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Q-man
02-15-2011, 10:00 PM
I'm curious if any other DM's have had issues with Controller classes in their campaigns. There's nothing wrong with the role's mechanics, when played properly they can be extremely effective. The specific problem I'm having is that they suck the life out of my encounters.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about: The encounter I designed pit the group against an undead mage, which was a solo controller monster. The room had several prisoners of the undead mage which he could drain their life essence to make his attacks more powerful, as a minor action he would drain the captive and add +2d8 necrotic damage to his attacks. The idea was that the undead mage would slide around the room draining the captives and blasting the party, using his controller powers to keep him out of trouble. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun; a mobile battle and a compelling role play reason to pin down their enemy.

Enter the controller, in this case a Seeker. His first attack is Grappling Spirits which slows the target and denies him shifts. My undead mage hadn't even gotten to the first captive and my plan had been ripped apart. With the mage unable to move none of his abilities were very useful and there was no way for him to reach the captives. The battle immediately became a standoff where the party just rolled dice until the mage was dead.

Here's another example: The party is facing off against a bunch of Lurker and Skirmisher monsters. The interesting part was that lining the walls were a series of gaping portals which the monsters could use to teleport through, to immediately get from one wall to another. The idea was to have the monsters bounce from the front lines of the party to its softer back lines to threaten the cloth wearers.

Enter the controller, this time its a Wizard. First attack is the Visions of Avarice power, which creates an illusion that can be use to drag all monsters in a burst toward the illusion. If that wasn't enough the power could be sustained and reused every turn. The end result being that the monsters could never get to the portals to bounce around and the fight quickly became dice rolls until the monsters were dead.


I can't fault either the classes or the players; they did exactly what they should have done to give their party a massive advantage in the fight. What I'm curious about is if anyone's found ways to work around this problem.

There's two angles I'd like to take with this.
1) Either encounter types that still allow the controller to do their thing, but don't become boring because of it.
2) How to express to the players that the controller just made a brilliant move and removed the teeth from these foes. Preferably without blatantly saying that and ending the combat early, something more in character.

Goodfellow
04-27-2011, 02:59 PM
I see nothing wrong with how the fight played out in both cases, well used controllers are the bane of all DMs (and players alike sometimes).

In the first scenario I think the problem was you had a solo fighting solo. I know how solo's are intended to be used but I don't think I've ever seen a solo fight not break down into the case where the group surrounds them and rolls dice until it's dead. I always attach minions to my solo fights at the very least (in a case like yours lots of undead he could resurrect to refill the numbers). It'll give the controller something else to focus on maybe.

In the second case I feel for you. It's rough when you have a terrain based encounter never get to be used. Hopefully after a fight like that the group all patted the wizard on the back for his contributions. They played smart and it payed off.

Q-man
04-28-2011, 07:36 AM
In the first scenario I think the problem was you had a solo fighting solo. I know how solo's are intended to be used but I don't think I've ever seen a solo fight not break down into the case where the group surrounds them and rolls dice until it's dead. I always attach minions to my solo fights at the very least (in a case like yours lots of undead he could resurrect to refill the numbers). It'll give the controller something else to focus on maybe.

I hadn't actually thought about it, but typically I do have something else with the solos. I never actually thought about how that changes how the encounter plays out. I'll have to keep that in mind in the future.

In this particular fight I think I still could have gotten away with it, had it not been for the seeker. The party only had 2 melee characters; a Monk and a Battlemind. Neither class has a tremendous use for strength, and for back story reasons neither character had a fairly high strength. Which means that their melee basic attacks were fairly weak. This undead mage didn't have the usual self preservation concerns, and was willing to take a shot or two to get the advantage from getting to the prisoners (I'll admit that some metagame thinking went into this decision). However, being slowed ruined that; a double move at that point is only 4 squares which wasn't enough to reach anything useful.

Otakar
04-28-2011, 07:09 PM
Q-man, I'm with you! In fact when I first started playing 4E I thought the characters would get creamed. I trusted the system and to my surprise they did very well. Controllers are a huge part of that. I thought I was so smart when I populated a dungeon area with webs, ettercaps and spiders of 2 different sizes. The controller used flame sphere to burn up the webs and keep the place clear for the rest of the party. The stand-off ensued and it was only a matter of time before the party took them down.

With only 1 controller 5 characters will take out their equivalent solo every time. I haven't had the opportunity to use Orcus yet but I'm sure that level 30 characters with a controller and a leader would clean his clock.

Happy DMing. I hope they don't make you pay for the pizza, Q-man! ;)