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A friend decided to do a short 4e game; the current plan is to do only four sessions or so, all at level 6. I’m (still) not super-clear on how items are being handled, but I gather there’s some houserule there, and one houserule I know is in place is that each character gets a bonus Expertise feat for free at 1st level.

Since I was away until yesterday, my plan had been to simply revive my dwarf stormheart warden, since he’d been a ton of fun before his game sadly died too soon. Unfortunately, I got back from vacation to a party of three controllers (psion, sentinel|wizard, ...forget what the third was) and a defender with some off-striking capability (Cha-heavy paladin, that appears to have been planned around the idea of my warden as main tank). So my defender with some off-controller properties seemed like a not-great fit.

The psion, at least, decided to switch to a ranger-or-rogue (undecided when I left) when he was also presented with this situation. The others are holding fast to their preferences. So if I kept my warden as planned, we’d have two controllers, two defenders, and a striker.

Unfortunately, I’m swamped for time, and plus I really liked my warden. I’m relatively new to 4e, and do not want to try to roll out some generic leader in the hour or so I might have to prepare. I would prefer to swap my stormheart warden for a lifespirit warden.

In poking around, though, lifespirit seems to have a somewhat weak reputation, at least among the Guardian Might options, and I’m not sure how best to work with it. The party composition really wants to shift me pretty far into leader territory; honestly, farther than I’d like to go. In particular, getting my hands on the cleric daily moment of glory seems to come very highly recommended at low-to-mid heroic (which 6th may still qualify as?), but I really like form of winter’s herald and am not really thrilled with losing boiling cloud either, particularly not for a 1st-level daily, even one as well-regarded as moment of glory.

  1. Just how badly are we here? Two defenders and two controllers seems like it would go a long way towards damage mitigation which maybe does something to alleviate our suffering in the lack of a leader, but from what I understand the leader is about the most crucial role in 4e.

  2. Just how close can I cleave to my defender roots without failing to provide the party with resources it needs? Can Lifespirit be made to handle the healing we need?

    • Does a +Wis race (I was thinking elf) make more sense than dwarf, or is the dwarf minor-action Second Wind still ideal here?

    • Does multiclassing or (shudder) hybridizing fix anything here? Particularly if I don’t want to ditch form of winter’s herald? My understanding is that cleric does make a particularly good hybrid class (as far as that goes), but warden doesn’t so much. I am honestly not sure how much multiclassing actually does or doesn’t do.

    • Pretty much same question, but now for theme. We have those. Do any particularly well help here?

For reference, the original stormheart warden had had Bludgeon Expertise, Dwarven Weapon Training, Crippling Crush, Sudden Roots, and Mark of Storm. I’m not exactly married to these, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm dubious of the amount of mitigation you'll get from defenders/controllers at level 6; most of the true lockdown combos don't kick in until early paragon. You'll probably have some luck keeping foes from focusing fire, but you won't actually negate very many attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 27 '15 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Well, that’s maybe half an answer. Good to know but still need more information. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 27 '15 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ For reference, I ended up creating an elf lifespirit warden/shaman, for healing spirit as an encounter power. I took a lot of THP-giving powers and 2nd-Wind-using powers, to up the value of using the 2nd Wind, and then I’ve got a lot of mobility from elf and feats, allowing me to stay close to those who need help. I’ll probably answer this question with my experiences once we see how this goes. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 9 '15 at 14:55
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From a quick look at the Lifespirit Warden it looks like you don't actually get Healing outside of your second wind feature so much as THP and Resistances (at least in the level area you're looking at, and admittedly this is only after a quick search). Both of these are ok overall as mitigation is good, but it doesn't allow you to bring up someone who already got spiked down. That being said...

Party balance isn't that important in 4e

Almost any party combination can find a path to victory in most combat situations. With the group you've described you're going to need to focus on avoiding damage overall by a combination of being difficult to get to and various effects. You won't kill fast (even with one striker) so you'll need to fight safe. Even with that though, especially when feeling out how your characters work together, you are going to get hit, and that means you're still going to need some healing.

Then how do we heal?

This is where the oft forgotten consumable items come into play.

Most people are aware of potions, but write them off because they feel week compared to other options, and especially compared to leaders. A potion of cure light wounds is only 1d8+1 and costs a healing surge if you have one (though it's free if you're out and bloodied). On top of that the next level up is level 10 (200gp) which can be a considerable expenditure (1/9 a level 6 magic weapon, 2d8+10 is pretty nice though). One note though is that any healing is enough to pick someone up from the negatives as they go to 0 immediately before healing, meaning you can avoid losing turns with even the lowly cure light potion.

However, should your DM allow Dragon Magazine content I bring you: The Blood Apricot! (DM: 429)

At an affordable 50gp, this level 5 uncommon consumable item heals 2d8 for a healing surge right off the bat. However, should you feed it some blood as a standard action (read: lose a healing surge), for 12 hours consuming the Blood Apricot will not only heal you for 2d8, but also allow you to spend a healing surge normally! This is better than many leader heals in the same level range and all it costs you is an extra healing surge from someone in the party and a little foresight.

With even a small investment in healing consumables, not only can the healing part of the leader role be covered, it can also be covered by anyone who has the actions to spare. This is great if the party spreads out during combat as it means that no one person has to stay ready to get within healing range of anyone in danger.

Also, while less glamorous don't forget about second wind. It's part of your lifespirit class feature so you're probably already aware of it, but don't forget to remind others as well! Everyone gets one, and it's a +2 to defenses on top of a healing surge for the cost of one standard action. Your average leader at that level may have 2-4 heals per encounter, this gives you one for each member of the party (albeit without the ability to spread them around, other than yours). If someone doesn't have time to spend a standard action on it, someone else can even spend it for them using a standard action for a DC10 Heal Check. They won't get the +2 to defenses, but almost anyone can make a DC10 with even a little effort (and a DC15 Heal Check grants a saving throw! Look at all the no-leader-required leader-y goodness!)

Overall, the answer to how problematic it will be is "not very" The party you describe with you playing a lifespirit warden can work just fine, your party may just need to adjust playstyle a little and utilize alternate options for anything you lack and want for. As far as I can tell you won't be doing much healing as a lifespirit outside of your second wind feature, but that should be enough if you utilize the options available to you. You might be low on granted saving throws, but with so much control that should be more of a problem for your opponents.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ All wardens get a “kicker” when they Second Wind; the lifespirit’s is to let an ally use a healing surge and make a saving throw. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 27 '15 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Realized that towards the bottom of the answer but added an acknowledgement of it to the top too, thanks :) \$\endgroup\$ – Lunin Aug 27 '15 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, well, this... is good to hear, but clashes with what I’ve heard elsewhere. I’m going to let other 4e veterans here vote on it before I do. The other thing I’d mention is that you aren’t really offering much insight into how to build my lifespirit warden, just saying I don’t have to worry about it as much as I thought. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 27 '15 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds good, I'm sure there are those out there who would have a better answer for squeezing as much leader out of the Warden as possible; I've just had a decent amount of experience with strange party compositions and considering you seemed against deviating strongly I figured I'd offer an alternative. I look forward to seeing what other answers crop up and wish your party the best however you end up going :) \$\endgroup\$ – Lunin Aug 27 '15 at 19:07
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The situation is somewhat interesting to analyze. I'm usually the DM of my group, and I try to avoid those kinds of situations on a 5-person group (alongside making sure at least one person is trained on each skill and such), but sometimes people just really want to play what they want to play, and you go to the dungeon with a party that don't cover all the bases. And that is what I learned and will tell you:

Role composition is important, but not mandatory.

Yes, D&D 4e is balanced on the assumption that you will have at least one character from each role in your party, but since PH2 the water has been muddled somewhat: Barbarians can work as a tank (not a defender), sorcerers are amazingly good at minion clearing and light control, invokers provides a good bunch of buffs, and so on.

So, instead of trying to fill the four primary roles in your party, make sure you have enough secondary roles to make up for your party composition. In your party, the lack is for leader stuff (healing and buffs). Going Lifespirit helps. Reminding that the sentinel|wizard have one Healing Word per encounter too. Any item or feats that allow you to use the second wind as a non-standard action also helps. Anything that allow you to burn through more than one healing surge per heal also helps (like the Amulet of Life).

Be efficient

Since your group lack the capability to burst heal or area heal in a pinch, you should do your best to avoid being attacked in the first place, or ensuring that the attacks will hit the character best suited to take it on the face and laugh it off (You or the paladin). While it is true that heavy control like dazes and stuns are rare to come on heroics (outside of dailies), some soft control with party synergy works wonders.

Knocking someone prone forces the target to charge (so study possible charge routes to intercept them with an AoO) or attack someone adjacent (one of the defenders), or not attack at all. And you can knock a lot of enemies prone with a combination of slowing them down (a specialty of wardens and wizards) and asking everyone to fit World Serpent's Grasp in their build. Not everyone will have room for that, but the combo is strong.

Slowing by itself is a very common effect on heroic, and prevents the target to hit anyone with a melee attack that is not within 4 squares (that would be move 2, charge 2).

Remember to your party that utility powers that negate an attack are great. Things like Shield, Endure Pain, Swarm Dispersal, Weave Through the Fray, etc.

Be prepared

Consumables are expensive, and most of the time, not worth their price. However, carry at least one healing potion on every character. You will never know when you might need to raise someone that is unconscious and have already expended their second wind (so a Heal check can, at best, stabilize them).

If you all have the gold for that, have also a "panic button" item that somehow allow you guys to disengage and run away if the situations call for it. Or talk to your DM how he handles escape situations. Escaping a battle after it started on 4e is a hard task, and a lot of DMs I know allow the party to escape battle with some minor cost (usually a story-based drawback and one healing surge from each member).

Hvae fun

Sometimes, the fun of a non-optimal party is exactly trying to make it work. It is easy to fix something when you have a complete toolbox, but sometimes you only have a hammer and a screwdriver and have to make it work. It is not pretty, but it might make you proud of knowing you solved the problem anyway.

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