No, dumba**! Not that kind of tank!
Let’s talk party dynamics (this one’s more for the players).
In a previous letter, Travis explained the importance of party dynamics, and how coordinated play and a balanced party will make or break an encounter.
Today, we’re going to elaborate a little more on the tank department. Tanks are known for their beefy HP scores, high AC, and overall durability. Normally people envision something like above, a big-a** fighter or cleric wearing big-a** armor (sometimes with a big-a** weapon).
I’m guessing you get the theme here.
There’s a lot to consider when you feel like taking up the tank role. If you’re the type who wants to focus on crowd control, healing, or dishing out a lot of damage, this might not be for you. Tanks play a pivotal role in combat, keeping the enemies away from the squishier damage dealers (mages, rogues, etc.) so that they can dish out damage without the risk of dying. They can do this because they’re really good at not dying (see beefy HP/AC).
Now by all means, a tank can dish out some numbers too! But it all comes down to ensuring everything comes together. Let’s talk about three big tips for getting started:
1. The Build: Build is important. Build is everything. Want heavy armor and that big-a** weapon I mentioned? Throw points into Strength and Constitution. Consider the type of tank you want to play. A more hybrid-style damage/tank might consider Fighter or Barbarian for their high HP values and synergy with two-handed weapons for damage. If you’re feeling more defense or even support-oriented, a Cleric or Paladin can make great tanks, with high armor to keep from getting hit and support/healing spells to help the party (and make up for the Cleric’s less-than-stellar HP).
There’s a lot of great builds posted online for some bitchin’ tanks! My group’s former tank, Flint, used heavy armor on his fighter with a halberd and Polearm Mastery, so he got to provoke an attack of opportunity when an enemy entered his threatened squares. He also got to use his combat superiority dice from Battle Master to turn the battles around from time to time!
Look around, do a bit of research, and really think about your build. It’ll sure as hell pay off!
2. Play the Role: A good tank isn’t someone who’s gonna stand in the back and shoot arrows. They also don’t charge into a group of god darn enemies by themselves. Consider the battle, the map, the enemy, the positions. You control the flow. Is there a choke point? Hold enemies there so your ranged attackers can rain hell on ’em. Perhaps there’s a big baddie who can rip you apart. Keep your party safe from him. Position so they can’t reach your squishy damage dealers. Perhaps keep a formation so you’re breaking line of sight for the enemy’s ranged attackers, forcing them to move as you advance, to give your party a chance to shoot back.
Also consider your build in this. Do you have support spells? Use them, for god’s sake. I’m not saying spam everything until you’re out of spells. But it’s better to be out of spells than to be out of HP.
Another thing to consider is dodge. Say you’ve got a few guys pummeling the crap out of you. Instead of attacking and going tit-for-tat with those a**holes, you can hold them there and use Dodge to give the enemy Disadvantage on attack rolls against you (or you get Advantage on Dexterity-based saves!). This can save your a**, so remember it!
3. Communicate: If you’re looking at the map, surveying the battle, and a detail pops up in your head, go ahead and ask. You see that dragon, and you’re not sure if it’s tail and cleave your Rogue hiding in the corner? Ask! Your GM will probably be happy you’re thinking about things like that. Maybe if it’s a risk factor, you charge the scaly a**hole to draw its attention.
Now they may not tell you everything, but you may get a hint of some inkling as to what to do. Maybe you’ve got a mercenary band after you, and one of them is a mage, but you forget with token it is. The GM could clear that up so you can position accordingly.
If you character notices a mage is the one manipulating an iron golem that is mid-curb-stomp on you, have your character call it out! Draw that attention. Communicate with your party… after all, if you don’t work together you’re all probably going to die.
Remember these tips, do that research, and roll that unstoppable tank! Until next time, happy tanking!