Author Topic: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype  (Read 12663 times)

Offline Dictum Mortuum

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[CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« on: July 22, 2013, 04:10:56 AM »
There are many things people say when discussing optimized builds (generally, not necessarily about D&D); however, the thing that bugs me the most is calling their build a "tank".

Most people, when saying that they're a 'tank', they mean that they have lots of defenses, with a focus on hit points and armor class; this is what I call a passive tank and assuming that the enemies have half a brain (or the DM doesn't make intelligent enemies stupid on purpose), they are actually bad for their team, because the monsters will just go and eliminate his allies, ignoring the passive tank.

An obvious improvement to the passive tank is having abilities that enable him to get enemies to attack him; abilities such as 'Goad', the tripping maneuver, 'Standstill', or abilities that enhance your attacks of opportunity by giving the additional provocation conditions, are all ways to transform the passive tank to an active tank.  However, while active tanks are not a liability to your team per se, they are many situations that they are simply not optimal.

My position is this: there's no 'tank' archetype, just because, all members of the party must do everything in their power in order to improve their defenses, i.e. be 'tanks'. This is the reason why constitution is so important and some people despise races that lose con, such as most elves. Having a single party member with awesome AC & hit points, doesn't mean that all other members are covered.

P.S. Even though this isn't true for most builds (e.g. Crusaders are the most notable out-of-can exception), 'tanks' do not focus on damage output. Which is also a thing that bugs me even further - their namesakes usually feature high-caliber main guns, turrets and machine guns.

Discuss!
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Offline CaptRory

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2013, 05:35:48 AM »
You do have a strong point. Any role whose main focus is being the one the enemy picks out of the crowd to smack, needs to have a way of making themselves threatening. It should be someone that you are afraid to turn your back on. Any kind of melee character immediately starts in a hole in this regard, because anyone that can use magic immediately jumps to the top of the list.

In computer games this is dealt with by using Taunt skills and such. In a pen and paper game you need to be too dangerous, or at least too annoying, to ignore.

In Pathfinder, its easy to use a background trait to take something like Use Magic Device as a class skill. Suddenly Sir Tanksalot is a lot more dangerous with his wands and things. Even if you restrict him to level one magic because the wands are cheap and easy to use, he can be really annoying!

Any kind of tank character needs to have serious teeth to draw attention. Or at least a really good gimmick or two. Like, if he can make himself look like the party mage he immediately jumps to the top of the list. All it'd take is a really big wizard's robe and a pointy hat. You can throw that on over leather armor at low levels and actually get shape changing armor at high levels.

In the BESM2e game I play in, my character is the party's glass cannon. The bad guys get pretty annoyed at my magical girl blasting the everloving carp out of them and shooting them with arrows. They don't care about the party tank at that point. That's why I have fairly robust defensive skills and strategies. When they can't get a good hit on my character they usually go back to attacking the more fighter-like ones that they've been whittling down.

So yeah, defense is everyone's job. And everyone can help the party tank be a viable target. Help him out. Set him up. Create circumstances where the bad guys need to go through him to get to the others. But tanks need to do the heavy lifting. If you want to be the tank, you need to be scarier than everyone else!

Offline PsyBomb

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2013, 07:45:45 AM »
The role of "tank" needs to be slightly redefined, I think. It is any character who meets two basic goals, and the role can shift from fight to fight,

1) The character's primary purpose is to cause their enemy to use their actions in a suboptimal manner, whether due to targeting the wrong player or by hindering effects
2) Is capable of surviving several turns unsupported or only lightly supported, in order to give their allies time to act uninhibited.

While most people think of this as the BSF with three inches of steel between him and the world, it could be the evasive Monk using Stunning Fist and combat maneuvers. It could be your Wizard stuck on counterspell duty against a single BBEG caster, attracting his attention while causing him to lose his primary means of output. It could be an armored-up Cleric in the middle of an Undead horde using Channel Energy every turn. Those of you who have played WoW for a while may remember the King Maulgar fight, where out of five enemies three were "tanked" by casters and their healer blitzed without a tank.

A character directly created as a "tank", as you said, needs ways to inhibit enemies. Many think that just standing between the enemy and their squishies does it, but this is not so for very many things with an Int over 3. Your goal is to ruin the action economy of as many enemies as possible.


Offline brujon

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2013, 08:52:51 AM »
There are situations and situations, and as such, the Tank archetype is not a "catch all" archetype, like the GOD Wizard or CoDzillas. In fact, most of the characters that are going to fulfill this role are between tiers 3 and 5, and as such, cannot compete effectively with characters that have more options available to them -  I.E tiers 1 and 2.

What is the purpose of a dedicated party tank, when the Wizard, Cleric and Druid can just summon one? Where the Psion can make a Lol Astral Construct? Or when all of them can freely switch between roles with Polymorph/Shapechange/Wildshape/Divine Power? IF the party already has reached the level in which these options become available to the T1/T2 classes, the Tank archetype loses it's usefulness.

The problem is, the Tank archetype is too feat intensive. At the very least, it requires Combat Reflexes, Improved Trip and Stand Still, and in fact, only reaches it's maximum effectiveness once you have acquired Robillar's Gambit, Karmic Strike, Defensive Sweep, etc... All of which are feats you'll only get far past the point in which T1 and T2 classes can do what you do - but better.

In a game where you have properly optimized T1 and T2 classes, a Tank is not required. That's not to say it's not useful. Even though the T1 and T2 classes can summon or become tanks themselves, they will not have all the range of options a PC that's playing a dedicated Tank has, nor will they have the specialized equipment to bolster that ability. But, then again, it's not like they NEED to, since they can pop up a Black Tentacles or Solid Fog spell and have instant BFC that's better than whatever a Tank has to offer.

And that's why the Tank archetype fails in D&D.

At early levels, you don't have the feats, items or number of attacks to be actually good in what you plan to do, and in later levels, you have the feats, but the Wizard/Cleric/Druid/Psion/Sorcerer/Artificer already has come past the point where most of his spells obviate the need for a dedicated Tank.

Now, in a game where you DON'T have T1 and T2 classes, then the Tank becomes relevant. In that specific situation, the Tank is fulfilling a role - that of BFC and Controller. And the other party members can focus on different roles, like damage dealing, buffing and utility, to round out the party, and defeat the encounters.

In fact, the same reasoning can be used for a number of other archetypes, like the Rogue TWF glass cannon, Ubercharger, etc...


tl;dr
In short, they are ALL very good builds, very good archetypes, that come very close to making a character a Tier 3. But because of the nature of the game, they cannot compete effectively with a T1/T2 character, because early on they don't have the tools, and later on, they are obviated by the T1/T2 classes. The role of BFC/Controller, which is what the Tank basically does, is a VERY important one, but it is traditionally fulfilled, in D&D, by Spells, Summons, Animal Companions or Polymorphed Casters - And they have such a massive support to do that, really nothing a PC can do can ever bring them close to the same effectiveness.
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Offline Demelain

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2013, 09:28:59 AM »
As has been mentioned, "Tanking" in D&D does not work the way it traditionally works in game. Aggro mechanics are few (Goad and Knight's Challenge come to mind), and limited in use (mind-affecting/language dependent).
The only effective way I've found to tank in D&D is to construct a character so that if the enemy does anything but target you, his actions are ineffective or heavily mitigated. One of my favorites for this purpose was an Ardent healer. PSV leads to me soaking damage, damage my allies take is fixed with empathic transfer, my damage-taken is fixed with empathic transfer (hostile), damaging spells/powers become ineffective in the face of Damp Power, etc. It's one example of an indirect method of tanking, but one which has frustrated my DM repeatedly.

Tanking, in the sense that you absorb most damage and force foes to have their effectiveness significantly reduced if they don't target you, is possible. But the MMO idea* of "I hit taunt and stand there" is pretty well impossible.

(click to show/hide)

A tank should have ways to debuff, limit, and/or mitigate the enemy. The Crusader, I think, is the closest you'll get to a class that has that ability and, visually and stylistically, fits the idea.

Offline Kasz

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2013, 10:14:54 AM »
Crusaders and Knights are always suggested...

Knights because they have an agro mechanic and if someone asks for a "tank" they probably want an agro mechanic.

Crusaders have manoeuvres so they can move around and use their standard actions effectively, and some manoeuvres help "tanking" by interrupting, or intercepting... or just doing lots of damage and convincing the enemy you're a threat... as well as being able to heal.

I like Fear-Tanks, those who prevent damage by scaring everyone away with their Zhentarim Warrior levels.

Tanks don't really lend themselves to DND much though... the first Spellthief that teleports around the Knight and backstabs the wizard for tons of damage and kills him will have the Knight crying "but he should attack me, I'm the tank!" and sometimes the argument "He's smarter than that, he's eliminating the top threat first in his eyes." doesn't calm them down.

Offline awaken_D_M_golem

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2013, 05:15:29 PM »
In MMA, the Gracie school wants their wrestlers to
"close the gap" and then not let the dude get away. 

Of course this isn't d&d tanking,
but if you can't make the monsters attack you,
you have to go get them yourself. 

Even better if they then can't get away,
because of better grapple and better speed.
Mobility, Charge, Grapple.
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Offline Iainuki

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2013, 09:54:47 PM »
The tank role in MMORPGs depends on enemies being run by relatively short, simple bits of computer code that players can outsmart.  In the first MMORPGs, tanking was less explicit and more a matter of people figuring out methods to manipulate the scripts.  Modern MMORPGs build in ways for players to manipulate them like aggro mechanics.

That kind of tanking has no relevance to tabletop, where the enemies are run by another person.  The only way to simulate this in a tabletop game is with the equivalent of a weak SoD that, rather than preventing all enemy actions, limits their actions to attacking a single target.  This is generally unsatisfying, partly because who wants to use that SoD every combat?   In D&D, there's also the fact that an aggro-like SoD is competing with all the other SoDs, many of which are better.  The other way you might make a tank in tabletop is to give them an ability such that, if enemies don't attack them, the tank's offense increases to the point where they're more dangerous than the characters they're protecting.  This is a high bar to clear, because if the putative tank and the party's glass cannon are equally dangerous, it still makes more sense to attack the glass cannon because they'll go down faster.   The tank has to be more dangerous than the glass cannon to make it work.  In practice, no class or build in D&D has ever cleared this bar, mainly because SoDs are a better form of offense than dealing damage and there aren't any abilities that make SoDs more powerful if enemies don't attack the SoD caster.

I should note that strategies revolving around Improved Trip, Stand Still, and other similar abilities have more in common with battlefield control spells like grease and Evard's black tentacles than they do with strict tanking abilities.   They can be used for tanking but are much broader, and their best use is to avoid taking hits at all.

Offline Jackinthegreen

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2013, 10:02:22 PM »
As I recall there is at least one feat that gives the character some boost when an opponent doesn't attack, but for the life of me I can't remember exactly what it was.  I think the part was that if the character has been adjacent to the enemy for 1 round without being attacked, on the second round of not getting attacked the character gets an AoO or something.

Along the tanking notes, the Mindless Rage spell is perhaps one of the more effective ways of getting aggro, but it definitely has its shortcoming.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 10:07:35 PM by Jackinthegreen »

Offline Rebel7284

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2013, 10:39:42 PM »
As I recall there is at least one feat that gives the character some boost when an opponent doesn't attack, but for the life of me I can't remember exactly what it was.  I think the part was that if the character has been adjacent to the enemy for 1 round without being attacked, on the second round of not getting attacked the character gets an AoO or something.

Along the tanking notes, the Mindless Rage spell is perhaps one of the more effective ways of getting aggro, but it definitely has its shortcoming.

http://dndtools.eu/feats/players-handbook-ii--80/defensive-sweep--557/ ?

Offline Endarire

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2013, 11:09:26 PM »
What about the Devoted Spirit1 stance Iron Guard's Glare?

Also, a Crusader tank who uses terrain well can tank.  I played one such guy (with lots of houserules and at level 1), but Martial Spirit + Crusader's Strike + abilities which boosted the amount of HP healed per hit to notable levels = a guy who simply would. not. drop.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 11:11:45 PM by Endarire »

Offline SorO_Lost

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2013, 11:38:01 PM »
Problem with Tanking, that is real tanking and not playing a Wizard with Greater Mirror Image prepped, is it requires unselfish build choices.

No one wants to play a role that doesn't shine with awesome moments of glory several times per table top session.

Offline Gazzien

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2013, 12:50:17 AM »
Problem with Tanking, that is real tanking and not playing a Wizard with Greater Mirror Image prepped, is it requires unselfish build choices.

No one wants to play a role that doesn't shine with awesome moments of glory several times per table top session.
I, honestly, don't care about glory >w<"

I just like seeing the party end up squishing stuff. So I end up as a tank, or buffer most of the time. I don't mind though. (Which I suppose puts me in the minority, according to Soro?)

Offline Jackinthegreen

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2013, 12:51:41 AM »
As I recall there is at least one feat that gives the character some boost when an opponent doesn't attack, but for the life of me I can't remember exactly what it was.  I think the part was that if the character has been adjacent to the enemy for 1 round without being attacked, on the second round of not getting attacked the character gets an AoO or something.

Along the tanking notes, the Mindless Rage spell is perhaps one of the more effective ways of getting aggro, but it definitely has its shortcoming.

http://dndtools.eu/feats/players-handbook-ii--80/defensive-sweep--557/ ?

BAB +15?  What the hell were they smoking?  +6 or +9 at absolute most would make it okay.

And based on how often healbots (or buffers/debuffers, controllers, etc) do end up getting used, I'd say there are some people who aren't bothered when they don't have "awesome moments of glory" since they're enabling the whole party to be awesome (or at least suck less, as that's what happened the last time I played a cleric).  Bards come to mind for that.

Offline Dictum Mortuum

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2013, 02:48:23 AM »
Problem with Tanking, that is real tanking and not playing a Wizard with Greater Mirror Image prepped, is it requires unselfish build choices.

No one wants to play a role that doesn't shine with awesome moments of glory several times per table top session.

Indeed, you've got a point here. When people say that they want to 'tank', wizard isn't the class that comes to their mind - they're mostly thinking an ironclad paladin/fighter/whatever martial class.

I don't know if the 'moments of glory' thing isn't true for tanks though - I remember a line of feats in Drow of the Underdark that enabled you to protect a teammate from an attack as an immediate action -  sacrificing yourself for a party member would be quite the dramatic scene. Too bad that feat is so trashy :p
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Offline PsyBomb

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2013, 07:43:20 AM »
Quote
And based on how often healbots (or buffers/debuffers, controllers, etc) do end up getting used, I'd say there are some people who aren't bothered when they don't have "awesome moments of glory" since they're enabling the whole party to be awesome (or at least suck less, as that's what happened the last time I played a cleric).  Bards come to mind for that.

The people who use them often are the ones who know that a "moment of glory" isn't always going to involve crushing an enemy. Possibly the most impressive one I ever saw came from a Cloistered Cleric (not for CO either, just for flavor) of Pelor. It came after the party was done taking out a CR+3 encounter, and realized that they didn't need to rest because of how effective said healer/buffer was at keeping them going.

Offline SorO_Lost

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2013, 09:49:03 AM »
I remember a line of feats in Drow of the Underdark that enabled you to protect a teammate from an attack as an immediate action -  sacrificing yourself for a party member would be quite the dramatic scene. Too bad that feat is so trashy :p
No kidding, two Feats, -2 AC, and you have to remain within 10ft of them just so *you* take someone else's damage?

Pfft, f that. I needz Power Attack & Shock Trooper.

Offline Prime32

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2013, 11:40:07 AM »
Relevant. Well, for the first three levels anyway.
EDIT: Note that Deflect Attack was errata'd to be an opposed attack roll.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2013, 12:05:17 PM by Prime32 »

Offline awaken_D_M_golem

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #18 on: July 23, 2013, 06:03:55 PM »
Wondering about Diplo/Charm tricks
that don't go the full way to diplomancy
and instead are used to make the bbeg
attack only you.
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Offline CaptRory

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Re: [CO Discussion] Tank Archetype
« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2013, 07:14:23 PM »
Can you use a diplomacy check to piss someone off? Intentionally?