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The Warlord
Design & Development
by Rob Heinsoo

Welcome to Design & Development, your primary source of D&D 4th Edition insights and revelations! While you're here, keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to dndinsider@wizards.com.


Number One: Directing Damage

Don't play the warlord if your only idea of a good time is personally wreaking havoc on your foes. I love the name of the warlord class. I supported using the name instead of the original "marshal" name we'd drafted from 3rd Edition. But some players' first impression on hearing the name "warlord" is that the class must be tougher than all the other characters, the nastiest battlefield hack-and-slasher in the game. The warlord can hold his own in melee and will frequently save the day thanks to outright combat mojo, but every warlord is more effective as a commander than as a lone hero.

For example, the warlord's 1st-level daily attack power, pin the foe, does as much damage as the best of the fighter's 1st-level daily attack powers, brute strike. Pin the foe's advantage is that it locks down the target's movement whether the attack hits or misses. This pin effect only functions if the warlord has allies with him to team against the enemy. So the power might be a big enough hit to slay the enemy outright. But against an extremely tough foe, or when pin the foe misses, the power creates a tactical advantage that depends on teamwork between multiple party members to keep the target from shifting freely around the battlefield.

At that stage, with an enemy who is pinned and fighting to the last breath, the warlord isn't as likely to be the party member who gets in the killing blow. Take a look at the fighter's brute strike power again. While the warlord's cool 1st-level daily exploit sets up a teamwork benefit, brute strike has the keyword "Reliable," meaning that the power isn't expended if the attack misses. Eventually, as long as the fighter is alive to swing, that brute strike is going to connect -- the warlord doesn't have that certainty. If you're the player who always wants to be finisher, the party's sword-wielding ass-kicker, play a rogue, ranger, or a fighter who uses two-handed weapons.

Pin the Foe Warlord Attack 1
No matter where your foe turns, one of your allies is waiting for him.
Daily
Martial, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 3[W] + Strength modifier damage.
Effect: Until the end of the encounter, the target cannot shift if at least two of your allies (or you and one ally) are adjacent to it.

Brute Strike Fighter Attack 1
You shatter armor and bone with a ringing blow.
Daily
Martial, Reliable, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 3[W] + Strength modifier damage.


Number Two: Play Well with Others

This is the shiny-happy side of the previous commandment. Fourth edition has fundamentally selfish classes that care only about their own combat tricks and successes. Fourth edition also has extremely unselfish classes, and that's where the warlord fits in. Different players at the table are likely to take a different approach to the combat encounter portion of the game. If you enjoy cooperative games like Reiner Knezia's Lord of the Rings boardgame or Shadows over Camelot, you're much more likely to enjoy playing a warlord. For example, your warlord can provide the entire party with an extra movement option with a power such as white raven onslaught.

During the early stages of design, we often used a sports metaphor, casting the warlord as the quarterback. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure quarterback is the right analogy -- after all, quarterbacks tend to land a huge percentage of the glory, MVP awards, and Hollywood girlfriends! Basketball point guard may be a more apt comparison. Not every combat depends on the warlord/point guard, but they distribute benefits the rest of the party thrives on. Without the warlord's assists, the party is often left only to its own devices, which might not be enough to triumph in a given encounter. You can operate without a warlord, but when you get to the playoffs against powerful competition, parties that don't have a warlord (or possibly some other to-be-designed tactical leader) have a rougher time of it. If you feel a glow of accomplishment when your assists combine with your attacks' damage to help the party succeed, the warlord is for you.

White Raven Onslaught Warlord Attack 1
You lead the way with a powerful attack, using your success to create an opportunity for one of your allies. Each of your comrades in turn seizes on your example and begins to display true teamwork.
Daily
Martial, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 3[W] + Strength modifier damage, and you slide an adjacent ally 1 square. Until the end of the encounter, whenever you or an ally within 10 squares of you makes a successful attack, the attacker slides an adjacent ally 1 square.
Miss: Choose one ally within 10 squares. Until the end of the encounter, the ally slides an adjacent ally 1 square after making a successful attack.


Number Three: Order Up!

If you often find yourself suggesting a tactical course of action to your fellow players, the warlord might be for you. Back when we designed the original version of the marshal class for the Miniatures Handbook, the marshal owed a good deal to the vision and example of Skaff Elias. Skaff is famous for having excellent suggestions for what other players should be doing with their turns. The warlord class, as a descendant of the marshal, is partly an exercise in turning that sometimes annoying habit into a positive contribution that will be appreciated by other players, rather than resented.

Iron dragon charge is an example of how we're trying to make this type of guidance a welcome addition to another character's glory. Getting to charge as an immediate reaction when it's not your turn is a fantastic addition to any melee character's life, not an onerous order that forces your ally to spend their turn following your commands. Few players complain when the warlord in the party uses a well-timed exploit to give their PC a charge, another basic attack, or the chance to shift away from encroaching foes. Ditto for warlord powers that simultaneously allow the warlord to attack and inspire his allies to attempt a saving throw or recover hit points.

The warlord doesn't have unlimited license to boss other players around. Taken to extremes, that style of gameplay is still annoying. But if you're the type of player who loves studying tactical situations and trying to puzzle out the best way to get everyone through alive, the warlord provides roleplaying hooks and flexible powers to support your play style in a way that will endear you to your allies.

Iron Dragon Charge Warlord Attack 9
Like a rampaging iron dragon, you hurl yourself at your adversary, landing a terrific blow that inspires your allies to charge as well.
Daily
Martial, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Special: You must charge as part of this attack.
Hit: 3[W] + Strength modifier damage.
Effect: Until the end of the encounter, as an immediate reaction, an ally of your choice within 5 squares of you can charge a target that you charge.


About the Author

Rob Heinsoo was born in the Year of the Dragon. He started playing D&D in 1974 with the original brown box. More recently, he designed Three-Dragon Ante, Inn-Fighting, and a couple incarnations of the D&D Miniatures skirmish system. He’s the lead designer of 4th Edition and captains the D&D mechanical design team.