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I've just started running a Dark Sun game. Initially, my 8yo son was interested. However, once we got started, his interest level dropped off, and he's now not playing. Sadly, he was playing the Defender. We now have the choice of making someone change their character to be a defender, or else try and get by without one. So, does anyone have any tips on getting by with no Defender?

Party makeup is now Human Cleric, Dragonborn Ardent, Essentials Human Mage, Dragonborn Hexblade, Shifter Ranger and Changeling Psion.

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Can you add some more details? What supplements do you allow? What level is the party? What style of play did you have in mind (tactical encounters, pure roleplaying, little of both)? –  user660 Apr 3 '11 at 22:55
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You have a dual-leader party, which is (in general) a really good idea. The cleric, the ardent, and maybe the hexblade need to realize that there's no-one stopping them from drawing aggro. They are also the theoretically hardiest members of your group. Your ranger may be, if it's a two-weapon strength based longtooth, but I'll assume archer for now.

The simplest thing is to make your ardent into a not completely worthless defender.

She should consider:

  • Energizing Strike (not hugely necessary in a dual-leader party, but always useful)
  • Intent Laid Bare (a pseudo-defender power, making the ardent quite sticky. The ardent, of course, needs to be using really good armor and a shield, but that has to be the case in any event.)
  • Wave of Fatigue: another pseudo-defender sticky, I'd say that intent laid bare is better at being a defender, while wave of fatigue is better at complementing a defender.

  • Guarded Prison: This gives you a punishing pseudo-mark and is required for the ardent to be able to be a "defender" Realize, of course, that most of her healing will be self focused.

A strength based cleric, or a warpriest are also acceptable off-defenders. Leaders naturally attract pain, and a warpriest can survive long enough to give a credible imitation of defender.

Your mage and psion will actually be in rather dangerous circumstances, as without joint planning they tend to stomp all over each other's specialties. However, if both of them focus on forced movement rather than damage (usually a good idea for controllers, since damage is a resource-trap that strikers already are better at) they can credibly force monsters around the two "defenders" (leaders) such that the strikers can focus fire while the leaders heal themselves.

All meleers in the party should also consider taking the "Primal Guardian" theme, as that gives them a mark with a little punishment attached. The ranged characters should consider templar or veiled alliance (but mixing and matching is probably bad from an RP perspective) (except the psion who simply should take noble adept)

My recommendation would be for one or both of your strikers to reroll, but I'm quite strongly biased against strikers in the first place (I view them as the least necessary role, though it is nice to have 1 around...) If not, everyone should realize that they are far more responsible for their own defense than would otherwise be the case and focus their resources accordingly. The psion needs to focus on attack debuffing, the ardent on pseudo-defender powers, the mage on movement debuffs, and the strikers on defense.

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You don't necessarily need a defender in your party, although it admittedly makes things easier at times.

The main advantage of having a defender is that he can tie up monsters and reduce their threat to other party members, either by reducing their mobility or encouraging them to attack the defender instead of someone else. This in turn makes it a little easier for the leaders since damage is not spread out among the whole party but a bit more focused.

Having a defender is nice, but in no way required.

Ways to deal with a lack of a defender can include:

  • Tactics
    Clever positioning and use of control effects and conditions (like daze, prone, slowed, ...) can greatly diminish the threat of monsters. Depending on how much meta-gaming and OOC conversation you allow in combat, the party could develop some great tactics and power combos. If your players are new to the game or just aren't good tactical thinkers there's nothing wrong with helping them by for example letting enemies move into "bad" positions and take "bad" actions.

  • Mechanics
    You can try to work around the problem with multi-/hybridclassing into defender classes. However, this may not be a valid option for all characters depending on their ability scores. Also, these options (especially hybridclassing) make characters a bit more complex to play and advance. The drawback of this approach is that the marking mechanics are usually not usable as freely compared to a pure defender.

  • Powers and Items
    Depending on each character's build there might be powers and magic items that allow the party to compensate. For example, powers that allow you to reduce damage taken on a hit are a good choice, as are powers that weaken or daze/stun the enemy. Magic items that allow the characters to get more healing (either by improving received healing or allowing them to spend healing surges on their own) or get away from enemies/keep them away can also help.

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