Parties with multiple characters of the same class

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Tim Baker
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Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:44 am

The good folks at the Iconic Podcast have begun blogging on topics. This time, they're discussing parties that have multiple characters of the same class. In some systems, that would pose a real challenge. There would be conflicts when characters lose their niche protection or the PCs would be mechanically the same. In the case of Dungeon World, I seem to recall that the MC is required to ensure that each player receives a different playbook.

In 13th Age, with the talents, feats, backgrounds, one unique things, icon relationships, and powers/spells available to choose from, there's little risk of two characters being the same. If the players work together, they can ensure that their characters are dramatically different, despite selecting the same class.

Have you run parties with multiple characters of the same class? How did it work out? What system did you use?

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by agathokles » Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:24 am

Yes, in my current BECMI game we have two Clerics and two Elves, plus a Thief and a Halfling.
The two Clerics have different patron Immortals, using WotI rules this means different weapon masteries and, to some extent, spells. Furthermore, weapon masteries and general skills, not to mention ability scores, make the characters rather different.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:53 am

agathokles wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:24 am
Yes, in my current BECMI game we have two Clerics and two Elves, plus a Thief and a Halfling.
The two Clerics have different patron Immortals, using WotI rules this means different weapon masteries and, to some extent, spells. Furthermore, weapon masteries and general skills, not to mention ability scores, make the characters rather different.
Thanks for sharing that. I never played BECMI with WotI rules, nor with weapon mastery or general skills. Sounds like they add a fair amount of customization to characters.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by agathokles » Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:48 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:53 am
agathokles wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:24 am
Yes, in my current BECMI game we have two Clerics and two Elves, plus a Thief and a Halfling.
The two Clerics have different patron Immortals, using WotI rules this means different weapon masteries and, to some extent, spells. Furthermore, weapon masteries and general skills, not to mention ability scores, make the characters rather different.
Thanks for sharing that. I never played BECMI with WotI rules, nor with weapon mastery or general skills. Sounds like they add a fair amount of customization to characters.
Indeed. It's almost a different game, since the Weapon Masteries radically change the fighting style -- adding parries, stunning blows, two-weapon fighting, etc. -- to the point that the weapon selection determines how you fight (much like the difference between a two-handed weapon specialist and a sword-and-board one in 4e, say). Also, Clerics in WotI get special powers (e.g., Clerics of Odin can use spears, pikes and javelins), and other supplements add replacement spells (e.g., in GAZ7 The Northern Reaches, Clerics of Odin can cast Magic Missile as "Spear of Odin" instead of Snake Charm, and Read Languages instead of Purify Food and Water), making Clerics much more varied as well.

General skills also have a significant impact. For instance, one of the Elves is a skilled healer (non-magical healing is quite useful, especially at low levels, plus the character also has the alchemy skill), while the other is more of a scout. The Thief has the skald skill, making him almost a Bard ("skald" is the BECMI equivalent of Bardic Knowledge).
So, yes, there is a significant amount of customization. The nice thing is that skills are not class-tied, contrary to what happens in 3e and derived games, so you can have a Magic User with the healing skill (we did, but the character was killed early in the campaign), or a Cleric with the same skill, etc.
By selecting appropriate skills, you can give the character a set of abilities similar to the typical customizations of other rules sets.

For example, the Know Terrain, Outdoorsman, Stealth and Danger Sense skills make for a good scout/ranger, whereas Healing, Nature Lore and Alchemy make for a good healer, Skald, Non-Human Cultures, Leadership and Storytelling or Gain Trust may make a typical bard, and Intimidate, Muscle, Detect Deception and Deceive may make a criminal or thuggish character.
Since characters add more skills as they raise in level, their knowledge and role expands (e.g., you might want to add Leadership or Military Tactics to your Fighter once he becomes a dominion ruler, or Know Market Value to a character that becomes a merchant). This is opposite to the usual working of 3e and the like, where characters mostly become more and more skilled in their initial skills.

Finally, BECMI has more ways to specialise. In particular, three are worth mentioning:
  • In the core rules, Fighters can become Paladins or Avengers after reaching level 9. This is expanded elsewhere to add Druidic Knights, and to allow Elves to specialise as Elf Wizards after level 10.
  • Class specialisation beyond Cleric are provided in several Hollow World books. For example, you can specialise a Nithian Fighter as an Archer or a Spearman.
  • The Secret Crafts of Glantri allow Wizards and Elves to specialise in one of 10 options, mirroring other versions of D&D schools of magic, and including Elementalism (the 4 elements as usual), witchcraft (potions and curses), illusions/dream magic, necromancy, cryptomancy (knowledge of power words), alchemy, and dracology (ability to control and transform into dragons).
When combining all of the above opportunities, you get a game where characters are easily as customisable as in any other rules set.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Boneguard » Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:51 am

In our AD&D games we run huge parties (8-10 pc) and we usually have about half of them as fighter types with various weapon configurations, and regularly either a pair of magic-users or of cleric and all are quite distinct.

In MERP, we often had character with the same class, but It's really easy to build them differently, especially if they have different race, with the way the skill points system works to build them. The same is true with Shadowrun and Call of Cthulhu.

To a lesser extent, Earthdawn allows that also, but mostly with the race and how you build up your skills (as each Circle has a fixed number of skill, plus some discretionary ones in more recent editions).
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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by night_druid » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:26 pm

Parties with multiple characters of the same class can create some interesting campaigns. Current game I run has two clerics of the same deity; they act as constables in the FR nation of Halruaa. I'd love to run a "thieves' only" game. Or even "mage-only" game. Just switches things from combat-oriented gaming to stealth/problem-solving games :)
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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by thorr-kan » Tue Sep 10, 2019 2:46 pm

We ran a party of FR specialty priests of all different gods through a module in college. The God Squad was a lot of fun.

I want to run an all rogues Al-Qadim campaign some day. There are a lot if rogue classes in 2E.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by timemrick » Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:18 pm

In Pathfinder Society Organized Play (1E), there are effectively two campaigns, which can't be mixed: Standard, which allows all of the sources ruled legal for PFS, and Core, which only allows characters built using just the Core Rulebook. There's not much interest in Core at our FLGS (the regulars love their piles of rulebooks too much), but in my gaming group's PFS home game, we decided to try running a few adventures with Core characters. As part of that experiment, we decided to try an all-cleric party. We ended up with 6 PCs with 5 different gods and 6 different factions. (Since then, one of the players has rebuilt her cleric so that there zero gods duplicated.) We've only played a handful of scenarios with those PCs so far (our Standard PCs still get priority), but it's been interesting to see how that choice changes the party dynamic.

The main challenge was differentiating characters that have most of the same capabilities. Domain powers was the primary way of doing that. For example, my cleric serves a trickster goddess, so the Trickery domain's expanded class skills let him serve as our rogue substitute. We have oodles of healing (especially once we earned enough Prestige to get some cure wounds wands cheaply), but we're been sorely lacking in Knowledge skills due to the class's limited skill points. Now that we're 2nd level, a couple of us have multiclassed (my cleric/rogue and the war god cleric/fighter), which has given us access to a few more skills and abilities. And just having another level let most of us pick up another Knowledge skill with our precious few ranks.

There are certain adventures that we know we won't be doing with this group, mostly those involving heavier-than-usual use of Knowledge and social skills, and a handful set in a nation that has outlawed divine casters. (We lack the subtlety required for either kind of mission.) But we're eager to see how this group fares against some of the more undead-focused adventures (of which there are at least a couple different series of connected scenarios).

(Back in 3.0/3.5, my wife was part of a game that started out as all rogues, which was pitched as "Shadowrun done as medieval fantasy." Now that's a class that allows a lot of differentiation between specialties: the con/face, the burglar, the assassin, etc.)
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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by thorr-kan » Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:46 pm

timemrick wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:18 pm
(Back in 3.0/3.5, my wife was part of a game that started out as all rogues, which was pitched as "Shadowrun done as medieval fantasy." Now that's a class that allows a lot of differentiation between specialties: the con/face, the burglar, the assassin, etc.)
Right? Right!

With different races, substitution levels, and alternate class features, you could get all sorts of fun!

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by talsine » Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:53 pm

We never ran large enough groups in my RC / BEMCI days for this to be an issue. That changed a lot when we moved into 2E and 3E.

In 2E most classes (except Rogue and Druid of all things) had enough variance that it wasn't too much of an issue. And even for Rogues / Druids, we just made sure they used different kits and that fixed the issue for the most part. Kits would honestly solve most issues of this sort for most 2E games. Its a place that PrC's fill in 3E, but not nearly as well, and they are something i really miss.

3E, between races and skills and feats and PrCs and everything else, i don't know how this could ever be an issue. I still miss Kits from 2E but thats about it.

Finally, for 13th Age, here is a place i could see it being an issue. I don't feel that there is enough there to make a big difference like its sources, 3E and 4E. That could be solved with just a bit more support, but I don't know if the game is popular enough to warrent that support. I know i've had both main books and the main expanion and they have largely been collecting dust the last couple of years sadly.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Tim Baker » Wed Sep 11, 2019 4:58 am

Awesome feedback from everyone. I love reading these accounts. It seems that my parties have been "playing it safe," for the most part, by consistently selecting different classes. I can remember one example where I had a party with two wizards who were dramatically different thanks to their backgrounds, talents, and spells they'd chosen. But that's about it. I'll have to ponder an all-(fill in the blank) party for a one-shot soon.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Tim Baker » Wed Sep 11, 2019 5:00 am

agathokles wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:48 am
Indeed. It's almost a different game.<snip>

When combining all of the above opportunities, you get a game where characters are easily as customisable as in any other rules set.
I had no idea these options were available. Are they all gathered somewhere? An online character builder? An OSR retroclone of BECMI?

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by agathokles » Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:30 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 5:00 am
agathokles wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:48 am
Indeed. It's almost a different game.<snip>

When combining all of the above opportunities, you get a game where characters are easily as customisable as in any other rules set.
I had no idea these options were available. Are they all gathered somewhere? An online character builder? An OSR retroclone of BECMI?
No, they aren't. At least not all of them. General skills and weapon masteries can be found in the Rules Cyclopedia.

The Secret Crafts are found in the Glantri Gazetteer. Specialist Clerics are found in Wrath of the Immortals, plus several other supplements (Northern Reaches Gazetteer, Kingdom of Nithia, The Milenian Empire, The Golden Khan of Ethengar, etc.), which also contain specialisations for the other three base classes.

This post lists all the character classes and variants/specialisations found in the various books.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by thorr-kan » Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:16 pm

My current Al-Qadim campaign has 5 PC: 2 fighters, 1 wizard, 1 cleric, 1 cleric/thief. Both fighters are the same class and kit (fighter & faris, respectively), but are different races and genders (PCs and players). There's no mistaking one for the other.

The clerics have different deities, different kits, different races, different players, and different genders. Their only real similarity is they both do healing and they both interact with religious matters.

There's lots of customization available in 2E.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Boneguard » Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:07 pm

I was thinking about this a bit more. And I'm wondering if the Publisher are not consciously or unconsciously encouraging the "balance" party mentality.

Looking back at my old AD&D 1st Ed modules several presents anywhere between 6 to 12 PC choice with a mix of fighter, spellcaster, rogue, and multiclasses. Allowing for overlap and diversity at the same time.

Now, thinking of DD3.x/PF and DD5 adventures or Initiation boxes with pregenerated pc will usually have 1 fighter/melee type, 1 Arcane caster, 1 rogue and 1Divine caster which could be perceived as being the "proper way" to build a party.

I'm not sure if this makes sense (or if I explained it clearly) and I'm sure It's not a new phenomena, but it seems more present with newer games/editions
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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by agathokles » Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:23 pm

It's definitely a conscious thing. 3e and 4e were all about party balance, and the default party size consolidated around 4-5 at that time as well, whereas in 1e and BECMI it was usually somewhat larger -- several of those modules suggest parties of up to 10 characters, which also justifies having a larger pre-gens roster.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Tim Baker » Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:38 pm

agathokles wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:30 am
This post lists all the character classes and variants/specialisations found in the various books.
I hadn't seen that link before. Thanks for sharing that!

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by talsine » Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:40 pm

agathokles wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 9:23 pm
It's definitely a conscious thing. 3e and 4e were all about party balance, and the default party size consolidated around 4-5 at that time as well, whereas in 1e and BECMI it was usually somewhat larger -- several of those modules suggest parties of up to 10 characters, which also justifies having a larger pre-gens roster.
Again, maybe it was just my group, but I never played D&D with a group larger than 6 people. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of games that were larger than 6, and almost all of them were LARPs. Party balance was always a thing, 3E and 4E just spelled out in written form what was previously just an unwritten rule.

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by Tim Baker » Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:46 pm

talsine wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:40 pm
Again, maybe it was just my group, but I never played D&D with a group larger than 6 people. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of games that were larger than 6, and almost all of them were LARPs. Party balance was always a thing, 3E and 4E just spelled out in written form what was previously just an unwritten rule.
This was my experience playing 2nd Edition AD&D, although I recognize that there's a broad variety of play styles and groups out there. We ran games with 4-5 players, plus the DM, and my group would go so far as to require certain roles (even if they weren't defined as such in the rules). So if you weren't quick to snag a different class, you could end up stuck with the cleric. ;)

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Re: Parties with multiple characters of the same class

Post by agathokles » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:21 pm

My experience is with a wider range -- from 2 to 6 at least, plus the DM. And we never forced anyone to play a specific class. My current party has 2 elves, 2 Clerics, one Halfling and one thief (we also had a druid and a fighter in the largest version). The Karameikos party has a thief, 2 elves, a dwarf, and a fighter, but no cleric (although we had 2 initially -- both players moved out of country).

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