Thursday, February 23, 2012

Party Optimization Part two: Mechanics

We talked about creating a party that has similar goals and perhaps even an overarching theme such as all arcane characters in part one. Now we’re going to talk about making mechanical choices that will create a synergistic party. Once you have agreed on a party theme, or at least gotten some ideas how the characters could be connected, the next step is actually creating a party. When creating a party you want to look at how all the pieces fit together, instead of simply making individual characters on their own. Remember the goal here is to make a party that runs like a well oiled machine. Occasionally a party will work well together from happenstance. Additionally, if the characters and players all have similar goals a party can run smoothly as well. However, a party built together with a theme, with short term and long term goals, and with an eye towards working as a unit, can run sensationally well.

The first step to making a mechanically optimized party is to pick a theme. Your theme should include some basic story ideas, how the characters will interact and what the party will be good at. No one character can be good at everything and the same is true of adventuring parties. While you can certainly have a party that does a bit of everything, having a more focused party is going to shine brighter. You certainly want to cover your bases in party creation to make sure you don’t have any glaring holes. For example a party that is functionally blind or socially illiterate. The main thing is to come up with some sort of concept for your party such as our party always wants to go first, or our party never wants to miss. Of course you will never be able to fully reach those goals, but if you have them you can make informed choices to come close to reaching them.

There is some inherent synergy in choosing classes that share a power source. For example, arcane characters tend to have some great controller options across the board, divine characters tend to have a touch of leader in them, most martial characters have good basic attacks and warlords can give out basic attacks like candy. This is nice because the game rewards you for making a party with a theme. I’ve never been in a party of all arcane characters, but I imagine it would be fun frustrating all the monsters into oblivion.

Yeah it's kinda like that
Playing a group of characters that share a race has less inherent synergy. Still there are some options that can be synergistic, and even more options that can work well together on a basic level. A team of all Devas could work well, especially for a group of divine characters. The bonuses like up, and Devas make excellent Divine characters thematically. You will get a lot of mileage out of Memory of 1,000 lifetimes and the Deva’s resistances are a nice bonus. Some feats are particularly useful for a group of Devas. These include Radiant Power, Battle Intuition and Auspicious Lineage in the heroic tier. Shared Memories is an excellent feat, but is for Warlords only. One interesting tactic could be an entire party of multiclass Warlords. The multiclass Warlord feats out of Martial Power 2 are all excellent choices for this. The party would get a ton of benefits when anyone used an action point and the party’s memory power would become a poll available for all to use whenever needed.

If you never want to miss a party of all elves could be interesting. Elven bonuses would work well for a primal themed adventuring party if you wanted to go the hippy tree hugger route. There are plenty of good feats for Elven characters, but nothing terribly game changing. One interesting idea is to make a party which includes at least one Elf, at least one Eladrin, and at least one Drow to make use of Caelynnvala'sBoons.

No Beast will escape my tiny pixie wrath
Almost any race could work to build a themed adventuring party around. Some races have more support than others, but as long as the party tries to work together your party of pixie beast slayers should do quite well. The character optimization race guide wiki is an excellent resource if you are looking to make an optimized party of all one race. Another excellent place to look is this post on Dungeon's Master.

Here are some other thoughts you should keep in mind when building an optimized party. Your leader is a resource for more than just healing. Healing is an important aspect of any leader, but there is more to being a good leader than healing. There is an excellent guide to leaders here. The guide lists several aspects of being a good leader, and all of the leader classes excel at some aspects but not others. Keeping the other classes needs in mind while building your leader is a key to successful party optimization. Several classes, most notably the Blackguard, gain bonuses from having temporary hit points. Having a leader that gives out temps is great for those classes. A class like a barbarian that likes wielding big damage, low accuracy weapons would love a leader that helps with accuracy such as a tactical warlord.  On the other side very accurate characters like Avengers and Rangers would love a damage boosting leader like a Panther Shaman. The Panther Shaman works especially well with a Ranger because the damage roll bonus would apply to both Twin Strikes ramping up the damage even more.

Healing surges are a party resource. You are only as resilient as your weakest link. If you want to keep going after others have fallen you should start to think of healing surges as a party resource. There are a couple of really good ways to extend the party’s day by passing around surges. The Paladin can give out some healing by using Lay on Hands. Clerics, Shamans and Artificers have some good options for surgeless healing. Artificers in particular are good at this because their encounter heals can be replenished by any party member’s surges. If none of those options work well in your group you should make sure that someone has access to the Comrade’s Succor Ritual. It is a first level ritual and well worth the price.

Then the Jaguar ate his face! True story. 
Guild and Tribal feats are your friend. If you can get the whole party on board the guild and tribal feats are well worth the investment. The feats all give a solid benefit for taking them, and the benefits are improved for each other party member that takes them. If you have a good theme in mind the feats can help solidify it.

I hope you find some of these ideas helpful when you are building your next party. Even if you don’t want to make a totally optimized party, thinking about a theme for your party and making some choices together can lead to a richer gaming experience. In the future I would like to post a complete party that uses these ideas including some basic backgrounds and connections between the characters. If you have made a party cooperatively or just have some ideas for how it might work, please leave a comment below. Until next time remember don’t let your DM tell you no. It’s always, “Yes, and…?”

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