Party composition balance - what should I do?


Advice


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I am a relatively new DM who has been given the option to be a player while one of my players runs his own world for a while. Everyone's decided on the classes they wish to play but myself, who intends to be the balancing factor inasmuch as I am able to within this party.

For reference, it appears that we'll have a Half-Orc Samurai, a Gunslinger, and an Archer Ranger. Being me, I've been trying to figure out how I can bring some much needed balance to the party. To that end, it appears to me that Druid is probably going to be my best bet for support, occasional healing, and overall flexibility to fill roles as needed, but I'm no expert at party composition and was looking for input.

The downside to choosing Druid for me is that it looks like one hell of an intimidating class! Full spellcasting progression, shapeshifting through more forms than I can shake a stick at, extremely expensive if you choose to go for an animal companion... what should I do?

Thanks for your thoughts!


Druids rock dude. They are among the most versatile, flavorful and powerful classes in the game. Do not fear the druid.

However, a witch might even be a better fit for the above party. It looks like both melee and ranged are covered and what could very much help that party is a buffer/debuffer/healer/utility character, and nothing beats the witch in that role.

Or you could just play a battle cleric if you want the most straightforward option.


You know too much, that's your problem. ;)

Druids don't Wildshape at all, at first. That comes later, and only a handful of (useful) shapes at the time. And that "full spellcaster" thing is only a handful of spells at first. Really, just decide if you want a wolf or a domain, and then simply jump in. Worry about what comes next level when you have the XP to level.


To be honest any full spell-casting class would be a boon to that party, but I agree that a witch is probably the best option next to a druid.


I would actually recommend a bard. Your group is lacking in detection ability, and a skill monkey can prove extremely useful. You have fair buffs and battlefield control, and some healing ability to boot. You can also drop ranks into Use Magic Device so that you can pick up wizard scrolls and items and serve as a high-damage dealer from time to time. Learn how to reliably feint and trip opponents in combat and you become an undeniable asset to the party.


There are certain spells that can be mandatory depending on what you're up against. They're on the cleric list and a little later on the druid list. Witches can get them at druid rates off the healing patron. Bards don't.

Bards can only heal HP damage, remove curses, and break enchantments. If you run into ability drain, negative levels, permanent blindness or deafness, or death the bard is no help except to UMD expensive scrolls.

If you do come in as a bard trip and feint are not the way to go. Trip fails at higher levels unless your GM uses only medium or smaller humanoids and you can't retrain feats or afford to waste them. Feint is just weak. Rogues may be stuck with it, but without sneak attack it's utterly worthless. It's a three feat chain before your feints can benefit your allies and it'll still eat your move action.


My recommendation is witch, evil eye that AC. Your group horribly utterly lacks magic, a witch is the most arcane you can get without loosing on healing spells.
There is a wonderful Viking guide to witches somewhere around here to help.

If you want to join in and destroy stuff (the party seems to prefer kick-in-the-door-style), then an alchemist would do fine aswell.

However druids are a very good choice too, it's a bit less arcane than the witch, but got all kinds of fun spells.

I would even consider a summoner with that group, this way you add a bruiser, and have a character who can buff people all the time while still doing damage trough the eidolon.


Atarlost, you are looking at the bard class academically, and as such failing to recognize its usefulness and versatility. On paper the bard may look like a horrible mismatch of abilities and skills. In practice, however, the class works very well; you simply have to recognize that the class is designed to do a lot of different things, but an individual bard can only excel at a couple of these varied elements; the elements an individual bard specializes in can be selected from the entirety of the class' individual skills.

The bard is a jack of all trades, master of only a handful. That said, a bard is versatile enough to shine in his or her selected areas of expertise, while still remaining compensator in the others.


Actually, I know that we're starting in a desert region and that we'll be up against undead. How long it will last I don't know, but if that sways opinion at all it's something to consider.


EDekar wrote:
Actually, I know that we're starting in a desert region and that we'll be up against undead. How long it will last I don't know, but if that sways opinion at all it's something to consider.

Ask your gm how prevalent the undead will be overall

Aasimar cleric of Sarenrae with Glory and sun domains, birthmark trait and use the racial preferred class bonus for cleric


Right out of the gate, witches can struggle against undead. Hexes are a witch's bread and butter, and most of them won't work on undead because they're mind-affecting. If you decide to go with a witch, keep that in mind when choosing your patron and any archetypes. The gravewalker archetype is the witch's idea of spitting on undead and their immunities, though your party might not want an evil companion. Undead become less of a problem for witches at higher levels, since you can take metamagic feats that will allow you to use many of your spells against undead when you otherwise couldn't, and there are some potent major hexes that undead won't be immune to. Early on it's a potential pain, though.

If you decide to go druid, take a look at the menhir savant archetype. It gives you the ability to detect undead (among other things) at first level, which can be quite handy. If you're going to be hanging out in the desert for a good part of the campaign, the Walk the Lines ability might not get a lot of use, but it's still a very potent archetype.


A witch with the healing hex is a fun party member to have around. It's one of the few ways to harm undead, plus you're not wasting any precious spell slots. Take extra hex for twice the fun at lv 1, so you can have some nasty de-buffs right at lv. 1.


Heaven's Agent wrote:

Atarlost, you are looking at the bard class academically, and as such failing to recognize its usefulness and versatility. On paper the bard may look like a horrible mismatch of abilities and skills. In practice, however, the class works very well; you simply have to recognize that the class is designed to do a lot of different things, but an individual bard can only excel at a couple of these varied elements; the elements an individual bard specializes in can be selected from the entirety of the class' individual skills.

The bard is a jack of all trades, master of only a handful. That said, a bard is versatile enough to shine in his or her selected areas of expertise, while still remaining compensator in the others.

Healing is not one of the trades the bard can master. That requires condition removal. Bards don't do that. It's great for accentuating the party's advantages, but it's offsetting the weaknesses that this party needs.


There are lots of options:
Cleric, Oracle, Witch, Even Magus & Wizard. If you can be a Samsaran you can use an optional racial feature and gain bonus spells added to your spell list and can add Cure Spells to Magus and Wizard spell lists via the Bard/witch spell lists.


It's not the cures you need. Ranger can do that with a wand. It's the restoration line and condition removers. Some of those are only available as arcane via witch patron, which most have said isn't acceptable for the Samsaran ability since they're not on a class list.


Atarlost wrote:
It's not the cures you need. Ranger can do that with a wand. It's the restoration line and condition removers. Some of those are only available as arcane via witch patron, which most have said isn't acceptable for the Samsaran ability since they're not on a class list.

Ah yeah I forgot about the restoration spells... though I use cure spells as a catch all for healing and condition spells.

If you use the Samsaran ability and add some damage spells to the witch spell list you can create a potentially well rounded caster.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
EDekar wrote:
Actually, I know that we're starting in a desert region and that we'll be up against undead. How long it will last I don't know, but if that sways opinion at all it's something to consider.

CLERIC.

CREATE WATER, BURN UNDEAD, BUFF ALLIES, HEAL SICK, STAND STRONG BETWEEN SHOOTY-GUYS AND FOES.


Much thanks for all the input folks. ^.^ Not quite sure what I'm taking yet, though the DM is definitely enthusiastic about Cleric. Custom god list, but I could get both Luck and Travel as domains if I went with the neutral god of his world. I hear those are pretty good.

Regardless, apparently the other players are being ambivalent and have -not- quite settled on what they want, so for now I will take all of this advice and discussion in mind and make a much more informed decision once the rest of that lot have made their final choices!

Thanks folks!


AM CLERIC wrote:
EDekar wrote:
Actually, I know that we're starting in a desert region and that we'll be up against undead. How long it will last I don't know, but if that sways opinion at all it's something to consider.

CLERIC.

CREATE WATER, BURN UNDEAD, BUFF ALLIES, HEAL SICK, STAND STRONG BETWEEN SHOOTY-GUYS AND FOES.

Nice points there AM CLERIC.

Clerics are one of the better Middle line support casters. Of course Bards, Oracles, Summoners, Witches, and Alchemists fit in that list as well. Druids, Magi, and Inquisitors are more front line casters. Sorcerers and Wizards are last line casters. Pick where you want to be in combat and choose a class in that line. Now I have only listed casters as that seems to be the consensus of what is needed for your party.

Front line casters will be able to handle there own in combat with their spells using making that task easier. Middle line casters are using able to hold their own in combat reasonably well, but primarily focus on buffing their party members and de-buffing their enemies. Last line, or Rear Guard, casters focus primarily on fighting via their spells and are able to cast a spell for almost any occasion.

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts. As always YMMVD.


After reviewing everything that's gone down, I've settled on Cleric. I can't do everything, so I might as well do the best I can with the role the party most needs (to my opinion anyway).

To that end, I thought I'd give a general overview of what I'm looking at character-wise and see if the community would advise any changes or alterations based on the information at hand.

To reprise: this is going to be a fairly undead heavy campaign in the beginning, though the DM has stated that won't be the case later on. What level that'll be I have no idea. This is a desert based campaign, so I'll need to dress appropriately and will almost certainly be providing water for the party considering how heavy the stuff is.

Human Cleric 3 (caster/support focused)
Alignment: True Neutral
Domains: Travel, Luck
26 point buy stat array
Str: 10
Dex: 10
Con: 12
Int: 10
Wis: 18(20)
Cha: 15

There's my basic starter stuff. I need to figure out what I need the most for feats, traits, skills, and lastly equipment. I forgot to mention my deity's favoured weapon is the Heavy Spiked Shield, so... weird, but it is what it is.

The party itself appears to have finalized as a Samurai, Two Weapon Fighter, and Archer Ranger. I'm going to do my best to try and handle the social aspects with my likely higher than the rest of the party's Charisma coupled with my character's backstory. Traps are a lost cause, short of going Bard I simply don't see how we can handle them.

I'm open to any and all changes anyone might have on how I might optimize this guy in whatever manner, but if you're interested in his character concept for the RP angle, it'll be below the hyphens.

-----------------------------

He's intended to be a traveling merchant. If you were to think of the protagonist of Princess Bride you'd have a good idea of how he looks physically, along with a similar demeanor. He's intended to be suave, debonair, sees himself as something of a lady's man. Travels town to town as a small time merchant selling spices, perfumes, and other things of a related nature, and using his rather transient nature to his advantage to take unexpected leave of the latest pretty woman he's wooed for the evening. Very friendly guy, but he's more than traveled enough to have his darker indulgences and bitter side.

DM's perfectly fine with my fudging things a bit to fit the concept, so he'll likely give me a few free ranks of Profession: Merchant (for which I'm thankful, it seems a pretty useless skill).

Any thoughts, considerations, so on and so forth?


Profession is meant more for when you guys have in game time fly by. Such as a 3-Month time skip. You can make 12 profession checks to earn money in that time.

It is an excellent skill if you have a lot if in game downtime.

Traps can be handled a lot of ways. Though it depends on the GM. If your GM is cool a simple 10 foot pole can go a long way.


Actually Professions can have a bearing at any time, because when you have a profession skill you know about that subject. Profession (miner) can have a bearing any time you are in a dungeon. Profession (mercenary) can have a bearing any time you have to interact with hired muscle. Profession makes you a professional, and that garners respect with in that circle and iomplies a great deal of practical knowledge on the subject matter.


WIS 16 is the most I think you need. Most of the Cleric spells are buffs and curing and a high DC isn't required as they aren't offensive. Drop the wisdom down and put the points elsewhere to make the PC more rounded. High wisdom, IMO, is a trap for Clerics.

Silver Crusade

What I'm about to suggest will depend on how long your party has been gaming, and on how 'magic heavy' this campaign is going to be. I'm ofcourse recommending a Wizard. The versatility would hinge on your GM rewarding your efforts with enough treasure to purchase new spells, or throw spell books/scrolls into the loot.

Wizard can be a fabulous support class

If your party co-ordinates character creation you can pick up any knowledges the group may need.
The ability to buff/debuff, summon and control the battlefield - in my opinion - put them far above cleric on the damage control totem pole. No, you can't cast healing magic, per say, but you can help control the combat so its not necessary.
The ability to craft wands, scrolls and high level items should not be underestimated. In a long term high level campain, having a crafter will cut the party's budget almost in half. Also, Craft is an Int based skill, you'll be better at it then most.
Don't forget your familiar(if you take the option). This party looks like it could really use a scout. A sneaky familiar could warn you about an ambush, even just give you better tactics knowing the layout in the 'rooms' ahead.

If this is something you'd be willing to consider, sit down with Treantmonk's guide. Not for the optimization, but for the strategies behind his choices, so you can apply them to your own playstyle and available options.


To Booksy,

I wouldn't try it with this group. How many parties have a half orc samurai, a gnome two weapon fighter who's played approximately five games before ever, an archer ranger who's never played the game before at all, and a DM who I've never played for and whose credentials I don't even know... well, how many parties like that have you seen? *chuckles*

I expect that encounter rate is going to be borked, the team has already shown it's not working together on character creation at all, and I had best rely on myself if I'm going to manage to stay alive. I'll be here to have fun sure, but I don't expect a balanced game by a knowledgeable and veteran DM. Just not gonna happen!

Thanks for the suggestion though!


@EDekar: That is just... Yikes... I am sorry for you.

P.S.: my first 3.5 game was like that. The GM didn't know DnD rules at all and was using the Kobolds out of the 4e Red Box. Add in the GM-vs-PC mentality and well you can extrapolate the rest.


Though I don't recommend neglecting wisdom, I would recommend dropping it to 18 to start to get more well-rounded stats, maybe a bit better Con at least.

For domains, I think the Fates subdomain is slightly superior to the standard Luck domain - mostly because it gets you the Borrow Fortune spell, but also because its 8th level power works on your allies too, even if you do get fewer total uses per day. Travel and Luck are certainly solid choices, though.

Lantern Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

I'd also agree on lowering your Wis to balance out those stats! You'll want Str and Dex to carry your armor and to help with your otherwise pitiful Reflex saves and boost AC/Initiative.

Here are my suggestions (spoilered because it's long!)

Cleric suggestions:

Try something like this:

Str 12
Dex 14
Con 14
Int 12
Wis 15+2
Cha 14

Feel free to switch out Dex and Str if you want a bit more melee capabilities. You'll want the Con that high since as the only spell caster (and major source of healing/buffs), intelligent enemies will be going after you and every hit point will count.

Even with being a human, you want skill points (you'll be the only source of good Knowledge Religion, and probably Diplomacy, too), some other skills that fit your character or provide additional support: Spellcraft, Knowledge Arcana, Bluff (trait for class skill), Sense Motive, or Use Magic Device (trait for class skill).

The 17 Wisdom means that when you hit level 4, you can get it to that nice 18. Alternatively, you can make your Wisdom 14+2 for 16, make the Charisma 15, and make that 16 at level 4 if you want more Channel Energy and better Charisma skills.

Since your deity's weapon is the heavy spiked shield, go with Improved Shield Bash as one of your feats. This gives you a single item for attack and defense and also means you will have a nice free hand for spell casting. Start off with a masterwork shield with the masterwork shield spikes if you can afford it (not sure what your starting gold is), and aim for eventually getting a +1 Bashing Shield and you'll have your primary weapon set (other than maybe replacing the shield spikes with different materials).

For other feats, Improved Channel, Extra Channel, or Turn Undead will help against the early undead. Dodge, Lightning Reflexes, Shield Focus (heavy shield), and Toughness will all give you an extra boost of survivability. Improved Initiative could come in handy, too (going first means your buffs are applied sooner).

Again, as the only source of magic for the group, you'll want a high AC for survivability. Go with masterwork breastplate; with that, the shield, and Dex modifier, you're looking at 20 AC which isn't too bad. If you are worried about heat, go with masterwork chain shirt which has a more bearable armor check penalty and does keep your movement speed at 30' at the cost of 2 AC. Eventually get Mithril Breastplate whenever you have a spare 4000+ gp to get the best of both armors.

If you're worried about traps, there's this nifty level 2 cleric spell: Find Traps. Once you find a trap, you'll just have to worry about creative ways to set it off or bypassing it safely.

Speaking of spells, since you said you're going to spend time in the desert, look into the Endure Elements or Endure Elements, Communal spells. Nothing like being the guy in breastplate not breaking a sweat in the hot hot sun!

Domains, I like both of the Travel subdomains as they have interesting abilities.

Traits, Deft Dodger, Reactionary, Dangerously Curious, and [url=http://www.d20pfsrd.com/traits/social-traits/fast-talker] are all solid choices. If you want Perception as a class skill, see if he'd allow you to get the Osirion Pathfinder Society trait Tomb Raider (+1 to Perception and Knowledge Dungeoneering, 1 of your choice becomes a class skill) or the Grand Lodge Pathfinder Society trait Observant (+1 to either Perception or Sense Motive, that skill becomes a class skill).


Sorry this is a lot to take in; hope there's something good!


@Azaelas Fayth: Eh, it's all in good fun. Utah isn't exactly known for its thriving Pen and Paper community so it really comes down to just myself and my friends if we wish to play at all, and we're all pretty starved for decent PnP play these days. We're gettin' old, git off mah properteh!

@Corlindale and Spacelard: Seems to be a consensus that I should lose some of that Wisdom to beef up other stats. I can't necessarily disagree, any intelligent foe's gonna be thinkin' 'That's one heckuva mighty glow he's got going on there, and every time he shines everyone I'm fighting seems to feel better. Git 'im!' so really, I might as well ensure I can defend myself somewhat.

@Black Powder Chocobo (the best kind!): That's actually exactly what I was hoping for and looking for! I'm pretty much completely new to Cleric personally as I've always been more of a Paladin/Sorcerer type, so that's good information to work with. Definitely going to make some adjustments with the suggestions I've seen so far, though it's best if people assume I know nothing as honestly... I'm still pretty new to Pathfinder, though I ran a few dungeon modules to try and get a grip on some of the rules. It's helped, but I'm no seasoned adventurer to say the least.

I also need to gear up the Archer Ranger, though with my lack of knowledge it'll likely be... sparse. Oh! Since people were saying they didn't know how much we'd be starting with, we get a value of 3000gp, standard rules apply (no spending more than 50% on a single item, for example).


@EDekar: I know that feeling. In SW Missiuri it is rare to find someone who has even heard of D&D...

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / Party composition balance - what should I do? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.