When we last left each other, we discussed my favorite race in D&D, the Dragonborn. This time around, I’d like to share my thoughts on putting a party together. I’m not talking about meeting up in a tavern, this is about how a group of friends who are about to embark on a grand adventure filled with danger and worst of all, the locked door… can create characters that work well together without compromising their individuality.
One of the things 5th edition D&D does well is providing players a lot of choices in putting a party together. Within all the base classes (Fighter, Rogue, etc.) are choices a player can make that create distinct styles of play, allowing for flexibility in what the players want to do. It ensures that regardless of the variety of classes, the group will be able to face what the DM throws at them. Also, each character receives what’s called a Background. The background is important to role-playing your character. It provides little details that can help the group as a whole. This variation can allow a group of adventurers, called a party, to maximize survivability without sacrificing player enjoyment.
Putting a party together in D&D – Within all the base classes (Fighter, Rogue, etc.) are choices a player can make that create distinct styles of play, allowing for flexibility in what the players want to do. It ensures that regardless of the variety of classes, the group will be able to face what the DM throws at them.
A perfect example of this is Lockpicking. Say your party has a Cleric, a Wizard, and two Fighters. Wait, where’s your Rogue? Killing monsters will be a breeze, but one locked door and the session grinds to a halt while the Fighters hack away at the door or try prying it open. When putting a party together in D&D, one way the group can help itself out is if one of the Fighters tweaks their backstory to include some time running with a few shady folks. Perhaps one of their parents had participated in a few capers in their day. The Fighter could take the Criminal Background that grants the character proficiency with Thieves Tools. Presto! Locked doors are no longer as much of a hurdle, and no one had to sacrifice playing the character they wanted.
The same can be done for languages. Say your party has 3 Elves and a Halfling. Well, some Backgrounds can add a language so that Halfling won’t feel left out when the rest of the party speaks in Elven. Or vice versa, one of the Elves takes Halfling as one of their languages to symbolize that they have traveled together for a while and learned each other’s native tongue as a show of respect.
As for when the time comes to kill stuff, character class options can help take up the slack if the party is missing a key role. What are those key roles when putting a party together in D&D?
- Healer: Typically Clerics or Druids dedicate their resources toward keeping the party alive. However, Rangers that focus their stats toward Wisdom and their survive-off-the-land skills make them decent healers. Paladins with high Charisma can heal pretty well too, and their Lay on Hands ability only adds to make up for the lack of magical resources compared to traditional healer classes.
- Defender(or “Tank”): Barbarians, who have high hit points and damage reduction, or Paladins, who have heavy armor and built-in self-healing, or Fighters, who select fighting styles that increase their defenses or impart penalties to enemies that target nearby allies. Spellcasters that put points into Dexterity can combine defensive spells to protect themselves (Mage Armor+Armor of Agathys or Shield) or focus on Constitution and gain extra hit points (Dragon Sorcery) so when the fight is in close quarters they won’t be so dependent on the Beefcake-Meat Shield squad to keep them alive. Druids that focus on Wild Shape get free hit points when they take on the form of Beasts, perfect for soaking up damage that won’t need to be healed.
- Controller: This is reserved for Druids, Wizards, and their battlefield management area-of-effect spells. Their job is to hinder the ability of bad guys to make killing them easier. Rangers have spells that can limit enemy mobility. Paladins have buff spells and methods of getting the enemy to focus on them even when they don’t want to. When putting a party together in D&D, a well-placed Assassin Rogue can eliminate the toughest enemy on the field before it even gets a turn under the right circumstances, putting the party in the driver’s seat for the rest of the battle or if the enemy is demoralized they might surrender!
- Striker: This role is a Fighter’s primary purpose. The fighter deals tons of attacks and by default, damage. The Rogue and their Sneak Attack bonus are the great equalizer for their lower defense and hit point totals. However, a Warlock that combines Armor of Agathys and Hellish Rebuke (two signature Warlock spells) when hit, or casting Hex on a nasty foe for some extra damage can clear a field of baddies pretty quick too. Don’t discount a Paladin’s Radiant Smite ability, on a higher level critical hit, be prepared to have to borrow some dice form the player next to you!
- Skill Monkey: This is the Rogue all the way. Their skill stats are the best in the game. The Rogue’s expertise increases their primary and neglected skills. Bards are a close second, with Jack of All Trades providing a well-rounded skill set. A Human Druid who takes the Skilled feat will gain 3 additional skill or tool proficiencies. If you do this, you’ve created a solid base for making skill checks in multiple areas. This feat is a great way to go for tough-guy parties. It’ll compensate for ability scores that are low in key skills due to maxed out physical stats. It’s also great for a party that is too Dexterity-based and lacks strong Athletics skills.
- Smartypants: Wizards know stuff. They are the only class that relies on Intelligence, which is D&D’s most underrepresented stat. Paladins and Barbarians usually take this as their dumb stat, but even balanced characters have a least one low stat. What happens when the party has to figure out a complex puzzle or needs to think back to their schoolin’ for some tidbit of historical knowledge? Well, Rogues typically put some points into Intelligence to have a good Investigation skill, used for analyzing traps, and the Arcane Trickster even uses spells to enhance their shenanigans. Fighters who want to put some of that magic stuff to REAL use go with the Eldritch Knight option, combining combat skills with some magical defensive measures. If your party has no Wizard, these two options can make up the brainpower when putting a party together in D&D.
- Scary Guy: Warlocks make a pact with otherworldly beings to receive, or steal, a power that can manifest itself as a shadowy Hex or something with tentacles, things that can scare your enemies into submission. Barbarians can shout and flex to get their point across in an aggressive way. What about the Paladin? The Paladin will typically take the “good cop” role in any interrogation. What happens if you need information quickly and Mr. Goody Two-Shoes over there is just leaning against the wall? Well, maybe they could take that high Charisma stat and grab that goblin by the throat, and Intimidate it by declaring that their Deity shall rain down holy Vengeance, a more aggressive path for a Paladin Oath, and suffering on every goblin alive. Maybe their eyes turn to fire, thanks to the Bard creating a Minor Illusion? It’s pretty safe to say the info needed will come right quick.
- Smart Aleck: No class in D&D can touch the Bard on this one, but if you’ve got some points in Charisma, I say let the puns fly! Maybe your fighter grew up as a gladiator, so you took the Entertainer Background to enhance some of your social skills. Can you say “catch phrase”? Don’t tell me your Rogue won’t leap out the window AFTER one last zinger to the guards as they chase them out of the nobleman’s bed chamber (a well placed “call me” to the nobleman’s wife maybe?).
- Survivalist: Druids and Rangers have a strong connection to nature and are two of the least used classes in 5th edition D&D. They tend to be outshone by other classes, but they are sorely missing in any campaign that puts the party in extreme environments. If you’re playing as a Fighter with the Outlander or Hermit Backgrounds, their experience living off the land might come in handy. A Barbarian tribe would value Nature or Survival knowledge, so some childhood training before puberty hit and life became all about getting swole, would make perfect sense.
There are numerous ways in which different classes can have overlapping talents. The trick is to work with your group when putting a party together in D&D. There are times when the absence of a single skill or ability can be part of the fun. However, the dreaded Nat. 1 lingers like a dark cloud over every D20 roll. So, the more versatile the party is, the better off you’ll all be. Meet with your group before the first session. Introduce your characters and then discuss how you each see your characters developing.
Above all else, make the character you WANT to make. Don’t short change yourself or your party by not taking advantage of D&D’s efforts to give every player as much choice as possible when building their character. Supplements like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything add even more options. There’s plenty of room to play the same class in more than one campaign and still have a different play experience when putting a party together in D&D. Happy adventuring friends! Oh, yeah! Be sure to perform the proper animal sacrifice to the D20 gods for me, based on my latest rolls they don’t seem to be accepting mine.