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Party composition and balance


Advice


First, we're a 3 person party. Originally our party makeup seemed pretty balanced - A Greatsword fighter, archer ranger, healing druid with a big cat, and me, a hobgoglin finesse rogue. Before our first session even started, the Fighter and Druid dropped out for reasons unknown. However, my buddy's son expressed interest in playing. He's 14 and this is his first pen-and-paper RPG, so he needs a bit of help, but all in all, he's doing very well. He's playing an Elven conjuration wizard.

Basically, my question is, does this party seem survivable? We're not uber-optimized, but our stat arrays don't suck either. Originally, I was planning on going into Arcane trickster to get some arcane support and still keep my roguish side happy, but since we have a wizard now, it's not that big a deal. I might still do so, just with a magus, as I think that would be fun to play. The part that bothers me is the lack of divine casting, especially healing. I know that the ranger will eventually get some spells, and thus access to wands without the UMD checks (which he wouldn't be that hot at) But that's a few levels away. I was considering suggesting to the wizard player that he has the makings of a fairly decent mystic theurge (19 int, 15 wis), but like I said, he's a young player with 0 experience, and theurges aren't exactly the most straightforward and easy to play...

I feel that the reason we've not had too many issues to date with PC deaths is that we've been rolling hot. Enemies tend to die when PCs roll nat. 20s. But if a monster gets a crit at this point, an unmodified longsword is lethal.

Can we make it? Or am I just being paranoid?


Sounds like a fun party, albeit one not built to survive challenges built around the "four square" (fighter/rogue/cleric/wizard) concept. If your GM is willing to tailor adventures to the party then you shouldn't have a problem. You'll probably have a lot more stealth challenges and social interaction, generally more skullduggery than skull crushing.


So if I am following you, the current party is:

Elf Wizard (conjuration school)
unknown Ranger (focused on archery)
Hobgoblin Rogue (high dex) - your character so could be changed

I think you're right in thinking the first few levels will be brutal. Summoning monsters isn't great at low levels since the fights tend to be longer, and the duration of the spells are fairly short. Normally these are the levels that the melee types make up for that sort of thing...

You mention stats that don't suck, so maybe if your ranger wouldn't mind swinging a weapon for the first couple levels, that would give your rogue a flanking buddy, and help protect the wizard by the two of you tying up the enemy.

Once you're past the low levels, then a ranger's companion, with the boon companion feat, and you the rogue, should be able to delay the onslaught until the summoned creatures can arrive. The ranger can then focus on making enemies into pin cushions too.

Just my opinion of course :)

Silver Crusade

Wand of Cure Light Wounds is useable by a Ranger from level 1, as long as they haven't swapped out the spellcasting ability somehow. Wands are spell trigger devices, so you don't need a caster level, just one level or more in a class with a spell list, and the spell in the wand must be on that list.

They cost 750gp fully charged, which is 15gp/charge.


Depending on the game there are some basic roles that need to be covered. Some may be more important than other but you should have someone able to cover the roles. Also many characters can cover more than one role.

Healer
Ranged Combat
Close Combat
Area Damage
Traps
Intelligence
Defensive Magic
Battle Field Control
Movement
Social

Your biggest weakness is the healing. The Ranger can use Wands of Cure Light Wounds but will not be able to handle Ability loss and the other things a healer needs to deal with.

The Elf Wizard is good but I would recommend a Spellbinder out of the ARG. Use the bound spells for Summon monster so he can memorize other spells, but can summon as needed.

If the Ranger goes for a Switch Hitter he should be fine. He can also act as a skill monkey especially for the scouting.

An Inquisitor would work well as the healer as long as you have access to some scrolls so you don't have to use your limited spells for the non HP healing. This would also allow you a lot of rouge type skills if you wanted to still go that route.


The group for RotRL I'm currently in is this:

human transmutation wizard
kitsune magus
catfolk rogue

We had a ranger for one session who had swapped out his spells, but he stopped playing.

Magus and rogue both have UMD now and we can use the wands of CLW pretty reliably now out of combat. Sometimes takes us two or three tries though.

It works, but its not always easy.

You have the advantage that the ranger can use the wand himself.

It's true that restoration etc will be a problem later on. But that can be handled by UMD somehow as well, or you hire a spellcaster service to cast it for you. Usually cheaper.

There are no "must have" roles in PF, you can make do with everything.


@ Humphrey Boggard

So far it has been a fun adventure with an intriguing party dynamic. We definitely use stealth to our advantage, and luckily we know enough to utilize some tactical acumen. Like I said, we originally had more of the traditional party makeup, sans arcane, and that position I was eventually going to assist with. When half of the original group left, some re-tailoring was definitely in order.

@ Eric Mason

Yes, our party consists of
Elven Wizard (conjuration school specialist)
Drow Ranger (archery focused)
Hobgoblin Rogue (finesse build)

If you're saying that my choice of high-dex hobgoblin rogue was sub-optimal, you are 100% correct. However, I'm not playing to optimize here. I mean, that should be obvious - I'm playing a rogue!

Our stats were rolled 4d6, drop lowest.

my stat array, after racial mods
Str 13
Dex 18
Con 14
Int 15
Wis 11
Cha 10

Feat Wpn Finesse

The ranger
Str 14
Dex 17
Con 10
Int 11
Wis 14
Cha 13

Feat PBS

The Wizard
Str 15
Dex 16
Con 12
Int 19
Wis 15
Cha 10

Feat Spell Focus (conj)

Spells
Grease
Color Spray
Mage Armor
Shield
Comprehend Languages
I'm not sure what else

Right, I don't think that summoned monsters are going to make an appearance until at least lv. 2, and even then, it's only once or twice a day. Once our wizard has a few more levels under his belt, we'll see a lot more appearances of summons.

Our ranger does carry a sword, although more as a back up weapon right now. Since we're only lv. 1 right now, I would think that he'd qualify as a switch hitter.

Ironically enough, the wizard carries a longsword (elven proficiency) and uses that more than his spells, which does make a kind of sense, in that he's got the strength to use it, and his spells are fairly limited at first level.

Of course, all of our characters use projectile weapons first, as dex is our best physical stat for all characters. When it comes to close quarters fighting, we all pull out our blades and go to work.

I'm just worried that we'll eventually (read: soon) come across other archers, something with DR, an enemy that can actually roll a nat. 20, etc. I know that if we can make it past the first few rough levels, we can make it, it's just what to do in the meantime that makes me cautious.


Playing without a Healer is only an issue of the players and GM all expect that there will be a Healer. Many parties play without a dedicated Healer because no one wants to be just the party Band Aid - not that I am saying that is all a Cleric is.

Lantern Lodge

The major problem with small groups is that there is no room for error. The fact that u have a wizard and archery focused ranger means that 1ce they run out of ammunition and spells to cast they are as good as dead. Now say if the Ranger decides to go sword and board or two-weapon fighting then that should be better. The wizard on the other hand should focus on defensive spells like mage armor and shield. Use offensive spells only if there aoe against lots of targets and summon creatures to aid in melee and provide a buffer between him and the enemy. All characters might i add though should have a form of range weaponry like a bow. Now on concerns of a rogue there good as a skill monkey and sneak attack damage is nice but its a double edge sword to say. Rogue only truly excels in combat if it gets the enemy to be denied there dex bonus which can be done in many ways but not all are easy and they come at a price primarily feats or good group cohesion. From personal experience there is 2 ways to go about an effective sneak attack every round with out aid of allies. First there is the lovely 3 feat combo of Intimidating Prowess, Shatter Defenses, and Dazzling Display which allows u to add ur str along with cha on intimidates that target all enemies in a 30ft radius that makes them flat footed for x amount of rounds. The second way is more feat intensive but very effective. The feats needed is Improved Feint, Greater Feint, Vital Strike, Improved Vital Strike, Greater Vital Strike while using a 2h weapon like a great sword. Though u will only get 1 attack off a round the attack will do 4x weapon dice damage and apply sneak attack.


@ Malachi Silverclaw

Oh, that's cool. I was under the impression that they had to have a caster level. Maybe I'm thinking of scrolls?

@ Mysterious Stranger

So, are you suggesting that I swap out my rogue for an Inquisitor? Or that we find a 4th. Because, I would love to have a 4 player party, and I've heard nothing but good things about Inquisitors.

@ Qatar

So you're saying that it will be tight, but we can make it?

Lantern Lodge

The best 3 man group ive ever been apart of had a fighter with the Weapon Master archtype, a Sorcerer with the Crosblooded archetype of red dragon Draconic blood line and fie Elemental blood line, and my Paladin with the Hospitaler and Warrior of the Holy Light archetype. Talk about fun. I was covering both the role of tank and healer while the fighter was our primary single target dpr and the sorcerer was our primary aoe dpr.

Lantern Lodge

If ur looking for a 4th player id love to join u. I also have a few friends that would love to play. We use team speak and game table when we do our games but we would be fine with PbP.


If you can find a fourth player than you have a lot more flexibility and may not need to make changes to your character. If not then changing to an inquisitor will give you a lot more versatility. With a small party each player ends up needing to cover multiple roles. Like I said your current party has almost everything covered except for healing. You may need to make some minor changes like the Ranger picking up power attack and quick draw so he can function as both ranged and close combat.

As for having a dedicated healer that may not be necessary, but you will need someone to be able to handle the role. I suggested an Inquisitor because they have the required spells on their list so can use scrolls as well as wands. They also have a decent amount of rouge like skills so can cover that role. Just take the trait that gives you disable device as a class skill. Without trap finding you can't disable magic traps, but you can dispel them. Dispel Magic is one spell any inquisitor should have when they get 3rd level spells. Take the Conversion Inquisition and your social skills will be decent to obscene even if you dump CHA.

Shadow Lodge

Party balance is nice, but by no means mandatory, especially if your DM is willing to work with you by providing challenges appropriate for your party's skills.

If you're really nervous about it and not too attached to your rogue, an Inquisitor could easily serve as a roguish character with some healing ability. I'm playing an Inquisitor who is also the party's sole healer, and though it isn't ideal he keeps them on their feet. You'd get all the major healing spells (Cures, Restoration, Remove Disease, Neutralize Poison, Heal), though slower than a cleric. Since scroll use is based on caster level, not spell level, you could use scrolls of important healing spells before you can actually cast them. As Mysterious Stranger said you get plenty of Rogue skills, and you can use traits, feats, spell choices, and your Domain/Inquisition to further develop that. Consider Heretic or Infiltrator archetypes. You could dip a level or two in Rogue for Trapfinding and Evasion, though I'm not sure how much benefit that would be in the long run. You could even consider just giving Inquisitor levels to your Rogue. The average Wis might be a problem, but your DM might let you rebuild a bit if you want to keep your Hobgoblin but feel you really need a healer. If you want to try this and DM allows, I'd suggest swapping Wis 11 with Str 13 (you're Finesse based, you won't miss it), putting an ability increase in Wis at either 4 or 8 and getting a Headband of Wis +2 at mid levels. Wis 16 should be all you need.

Wouldn't recommend making any changes to your character if you're attached to him, though. You can make do, especially if your DM considers your situation in adventure design. The Inquisitor healer I'm playing resulted from a similar situation - we lost a primary healer and I had to step in. I only made minor changes to the character and I still occasionally feel frustrated by not being able to develop the character the way I initially intended. Don't feel pressured into playing something you don't want to play just because you feel you need to balance the party.


galahad2112 wrote:


@ Eric Mason

Yes, our party consists of
Elven Wizard (conjuration school specialist)
Drow Ranger (archery focused)
Hobgoblin Rogue (finesse build)

If you're saying that my choice of high-dex hobgoblin rogue was sub-optimal, you are 100% correct. However, I'm not playing to optimize here. I mean, that should be obvious - I'm playing a rogue!

Relax Galahad, I was not going down that road at all :)

I was just trying to make sure I was understanding the current situation, and making suggestions on how to make what you have work. As a high dex rogue, getting flanks is more important than it would be if you were a high strength rogue.

Eric


We had a party with 2 TWF fighters (with teamwork feats), a rogue, a barbarian, a dervish dancer Bard, and a Magus. The rouge, bard and magus could all use a CLW wand, and there were plenty of wands and potions in the party. Two characters died.

The problem was that we didn't differentiate between "I am capable of using a CLW wand" and "I am willing to focus on keeping other party members standing."

Sure, we had plenty of healing, but we didn't have anyone playing the role of healer. All the characters were designed to lay out damage in different ways, and we paid for it.


Given the basic roles of the generic party, the characters in existence, and an assumed willingness to change, I would suggest the following:

You: Paladin, rearrange your array for an Archer version, granting you the roles of:
Healer, Ranged Combat, Social

Conjuration Wizard, go binder, can cover the roles of:
Area Damage, Trap detection (Yay spells!) Intelligence (Knowledge Monkey), Defensive Magic to a smaller degree, Battlefield control is the Conjurer's specialty.

Ranger can focus on:
Traps, Melee Damage, Ranged Damage, some healing.

Unfortunately, this puts your most inexperienced player in charge of the majority of the aspects that need covering.

If your ranger wants to rebuild a little so you can work together on some teamwork feats, that would make Inquisitor on even par with the Paladin, IMHO, otherwise, arcane paladin will probably work better for your group.

Emphasizing Ranged Damage because the more things that die before they can hit you, the less healing you will ever need. Use summons for tankiness, and you are golden.


It's always important to withdraw, and let others fight if you're wounded when you don't have someone capable of meaningful in combat healing.

It can be hard to keep that in mind when fighting, and the freak critical hits can throw that out the window of course. :)

Eric

Shadow Lodge

Gwen Smith wrote:

We had a party with 2 TWF fighters (with teamwork feats), a rogue, a barbarian, a dervish dancer Bard, and a Magus. The rouge, bard and magus could all use a CLW wand, and there were plenty of wands and potions in the party. Two characters died.

The problem was that we didn't differentiate between "I am capable of using a CLW wand" and "I am willing to focus on keeping other party members standing."

Sure, we had plenty of healing, but we didn't have anyone playing the role of healer. All the characters were designed to lay out damage in different ways, and we paid for it.

Yes, you didn't differentiate between "capable of healing" and "dedicated healer." But you can fix that problem by altering tactics so that you take less damage. I've played in campaigns without meaningful in-combat healing. You just be a bit more careful about taking damage. Avoid unnecessary combat, withdraw if it looks bad, and try to boost your defensive abilities.


@ Psion-Pshycho

yeah, that does sound like a fun party.
As for joining our game, that would be totally cool with me, however, we are a Thursday night around-the-table kind of setup in the Baltimore area. If that fits, that would be totally cool. If not, thanks for the offer, anyway.

@ Weirdo

So you're saying that we might just make it, right? I think that I'll keep playing the rogue, as it's been a blast so far, and if he dies I'll roll up a healer, probably an Inquisitor.

@ Eric

Yeah, I didn't think that I was starting another "Rogues are underpowered" thread... You've got the situation correctly assessed ;)
I think we'll just have to plan a bit more carefully and use smart tactics.

@ Gwen

I'll keep your perspective in mind. Thanks for sharing.

@ Arizhel

Yeah, the other two players are fairly set on what they want their characters to do, so the flexibility is going to have to come from me. I think that I'm just going to pick up a bow and we'll all be ranged characters.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
galahad2112 wrote:
He's playing an Elven conjuration wizard.

Switch your son to a Master Summoner instead of a Conjuration wizard and trick his eidolon out as a stealthy scout. That will go a LONG way towards your party's versatility and survivability.

We run three person parties all the time, and that's one of the key tripod legs.

Shadow Lodge

galahad2112 wrote:

@ Weirdo

So you're saying that we might just make it, right? I think that I'll keep playing the rogue, as it's been a blast so far, and if he dies I'll roll up a healer, probably an Inquisitor.

That's what I'm saying. It's too early to drop a character you're really enjoying just for party balance.

Assume you won't get in-combat healing, but buy your ranger a few magic items for out-of-combat healing. He can use wands of CLW at level 1. Because scrolls are based on caster level, not spell level, he can use Scrolls of Remove Disease at level 6 (CL 3 divine spell from Restoration domain) and Neutralize Poison at level 8 (CL 5 divine spell for Druids), several levels before he is actually able to cast these spells himself, and in a pinch he can make a CL check to activate these scrolls starting at level 4. You can get Restoration cast on you between adventures as long as you return to town often enough. If you're feeling short on healing at level 7, someone in the group could take Leadership and pick up a cleric cohort, which will give you better healing than my party's got right now.

If you've got a good GM who adjusts challenges to fit your group, you'll do fine. Keeping opponents at range (or even just softening them up a bit before closing) will help.


Weirdo wrote:
That's what I'm saying. It's too early to drop a character you're really enjoying just for party balance.

Bingo. In my opinion, the party (archer ranger, finesse rogue and conjurer) seems like a lot of fun. It's a party built for skirmish tactics and you'll do fine provided you're willing to leave when a fight turns against you.

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