In my 4e campaign the group (4 players) often ran into trouble in combat if they didn't have one person was in each role of Striker, Defender, Controller & Leader (especially for published adventures). I don't see those roles anywhere mentioned in the new 5e PHB. How important is group diversity in D&D 5e?
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The answer to this is going to greatly depend on your playstyle. I'm currently playing in a few groups. One of them has no cleric (but has a paladin) the other has no cleric or paladin. Another group has no arcane spell casters of any kind. And another has a cleric, a wizard, a fighter and a rogue.
The group with the cleric, wizard, fighter and rogue is certainly having a much easier time than the other groups. However, the other groups are not doing badly. The group with no cleric or paladin is certainly spending more time with medical kits, and making sure there is always an escape route.
Nothing in the rules per se list what sort of roles a party needs, but for the easiest time, there should probably be:
That does not mean that you need a 5 person party, as often the person who can do lots of damage can also do one of those other roles, but from my experience those "roles" will make you prepared for almost any adventure.
The answer depends greatly on your DM. You can be effective with any group and setup, provided you actually focus on the group's strengths and avoid it's weaknesses. This means you need a DM that allows those opportunities.
Published adventures are railroading. They have a very narrow focus and can only accomplish so much without knowing what the party will look like. So by the book you will always have problems without a very balanced party. But as soon as you have a good GM that takes the published adventure as a set of guidelines for his or her own adventure with more options and more freedom, you will be fine.
This goes for pretty much any game and any system I played in the last 25 years.
The answer is: It deppends on the game you are playing and how you handle the challenges.
5E isn't a "tactical minis" game as 4E was, but there is still a certain degree of "role balance" on it. You're deffinitely gonna have a harder time without a Paladin and Cleric that can use Healing Powers (even with access to Hit Dice mechanics), or a Bard or Druid that can pull some field control spells to keep the foes at bay, also, a Ranger might not be as useful as say, an Archer Warrior if your campaign isn't based on exploration or you don't give enough scenes where the players move on the wilderness.
You should encourage your players to think of backgrounds and abilities that not only are part of their character, but can be of aid for the party, after all, this is a co-operative game. If any, you should try to look at the weaknessees and strengths of the party as a whole and tailor encounters and adventures according to it, since you can't make players craft something they don't like either.
This is easier in Fifth edition tho, since every melee class now has the option to cast spells and have some degree of utilities, so don't sweat it!
Yes, based on the starter kit...
I'm both DMing and playing the 5e starter kit and it seems a cleric is necessary to avoid party member deaths or party wipes. That said, clerics are not healbots and can be harder to hit than certain fighter builds, but they do have to balance using spells for attack and keeping them in reserve for heals. Wizards also seem like a requirement (or a sorcerer) as only magic users get access to AOE style attacks. Martial classes like the fighter or rogue are great at single target attack damage and control but they don't have many options or answers to deal with multiple targets.
No, but it helps slightly, numbers count for more.
My experience in running two different groups through the Starter Set adventure has revealed to me the following.
My conclusion is that a party of mix of capabilities can face a slightly larger group. But numbers count more. It is better to add two characters of any class than one character of a particular class.
No. I GM 5E.
If your players' party lacks a healer, you can make up for it by giving the party better access to healing consumables (healing potions, wands, whatever). They will likely rest most often and not be quite as "I rush into the room and stab the dragon!" as they might be when dedicated healers are present.
The DM Guide also has an excellent section with a lot of variant rules in Chapter 9 (pg 263). Depending on how cinematic your game is, you could introduce Hero Points (pg 264, adapted from Mutants & Masterminds, allows them to add to rolls and "cheat death"), you could introduce Healing Surges (pg 266, same idea as 4E with a few differences), or you could use one of the Rest Variants (pg 267) that allows the players to get more from resting.
There are a lot of other things you can do, however, I have always felt like providing more consumable healing and using the healing surge variant with a healer-less party gives them enough of a safety net to not worry about getting TPK'ed every encounter, but also leaves enough danger in the game for the party to not rush headlong into every encounter. There is also the added bonus of my players not feeling like they have to fill a certain role if they don't want to. They can roleplay the kind of character they envisioned without having to worry about crippling the party.
I hope this helps!
Yes, in that having an unbalanced party will certainly limit your encounter options as a DM; no, in that they are not necessary for a fun campaign.
Helpful for both You and the Players at the Same Time
Having a more balanced party is usually a better choice for the players involved, unless the campaign is heavily themed. The players get more agency because they are capable of a wider variety of things as a group. In addition, you as a GM can give them a larger variety of encounters and other situations to put them in and still feel confident about their ability to succeed, which makes them happier as players because they get different things to do.
But Also Unnecessary Because, Ultimately, You're the GM
I have only read the rulebook of 4e, but from what I've studied, 4e's rules are somewhat more outwardly strict than 5e's. 5e, being an edition that contains elements of all previous editions, has a running motif of intentionally slightly vague rules so that the DM has more room for interpretation -- this is a callback to 2nd edition AD&D, which many fans still believe is the best edition. Many of the "game-y" arbitrations created in 4e, such as class roles, were thus removed, because the extra categorization clashes with the aforementioned design strategy. As such, DMs who have never played 3.5e or earlier may find it somewhat more difficult to come up with good encounters for their players. You will probably need to memorize the important features (their strongest statistics, their supernatural and/or spell-like abilities, etc) of each monster if you want to make good encounters quickly.
Despite all this, you can still easily tailor your encounters towards your party if you know that there are certain things that they just wouldn't be able to deal with, and are thus un-fun brick walls. Or just give them the magic items necessary to win the encounter. Personally, I like to make it a little interesting in this situation by keeping the difficult encounter but offering a way out or alternative solution or two. You will most likely find that players are much more resourceful than you bargained for and that they'll probably end up coming with an alternative solution on their own, provided that they don't charge in uninformed and get themselves killed. Sometimes, the solutions they come up with are much more effective than you expected...
In our current 5e campaign, my group consists of my fighter, and a ranger, rogue and wizard. The wizard is using a homebrew class variant based on the setting where he gets to use CON as his spellcasting stat, but gets a very different spell list (mostly themed around manipulating flesh and life). Effectively, we have very little arcane spellcasting -- a number of the spells he uses are homebrew as well. Other than a few heals that the wizard can throw our way once in a while, our heals are also pretty limited. We've still made it to level 6, but we have almost wiped on a random encounter with a sand worm (It was some sort of reskinned giant worm monster, but I do not know which one). Fortunately it was a wild animal, and thus we were able to drive it off. It's a cool campaign and we're having a lot of fun with it.