The Fifth Wheel(s on Fire)…

So, last post I mentioned that we have a traditional build of metabalance in our classic party for fantasy gaming.  But I also pointed out that this paradigm is designed around the classic 4 person party.  If you or one of your friends are a GM of skill and any sort of reputation you may find you have difficulty just having 4 players want-in on your games.  As a GM, you have the “easy option” of adding more monsters or foes.  As a player you have something else entirely:

Freedom.

Now, before we just run off into the hills making a bunch of gnome barbarians with 4 Strength, it should be noted that this Freedom may be best distributed between characters (say two normally prime healer classes being able to focus on different options) rather than focus into a brightly spinning wing-nut.   If however you find yourself added late or the other players have things covered, consider a few things:

* The only thing better than Support, is more Support. – Really, when running characters in a larger party support characters with blanket effects like a bard you really cannot go wrong.  Everyone hits harder and more often.  Everyone resists more things.  Everyone is better. 3rd Party suggestions: tactician, herbalist or seer

* Art reflects Life reflects Art – MMOs and video games reached deep into Fantasy RPGs to fuel their popularity and growth but have also offered some new refined versions “classic” roles back to the party that are ideal 5th wheels:

Pet Masters – Summoners, companion focused Druids, and various others fill this role admirably.  With a renewable, customized and augmentable combatant these characters pack an amazing punch.  Be aware of taking too long with your turn (turns) and try to respect the boundaries of your larger than one combat presence to minimize party stress.  3rd party suggestions: psion (shaper), dragonridermechamage or entomancer

Controllers/De-Buffers – These character are the restriction focused “anti-powers” of the party and are currently typified in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game’s base class: Witch.  These character tend to be nearly as valuable as support characters and really add something missing to the “classic 4” based party.  Sorcerers, clerics, oracles and wizards can all be shaped toward this role as well, with particular shining moments in the control camp.  De-Buffers outside of a dispel-focused caster are relatively rare beyond witch however.  3rd party options here are amazing: brujoluckbringer (jinx AT), malefactor, plaguewrighthellion or fallen

Mimics – Using the powers of friends, foes, or even the dead and disembodied these variable wonders take more-is-more to a whole new playing field.  With virtually no mimicry based classes in the core most of the burden to create these wonders fell to others.  3rd Party suggestions: echo, dilettantegodling, occultisttaskshaper and thaumaturge

* I can play anything, so I will play ANYTHING – Many characters in the Fantasy genre have fantastic but EXTREMELY unpredictable powers.  This is generally bad news for the metagame balance of the party, but if you have covered your bases you can go to town with this!  In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game “primal” magic archetypes and option exist that allow random effects to slide into your normally static abilities.  3rd party suggestions: cartomancerilluminatus, chaos magic and this offering from Dreadfox Games

The freedom of adding the fifth player loosens balance considerations for the entire party.  More important than any above recommendation is this: less rules consideration-based requirements means more ability to focus on roleplaying options while still keeping the party alive.  I can’t recommend a fifth player enough to improve the overall quality of game experience for everyone at the table.  Beyond five, results may vary depending on GM skill and player behavior, but for me 5 is most certainly a  “magic number”.

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