Band of Brothers: Adventuring Parties of the Same Race

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 19, 2011

In the upcoming Lair Assault public play adventure series Wizards is introducing “Glory,” a new achievement system where players earn points for accomplishing different goals. However, not all Glory is earned for defeating the monsters. In order to encourage repeat play they’re awarding Glory for trying things you might not normally consider trying – one such scenario is playing a party where everyone is the same race.

Have you ever played in a party where everyone was the same race? Normally, when you’re creating a character you can choose from any race or class that interests you; the sky’s the limit. What this usually means is that the party ends up with five PCs each representing different races and classes, and that’s ok. In fact it’s practically expected. A party where everyone’s the same race is an anomaly in D&D. But after hearing that Wizards would reward players with special Glory for trying this unusual party make-up I started considering just what such a party might look like. The more I thought about it the more excited I got about where this might lead.

Although Lair Assault is a tactical encounter and the focus is on combat, there is a lot of excellent role-playing potential for a party where everyone is the same race. Right off the bat it allows the party to create a shared history. No more boring explanations for how and why this group of eclectic misfits came to be working together in an adventuring party. If they’re all the same race there’s a really good chance that they all grew up together, are from the same community or are possibly even all related. This kind of bond adds a level or loyalty and likely a few long-standing grudges that you don’t usually see in a normal party where everyone was just thrown together.

Another interesting possibility about a party of common race is that they’ll all know a foreign language. This gives the party an easy way to communicate secretly when others are within earshot.

DMs can create specially designed campaigns that are going to appeal to a party where everyone is the same race that wouldn’t work nearly as well for a mixed race party. There are plenty of magical items that enhance racial bonuses or bestow special properties to members of a certain race. If everyone in the party is that race then motivating them to go on a quest to find one (or more) of these items should be easy.

So what might a party where everyone is the same race be like from a gaming and mechanics perspective? We’ll that all depends on how creative you want to be. Here are a few suggestions I came up with.

Dwarf

This is probably the most likely same-race party we’re going to see. A group of five Dwarven brothers, definitely from the same clan or possibly even blood relatives venture out on a quest or just to seek adventure. Maybe they’re exiles, treasure seekers, or exiles. An interesting quark to add to an all Dwarf party is to have them all use hammers; for whatever reason they refuse to use edged weapons like swords or axes.

The class composition would almost certainly include a Fighter, Cleric and Barbarian, with a good chance of having an Avenger, Invoker, Monk, Warden or Artificer. Obviously classes that favour Wisdom would be well represented and Arcane classes would likely be excluded.

See Dwarves Are The Best Race and Exploiting Racial and Class Abilities: Dwarven Resilience.

Drow

Not as common as a party of Dwarves, a striker-heavy Drow party could deal enough damage to any potential foe so quickly that they’d be down before they knew they were under attack. By using their Darkfire racial power they could target creatures one by one and focus their fire until they drop. An all Drow party that specializes in ranged attacks (bows and crossbows) could be particularly deadly.

The class composition would certainly have one or two Rangers (archers) and Rogues (hand crossbows). Continuing with the all bow theme then you could also have a Warlord (archer build), Bard, and possibly even an Artificer. Of course a straight up Cleric, Wizard or Sorcerer probably wouldn’t hurt either.

See Exploiting Racial and Class Powers: Cloud of Darkness.

Dragonborn

Dragonborn may be new to 4e D&D but they are incredibly powerful, popular and mysterious. A party of five Dragonborn could carry enough intrigue and unpredictability to interest a group of players. As most established settings don’t have an abundance of Dragonborn areas, they party is going to stand out no matter what they do anyway. Why not play that up. Have the PCs only converse in Draconic no matter who else is around. Feigning an ignorance of the local language could give the PCs an edge they might not normally have if the party was more cosmopolitan.

With all of the feats and powers available to maximize their Dragon Breath racial power, a party of all Dragonborn could easily get by without a controller. The class composition is likely to have a Paladin, Warlord and Barbarian. Monk and Ranger are good choices if you need more strikers, and the Dragonborn’s naturally high Charisma means that Sorcerer and Bard are good Arcane options. The Honorblade Paragon Path allows the Dragonborn to truly maximize his Dragon Breath so players that don’t choose a martial class right off the bat may want to take a multi-class feat in order to qualify. This makes the Warden a really good build if you’re looking to focus on maximizing Dragon Breath.

A quest to find the items that make up the Silver Dragon Regalia is an obvious and ideal adventure hook for a party of Dragonborn adventurers. The Ring of the Dragonborn Emperor and the Conqueror’s Weapon are mandatory for any Dragonborn looking to truly empower their Dragon Breath.

See Exploiting Racial and Class Powers: Dragon Breath.

Eladrin

These fey folk are often looked at as soft by other races. A creative party can easily change that preconception in a hurry. The Fey Step racial power gives every member of the party a “get out of jail free card” if they find themselves in a really tight spot. It also means that they can plan and coordinate attacks from unexpected positions. As long as they can see their destination square they can get there using Fey Step.

The class composition of a party of Eladrins will certainly have a Wizard, Ranger and Rogue. Strong contenders for the rest of the party include Swordmage, Bard, Warlock and Bladesinger.

A party of Eladrin would certainly welcome any opportunity equip each member with an Eladrin Ring of Passage. These rings provide increased range on the Eladrin’s Fey Step and allow them to teleport without line of sight once per day. This advantage is something no foe would expect.

See Exploiting Racial and Class Features: Fey Step.

These are just a few examples of parties where all the PCs are the same race. If you chose to play in a party like this what race would you play? How do you see the class selection of such a party breaking down? Are there any races that you think would be unsuited to this kind of party composition?

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Megan August 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

Our party actually has 2 Deva, which according to the lore is unusual, and it makes us stand out quite a bit. It’s also letting us deal with things in our DM’s custom campaign rather interestingly. We’re traveling through a religious center of civilization, and it acts as somewhat of a social lubricant to have 2 people who are by default assumed to be righteous, religious, and trustworthy.

I think having a full party of Deva would be such an unusual talking point that interacting with NPCs would take on a completely different flavor.

2 Brian August 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

I can see a party of Elves working very similar to a party of Drow, but arguably more effectively. I’m sure clever players can take advantage of the fact that everyone in the party has a speed of 7, and can shift freely over difficult terrain. Shifty classes like Monks and Druids will be especially potent. Plus, Elven Accuracy is hands down one of the best racial powers around.

My biggest concern with a party of Drow would be the stigma against them in most cities and towns, though if the players don’t mind then having the whole party be feared and possibly even hated can provide a unique RP experience.

3 Phantasmavore August 19, 2011 at 11:02 am

Capital ideas and suggestions for Lair Assault!

I was thinking of a pack of Longtooth Shifters – you could have a scout, hunter, druid, barbarian, and warlord mix and a wildcard class like a slayer or something to mix it up a bit. They coudl each represent one of the phases of the moon or something, similar to what White Wolf publishing did with Werewolf auspices in the World of Darkness game setting.

4 Rabbit is wise August 19, 2011 at 11:02 am

I’m playing in an all minotaur campaign, or atleast it started that way, death has knocked us down to one minotaur. We had a fighter, battlemind, paladin, cleric, and wizard… the wizard was at a disadvantage, but it was fun while it lasted.

My vote for an all one race party would be humans… Another thing our group has thought about doing is a same-class party, I think this would be fun, all wizards or bards especially… the DM would have to do some tailoring to the party occasionally. lol could you imagine a group of all fighters none with arcana to defeat magic traps… DOOM

5 Megan August 19, 2011 at 11:08 am

@Rabbit is wise

An all-human party would definitely have versatility, but there wouldn’t really be any extra flavor with social interactions.

A group of all bards could be interesting though. You’d have all sorts of skill versatility and plenty of combat flexibility. They can do enough of each major role (defender/striker/controller/leader) that you probably wouldn’t even be lacking in anything.

6 William August 19, 2011 at 11:26 am

We played a game with 5 dragonborn…and a warforged. We adventured around helping people and getting them to swear service to the New Akrosian Empire. Unfortunately our Robot slave was often uppity. What can you do though?

7 Lapertosa August 19, 2011 at 11:34 am

Very nice article.

I just got confused at one part: Bladesingers?

8 Ameron August 19, 2011 at 11:42 am

@Megan
I’ve never played in a party with more than two PCs of the same race. I found it added a lot of spice to the role-playing. As for a party of Devas… it would certainly turn heads and create interesting social encounters. Now imagine that you turned the preconception of this race on its head and the party was particularly bloodthirsty and violent (which really seems against type for them). Imagine a Deva party with a Rogue, Assassin, Ranger, Warlock and Sorcerer (basically all or mostly strikers). No one would expect that!

@Brian
The reason I went with Drow over Elves is that I’ve heard the urban legend that a party of five Drow Rangers (archer builds) took on the Ultimate Dungeon Delve a few years ago at GenCon and destroyed the adventure. Since then I’ve always wanted to try taking on an adventure using an all Drow party. I don’t think an all Ranger party would be very exciting long-term which is why I suggested the other classes, but kept the bow theme. A similar party composition of all Elves would work just as well, although it might be tough for the Rogue to get combat advantage (hence the Drows using Darkfire).

As for the stigma of Drow, I’m all for playing that angle in any long-term camping. Whether they’re looking for acceptance in the surface world or banking on their heritage to give them street cred as a bunch of bad-asses, an all Drow party has loads of potential.

@Phantasmavore
As a huge Eberron fan I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Shifters. The varied backgrounds (Longtooth or Razorclaw) add additional versatility that most other races (other than Human) wouldn’t have. This might make it easier to ensure all the roles are adequately covered. Good suggestion.

If you’re actually playing in Eberron there is easy conflict created by having the party go to Thrane or have the party be on the run from zealots from Thrane. The purge wasn’t that long ago.

@Rabbit is wise
The players in my home campaign all play WOW and keep talking about an all Minotaur party for D&D. With Minotaurs being one of the more “monstrous” racial choices it would make for some unusual situations. I’m glad to hear that you have players willing to play classes (like Wizard) that don’t rely on the ability scores that the Minotaur increases naturally.

A party of all Fighters might be fun for an encounter or two but I think it would get boring fast.

@Megan
An all Human party almost seems like a cheat. Humans by design have a lot of built in versatility so it’s not like playing a Human “anything” is a stretch. I like the idea of an all-Bard party. They might be a bit soft but they’d more than make up for it in the healing department. We actually had a party with three Bards for a while and it worked just fine. Combat took forever because we lacked strikers, but the abundance of healing was great.

@Lapertosa
The Bladesinger is the new class presented in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

9 Rhetorical Gamer August 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

We did an all-Dwarf, all-female party in our 4th edition adventures. We had an Artificer, Avenger, Invoker, Paladin, and Cleric…

It was an odd party, but loads of fun.

10 Megan August 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm

@Rhetorical Gamer

I went to a panel at an anime convention about some lesser-known tabletop settings. The presenter kept joking about one of his groups wherein one of the players seemed to have a fixation with impregnating dwarves. I think your group would have been particularly appealing to him.

11 BeanBag August 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Just started an Underdark campaign with 3 Drow, a (Drow like) Warforged Bard and a Duergar bodyguard.

It will be hard to keep them from killing each other over minor issues, but the rewards will be great!

12 Randilin August 19, 2011 at 6:33 pm

For last season of Encounters our table decided to make an all Human adventuring group. It made for an interesting dynamic since our store allows both essentials and other source material. So we had humans from two different sources and two different set of abilities.

Sadly it never worked out that we didn’t have some none human at our table. However we humans really stuck together. From a roleplaying point of view it was a ton of fun playing a bunch of semi-racist humans having to deal with a bunch of none humans.

But I really like the idea of a single raced adventuring group. I think they make for some great potential both from a role playing point of view and from a regular gaming point of view as well.

13 Wrath August 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm

We had a campaign where we were all Gnomes. Our village was destroyed and we were the only survivors out for revenge. We’re called the Gnome Hit-squad.

14 Svafa August 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Our group started 4E with an almost all Tiefling group; the exception was the Dragonborn Fighter. That made for an interesting time. Lots of bickering outside battle, but they did have enough honour so as not to turn on each other in combat… well, beyond a misplaced Dragon Breath or Eye Bite here and there… eventually the group got shuffled around a bit and down to only two Tiefling.

A friend’s group around the same time was composed entirely of halflings, gnomes, and dwarves. Not exactly race-exclusive, but height-exclusive certainly.

Personally, I think a Drow hit squad would be amazing fun to play, but the campaign would have to focus around the playstyle. A dungeon crawl might not be the best option, but politics, assassinations, and thieving guilds would make for a great setting.

If I had to pick for a general campaign though, I think I’d go Genasi. Interplay between different elemental Genasi within a group has so much potential for fun! By which I mean utter chaos…

15 CaptainDM August 20, 2011 at 11:42 am

Where my Revenants at? They would have a very cold demeanor to them and be a lot of fun to go through towns as. Perhaps each would represent members of a fallen band of soldiers, or former enemies from a war long since past.

The other race that I have always found intriguing is the Shadar-kai. They have a similarly awkward but nearly normal appearance to them that would make for good roleplaying.

16 James Bryant February 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I played in a party of all Revenants once and it was a lot of fun. The best part was that we had a unifying theme, but we were all able to branch out by choosing different races from our previous life.

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