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. Skewing the design of other PCs can be exciting, but synergy with another PC can make seldom used mechanics more interesting and functional…
Party Synergy Tactics
With an established idea of what kinds of awareness we may need to create effective party synergy we can more toward more tactical implications. As we move into even the most basic interactions of core metabalance we see interaction patterns and the basic structure of party-level tactics.
Using established awareness we see the outlines of basic strategy outline:
- Basic Class Interaction: What core abilities is each character engaging? Dwarf fighter taking advantage his classes heavy armor to pair with his racial abilities? You know he will be engaging a Mitigation role. For a fighter in that role to be effective, you are going to have to allow them to get between the group and enemies. Tactical implications become clearer between members of the party.
- Expectation from and to Party Members: What is everyone bringing to the party? Advertise group buffs. Know what other party members need from you and what they expect to give you. The rogue with vicious weapons is not going to be thrilled when he learns the cleric is a negative energy specialist.
- Deviations from Expectations: What deviations from expected class roles are there? The cleric is a negative energy channeler who is going to front-line and blitz burst negative energy AoE? Great, don’t count of them for healing. The mage wants to be a front-liner specializing in shocking touch delivery? OK, but what implications does that have for the party’s fighter?
- Unexpected Interactions: Deviations from powers one relies on are common with archetypes and hybrid classes. Skald’s ragesong is VERY different from bardic inspiration. Archetypes can add even more confusion when core abilities go missing.
- Building for More Synergy: Look at teamwork feats, spells and class options to help the reality of the party. Healer not cutting it? Ramp your Mitigation? Party missing too much and dealing low damage Outflank and Precise Strike might be your solution. Look at “systemic” improvements in addition to character specific ones.
Fear Factory Synergy: The Occultist
- Occultist – Melee Damage (Moderate, Variable)/Support (Moderate, Variable)/Debuff (Moderate, Variable)
With our established party for the Fear Factory so far being a dread, a fallen, and a direlock we should take a moment to look at the core (not-so) metabalance. We have skewed far from Healing and some Damage potential. In return we gained a large Mitigation effect (Fear) which all three party members can generation and two zones from which we can negate immunities from and penalize resistance to fear effects. Support and Healing are both lacking though if our amazing Mitigation takes, damage sources should be reduced. The party has a mild issue with ranged attacks but the direlock‘s spell absorption abilities should help some there. To fill in our holes and round it all out we choose suggest an spirit-binding occultist from Radiance House.
Seeing the needs present in the party, our occultist is set to take stage taking the fifth wheel theme to another level of extreme. The occultist its abilities are first and foremost variable but with encouragement and a single team work feat (Share Ability) these variable buff can be given to the party member who needs them most.
- Synergy: Bind Spirit. The tricky thing here is getting the other party members to take Ability Share. Abilities like Feast on Fear (Healing from attacks on creatures subject to fear effects) or Paranoid Chill (a nonlethal damaging attack that also adds an untyped penalty to fear effects!) can be used by the occultist or his allies.
- Fifth Wheelhouse: Bind Spirit. Again the core ability of the class provides suites of Debuff potential in nearly every spirit. These abilities can be tailored DAILY to fill in holes or help with specific threats. Kandisha’s Sand Cloud or other similar abilities can shut down ranged attackers and force them to risk the party’s fear zones.
- Escalation: Extra Spirit. Soon enough the occultist gains extra spirits allowing him to more free use Ability Share and more thoroughly cover the bases or commit to generating his own fear effects (Inspire Terror and Rebuke Heresy both work quite well).
Our fourth Fear Factory member fills in the gaps and helps foil major party issues, like providing healing options or blocking range attacks, while corralling the bad guys into our fear zones. All of our party have at least medium BAB (direlock can go full-BAB with their signature weapon) can exploit and generate fear-effects in some way and the combined abilities of the party can guarantee save penalties of around -6 starting at 1st level if all cylinders fire. Our four PC fear factory is in full swing, bad guys soon to be screaming through the streets fleeing us.
Like the idea of character synergies? For more ideas on building characters that work well together check out our mechanics our products on these fine sites: 20pfsrd.com, drivethruRPG, paizo and RPGNow.