So I have been playing in the D&D Encounters at my FLGS. The Encounters program is a 12 part adventure played one encounter each week and sponsored by Wizards of the Coast. The adventure is set in the Forgotten Realms in a massive dungeon called Undermountain. The goal of the program is to get people to play D&D, particularly new players, and to promote the FLGS. I have really enjoyed the Encounters program as it gives me a chance to roll the dice on the other side of the screen. I have been playing Drax, a dragonborn paladin of Tempus. I play him as very over the top, not that bright (dump stat is Int), and compelled to challenge whoever he perceives as the toughest opponent, which he sees as his duty being a paladin of Tempus. Playing a defender in 4th Edition isn’t easy, especially at the early levels of the heroic tier. The term “meat shield” is an understatement, and one has to get used to doing less damage than in previous editions. This in particular can be tuff when you see some leather clad sissy roll all those sparkling dice. Being a defender is all about battlefield control and drawing fire. Drax is particularly good at this. The encounter doesn’t seem complete if he hasn’t made at least one death save. He has literally left bits and pieces of himself strewn throughout Undermountain. The group I have been playing with has been fairly consistent week to week; we have 2 other defenders (Warden and Fighter) and 2 strikers (Monk and Sorcerer). We typically struggle thru the encounters without a leader, especially if the strikers don’t roll well. I feel our tactics are generally good but there is either something in the encounter design or our DM (who is awesome) has been rolling better than average, as we tend to have our teeth kicked in with some frequency. It is hard to feel like you’re really defending comrades or controlling the battlefield when you are unconscious by the end of the first round, unless “controlling” means forcing the enemy to move around your limp body to get at your allies. I think it takes perseverance to play a defender in 4th edition as it takes several levels for your hit points to significantly outdistance the other roles and for you to get access to cool feats, powers, and magic items that will make you a more effective tank. One such task is to get your defences sorted out. Seriously, there is only a 3 point difference in AC between our monk who is wearing cloth and Drax who is in full plate and heavy shield. As a side note, nothing in Undermountain seems to attack AC, which is unfortunate as this is Drax’s highest defence. All in all though I love playing Drax, and am proud that he has made it to 2nd level. I can already see the change from first level, as he only got dropped once this week. So this is a shout out to all of you out there who choose to step into the breach and hold the line against the faceless hordes in your own games so some fancy pants monk or rogue can get all the glory.