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Concerns I have

Traditionally the D&D party has been a Cleric, Fighter, Magic User and a Thief.

  • Adventures have been balanced around the traditional party composition listed above.
  • Players feeling upstaged by another player doing the same thing better.

So if I'm dealing with a group that all the players want to be trip build Fighters, should I encourage them to rethink their decision?

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The problem is less one of classes and more one of roles.

If the party was playing full-on Wizards, it could essentially accomplish anything it wants through a mixture of Battlefield Control, Crowd Control, Damage Spells, and Save or Die Spells. This is because Wizards are incredibly versatile and can cover many different roles.

In general, your party will find itself in need of:

  • Battlefield Control: the ability to remodel the battlefield to your advantage, such as denying access to certain areas, creating cover, etc...
  • Crowd Control: the ability to temporarily take some foes out of the fight, such as putting them to sleep, sending them sprawling, grappling them, etc...
  • Damage.
  • Diplomacy: the ability to deceive, persuade, and in general obtain what you want of others.
  • Healing: the ability to restore characters to 100%, also includes removing status effects, such as Blind/Deaf, curing Diseases, restoring Ability points, etc...
  • Knowledge: the ability to know what you face, its strengths and weaknesses; generally necessary for proper planning.
  • Stealth: the ability to move in/out undetected, because sometimes battling the full castle guard is a bit too difficult and counterproductive.

The lack of one or two capabilities can be challenging and interesting, the lack of all such capabilities simply makes a number of encounters nigh impossible.

Furthermore, all the party members will have the same weakness. A well placed Fear spell, and the whole party is running around, with nobody covering the others.


I would propose that you show your party a number of varied typical encounters, and explore with them how the party could possibly overcome the encounter, at various levels. If they are inventive and manage to surprise you and solve the problems, it may work. If they cannot figure out a way for over half the encounters, they are doomed.

The Same Game Test1 is a pretty useful resource for this; it "benchmarks" a character or party at level 5th, 10th, and 15th.

Let's start with level 5th:

  • A locked door behind an arbitrarily high number of assorted CR 4 traps.
  • A huge Animated Iron Statue in a throne room.
  • A Basilisk in its desert burrow.
  • A Large Fire Elemental in a mystic forge.
  • A Manticore on the wing above a plain.
  • A Phase Spider anywhere. They're tricky creatures like that.
  • A couple of Centaur Archers in a light to medium wood.
  • A Howler/Allip tag team in an abandoned temple to a dark god.
  • A Grimlock assault team (4 members) hidden in a cavern.
  • A Cleric of Hextor (with his dozen zombies) in a crypt.

I can see the party handling itself well against the Animated Iron Statue, Large Fire Elemental, Manticore, Centaur Archers, and Grimlock assault team.

How do they plan to deal with:

  • Locked doors/coffers? Always breaking them?
  • Traps? They won't even see them.
  • Basilisk: one failed save (Fort. DC 13), and one team member is Petrified.
  • Phase Spider: how do they reach the Ethereal Plane? Handle the Poison (Fort. DC 17) and subsequent Con damage?
  • Allip: incorporeal, and drains Wisdom (1d4 at a time). If they cannot reach it (Incorporeal) they'll become helpless when their Wisdom reaches 0, soon to be dead.
  • Cleric: it'll be a tough fight, as the Cleric should be using Battlefield Control/Crowd Control against the party.

From the little information you gave, your party is more or less doomed. It can handle straight fights well, and that's it. Anything else, and it's a sitting duck.

Show them this test, show them how woefully under-prepared they'll be. Don't coddle them, show them how harsh reality can be straight from the first level, when they still have low-investment in their character. And be accommodating if they wish to switch.

1 See this answer by Hey I Can Chan for more links to the Same Game Test, including links to already run tests.

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    \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, it's not a competition - all that "they'd be doomed" means is that they won't be as powerful or effective as potentially a party of that level could be. At level X, the appropriate challenges that they'll be able to tackle won't be CR X but (for example) CR X-2... and IMHO that's completely okay, it can be just as fun for everyone and just needs appropriate adjustments. Just as if they found a way to minmax so that they would be overpowered for their level, it wouldn't really make the challenges easier but would simply mean that they get (or go to) tougher challenges. \$\endgroup\$ – Peteris Oct 26 at 23:40
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Foreword

It depends on what sort of game the group (including you) wants to play and how much work you're willing to do as a GM. It also depends on just how worried you are about the players upstaging each other.

Designing Adventures

You're correct that most published adventures will assume a more balanced team composition, and a team of trip-build fighters would struggle to complete them. If you intend to run published adventures or your group wants to play certain published adventures, you're likely to encounter problems. Similarly, if your group wants to play a game with political intrigue, challenging puzzles, etc., you probably need to explain that their PCs don't have the skills for that sort of adventure.

However, if the group wants their adventures to be almost all kick-in-the-door, kill-all-the-monsters action, you may be able to write your own series of interesting adventures that your players would enjoy. You will be quite constrained in the kinds of adventures you can write here. For example:

  • As @Matthieu M. explains, there are lots of monsters that they will have a hard time dealing with. Things that fly, cast spells, or turn invisible are just the start.
  • They probably have no Knowledge skills and poor Spot and Listen checks. This limits your ability to provide clues. Adventures like "We need you to investigate the crime scene and get whoever's responsible" probably won't work; they would need to be "We know the Black Crows are responsible, but we don't have the manpower to bring them in".
  • In social encounters, they're probably limited to the Intimidate skill, if that.
  • They probably have no way to deal with traps.

The Upstaging Problem

On this problem, you have much less flexibility. The players' actions are likely to overlap frequently, so they risk stepping on each other's toes quite a bit. As fighters, they also have very few skill ranks, so they have a very limited ability to differentiate themselves from each other unless they decide to multiclass.

This is the main reason why I usually don't choose which character I'll play when I sign up for 5e Adventurer's League, Pathfinder Society, or other pick-up group games. I might feel like playing my front-line Paladin, but if the group already has two Fighters and a Monk, I know I'll be happier playing my Wizard so that I can make a unique contribution. This is even more important in an ongoing campaign, where I might have to deal with the same frustration week after week. I suggest pointing this out to your players (though I'll admit I've had only mixed success with it).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice point with the Upstaging Problem. One of my favorite character was created after observing a distinct "hole" in the group I was playing with at the time, and building a character that would complement the rest of the group. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Oct 26 at 21:48

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