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This article is about player character roles. For monster roles, see monster role.

The character role associated with a class outlines one of four basic combat functions within a party dynamic: Controller, Defender, Leader, or Striker. Roles help identify class equivalencies, for example, a warlord can stand in for a cleric, as both are primarily Leader roles. The rulebooks recommend to cover all four roles in smaller parties, and to double up first on defenders, then on strikers, in larger parties.[PH:15]


Main article: Controller

Controllers deal with large numbers of enemies at the same time. They favor offense over defense, using powers that deal damage to multiple foes at once, as well as subtler powers that weaken, confuse, or delay their foes.

A character with the Controller role primarily handles crowds by creating hazardous terrain and repositioning enemies, or spreading conditions and damage over multiple enemies. The Wizard is the classic Controller class.[PH:15]

The published classes and variants with a primary Controller role are:

Artificer[EPG:44], Assassin[Dr379:16], Avenger [PH2:32], Bard[PH2:66], Battlemind[PH3:42], Monk[PH3:62], Runepriest[PH3:98], Sorcerer[PH2:136], and Warden[PH2:152] may also be built for a secondary Controller role.


Main article: Defender

Defenders have the highest defenses in the game and good close-up offense. They are the party’s front-line combatants; wherever they’re standing, that’s where the action is. Defenders have abilities and powers that make it difficult for enemies to move past them or to ignore them in battle.

A character with the Defender role primarily focuses enemy fire by making it difficult for enemies to move past, and punishing enemies who attack other party members. The Fighter is the classic Defender class.[PH:15]

The published classes with a primary Defender role are:

Ardent[PH3:22], Barbarian[PH2:48], Runepriests[PH3:98], Seeker[PH3:116], and Shaman[PH2:118] may also be built for a secondary Defender role.


Leaders inspire, heal, and aid the other characters in an adventuring group. Leaders have good defenses, but their strength lies in powers that protect their companions and target specific foes for the party to concentrate on. Clerics and warlords (and other leaders) encourage and motivate their adventuring companions, but just because they fill the leader role doesn’t mean they’re necessarily a group’s spokesperson or commander. The party leader—if the group has one—might as easily be a charismatic warlock or an authoritative paladin. Leaders (the role) fulfill their function through their mechanics; party leaders are born through roleplaying.

A leader primarily supports the party by aiding allies, and making enemies more vulnerable to attack. The leader role refers only to a class's combat function; a character with a leader role does not have to be the decision maker or spokesperson for the party. The Cleric is the classic Leader class.[PH:15]

The published classes with a primary Leader role are:

Barbarian[PH2:48], Druid[PH2:82], and Invoker[PH2:100] may also be built for a secondary Leader role.


Strikers specialize in dealing high amounts of damage to a single target at a time. They have the most concentrated offense of any character in the game. Strikers rely on superior mobility, trickery, or magic to move around tough foes and single out the enemy they want to attack.

A striker primarily eliminates single threats by closing with a target quickly and safely, then rapidly dealing damage to it. The Rogue is the classic Striker class.[PH:15]

The published classes and variants with a primary Striker role are:

Ardent[PH3:22], Battlemind[PH3:42], Druid[PH2:82], Invoker[PH2:100], Seeker[PH3:116], Shaman[PH2:118], and Warden[PH2:152] may also be built for a secondary Striker role.

See also[]

  • Dragon Magazine 373, Party Building, page 24, concerning roles and dealing with missing roles.
  • Monster Roles