Reading Freeman‘s post inspired this… Being a DM myself, I figured I’d write something up about parties.
First, the recommended number of people is four. Four is an adequate number for parties to overcome most challenges. It also makes calculating experience easier, since the CR ratings in the DM’s guide (page 38) are based on an average four person party. A four player party is definitely the most balanced. With less players, encounters tend to be worth more EXP but more taxing on resources or more difficult. With more players, encounters are easier but worth less EXP. EXP is divided equally among the party and more people means more division.
Of course, nothing in D&D is set in stone. House rules give the DM (players too, unless the DM’s an authoritative dictator) freedom to run and play their game as they see fit. If I remember correctly, the people in Freeman’s group don’t handle EXP the way I do (and I can hear them saying, “And for good reason!”). I think they gain a level for every four hours they play. I have different views on EXP and how it’s giving out, but that’s another insight for another day.
So, four people makes everyone’s lives easier. Now who to pick? In no specific order…
A party always needs a good melee warrior with lots of hit points, strength, and constitution. This person is the front-line fighter (not the class) who is capable dishing out and taking the most damage. A Fighter would be the best class to choose, since they are the easiest to play and allow lots of customization options thanks to their multitude of bonus feats. A d10 hit die coupled with all weapon/shield proficiencies (except exotic) and Fighters are the definition of a front-line warrior.
Besides a Fighter, a Barbarian can be an excellent choice as a “party shield”. Barbarians have a d12 hit die (the highest for any class in the game) and have more skill points than a fighter, but can’t wear heavy armor (and thus, need good dexterity). This class also has fast movement, which allows them to transverse the battlefield quickly. Barbarians can also rage to increase their physical attributes, but only for a set number of times per day. Barbarians are also limited by an alignment restriction (non-lawful). Side effects aside, a Barbarian can make a better front-line warrior than a Fighter.
A Paladin can also be a good choice, since they have the ability to heal themselves (or others), can smite evil creatures, get immunity to fear but are harder to play. Paladins need good charisma and wisdom scores, in addition to strength and constitution. Then there’s the alignment restriction…
Next, a party needs a divine spellcaster. Divine magic is the only magic that can heal, and healing magic is better than using gold to buy potions. The best classes for this role are clerics and druids. Clerics are better suited for healing and are valuable for fighting undead monsters. Druids, on the other hand, have access to more offensive spells, wild shape, and animal companions. Druids probably make better fighters, but Clerics are better healers. Since every party needs a healer, I’m giving this one to the Cleric. Of course, John had an awesome Druid so I’d accept them.
Paladins and Bards can also cast healing magic, but nowhere near as well as clerics. A Paladin’s “lay on hands” ability doesn’t heal half as well as a good cure spell, and they have to wait a few levels to cast any spells at all. Bards can cast cure spells, but again, not nearly as well as a Cleric.
Two roles fulfilled, two roles left. This one being the role of support. Usually, this person supports the party in either fighting, spellcasting, or skills. I like having a Rogue fill this role, though a Ranger or Bard can also work. Rogues work best since they get the most skill points, are the best class suited to disabling traps, and their sneak attack ability compliments their support role nicely.
While Rogues are my definitive support class, Rangers and Bards can fill the role. Each get a good amount of skill points per level. However, Rangers make better combatants (either with a bow or two-weapon fighting) and have good hit points. Bards make for better spellcasters and fit the support role better (since that’s the class is designed to do). If the party needs a good support fighter, then a Monk is an excellent choice. Just be wary of how much time is needed before a Monk truly matures in power.
The last role is that of the arcane spellcaster. Sorcerers and Wizards are the only classes that can play this role effectively (Bards are also arcane spellcasters too, but their damage output is pitiful). The whole Sorcerer vs. Wizard debate can be saved for another time. Very briefly, I prefer Wizards, if only for their versatility and bonus feats. However, if a player knows what they’ll be specializing in, then go with a Sorcerer. School specialization irritates me to no end.
Looking at Freeman’s group, they’re going to be dealing out lots of damage. He has enough support in his party that he doesn’t need an arcane spellcaster. Still, a Wizard or Sorcerer would be nice to have. And since I play Wizard, I can’t help but die a little inside…
Anyway, that’s that. I just got an idea for my brother’s birthday…D&D session? Better than nothing…
“There are many paths up the mountain, but the view of the moon from the top is the same.“