Playing your part in your party.
You know you’re in trouble when, in the middle of battle, your tank climbs a tree. Yup. True story and it all came about because the tank didn’t know she was a tank. Actually, both tanks had no idea they were supposed to be soaking it all up like the little damage sponges they are.
How did this state of affairs come about, you ask? Well, that’s a funny story. See no one knew what role they were supposed to be playing. We knew we were a party, this magical Dungeons and Dragons creation that should just work. It should though…shouldn’t it?
Quite often the assumption among players is that everything party related will sort itself out. And in many cases it does. However, that isn’t always what happens. Especially when strong personalities, characters’ and players’, are involved.
That’s when it helps to know what kind of role your character should be looking at playing in the group. It should be something that plays to their strengths, their class and what you’re comfortable with.
Sounds vague right? I hear you.
Let’s delve into this like the dwarves we know and love and unpack it all like we have a bag of holding.
Finding your part in your party:
It might seem counterintuitive to be talking about this. After all, don’t clerics heal, fighters and barbarians fight, and rogues sneak and steal? Sure, they do. This, however, goes way beyond what your class roles are as not everything a party does is fighting goblins and orcs.
Let’s look at this crew about to embark on a heist. And just like our criminal brethren from the movies, we need people with a whole lot of skills that know where they have to be and when they have to act. So, let’s see who the players are:
- The Face
- The Tank
- The Control
- The Healer
- The Damage
- The Support
- The Scout
Let’s start with the Face.
In the con, he’s the front man, the talker, the silver-tongued person who will try to talk the party out of trouble. Think negotiator. Think high charisma score and a talent for getting their way. When finding The Face of your party, don’t pick the introvert. You want the witty, clever, persuasive member of your party to fulfil this role.
Of course, its always nice to have a backup, for when your usual front man or woman can’t manage to turn the situation to the party’s advantage. And the nice thing is, this isn’t class related. Anyone with the right personality and charm can play this part.
Although, having modifiers in charisma and persuasion wouldn’t hurt.
Now for the Tank.
The important thing about the tank is that they can either avoid being hit, or they can take a wallop when they need to to allow other party members to either get their spells off, or to move to a safe distance. Whatever the situation calls for. Even if it’s distracting the dragon while your rogue goes in for the magical gem you have to steal. That kind of thing.
Also, they need some sick battle skills, be they magical or good old fashioned brute force. So, let your fighters, barbarians, clerics, druids in their animal forms and other classes like that handle the dishing out as much damage to the enemy as possible while trying not to die.
They should be out in the front, causing mayhem and madness in your enemies’ ranks and ploughing through them.
Oh, and another thing, if someone needs to play this part and they aren’t naturally doing it, then maybe giving them a heads up would be cool, especially for a new player who is still learning the ropes.
And on to the Control.
The Control is the engineer. They can change the landscape of the battle, adding firewalls, shaking the ground, causing a landslide or anything else that might cut off an enemy’s back up or escape route.
They are like the interference in a heist. They misdirect and cause trouble. Of course, in DND you’re looking at magic wielders for this position.
This is a chance for your wizards, warlocks, mages and clerics to shine and take control of the battlefield giving the party as much advantage as they can. This is very important as well-timed spells can make a huge difference to what happens to the party and whether you need a Hail Mary or not. Better not to need one.
Speaking of Hail Marys; we come to the: the Healer.
This role is usually fulfilled by a cleric. With their abundance of healing spells, some that can even heal party members from a distance, make them ideally suited to playing this part in the party. But it’s not exclusively their prevue. Just as they can often be used as tanks, especially when their gods are warlike, other party members who can wield magic can also heal those who need some hit points restored before the end up making saving rolls. Never underestimate the value of a good healing potion or six.
However, this role is a hard one. Balancing attack magic with healing, is tricky. Using all your available spell slots to vanquish the foe while your companions are beaten to a pulp is not good. It means the healer always has to be ready to pull the Hail Mary out of the aether when the plan goes go to hell in a flaming chariot, and you have to save all your companions from death.
Yeah, being the healer is a big responsibility because if you go down, odds are the rest of your party will follow.
Of course, if you deal enough damage quickly enough, you might not need that one in a million chance. Because if you have the Damage you win just by outlasting the bad guys.
This role is one where dishing out as much damage as you possibly can before your party gets into too much in trouble is a big job. This character has to pack a punch. A lot of punches. Or fire balls. Those are good too. Lots of fire balls.
Getting into the action quickly, being hard to hit or able to soak it up, while returning as good as you got if not better is a real skill. Barbarians, paladins, druids in their animal shape, and all the hard-hitting classes are usually good for this role. Pretty much anyone with a heck of a wallop and a high armour class could play this part.
And if you have more than one in a party, well good on you. Tag team and wipe out of the opposition. The Damage brings the pain.
Next we take a look at a much overlooked role, the Support.
If you think of a heist, then the support is the nerd with the laptop hacking all the doors and sending the guards on wild goose chases through the compound allowing our heroes free access,
For this role you want a character with magical abilities who can misdirect and rebuff your enemies while boosting party members with extra hit points, advantage on dice rolls, or even throwing off enemies’ aim, or rending them deaf and blind.
Wizards, clerics, warlocks and the like are all good for this position. It doesn’t get much fame but when it works your party will feel the benefits.
And last but certainly not least, the Scout.
This is a job for the sneaky one; the rogue, the ranger. Those who are light on their feet and seem to fade into the background the moment you turn your back. This is the pickpocket, the thief, oh he of the slippery fingers and shadowy ways. This is a great role. Apart from pilfering important or magical items, this role also allows for sneak attacks that get added bonuses.
Allowing the sneaky sneak to sneak about is a good thing. They can get results that often a head on attack will never get. Think dungeon boss who is focusing on the rest of the part who can’t seem to hit him for any significant damage. In steps the rogue with a well-placed blade to the carotid or whatever his species has.
Each of these roles is important and has a place in the party.
No matter which role you pick or are thrown into within your party, just remember to discuss what the expectations are. It’s a good idea to know who wants to play which parts and who is good at them. Trial and error are not a bad thing either as they are the best way to learn.
And its all fun and games until your tank climbs a tree and everyone falls unconscious and is making saving throws. So just remember to have fun, support each other and play your part in your party.
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