I know I can give the striker’s a bit of a hard time now and then. How they just strut around the battlefield in their flimsy outfits and glass jaws, dropping all those sparkling damage dice and acting every inch the glitterati of the D&D world. While the real men in plate are having their faces kicked in, holding the line and standing firm ..but I digress. I think I might have had a slight change of heart. Perhaps it is the cognitive dissonance talking as I have been playing a rogue for the last little while, but more likely it might have something to do with witnessing a combat encounter without any strikers and it made me want to gouge my eyes out with a d4.
The encounter in question occurred in my Revenge of the Giants game playing out over Wotc’s virtual tabletop. We had 4 of the 6 players show up for the session with 2 strikers being the no-shows. The party consisted of a wizard, ardent, warden, and paladin (built to be a secondary healer). They were up against a re-skinned red dragon acting as a Behir, earth giant minion and an earth archon. Before the game started I casually suggested that I would be okay if anyone wanted to play perhaps the bow ranger that was sitting idly on the screen, macros just waiting to rain down unholy death on my poor monsters, but the players declined as none felt they could play more than one character effectively. I don’t blame them as this the paragon tier and going over your character sheet can be like pouring over the planes for a nuclear warhead.
So the throw down starts as the heroes leap into the fray attempting to push back the giants assault and prevent the penetration of the main gate. Good lord was the battle painful; as it wore on it was like watching a documentary on paint drying. You could see them gradually loosing the battle of attrition through some incredibly painful grind. They were slowly exhausting their healing capabilities (which were not insignificant) but not doing enough damage to the monsters to be victories before they eventually would just run out of hit points. I had prepared for this the instant I saw we had no strikers. My initial plan was to have the Behir flee when it was bloodied leaving the earth archon alone and vulnerable to some good-ole gang shanking by the pc’s. I had to adjust this strategy on the fly as well because after multiple rounds they were nowhere even close to bloodying the Behir. So I dropped its hit points by 100 and voila bloodied. This is perhaps my favorite part, as I have the Behir eat opportunity attacks left and right beating a hasty exit he runs out of movement while still on the map. The Ardent is up next and says “looks like he is trying to get away, we can’t have that happen” and then proceeds to hit it with a power that allows him to slide the Behir back into melee. I almost started to cry, you could audibly hear the silent “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO” that reverberated in my mind. On the Behir’s next turn I had it run into the magical wards protecting the city and explode into meat chunks. The earth archon dropped the same round and mercifully it was over.
I have seen a lot of party compositions over the last 2 years. I have played in games with no leaders, no controllers, and sometimes no defenders all of which have been generally successful. But I gotta tell you I don’t think you can play this game without the strikers or strikery builds, at least not in the paragon tier.