the original implementation in the last edition.

  6. I've been playing a Battlemind in DarkSun since August. And I can absolutely agree that the class - as described in the book - lacks narrative focus that makes a class satisfying during play.

    Thematically, I have found that the Battlemind should feels like a Biotics Cut Scene from Mass effect. If you have played any of the Biotic classes from ME or ME2, the appearance of those powers feels like psionic power, especially for the battlemind.

    Battleminds are meant to be a type of psionic warrior, mixing their mental magic with physical skill. Thus I see many of the Battleminds abilities having a very visual effect - crackling blue bioitc energy fields, waves of visable kinetic force, lances of translucent energy, etc - unlike the ardent who is supposed to be a master of emotional manipulation.


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