Monday, September 7, 2009

How to party

When playing any given game in a strategy, and especially a table top setting, having a balanced party is an important key to a fun game. I currently run two separate games, and play in two others which makes for a busy social schedule. This week I’ll break down one party I’m in and one I GM for and show how a balanced group can make all the difference.

Group 1:

Dwarven Cleric

Dwarven Crusader

Human Wizard

Shadowfolk Rogue (Ninja)

This group is a classic four-man setup which is actually very balanced for about 90% of game play.

The cleric is a primary healer for the group, but as a dwarf the tactical mind he brings to the group allows him to take seemingly utility spells and make them attack spells that makes the battlefield fight for him. In a recent encounter he used a spell in order to cause the hallway the party was fighting in to seal off, halving the number of enemies they had to handle at one time.

The crusader is a fascinating class that I hadn’t heard of before I joined this party and he does his job better than any martial class I’ve ever played or seen played. The job of a defensive warrior type, as dwarven fighters and the like tend to be, is to keep the enemies from attacking anyone but them. The crusader’s aura based abilities allow him to cause all adjacent enemies to fight poorly if they choose to attack anyone but him. I’ve seen these abilities change the tide of numerous fights.

The wizard is the staple arcane caster for any group. The wizard can cast any arcane spell so long as he can find it and copy it into his spell book. The only downside to a wizard is in his versatility in the line of fire. He’ll prepare a list every morning and needs 10 minutes to change out one spell, so if he needs to turn a slow fall spell into something that can cause a gout of flame in combat it just isn’t going to happen. However, when you need someone who can hit a large area of effect with a lot of damage you need the arcane caster.

Finally the rogue of the party, who is actually using a ninja based class, grants the party an element of stealth which the dwarves in plate mail just can’t compete with. The ninja style class makes him a far better assassin than normal rogues can be, but unfortunately it comes at a big cost to the party. He cannot handle traps.

These four players and their interactions with each other make them an amazingly balanced team of adventurers, so long as a trip wire or pressure plate doesn’t ruin our day.


Group 2:

Human Fighter

Human Fighter/Rogue

Human Rogue

Halfling Sorceror

Wood Elf Scout

Human Ranger

Human Archivist

This group is almost twice the size of the other group, but with their composition they may run into some very big problems.

The human fighter is a paragon of martial combat and versatility. This particular character prefers a massive two-handed hammer. As the groups leader he tries to keep the party in tactical formations and high spirits.

The multiclass fighter/rogue is great example of a warrior who wants to “fight dirty”. Wielding a scimitar he has the potential to out damage his leader, but he’s reliant on the enemy having accessible weak spots and his ability to set a flank in order to really be effective.

This rogue is a classic spy and infiltration character. Unlike the ninja in the other group, he handles traps like a pro and the party has an advantage with him on point. Unfortunately as a second rogue in the party the two of them may end up competing to fill a slot which may only require one player to handle the job. If they work as a team however, rogues can be among the most formidable pairs.

Halfling sorcerers are a spin on the wizard mentioned above; they only know a handful of spells, but they can cast nearly twice as many times as a wizard on a daily basis and they can cast spontaneously so they don’t have the struggle a wizard can of being unprepared for a situation. Unfortunately if a spell is not on their list no amount of time will allow them to fix it.

A scout, particularly one specializing in archery makes for a fascinating artillery addition to a party. The only real downside for her is the necessity to move in order for her class abilities to work and her ranged specialty makes a close combat melee something which could almost completely disable her.

The ranger of this party is also an archer, specializing in mounted combat. The same melee struggles can occur with his character, but he also has the struggle of any indoor encounter removes his training to fight from horseback useless. That being said, he can still bring a lot to the party and with two archers they front-lining fighters and rogues have some great backup.

Finally the archivist is like a wizard based cleric. Incredibly useful if he has the right spells in his book and prepared that morning, but limited in the number of spells he can cast daily. In all truth there is nothing wrong with this character and his style, but as the only healer in a 7 man party his low number of spells may ruin his ability to do anything but heal.

The large size of this party and the lack of healing to back up the three melee warriors make this party in a feast or famine predicament. So long as the enemies are not both outnumbering, and of similar or higher power than the party they may be fine, but if they don’t keep the group together and intact it will be a very difficult struggle for them to make it through to see their next adventure.


The real secret behind any game and party choice is that if you’re not having fun it’s not doing its job. The game is just that. A game. So no matter what preconceptions of gaming your friends, family, religious affiliation, or best friends blog may claim, realize that these games are just like movies, sporting events, or live theatre; it just costs a lot less, allows the group of friends to laugh and make jokes as loud as they want, and they can have a great time even if they don’t win.

Hope you enjoyed this weeks DICE installment of Slice, Dice and Dining. Please comment below if you liked it or if you didn’t, your opinion matters. And I’ll blog you all again next Monday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Forge, The Player's Handbook, and The Fridge

Welcome to Slice, Dice, and Dining, a guide to my three great passions in life: weaponry, gaming, and food (specifically the eating of it).
Every Monday I will post a new entry discussing a weapon, an aspect of gaming, and/or a specific dish which has caught my interest during the previous week. This week is all about beginnings.
The forge is probably my favorite image in the crafting of a blade, and while it is nothing without the smith, wheel, hammer, or anvil, it is a fascinating piece of industry.
The Player's Handbook is essential to any tabletop gamer who wants to build their first character much like the Worst Case Scenario books are to dealing with my friends.
The fridge is my all time second-favorite machine, second only to the stove, and with most food this is where we keep the ingredients before we get something tasty cooking.
So not a lot to chew on this week, but come on back next week when the first REAL post will be made for your literary enjoyment.