Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Class Struggles: The Invoker (4e)

Taking an odd turn today and looking at a 4th Edition class.

One of the nice things about 4e was the number of class choices. There were dozens, if not not scores, of classes.  4e popularized the notion that each class has a role; Leader, Controller, Defender and Striker to roughly correspond to the classic four classes of Cleric, Wizard, Fighter and Thief respectively.  There are also areas of power, Divine, Arcane, Martial, Primal and Psychic.  For the game it worked well and there was a lot of interesting class choices that were based on role and power choice.

The Invoker has no precedent and no update (so far).  It first appeared in Player's Handbook 2 for the 4th edition and it is described as a Divine controller than channels raw divine power.  In a way this makes them the divine counterpart to the Wizard; an arcane controller.
It could be described as the "Fist of the Gods".

What makes the Invoker an interesting choice is not just it's role, but the fluff text that goes along with it.  So an Invoker would worship or honor a god as part of the whole pantheon.  The examples given state an Invoker of Bahamut would also likely honor Tiamat.  Invokers are all shown worshipping older gods; not Old Gods or even Old Ones...but the first gods that are still worshipped today.

In fact most invokers would be the tireless enemy of any "Old Ones".  In the 4e fluff they are described as the human/mortal agents of the Godswar vs the Primordials.  Replace that with Titans, or Old Ones or even demons and you get the idea.

What strikes me most about this class is how well it could be added to any old-school or 5e game.
In 1st/2nd Ed it would be a sub-class of the cleric.  The invoker can turn/rebuke undead like a cleric and it also has access to divine spells.  Of course you could make an invoker easy enough with good role-playing and a conscious choice to take damage dealing spells and limit yourself on the healing magic.  Since invokers are much more of a "kill them all and let the gods sort them out" type of holy warrior I would also say that Raise Dead, Resurrection and Reincarnate are out of the question.

For their spell lists. Well the powers/spells in the 4e PHB2 are very colorful; Blades of Astral Fire, Glyph of Imprisonment, Cascade of Five Suns.  Most do damage based on Wisdom modifiers (which in 4e includes level).  If I were to create an old-school Invoker I would give them some invocation spells from the wizard's list.  Not more than 1 or 2 per level though.  I would make sure they had plenty of damage causing spells they can do from a distance.   Plus the spells all need to have very grandiose names, such as "Righteous Fury of 10000 Blazing Suns" or "Wrathful Vengeance of the Plough God" (Plough god?  Yeah, think about how important agriculture, growing and food was/is to people).  These are not hippy clerics of the "God is Love" type, these are the Old Testament, destroying people in a genocidal flood types.

The closest thing Pathfinder has to this concept is the Inquisitor. While their missions are the same, the invoker is believed to have a piece of divine power instilled in them while the inquisitor is all too mortal.  Still though there are some good ideas for some more spells on the inquisitor spell lists.

I think the reason I like the invoker so much is that it really is how I always liked to play to some clerics.  I have played several clerics over the years. First first character was a cleric of the "investigate and destroy evil" type.  I have played a number of paladins as well.  In fact my 3.x edition one was known as "The Fist of Pelor".
This class appeals to me as another sort of cleric. One that is more action and dealing damage than one that is contemplative and healing damage.

Plus I forgot how much fun some of the 4e stuff really is.  There is a lot going on in this game and it is a shame it will be tossed aside as a failed experiment.

BTW +Jonathan Becker has been running a series of posts on his thoughts of 4e. If you have played the game it is interesting to see it through the eyes of someone experiencing it for the first time.  If you have never played it then it is worth your time.  He has not gotten around to the invoker yet, but I am curious to see what he has to say.


JB said...


I was going to say that I don't like the invoker very much. Just trying to consider if there's a way to do so in a constructive (non-negative) fashion.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Go negative! I am very curious about what you have to say.

Doctor Futurity said...

I remember the invoker appearing as a high damage "DPR" type class....a lot of firepower, sort of intended to be the sorcerer analog to the cleric. At least one of my players enjoyed running an invoker to level 16ish.

JB said...

Hmm...let's put it this way.

I've played a bit of World of Warcraft, though it's been a while, and I know they do updates and whatnot that change game play. However, the last time I checked, each WoW class had three different "talent trees" giving three different "optimal builds" (think of them as play styles) that give players a way to further distinguish themselves from others of their class (in addition to race and gear). I find that many of the 4E "builds" ape these talent trees; however, if you notice, each 4E class has only two builds (unlike WoW's three). Where does the extra tree go? Into a different class.

For example, WoW's warrior class has the sword-and-board tree, the great weapon tree, and the dual-wield tree. 4E's fighter class has a sword-and-board build and a great weapon build...but "dual wielding" goes into the ranger class. The analogous WoW class to the ranger is the hunter, which has a marksman build, a pet build, and a trap build. 4E keeps only the marksman (to go along with the Drzzt dual-wield), "pets" go to the new shaman class, and traps are rolled in somewhere else.

4E isn't completely analogous to WoW, of course...I'm talking about concepts. The WoW classes give you a smaller list of classes (eleven, I believe) with more "builds per class." 4E gives you more classes (16 between the two PHBs), but less builds overall (32 to 33). Even though it's not 100% duplicated, you can see how an invoker (for example) just takes pieces left on the cutting room floor from paladin and cleric. It doesn't feel very original to me. What's the difference between an invoker and a cleric? Not much: fewer hit points, less healing, more blasting.

But that's actually a minor quibble. A bigger quibble is that, considering D&D's "lack of specific setting," there is a ton of very specific setting implied by the invoker class...enough that it feels like the class contradicts some of the internal consistency of the implied setting found in early core books (specifically with regard to the way gods interact with mortals). An even bigger quibble, though, is the profound lack of in-game accountability the invoker's powers bring with it. Things like the summon angel spells...angels just appear and start fucking shit up? Without any real theological consequence or so much as a "how do you do?" I mean, that's some serious magic (and are there "evil angels" for evil invokers? I guess so)...but all it results in is big handfuls of dice rolled to see how much damage you apply. What a waste.

And, yes, I realize there's a lot of wasted opportunity in 4E. The text talks a good game about amazing fantasy like flying castles and whatnot...but are there rules for making a flying castle of your own? The invoker is one of those classes (for me) that just illustrates what 4E is all about...which I find distasteful, personally.

Simon said...

You don't add (half) level to damage in 4e, you only add it to d20 checks. So "d10+WIS" means d10 + your WIS attribute modifier only.

Invokers seem to me to fit in as the servants of Law in a Law vs Chaos cosmology; the astral powers of 4e ('gods') representing cosmic Law vs the cosmic Chaos of the Primordials.

JB said...

@ S'mon:

Isn't that kinda' the paladin's shtick?