While the Dungeon’s Master team enjoys some well-deserved vacation time, we’re breaking out the greatest hits and shining a spotlight on a few of our favourite articles from 2011. We’ve searched for hidden gems that our newer readers might have missed and our long-time readers will enjoy reading again. Enjoy a second look at these greatest hits from Dungeon’s Master.
Excluding monsters, there are 36 playable races in 4e D&D (so far). Each race brings something unique to the character creation equation. Although a character of any race can become any class, there are obviously some that are more suited than others based on racial bonuses. But even with the choices narrowed down, it’s still unusual to have any two PCs in a party be the same race or even the same class. That’s just the way D&D works. And I for one have absolutely no issues with it.
The challenge with this kind of multiculturalism is coming up with a plausible reason that explains how and why these characters ever came together in the first place. It’s easy to accept the foundations of the fantasy setting in the context of the game, but beyond the high level elements, players still expect a certain level of realism and want things to make sense even in a wondrous setting. Yet time after time we just accept (albeit begrudgingly) that this band of misfits we call a party found common purpose and have become fast friends.
One of the best ways to overcome the “why are we in the same adventuring party?” problem is to find some commonality. Making everyone play the same race is probably the easiest way to accomplish this. As much as I hate to restrict anyone’s options during character creation, a party of the same race does present some immediate benefits, the first and most obvious of which is finding motive to be together.
When the party is made up entirely of just one race there are plenty of ways to create a shared background between some of all of the characters. It also gives the players a chance to look at the racial powers and feats and see if there are ways to try something that they might not be able to if there weren’t other members of the same race in their party.
When Lair Assault offered Glory for a party of the same race that completed the adventure I expected to see a lot of same-race parties. Of the 15+ games I watched or played in, I never saw a single party where the PCs were all the same race. I saw a few parties with four Dwarves or four Genasi, but never the full five. I guess that no matter how appealing you make it, unless the DM puts his foot down, people will exercise their freedom of choice and make the character they want, race be damned. Oh well, their loss.
From August 19, 2011, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Band of Brothers: Adventuring Parties of the Same Race.
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.
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 explorers, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?