Spot the Difference
I really like the warlord. I like support classes and have fond memories of my buffing bard in 3rd Edition. I enjoy making everyone else in the party awesome. But I have a few problems with the warlord.
One of my problems is the visual overlap with the fighter. I’ve often teased that you can tell if a picture shows a fighter or a warlord because the warlord will always be pointing. This seems to be the sole visual cue: warlords gesture.
If you divorce the warlord from mechanics – or even just its role in combat – the warlord begins to look a lot like a fighter. They wear heavy armour, are strong, rely on weapons, and have no inherent magic. You could make a charismatic fighter with a leadership-oriented maneuvers and it would be pretty functional as a warlord. While I think the warlord deserves to be its own class (especially as much as other fighter-overlap classes such as the ranger, paladin, or barbarian) it needs some work to stand apart.
The name is also problematic. What’s a first level warlord? One who quite literally has zero-experience. Bilbo Baggins was a first level rogue when he ran out of Bag End without his handkerchiefs, Willow (from the movie of the same name) was a first level wizard when found the infant princess, and Parn from Record of Lodoss War was first level when he grabbed his father’s sword and armour and left the farm. But what does a rookie warlord look like?
The real world connotations of the name also trouble me. There are real warlords in the world as I write this, ones who terrorize their citizens. It’s like naming a class “Führer ”: it’s a perfectly fine word meaning “leader” and “guide” that would make an excellent name for a type of ranger. But is a term utterly ruined by the real world connotations. Everytime I hear “warlord” I think BBC reports of Afghan warlords, or similar stories from Somolia, Sudan, and Libya.