Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fighter Essentials: The Great Weapon

UPDATE: The article has finally been errataed in the Dragon magazine compilation. There are details below, but the most important error - the Warding Steel power - is fixed now.

The new Class Acts article devoted to Fighters (how many are there, already?) provides much needed reasons to make a Greatweapon Talent Fighter, by far the most overlooked of this class' builds. There's a lot to comment - to summarize, the article makes a great read, and is mostly safe to use in your campaign, with two notable exceptions I'll explain below.

New Feats
The new feats presented in the article are something the class has been missing greatly, ever since Martial Power was released: Fighter options that can't also be taken by Battleragers or Tempests. Most of them are decent and moderately interesting, but there's one that really sucks, a very strong one that will be very influential in future fighter builds, and one that is quite broken.

The crappiest new feat is, sadly, called Fighter Weapon Specialization. One would expect such a name to be used for something really cool, but this amounts to a mere +1 to damage with your chosen weapon type, which never increases. What a letdown.

The feat you will have to take into account whenever you make a Fighter PC from now on is Hewing Charge. It's the ultimate reward for going the 2H-weapon talent route, and grants a Con bonus to charge damage. This has the potential to embarrass Howling Strike Barbarians, and asks you to build the character around it. Nevertheless, I think it isn't really unbalanced, considering what you can get from other Fighter builds. I really, really like it.

The broken one is Pinning Challenge which, despite its name, doesn't have nothing to do with Combat Challenges or Opportunity attacks. It allows you to immobilize with basic attacks, and it's wrong at so many levels! Against melee enemies, this allows you to effectively stun them at-will, for the whole encounter. What's worse, nonbasic attack powers become really unappealing once you have this. A real blunder.

A version of Pinning Challenge that is both cool and balanced just requires you to add 'When making a Combat Challenge attack or an opportunity attack'. I strongly recommend you to use it, or something similar, at home.

By the way, the Mastered Technique feat, which is conceptually sound, won't work in practice because it grants a +1 feat bonus to AC, but every Fighter worth his salt won't be able to stack it with the +1 feat bonus granted by Armor Specialization. Since it absolutely needs to be a typed bonus, why not change it to +2?

New Powers

There is a neat selection of new powers, typicaly centered on 2-handed weapon wielders, but without actually requiring the Weapon Talent class feature. The core mechanic for attack powers seems to be granting -2 to hit for a bonus to damage (usually) Con. At first sight, this is terrible unless the bonus is huge (which it isn't), but some of the powers manage to be decent.

Brutal Advance (Daily 5)
A multiattack power, exclusive to 2-handed weapon wielders. Hit, push, then charge. This should amount to a great deal of damage.

Line in the Sand (Utility 6) (Update: changed to daily power in errata)
An amazing example of justifying Zone powers for martial characters.

Hurricane Strike (Daily 15)
This targets "any enemy in burst". This deviates from the usual "each enemy in burst", but judging from the powers, they mean the same. Weird. Maybe it's supposed to work like previous powers, but allowing you to skip enemies?

Warding Steel (Util 16) - Completely broken as an at-will. A permanent bonus to AC equal to Con, and you can activate more than once per turn (it stacks!). It really should be an encounter power. (Update: Finally changed to Encounter. The world is saved)

Toppling Finish (Daily 19)
This is a promising 2-hit power: the first attack knocks prone, and the second hurts a lot. The problem is, it has the reliable keyword, so you can 'spend' the reliability with a hit that deals no damage, then miss the important attack. Maybe they could add a line like "Hitting this attack doesn't count towards the Reliable keyword"?

Battle Furor (Utility 22)
Permanent Stance! It's an encounter power, so you can have it always up. It's effect is to turn excess healing into temp. HP, and then grant some extra damage. Very cool.

Paragon Paths

Two, exclusive to Great Weapon fighters. The Great Weapon Master specializes, oddly, in defensive maneuvers and counter attacks - the 16th level feature grants a Con bonus to damage against enemies that have missed you. It looks more fun to play than the average path, and isn't too bad at the power level department.

The Siegebreaker' Shtick is to weaken enemy defenses. It's damage enhancing feature is what the Pit Fighter's should have been all along: ability modifier damage (Con instead of Wis, here), limited to once per round, and only when you have combat advantage. This one also features a permanent (that is, once per encounter) Stance, called Brutal Momentum, which grants bonus to attack after hitting with at-wills.


  1. Warding Steel will see an errata soon enough... Nice blog by the way, just found it, felicidades, esta bien escrito ademas.

  2. Alas, the Dragon compilation has come out, without any changes to the Fighter article, including Warding Steel. Not that they should be expected to fix it in the two (weekend!) days from article publication to compilation, but...
    I wonder if there will be some exceptional errata after this, as the power (and its availability through multiclass) will seriously disrupt Paragon tier play.

  3. Is Pinning Challenge really that big of a deal? If you're doing your job right and foes are following your mark, they should be adjacent to you and hitting you anyway. Furthermore, anything with a close blast or burst attack is just as good next to you as they are away from you. In fact, a foe with a really good blast 5 or burst 3 may benefit from the fact that your mark will never trigger - you're included in all their attacks! I can see this mattering with solos who suddenly have a good portion of their movement tricks taken away, but let's be honest; if there's only one of you on the field, you're going to get swarmed. I'm not convinced this is a problem.. yet.

    Same thing with Warding Steel. First off, your Fighter probably doesn't have a lot of things to do with his Minor in the first place, so might as well give him a use for it. You can't stack it with itself because even though it's untyped, you can't gain multiple bonuses from the same source. At 16th level, making this an encounter power would be pointless. Since you have a Con modifier at this point of probably around 5, this is basically equivalent to a +3 heavy shield, which is about right for the level. My only change would be to label it as a shield or power bonus to avoid overlap with other powers or class features from multiclassing and call it good. The two-hand fighter needs all the AC he can get, really, because you're probably not packing Dex or Int and you can't carry a shield.

  4. My apologies in advance for the wall of text - I wanted to explain the subject in detail, and got carried away.

    Re: Pinning Challenge.

    There is only one abusive maneuver I'm concerned with Pinning Challenge, but I think it's really effective. It consist on the following: the first turn you engage an enemy, you use a random attack - probably an Encounter, since you won't be needing it in the following turns - and mark him. On each of the following turns, you attack the same enemy with a basic attack and shift so that you (and hopefully the rest of your party) end up away from his reach. Many enemies are completely shut down by this, and others will have to resort to rechargable close attacks and the like, likely losing a few turns in the process.

    The tactic is somewhat tricky to pull off without a reach weapon, as shifting in and out of reach usually means you can only use it every other turn. On the other hand, with a polearm you can just spam basic attack and immobilize an enemy out of the combat.

    What I don't like about this feat is that it makes your basic attack so much more powerful than your at-wills. Also, conditions that negate enemy turns (an immobilize can do just that, against the right enemies) are among the strongest effects in the game, and definitely shouldn't be available at-will. Even a casual approach at this feat, where you don't spam basic attack but you occasionally immobilize an enemy, then switch to a different target, can have too strong of an

    effect to my tastes.

    By contrast, if the feat didn't work on your turn but affected opportunity attacks and Combat Challenge, it would

    just improve the fighter's already impressive movement negating capabilities - but only against enemies trying to

    get away from him, who can otherwise spend their standard action atttacking him. That's fair game to me.

    Re: Warding Steel.

    I like that they attempt to give some use to the fighter's forgotten minor actions, I really do. But growing his AC out of proportion is not an appropiate effect, from my point of view. One thing you have to keep in mind is that there is no such thing as a "+3 shield", so the only difference in AC between a Shield Fighter and a Greatweapon one is 2 points, plus or minus whatever defense-enhancing feats each one has taken. That is, Warding Steel makes a fighter with a 2H weapon (even one with a lowly Con!) WAY better in defense than any shield wearer could dream of!

    You don't really need to stack it with anything to make it too good, and you can't use it with a shield, anyways. On whether it stacks with itself, we have been discussing it on the DDI forums, and the only rulebook quotes that have been found on the matter say that you don't add together bonuses of the same type, but untyped bonuses always stack. Penalties, on the other hand, don't stack when they come from the same power. I'm not totally sold on this, though, so if you can come up with a quote saying otherwise, it will be welcome ;) Here's the link to the discussion, anyways:

    As an at-will power, I wouln't be comfortable with Warding Steel granting anything more than a +1, for this reason - I'm all for improving his AC, but you really need to keep it below shield AC, or there is no point in using a shield anymore.

    On the other hand, if we turned it into an Encounter power, a bonus between +5 and +8 to AC for one turn each encounter is huge, particularly when your Ac is already good (and, with scale armor at the least, it will be). I can't find many similar powers, but there is Shielded Sides (Utility 2, +2 AC and Reflex plus a minor benefit, for one round/encounter), which my Shield Fighter loves to take and use, and probably would continue doing so at 16th level. I'm convinced that, as an Encounter Power, Warding Steel would (still) be one of the best options available at the level.