“What do you as a DM/GM like to see out of your party? And if you were going to have someone join the group mid-adventure, what would you do about the level gap?”
You know this is a common topic that gets brought up a lot during character creation! I constantly hear “what is everyone making?” And while that is one way of creating a balanced party, I like to start with:
“So, you all are a part of a new guild. How do your characters know each other?”
This question forces the players to start brainstorming their backgrounds to solidify their character’s place in the world. And creating a character from the ground up like this will cause the group to balance itself out.
Most people would have said something like Tank, Healer, Stealth, and Spellcaster. And while that does make a very balanced combat-effective party, it tends to be overdone, which gets boring. A thing that can be done to prevent this mentality is for the DM to create unique and interesting settings. The typical hack and slash sword and sorcery style games are great because that is what’s iconic, but what about adding some flair to it?
Perhaps, everyone is a Summoner who’s Eidolons are the ones who charge into battle while their masters sling spells at each other?
What about the world where the gods themselves are at war with each other, but cannot directly battle due to the laws of nature? Instead, they manipulate their patrons to do their bidding.
When there is an exciting and interesting setting, the players are more likely to put a lot more thought into their characters. And when there are restrictions or guidelines, they’ll balance the party by working together for a cohesive background.
Now, if the setting is a traditional setting, there are ways to build certain classes that can differ from another character of the same class. Take the Fighter, for example. The Fighter is looked at to be the melee class that has a ridiculous amount of feats. Why not create a ranged fighter? Imagine, two characters who are brother and sister, one a ranged fighter, the other a melee fighter!
5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons is great because of its detail system for creating a character’s background. And I have found that it’s increasingly easier for new players to come up with an interesting character from random rolls, even if they had a boring idea. And it’s very easy for me, as a GameMaster, to listen to their backgrounds and develop a general idea of their group. You’d be surprised how much a small detail in a character’s background can make a huge impact when it comes to events in the game!
When the players have created their characters, I have them go around the table and introduce themselves followed by a detailed introduction to their character. I also instruct them to listen closely to each other’s stories in order to tie their character into another’s background. This method allows them to have choices of how they came together as a group of adventurers while giving the GameMaster insights into their developing party.
As for your second question: “And if you were going to have someone join the group mid-adventure, what would you do about the level gap?” I say why not make their level what the Average Party Level is? Why would a person join a group of adventurers if they
weren’t on par with them? Most of the time, they would end up on a suicide mission. Having them start at the APL doesn’t give them a handicap, which keeps the enjoyment and pacing up.
In summary, a GameMaster can work around almost any party as long as the players help create a sense of cohesiveness. And joining a game later in its sessions shouldn’t be a punishment.
For more information on Wizards of the Coast’s 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons or Paizo’s Pathfinder check out their awesome websites!