Welcome back, dice fondlers! I wanted to take a few words and address a question I’ve seen brought up regarding fully random character creation in Dungeons and Dragons. That is, how do you make sure you have a balanced party?
Thankfully, this question is really easy to answer: you don’t. You make sure that the challenges you present as a Dungeon Master are balanced for the group. Wasn’t that easy? Shortest article I’ve written yet. Moving on…
Oh. You’re expecting more, aren’t you? Fine. Let’s do this. So how’s about this for a party: five Rogues.
What are we going to do with five Rogues? No, we aren’t running Blades in the Dark (That brilliant game is here and if the idea of five Rogues interests you at all, you need it in your life.). This is a Dungeons and Dragons article. The first thought that comes to my mind is organized crime. The second thought is the tv show Leverage (which has its own phenomenal RPG using the Cortex Plus system which you can find here). On Leverage, there was a team of four criminals and one former insurance investigator teaming up to take down those too powerful for others to bring justice to. These five would be pretty killer as a team of Rogues also.
Accounting For Strengths & Weaknesses
So, if we have a team of all Rogues with no combat support NPCs, what sort of challenges is the DM disposed to using? Rogues have access to Expertise (which doubles their Proficiency bonuses for select Skills) so Skill challenges are great options here, as are traps, stealth infiltrations, and social interactions. The trickiest things for our team to deal with are extended fights that would normally require significant amounts of healing. It is unlikely that they’ll be able to tank successfully as they aren’t going to be able to wear heavy armor without sacrificing some of their greatest stealth assets. Fifth Edition’s Hit Dice will help out some, but this is a team that’s going to be reliant on skirting around fights or striking decisively from surprise. Magic is also a huge weakness for this team.
It’s A Trap! Tips For The DM
Now, this is the rare DnD team that can absolutely be watching for traps because they can meaningfully do something about them. With that in mind, we should absolutely have McGuffins hiding behind intense security including traps “that make sense.” See what I did there? You have to make sure that the traps are appropriate for the adventure. Corridors that have to be passed on a regular basis should have means by which to bypass them. Traps can certainly also sit as horrors at dead ends.
A good example is to have a cold-themed dungeon have rooms that freeze you to death unless you have the skill to reverse engineer the trap or you can best its riddle. Also, difficult to pick locks are fair game — you know, the kind that alerts the guards if unsuccessfully tampered with. These work best if you leave copious opportunities for the team to suss out the security systems of their target and they failed to bother.
Leveraging Rogue Archetypes For The Party
With that out of the way, if our party is looking for ways to keep our team diverse and able to respond to a variety of challenges, they can base their builds around Rogue Archetypes. Let’s walk through some examples:
- Using a Half-Orc as an Assassin gets you a Rogue with extra damage potential in the form of the Assassinate feature, as well as your Half-Orc’s Savage Strikes. Relentless Endurance lets our Assassin stay up in one more case than normal.
- Our second Rogue is a Halfling that takes the Thief archetype. This one is a pretty standard cat burglar, leaning on their luck and bravado to carry them through.
- Next, we have a Human using the Swashbuckler Archetype. They ramp up their Charisma and take the Dual Wielder feat. This lets them do double duty as the Grifter/Face of the team while also being a formidable combatant.
- Then, we take the Arcane Trickster Archetype to make sure we have some limited access to magic. Aside from the utility of features like Mage Hand Legerdemain, this also gives us a vector for potential enchanted item creation during downtime. Let’s make them a Svirfneblin (Deep Gnome) so they get a bonus to their Intelligence as well Advantage to hiding in rocky terrain. Even better, they get Advantage to three separate saving throws if magic is involved.
- Finally, let’s make a Half-Elven Mastermind. Choosing Half-Elf lets us be adaptable in exactly which Ability Scores we want to muddle with. Choosing Mastermind is one of the best things we can do in this team makeup, as the ranged Help Action Masterminds get allows them to give Advantage to other members of their team. This allows for efficient use of Sneak Attack during battles. Their Proficiency with Disguise Kits and Forgery Kits allows them great utility in social encounters, and Soul of Deceit is a godsend at high levels if intrigue and con artistry are your team’s forté.
Five Rogues Walk Into A Bar…
Without much effort, this team could be dropped into any Dungeons and Dragons megacity and steered toward the nearest Thieves’ Guild or similar. Hand out Guild “Jobs” in the form of sealed envelopes with quest details within. Allow the party to choose what Jobs they choose to run and let them organically build wealth and a network of allies, and watch as they start to conflict with the guild. They may form their own guild, attempt to rule the Thieves’ Guild, become law enforcement agents, or start a legitimate trade empire. We have no idea knowing exactly where they could end up, but with this, we have a campaign concept that is perfectly workable for a five character party where everyone is the same class.
Remember, as Dungeon Masters we control the flow challenges and their content. Knowing our group and their game goals lets us put together a game we can all enjoy and share in equally.
Until next time dice jockeys, Jason out.