Friday, June 18, 2010

Party Compostition Compared Old and New School

One of the things I've noticed that differs a lot between new and old school are the way parties are composed.
The classes selected are often the same but while new school parties are configured like a special forces "Hero" team, old school parties often looked more like mercenary units. Let me explain.

Lets say 5 players, about 5th level

New School Party is say

we also might see a coupe of pets -- say the Wizard's Familiar (a Raven, the only really useful one in my opinion ) and the Ranger's large dog (use Wolf Stats) . Thats about it.

Now and old school party is a lot wilder woollier and bigger

You still have your PC's Fighter, Magic User, Thief, Cleric and Ranger and sometimes one pet (a randomly rolled familiar ) or two if you were using an edition where Rangers got arcane spells. However thats where the similarity ended .

The old school party was often much larger. You might have hirelings (torch bearers and other useful NPC's) men at arms, mules, war dogs and a bunch of the players personal henchmen.

Your five players may have as many as 8 or 10 party members, a pile of goons (at lower level) treasure transport in the form of dungeon worthy mules (since there was no guarantee of bags of holding in old school and ya got to get the loot out somehow ) and of course the Magic Users pet war dogs (best party life saver ever) I've even seen geese and chickens and pigs and charmed hench-critters too ..

This leads to a rather different style of play I'd be hard pressed to explain. You'll just have to try it yourself .


  1. I think 4E is specifically designed to have different players in different roles, but there's no absolute requirement ... but you miss out on the cross-role synergies.

    I'm talking through my hat here a little, i'm sure someone will wade in and correct me.

    I always imagined that old-school games were more flexible with party composition, since the DM has a great deal of leeway on adventure design. 5 fighters? No problem, we'll tweak the in-game encounters to adjust for it.

  2. Paladin. You are correct there. We played an old style AD&D 2e game with 7 Fighters and a Mage at one point. It was good fun and worked fine.

    The only thing a DM really has to do in such cases is include an occasional bit of extra magic like a healing potions or remove curse scroll .

    4e OTOH is configured for 1 striker, 1 leader, 1 defender, 1 controller and maybe a second of any one role. . It certainly is possible to do without any one role (an all martial party will not have a controller) but encounter design will be much trickier ...

  3. As in any edition, you can have 4e parties composed of any mismash of roles; with competent players and DMs, fun will result.