With conventions gearing up for the summer, it might be time to look at party metabalance for “instant parties” and other blind dates. Pathfinder Society offers an unprecedented amount of options for character creation and puts player first in this regard which means sometimes you sit down at a table to find a very “non-traditional” class group which can cause issues to the unmitigated or players with regular play groups who have experienced party shaping.
Getting the Band Together… Fast
Before proceeding it is worth noting some players DO not care for others understanding their builds or equipment. While it is possible these players are hiding illegal characters or otherwise cheating, it is more likely to be an issue with introversion or a roleplaying preference. If a player resists questions or doesn’t want to participate don’t force it.
Having a grip on what strength a party DOES have is a key to initiating a successful “instant” party. Consider the following availability:
- Available Resources and Usage Willingness – Wands, scrolls, and potions are far more important at the beginning of a mission and often can cover important gaps in the party composition. Often a mission will give a group an opportunity stock up on consumables. If you have a chance to verify gear and purchase over problems. If you don’t have a healer for the sake of the Gods’ check the wand situation!
- Highest BAB is Often Frontline – It is possible that a mid-BAB class like inquisitor or rogue may end up being the frontline fighter. It is best to accept and deal with this happening than it is to play “fallback” games and earn attacks-of-opportunity.
- Highest AC is Often Frontline – If not already a melee class, it may be that a high AC character has to “tank” for the party. This can be imperative to party survival and isn’t something that character can really avoid without magical assistance.
- Summoned Creatures Can Be Frontline – If no one is suited for frontline combats summoned creatures are often expendable and can take the place of the frontline if needed. In a low BAB dominant group, there is usually at least one character that can prepare summons.
- Identify Prepared versus Spontaneous Casters – Prepared caster’s primary advantage is versatility. Identifying spontaneous casters strengths and preparing around them can may the party’s life exponentially easier. Again, some players will see this as a violation of their concept, so if they resist you may need to move on.
- Determine Best Fits – Once you have have your attributes clear, “design” a formation for the party. This DOESN’T need to be overt, rather a couple key players understanding general roles can keep the party organized.
- Acknowledge Redundancy (and if Needed… Superiority) – Multiple characters with the same (or very similar) class abilities should probably divide duties. Decide whether conservation (more totaly uses of abilities of auras or bardic music for instance) or diversification (use of non-overlapping augments) is the best tactic.
Support Weaknesses and “Loose Fits”
Once you have a general idea of roles, characters who can use effects to support characters that are in roles not generally theirs might wish to do so. Consider:
- Buff Loose Fits – Casters do well to cast combat augments on non-primary melee characters who assume frontline roles. Sorcerers with damaging spells will likely need to move into ranged damage roles while wizards should consider support of and control functions.
- Flanks are Flanks – Summons and companion animals that can support flanks and other tactical needs are great options.
- Shift Strengths – Prepared Casters should shift strengths to cover for other party roles, if an oracle cannot heal and do damage at range, they may be better suited to inflicting in close combat while druids shift to hybrid heals or wizards support for DPS.
- Support Players – If you follow all of the above advice it is VERY likely someone will be playing a new or abnormal party role with their character. Offer both support and gratitude to a player willing to make these moves. Advice, compliments
Remember, even if players refuse to participate, choices in party metabalance only tend to increase success rates. If a party doesn’t adhere to the classic roles, it can still be wildly successful and often produce unexpected and memorable results.
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