I tried playing D&D 4th edition a few years ago. While I enjoyed it, this particular thing put me off. I didn't know about this SE at the time, so I couldn't ask this. Events in this question are in the past. I haven't played D&D or other tabletop games for fear of a repeat of this situation, but I am interested in trying again. I’m looking to try playing D&D 5th edition. For that reason, I'd like to learn from this experience.

The Previous Experience

I joined a D&D group for the first time. I got invited by the DM and we would play 4e. I was friends with all party members except the controller, but I knew him. I am familiar with World of Warcraft, so I know concepts like roles and builds. The DM explained what current party members we had to me comparing it to World of Warcraft classes. He explained to me that there are roles, but they are a bit different from WoW. In WoW a healer has to heal all the time in group content, otherwise people die. That is not very balanced in D&D, so the healer, instead called a leader, focuses on buffing as well as healing. He also explained the role of the controller to me. He compared it to a frost mage in WoW, a role that keeps the monsters from hitting the heroes. Our controller would be a sorcerer, so that made sense to me. We also had two damage dealers, apparently called strikers: a druid and a warlock. The only role missing was a tank, called a defender in D&D. I had no idea how to build a character, so the DM sat down with me and built a paladin defender with me.

The Problem

I felt absolutely useless in this group. I had a really cool character that could do good damage by carefully positioning the monsters in a certain way, but we also had a sorcerer. I had had no idea how sorcerers play. This one in particular did great damage by moving the monsters around, knocking them into walls, in ways that didn't allow me to do anything. The player did seem to want to work together with me, because he did set the monsters up to allow me to do opportunity attacks sometimes, but most of the time, I didn't get to set up any of those awesome skills I picked. The opportunity attacks he allowed me to make feel like his attacks instead of mine.

Moreover, I could not do my role correctly because of this. The monsters would often hit the druid, who has been in danger because of this very often. I left this campaign because of this.


How do I either keep this from happening entirely or resolve it when it happens?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ First of all, welcome to the site! Feel free to take the Tour if you haven't already. Just to be sure on the answer you're looking for, are you looking for a way to keep your setup-based character in a group with the sorcerer? Or for a way to discuss it with the other player and the GM? \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Aug 22, 2018 at 12:58
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Are you asking specifically about Dungeons and Dragons 4e? We have a tag for that specific edition, which is dnd-4e, whereas the dungeons-and-dragons tag is used more in questions that span multiple editions, for example for questions about the evolution of certain pieces of lore over the different editions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Secespitus
    Aug 22, 2018 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you both! I have left this campaign, so keeping both characters in this is no longer relevant. This was a problem in a 4e game, but I am looking at playing 5e now, so I tagged it with the general one. I'm mostly looking at how to resolve this conflict as soon as it happens next time, when I notice someone playing something that really doesn't work with my character, by discussing it with the other player and the GM. The main goal is to keep it fun for everyone, keeping both characters in is a bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – Belle
    Aug 22, 2018 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Behacad that comment sounds like the start of a good answer--I hope you'll post it as such! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Aug 22, 2018 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don’t really have time to edit this in yet. The answers so far are great, really. I am very happy with them. But I’d like to express that the controller player in question was very focused on doing as high damage as possible and making his character shine, often at the cost of other characters, especially mine and often the Druid. He’d throw the monsters into a wall to do extra damage near the Druid. We’d mention, “the Druid is standing there”, and he’d respond, “He should survive their attacks unless he’s very unlucky”. I understand I don’t have to “tank” all of them, I didn’t try. \$\endgroup\$
    – Belle
    Aug 23, 2018 at 4:53

4 Answers 4


Talk it through

This turns out to be the answer for a lot of issues like this. D&D is a social game and the only way to resolve many of the issues that come up between players is by talking about it. In an MMO, it's easy to just drop the group, kick a player, or whatever...a D&D party has a lot more investment in it.

The best solution to this sort of problem is to sit down with the other player and talk it over. If you aren't comfortable with this, go talk to your DM. They should be able to help you. Here are a few pointers...

Talk in private

You don't want to call the other player out in front of the rest of the group, that's a quick way to make someone defensive. Instead, catch them before or after the game when you can talk privately.

Focus on the game, not the person

You don't want to rip into another player over this...again, that just makes them defensive. Instead, focus on the game and the characters, and how their abilities can interact. Talk about your respective roles and responsibilities, and how you can best work together to enjoy the game.

If they are more experienced in the system (or at RPGs in general) than you, consider approaching it as asking for advice

To this particular case...

"Hey, I noticed that our character's abilities are kind of interfering with each other. Your Sorcerer keeps knocking enemies all over the place, and I'm trying to round up enemies to keep them focused on my Paladin, so they don't go kill the Druid. I mean, the opportunity attacks I'm getting are nice, but I'm going to be a lot more effective if I can keep enemies close to me. Do you have any suggestions for how we can fix it so our characters compliment each other more?"

Talk to your DM

This one doesn't apply as much in your particular case...but for broader applicability...consider a sneaky character in a party full of rushdown players ("who needs scouts, let's just charge in!"). This is a case where the entire game is clashing with a particular character's skillset, rather than a single character messing up another's ability to operate.

In this case, the best option is to talk to the DM about helping develop situations where your character can shine. Again, the goal here is to have fun...most experienced DMs will look at their playerbase and try to engineer situations where all of them get their chance in the spotlight...but sometimes a DM needs a nudge.

Solve problems with out-of-game solutions whenever possible

One thing you absolutely do NOT want to do is start having your character act out against their character. In an MMO, it's pretty common for a Tank who gets mad at another character to stop protecting them. "Whoops, rogue pulled again, I'll taunt it after he's dead."

Don't do this. All it results in is mad players, hurt feelings, and arguments that can tear the entire game apart. Especially don't do this if you have not talked to the other player about what's going on. They (probably) don't know they are upsetting you. They might even think they are being helpful or making you more effective.

Talk to people to solve problems...don't take it out on them in-game.

Regarding this Particular issue...

You referred to World of Warcraft several times, so I'll reference that game as well. Essentially what's happening here is that you have a character who keeps pulling mobs off the tank. Imagine a character (like an Elemental Shaman) using a knockback ability to punt mobs off the Main Tank. Sure, it does damage and momentarily halts that mob's ability to do damage, but they are hampering the abilities of the tank and it's probably going to get the Healer killed. In a typical WoW group, such a player would get kicked from the party, or the tank and healer would drop out of the PuG. In D&D, kicking a player or dropping out is a much bigger deal, so the better option is to work through the problem in a social manner.

Talk about it, figure out what's happening, and how you can all work together to fix it. After all, the ultimate goal of D&D is to have fun!

This particular case is more of an issue of the Controller not realizing the best way that his powers can be used alongside yours than him having a 'different playstyle.' Sure, knocking enemies away from you gives you an Opportunity Attack. But if he instead used his 'move them around' powers to pile enemies up on top of your Defender, you can use all of your awesome defensive powers to wreak absolute havoc on your mutual foes.

In 4E, at least, the optimal use of a Controller is to lock down a few enemies to keep them out of the fight so you can deal with them later and/or help keep the enemies piled on the Defender. If an enemy wanders off to go attack someone (like the Leader), then the Controller is best served to knock that enemy back over to the Defender or lock them down so they can't hurt anyone.

If the Defender has most of the enemies rounded up, the Controller does best taking a few of those enemies, and tying them up somewhere away from the rest of the party so they aren't dealing any damage to anyone. The same way that, in a WoW Raid, you may CC a few of the enemies to keep the pressure off the tank, so the tank doesn't have to fight quite as many enemies at once.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Its worth pointing out that, unlike in WoW, a defender doesn't have to be "tanking" all creatures in melee combat. In fact, that hardly happens in 4e. They will mostly be in melee with the toughest enemy and preventing him from moving away from him, while the rest of the group (the controllers, specially) handle the rest. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Aug 22, 2018 at 14:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth pointing out that, by design, 4e is much more like WoW than 5e D&D. -- While 5e is flexible enough to accommodate game play in the 4e style the normal mode for 5e is certainly more social and less RTS/T. \$\endgroup\$
    – user23715
    Aug 23, 2018 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I haven't played dnd-4e, but I'm pretty sure that knocking enemies away doesn't grant AOO in dnd-5e. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 23, 2018 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AntiDrondert You are correct; you only trigger an opportunity attack when you move out of reach, not when you are moved. In general, an opportunity attack is triggered if you're spending movement or using an action (which includes bonus actions and reactions), and you're not teleporting. Anything else does not provoke opportunity attacks. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 23, 2018 at 15:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ For reference on @AntiDrondert, we have this Q&A about that: rpg.stackexchange.com/q/120959/43856 \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Aug 25, 2018 at 9:22

You may not be as useless as you think

I'm approaching this with a D&D 4E hat on - but my first thought was that your description doesn't sound like you're doing your job badly. And it could well be that you have inaccurate expectations about what your character should be doing, based on the WoW tanking experience, and/or that you're not noticing when you do have an effect. Defending in 4E isn't like tanking in WoW; you shouldn't have 100% of the aggro, rather you should leave the enemies with no good options, and that doesn't always require you to stand in front of them.

For example - as a defender, just by putting your mark on enemies, they immediately have a -2 penalty to hit your allies. No matter where they are or where you are, you're protecting your allies by virtue of that. (If the enemy would generally have a 50% chance of hitting your allies, then by marking them you're making 1 in 5 of their attacks miss.)

And as a Paladin, you automatically "enforce" your mark - if an enemy you've marked doesn't target you, they automatically take radiant damage when they attack your allies.

So there's nothing there that requires the enemies stay adjacent to you. In fact it's probably more annoying for an enemy you've marked to start far away from you. They "have to" attack you if they don't want to take an attack penalty and some damage, but it's much harder for them to do so. If the sorcerer player is experienced, they may even be sliding enemies away from you specifically because they think/know it's an effective tactic.

It's very possible that you're just not noticing just how much your mark is screwing with the enemy's options, and making life hard for them.

Either way, talking is the solution

If you're playing with more experienced players, don't be afraid to ask them for their input. Just simple things at the end of the session like "Hey, I'm not sure whether I'm up to speed with this yet, is there anything that you noticed I could be doing to play my character more effectively?"

They might give you some specific suggestions for improvements, which you can put into effect next session.

They might tell you that you were doing great, and give some examples of situations where you really helped them out/messed up some enemies.

Ultimately, it's a learning process. Your "uselessness" as a new player, real or imagined, stems from not fully understanding the system and the effects of what your character can do. (This is especially true for non-striker roles, where you're trying to do something more subtle than simply reduce the enemies' hit points). You'll pick up some experience over time, but in the meanwhile talking to your fellow players, and coming up with plans and "combos" with them, can help speed the process along.

My two cents

You mentioned:

I had a really cool character that could do good damage by carefully positioning the monsters in a certain way

I'd recommend against taking conditional abilities when you're just starting out in a system, because it's very hard to know how common (or feasible to manufacture) those situations will be.

If you stick to more general abilities - or ones that directly support your role, e.g. "when an enemy hits an ally you can do X to them" - then there's less of a need to try to control the whole fight. You're always able to use your abilities (or your allies aren't being hit). Either way, that's some good Defending!


These are different games

Okay, it seems nobody has said this one yet, so, but one thing that should be clear to you: 4e and 5e are quite different games. Actually, 5e is probably closer to older editions than to 4e.

As for being a new player in 5e, this is easier than it used to be. 5e is quite newbie-friendly. In particular, I feel like the other answers fail to address the fact that you (at least from what you said) are going to play 5e, not 4e.


Same thing goes for WoW vs D&D: They are massively different. As already explained to you, a healer in D&D is more often buffing and supporting than actually healing - especially (but not only) in 5e, preventing damage is better than healing damage. All the aggro in WoW goes for the tanks - both the aggro system and the tank skills are designed for that. One melee hit from Gul'dan (sorry, most recent example for me, stopped playing before Argus ;P) and the Mage is popping Ice Block or dead. In D&D, even a squishy wizard can actually take a few shots (except at level 1-2, they have about less than 10 HP there, that's an easy goblin kill lol). Point being: different games, a few common concepts, but different games (admittedly, 4e is a lot closer to WoW than most other editions, though). Another important distinction is that while a Fury Warrior will always be a DPS, the same class and subclass in D&D can be a lot more diverse, depending on how you build them. The same Assassin Rogue can be ranged or melee, the same Champion Fighter can be an archer, a tank or a duelist. Find whatever you feel more comfortable playing, don't be scared of trying stuff out.

Now, about your fears, there are a few things that you can do.

Read some guides

You have read Icyvein, WoWhead or Noxxic before so you could figure out your rotation, what legendaries are top tier for your class and maybe guides for boss fights. Maybe now you are a top tier player that can figure out your own rotation, are in a mythic progression with a guild that figures out the boss fight strategies by themselves and can do your own math on how much DPS your legendaries will give you, but probably at least once before you read these guides. It's not that different for D&D.

You most likely won't find guides here on SE, but check out our list of forums - there are lots of good guides around. One I will always recommend is the Treantmonk's guide for God Wizards, even if you don't intend to play a Wizard, it gives a nice summary of party roles, both in combat and out of combat. Read guides that actually explain their insights and the role of that specific build - guides saying "Take this one because I like it" or simply "This is better, period." might help you with the build, but not with the concepts involved.

Ask for help

You've already started doing so here, but it will be easier, faster and most likely more efficient if you ask for help from your DM and your fellow players (especially if they are more experienced). Tell them exactly what you would tell us - "I feel like I am not doing my job right, can you help me? What am I doing wrong? What's happening here?"

If you feel like someone else is screwing up, talk to them - kindly. It might be that you guys are not on the same page, but both had good intentions.

If you need to, play it easier

Although Spellcasting has been greatly simplified, spellcasters are still harder than usual martial fighters. You might want to start with classes with little or no spellcasting at all - Barbarian, Fighter (not EK), Rogue (not AT) are quite straight-forward to play. Monks also aren't that hard but already have a lot more options for your actions, which is interesting and harder at the same time. Spontaneous casters like Sorcerer and Bard are usually easier to handle than prepared casters like Clerics and Wizards, too. If you are having too many difficulties with the mechanics, don't add more problems with the character mechanics as well, learn the things one by one. I'm not citing WoW examples here because people get mad every time we say a class is easier than another heh.

Either way, obviously don't let that spoil your fun - playing something "badly" while having fun is always better than playing something like a boss and waiting for the session to be over because you are bored as hell.

Most important thing to remember: The only way to play TTRPGs wrong is if you are not having fun.

This is the core of TTRPGs. D&D5e has another core, which are the only things you should be too worried about:

  1. The DM describes the environment.
  2. The players describe their actions.
  3. The DM describes the results of their actions.

That's all. Except if you are playing in organized play, the rules are for helping you with that, not to force you into something. Have fun, be sure you are not screwing anyone else's fun, keep having fun, and that's all. Anyway, the point here is: don't worry too much about screwing up - sure, you weren't having fun feeling useless, but that feeling can be changed.

And my final statement on that matter, that I've used before and got lots of arguments: You don't need to be useful (and you can't be useful every time, at least not if the game is balanced enough), you need to have fun with your group.

Lack of Synergy

In one of your comments, you mention your actual main concern is the lack of synergy between characters. This is also an easier thing to do in 5e, IMO, as well as not that much of a problem. Unless someone is constantly and intentionally making things that preclude your own character, you won't have this problem, at least I never had nor my players. Either way, the most important thing here is talk to them while making your characters. When I DM (which is most of the tables I play, sadly for me :P) I ask my players to build their characters together and with me, so we essentially have a Session 0 that includes character building. This lets you directly talk to each other "Hey, my character has this concept, it works like this, it would help if you could do that". If, during the game, something does not work out as you planned, first: is it actually a problem or just an opportunity to make things funnier? Second, if it is a problem, just talk to them "So, bro, I assume you are having fun doing X, but that's stopping me from doing Y, how can we work this out?"


While guildsbounty gave a good answer, I feel that an important point was missed.

In Wow, you only really care about there being a tank/healer/dps; because there are relatively few bonuses that apply to each other; each player is largely stand alone. As such, 3 hunters, a priest and some tank will do just fine together.

In D&D, like real life, no player is stand alone; and you have to pick abilities that complement each other. That's not to say that you can't pick what you want... but imagine the case where now you have a warrior, a cleric and then 3 rogues specialised in lock picking. It's not going to work.

So if the warlock was putting skills/spells to do damage in some particular way, then you should find out if there's a way that you can take skills to complement that... and visa versa.

Finally; it's a role playing game so talk about this in character, because if your character would get annoyed then they'd speak up about it ... The number of times I've drawn my sword against PCs is more than one; and honestly, it makes for a more realistic and entertaining game.


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