Why My Favourite D&D Class Sucks

I don't get to play D&D as a player very often. I usually end up on the DM side of the screen, which is cool because I generally enjoy it more anyway. But from time to time it's a nice change of pace to only have to worry about a single character instead of an entire world. It's also fun to throw down and beat the living daylights out of some monsters.

My current D&D of choice, for better or for worse, is 4th Edition. The first time I got to run my own character in this edition was at last season's D&D Encounters event (Keep on the Borderlands), and I made the damn fool mistake of playing the cleric. (See here for why Clerics, especially 4E Essentials clerics, suck. And while we're at it, here's a good argument for the suckiness of Monks). Next I tried a Gnome Bard for a high-level Living Forgotten Realms game, but that turned out almost as bad as the cleric.

Seriously, what was I thinking?

For the new Encounters season, I almost made a Slayer(Fighter build), until I realized that all they can do is hit stuff. Literally. Every turn your choice of options is either a) attack or b) attack really hard. Finally, I went with a Hunter (Ranger) because they seemed to have so many more options.

For you Grognards unfamiliar with the Hunter class (which is a variation on an archer ranger), imagine taking a wizard and all the neat things they can do (stunning spells, charms and enchantments, fireballs), and then have your archer make attacks that have the exact same effect. But with ARROWS.

The result is both awesome and incredibly stupid at the same time. On the awesome side, the Hunter has lots of neat tricks. Even at low level, you have choices every single turn. Observe the cool list of possible special attacks that a first-level Hunter can perform:

Aimed Shot: A highly accurate attack that ignores cover. Handy when you just absolutely have to hit certain monsters.

Clever Shot #1: Hit, do damage, and knock the opponent prone. Cool. I imagine shooting the guy in the knee or something.

Clever Shot #2: Hit, do damage, and slow the target. Also cool. Maybe you pin his cloak to a tree or something, so it takes him some movement to pull the arrow out.

This guy can actually stun you before he even fires the arrow.

Clever Shot #3: Hit, do damage, and fling the target 10 feet. In any direction. Um, okay. Maybe the force of the blow knocks him back? (Note: Not actually possible with an arrow) Or maybe there's a string tied to the arrow, and you pull him toward you? Or maybe he just stumbles around in pain from the wound, and just happens to move in exactly the direction you want him to?

Disruptive Shot: Daze or immobilize the victim. This one makes a bit more sense. Maybe you hit him in the head or some other vulnerable area to stun the guy, or you pin his foot to the ground with an arrow.

Rapid Shot: You hit every target in a 15x15 foot area with an arrow. Um, yeah.

They also gain an inherent bonus to sense of style.

These attacks from a gameplay point of view are great, and give you lots of options during combat. Way more fun that each turn just being, "I hit something."

The problem is that I have a hell of a time wrapping my head around how any of these things are actually even fucking possible.

One huge glaring problem is that these attacks do exactly what they say no matter what target you use them on. Shoot a 100-foot long dragon with a measly little wooden arrow? Sure, you can stun it or knock it back 10 feet or pin it to the ground. Why not?

Hey, if some random dude named Bard (who isn't actually a bard, by the way) can do it, why can't I?

That being said, Dragons aren't even the worst scenario. At least they have some kind of semi-natural anatomy. Some other things I've done with a Hunter, by shooting an arrow at it:

  • Knocked an undead beholder right out of the air (a creature that flies by magic, not through wings or other normal means).
  • Slid an 8-foot tall demon 10 feet across the floor perpendicular to me, while the thing was lying on his back.
  • Best one? I've knocked a jelly slime creature prone. A creature that doesn't even have an anatomy, let alone legs of which to be knocked off.

Don't believe how stupid this is? Try this at home: Go get a really big bowl. Then find an even bigger fridge. Make about 400lbs of Jell-O, and dump it in a big mound on the floor. Now shoot an arrow at it. Did the Jell-O fall prone? Would you even be able to tell?

I think the Hunter gains this power at level 14.

But do you want to know the one that annoys me the most? The rapid shot ability. Nevermind whether or not you can effectively fire up to 9 arrows in less than six seconds, whether all at the same time or in rapid succession (even stupider, you can actually do the same thing with a goddamn crossbow), but the power actually forces you to roll an attack against any creature in the area of the effect. Yes, that includes your allies. Yes, that even includes you.

(Try this at home part 2: Go get a longbow. Now shoot yourself with it. Seriously. I'll wait.)

I know it is designed this way so it works like a fireball-type effect, where you have to be careful where you aim, and to make it fair, yada yada, but explain the logic to me: You see two goblins standing next to your buddy. You load three arrows into your bow. WHY? Doesn't even matter if your buddy is unconscious on the ground, you still have to shoot at him. Are we supposed to believe that you're just shooting wildly to blanket the area with arrows? Are you using your bow, literally, like a machinegun? In that case, shouldn't you actually be firing more than three arrows at a time? And then wouldn't you have a chance of hitting some targets more than once? Your ranger is going to have to hire a half dozen caddies to follow him around, carrying all his extra quivers.

Okay, that should be enough arrows for the first encounter.

I know 4th Edition is supposed to be over-the-top, fantastically heroic. I know it tried to simplify some rules at the expense of realism. But come on. At least pretend to offer some explanation as to how I can immobilize an insubstantial ghost with an arrow.

All that aside, I love my hunter. I would still rather play him than most other classes. It's frakkin' awesome and I'm not giving him up.

Anyone else have a class that's a guilty pleasure? Or a other examples of throwing realism and logic out the window for the sake of cool game effects? Go ahead and chime in. What else is the Internet for, if not for ranting?

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