I had a campaign story idea where the PCs were students at a prestigious magic university undergoing training to become guild-registered adventurers, with the caveat then that players could only choose classes that provide some form of arcane magic. Are there any party role/coherence issues I should be prepared for given the list of allowed classes below? I currently don't have encounters set in stone, but I do plan to give them a more iconic "dungeon delve" quest as their graduation assignment late-game.

Current list of allowed classes:

  • Wizard
  • Sorcerer
  • Bard
  • Alchemist
  • Witch
  • Summoner
  • Magus
  • Arcanist
  • Bloodrager
  • Investigator(possibly)
  • Skald(possibly)
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Important detail: are you planning on designing the campaign's encounters as if they're a “standard” party, or designing the campaign's encounters as if they're a party of casters? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8 '15 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Kind of a little of both- frankly right now I'm putting more thought into details about the academy itself than I am about encounters. Though I do plan on them going on a more typical "dungeon delve" quest as a sort of graduation assignment later in the game... \$\endgroup\$
    – Cobalt
    Jun 8 '15 at 21:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Ok. That's probably important enough to mention in the question itself, because "viable" is always relative to the challenges of the campaign itself, and even Team Skald would be viable in some campaign or other. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8 '15 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Adjusted accordingly \$\endgroup\$
    – Cobalt
    Jun 8 '15 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Classes are so versatile that really, any combination could be considered viable. I've seen parties pick nothing but rogue and bard and do very well. When you ask "Are there any party role/coherence issues I should be prepared for" are you also asking if the players are capable of breaking the game? \$\endgroup\$
    – DanceSC
    Jun 8 '15 at 22:34

Arcanist, Sorcerer, and Wizard are three of the most dominatingly-powerful classes in the game

Each of these classes, built right, can do just about anything, and in many cases can do very close to everything. The spell list they have access to is the best in the game, and spellcasting is the best class feature in the game.

These three can nullify a huge array of problems with a standard action. They are all extremely capable of getting new solutions in those cases they run into a problem they cannot already solve.

At very-low levels, these classes have somewhat-low stamina, and their spells are not nearly as dominant as they quickly become, but smart and careful play can ensure statistical advantages in almost every endeavor. As they level up, their stamina and power increases exponentially, and it is not long before they are clearly superior to almost everything else. Around 7th-level, at the latest.

This does, however, rely on careful and creative play. Extremely thorough knowledge of the massive sorcerer/wizard spell list, and what spells are best for which situations, is required. It takes a lot of work and mastery to accomplish. Just as the ceiling for these classes is very high, rock bottom is a very dark and dank bottom indeed. That said, they have exceptional ability to fix any mistakes they make; even if they play very poorly for a long time, they can very suddenly become powerhouses by simply preparing better spells (the sorcerer is, obviously, somewhat worse off in this regard).

Summoner and witch are close

The summoner and witch are very close in power to the three listed above. The eidolon is an incredibly versatile and powerful class feature, summon monster offers a great deal of utility, and the witch is pretty much a lesser wizard.

The summoner has the side-benefit of being much easier; it’s pretty easy (and effective) to hide behind the eidolon. The witch is actually kind of harder, though probably more powerful; the familiar is a massive, glaring vulnerability, and the spell list just isn’t quite what the sor/wiz one is. But then, the witch gets to heal status ailments, which none of these classes get, and though it’s supremely limited, that could be a big deal (see below).

Alchemist, bard, and magus are more well-rounded

These classes are not nearly as powerful as the above, but like the summoner they can be a bit easier, particularly the magus, as they are sturdier before spells come into play. In particular, they also allow for more up-front characters, which is not only something many enjoy, but also is often a useful platform for the more magely casters to put buffs onto.

These classes are reasonably competent, and are in a pretty sweet spot, power-wise. They also add a bit of variety compared to the above (though the summoner’s eidolon does a depressingly good job filling the melee role). A group at this tier, or at this tier with support from the above, will be very competent.

The alchemist is also very important because it is the only class here that gets lesser restoration and restoration, which are otherwise major gaps in the capabilities of arcane spellcasting.

I have no experience with bloodrager, investigator, or skald

Just to be upfront about it: I have no practical experience with these classes, unlike the above. So take the below with a grain of salt.

That said, the bloodrager’s spellcasting is extremely weak, and nerfed rage powers are not a particularly exciting thing to get in return. This class looks like it could be quite fun in a low-power game, but I would not recommend one in a game alongside the above.

Skald looks better; its spellcasting is closer to the bard’s, and it gets enough barbarian powers to be interesting. I actually want to see this class in play at some point. Probably plays well at around the bard tier?

The investigator seems to be on a similar page as the skald, though the existence of the vivisectionist alchemist makes me wonder what the point of it is. I rather like the concept, anyway.

One major thing arcana is lacking: healing things other than HP

HP healing won’t really be a problem; even the bard can handle that well enough with a wand of cure light wounds (though make sure the party does get such a wand somehow), and the witch is actually pretty good at it, but healing status effects, ability damage, and conditions is going to be much harder. The cleric list is pretty much the only places you find really good healing of that sort.

The alchemist and witch are the stars here: the alchemist gets the crucial lesser restoration and restoration spells (though he needs the Infuse Extract discovery to share them), and the witch gets the various remove ailment spells, plus heal at very-high levels. Between them, they cover the major healing options that are otherwise missing from arcane spellcasting. The cleric still has major advantages (not least of which being that the cleric can handle both of these things), but if both of these classes are represented in the party, they can probably handle these things about as well.

If either or both of these classes does not get chosen by players, be aware that anything that inflicts an ongoing status effect is likely to force the party to retreat, to find a temple to get it dealt with. That, or if absolutely forced, to throw themselves into later encounters at a massive disadvantage. Deciding how you want the campaign to play out with this reality would be really important. Items and institutional resources are likely going to be necessary, which means you, as DM, have to make them available.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Alchemist at least gets Lesser and normal Restoration as 2nd and 4th level extracts, respectively. The witch gets Regenerate as a 7th level spell. Hell, if it really comes down to it, and you need to cure something crazy, sorcerer, wizard, and witch all get Clone as an 8th level spell, and the clone master alchemist can use it on himself at 8th level. Obviously, this is not as good as a dedicated Divine healer, but I think they can make due, if they're clever. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9 '15 at 2:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting points, I'll have to keep these in mind. Especially the one about the healing; I knew Bard and Chirugeon at least would make decent straight-up healers, but I hadn't considered much in terms of ability damage. I suppose I could just work around that in the campaign itself- I imagine a good portion of it being roleplay anyway, but who says I can't just houserule a way to give a university of arcane practitioners a self-sufficient way to handle status effects? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cobalt
    Jun 9 '15 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cobalt Well, it depends on whether you want to play up the fact that they’re all arcanists and this leaves a hole in their capabilities, or you want a more-or-less normal campaign with a certain fluff. But magic items, especially if they are divine items that the arcanists can learn enough about to use, might fit the bill nicely. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 9 '15 at 3:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think witches get all the cleric healing spells at one spell level later, past cure moderate wounds. Though they don't get spontaneous casting easily (hedge witch does NOT count.) in fact, the witch is better than e Druid (but clerics are OP.) with healing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Teco
    Jun 9 '15 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Teco Huh, right you are. I suppose witches in my games have never bothered because of the level difference and since they weren’t the only ones who had it. But the lack of restoration is very problematic; until a witch gets heal, status conditions require specific remove spells, and there simply isn’t one for many ailments. So I think my claim stands, though witch deserves greater mention. As for druid, they do get lesser restoration, which puts them at least competitive with witch here. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 9 '15 at 12:18

I expect you to know that a lot depends on how intelligent and collaborative your players are as a group. Beyond that it is what you make of it.

As you focus the academy I would advise you not to make too powerful encounters, unless they are clearly challenges which further the story.

Viability depends on the adventure you choose. An adventure with lots of anti-magic zones would be bad for a group of arcane casters, just like a group of thieves is better off when playing a thieves guild than meeting raging barbarians on the battlefield.

To guarantee that your idea works out design the academy you want, but embed suiting challenges, rewards, and NPC personalities for each of your players.

That way you can expect a viability of sufficient to formidable for your entire worked out idea.


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