When creating characters for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, we often see examples of isolated “vacuum builds,” that is a character work-up that is created without regard to the rest of the party and sometimes even the campaign or setting. While there are plenty of reasons this is NOT always a great way to approach character generation one of the most interesting is the issue of party synergy…
Party Synergy Basics
A lot of the assumed functionality is addressed in the assumed nature of the core metabalance. From this basic structure we can adjust and match needs for basics with even the most extreme of class balances. For refresher:
- Fighter – Melee Damage (Moderate, Sustained)/Mitigation (Moderate, Sustained)/Defender (Moderate, Sustained)
- Cleric – Melee Damage (Moderate, Erratic)/Support (High, Expended)/Healing (High, Expended)
- Rogue – Melee & Short Range Damage (High, Erratic)/Skill Use (High, Sustained)/Mitigation (Moderate, Sustained)
- Wizard – Ranged Damage (High Expended)/Support (High, Expended)/Skill Use (High, Erratic)
Any similar balance of attributes should address core metabalance needs. For instance Kineticist – Ranged & Damage (High, Sustained)/Mitigation (Moderate, Expended)/Utility (Limited, Sustained) does such significant damage that two roles worth of damage might be softened allowing for a defense specialist or fifth wheel character to come in to a four person party. Generally, the metabalance is pretty robust.
Of course, you can ignore this (in the grand tradition of the PFS table) and just play with whatever shows up. Personal experience has shown us that even in limited or open play environments, a little coordination goes a long way…
Party Synergy Example: Fear Factory
While coordinating the general metabalance of a party is pretty great for increased party success rate and survivability, it can also be used to make difficult concepts actually playable. Bending the game in this manner often requires many of all of the characters to have traditionally fifth wheel abilities (Support and Debuffs).
One mechanic often of interest to many characters but quickly abandoned by players in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is that of fear effects. As advertised, this single mechanic includes Shaken a solid penalizing Debuff ( –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks), Frightened (a similar effect that causes the opponent to flee), and Panicked (a total fear effect that disarms, causes fleeing, and shuts down attacks). By all rights this is an amazing conditon family.
Until a Will save, or class feature, or creature ability or trait…. completely destroys it.
Fear Factory Synergy: The Dread
- Dread – Melee Damage (Moderate, Erratic)/Mitigation (High, Erratic)/Debuff (High, Sustained)
For the first part of our Fear Factory, we are turning to Dreamscarred Press‘ psionic master of terror, the dread. The dread is likely standing in for our Fighter or Rogue in the metabalance and despite the lack of iterative attacks, the dread’s ramping touch attack and terror abilities make it a solid damage dealer at low levels. Expanded power can even augment this further if needed but the primary contribution of the dread is something even better to our building synergy…
- Synergy: Aura of Fear – The dread’s most important class feature is ability to create a immunity negating fear zone. Penalties of -4 on saving throws and suppression of immunity means from paladins to vampires, terror is back in a big way.
- Fifth Wheelhouse – Its base terror powers inflict Shaken and Frightened and provide a number of advantages against foes suffering them. Oh, you get to add psionic powers on top of that.
- Escalation: Shadow Twin – In mid-level play we get a the shadow twin class feature and twin fear, allowing attacks to multiply and terror to radiate in more areas. Crippling debuffs from terrors can paralyze, slow and level drain enemies.
So the first member of the fear factory creates a zone of penalized, immunity negation for fear effect and gains a number of benefits against foes so afflicted. Fairly functional as vacuum build. But why stop there? Tomorrow we add a second member to the Fear Factory in the form of stigma-cursed Fallen from Kyoudai Games.
Like the idea of character synergies? Check out our mechanics like Spells of Synergy or Heartbound Heroes on these fine sites: 20pfsrd.com, drivethruRPG, paizo and RPGNow.