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Party of 3

   
Party of 3

So far, every aspect of Aelsif that party size is relevant to has been designed around a default party size of 3, rather than 4. This was easier to balance, less damning if you can only get 1 or 2, and made bosses more viable in a system where action economy and positioning are giant factors. I was curious, why don't other games do this? What are the downsides, other than just having to design it differently?

I suspect it was probably arbitrary? Or it could be that D&D (and thus Pathfinder) from it's early days was just designed around the four archetypes - Fighter Thief Wizard Priest - which are all roles a party needs to meet all the challenges they'll face. Why those four I don't know, but it's been that way quite a long ways back in D&D's history, and thus all succeeding versions of D&D and thus Pathfinder (and many other RPGs influenced by D&D, I imagine) retain the notion of four.

At some point numbers become somewhat self-perpetuating. Also, four + a GM of some sort leads to a reasonably large number to get a good dynamic going and not so large as to be unwieldy or difficult to find enough people with enough room on their schedules.

For this Aelsif game, it's easy to make 3 work because that's the way the game was made - from what you say. 3 isn't magically better. There's probably no downside to 3 rather than four, but "having to design it differently" is a pretty tall order - redesigning say, D&D to baseline assume 3 players would require splitting up or merging roles somewhat. Dragon Age runs on three classes and thus technically you just need the three characters - Warrior Rogue Mage, with mage pulling double duty for Wizard and Priest, in essence - but it's not inherently better or worse than four or five or two.

I suppose from a structural standpoint, 3 players + GM is easier to assemble, because it's one less cat to herd, but depending on the group probably not that much easier.

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Originally Posted by Kylia Quilor View Post
I suspect it was probably arbitrary? Or it could be that D&D (and thus Pathfinder) from it's early days was just designed around the four archetypes - Fighter Thief Wizard Priest - which are all roles a party needs to meet all the challenges they'll face. Why those four I don't know, but it's been that way quite a long ways back in D&D's history, and thus all succeeding versions of D&D and thus Pathfinder (and many other RPGs influenced by D&D, I imagine) retain the notion of four.

At some point numbers become somewhat self-perpetuating. Also, four + a GM of some sort leads to a reasonably large number to get a good dynamic going and not so large as to be unwieldy or difficult to find enough people with enough room on their schedules.
Honestly, I'm not convinced those four are really necessary. Does the party really need a fighter if the caster can summon? Is the thief even useful at all? If the priest is blasty enough, what's the wizard for? And the priest can be replaced by a good choice elsewhere that also provides healing, whether it's a bard and a paladin, or just a bunch of potions. I think we really are, as you say, just following tradition there and I'm not sure that tradition needs to be preserved.

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I suppose from a structural standpoint, 3 players + GM is easier to assemble, because it's one less cat to herd, but depending on the group probably not that much easier.
That wasn't the point, it really doesn't make it that much easier. It can be hard to find just one player with enough time to play tabletop games. It's a time-consuming, effort-intensive and often expensive hobby and time, energy and money are all things that are hard to come by. I'm lucky one of my players is my daughter, it's easy for her to show up seeing as she lives here and all, but for other people... I don't know. Play by post is either going to be easy or hard for you to keep up, I don't think one player is the deciding factor there, and as near as I can tell in-person roleplaying isn't viable anymore.

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Originally Posted by Avianmosquito View Post
Honestly, I'm not convinced those four are really necessary. Does the party really need a fighter if the caster can summon? Is the thief even useful at all? If the priest is blasty enough, what's the wizard for? And the priest can be replaced by a good choice elsewhere that also provides healing, whether it's a bard and a paladin, or just a bunch of potions. I think we really are, as you say, just following tradition there and I'm not sure that tradition needs to be preserved.
Yes, but that's a lot of Ifs - you need a thief for locked doors, traps, various social encounters and sneaking around. If you render those unnecessary by using none of them (save maybe social encounters and having the priest be a face), then sure, a thief is unneeded.

Depending on the summoning rules - how durable and long lasting the summonings are, for example - true, you might be able to dispense with a fighter, but that's still reliant on the limited capacities of the wizard for spells, and if they devote their energies to summoning rather than blasting, they can't blast. Same with the priest - if they blast, they can't heal as much. And while a Bard or Paladin can do double-duty as a healer, they're not quite as good at that as a priest, while also filling the thiefish and fighterish arole respectively. But a Bard can't thief quite as well as a thief and can't heal quite as well as a priest. Potions work as a sub, mostly, though they take an action to use that could be spent attacking or blasting, and they cost money, especially getting enough to completely replace rather than supplement a healer.

Still, you can have them fill the niches, but the game is designed around challenge ratings being set for parties of four - the 3.5e monster manual explicitly says that if you want to playtest a monster you've created, set them up against a party of four of the appropriate level to the challenge rating. Pathfinder runs on the same logic - yes, characters are more powerful, but so too are monsters.

Even if you don't fill all the roles (which can be done - I GMed a 3.5e game where we had no rogue, and while there was a Bard, he really wasn't specced into dealing with traps all that well, so I just... didn't throw traps at the players that often. I wanted to avoid being a dick or risking killing players too easily, so I didn't deliberately exploit their weakness on a regular basis.) You need the four under the basic assumptions of the game. You can make 3 work, true, but they're not going to be quite as durable or quite as capable - an extremely minmaxed, well made party of 3 can probably punch well above their weight class, especially compared to a more average party of 4, but that's just proof that any game can be broken if you whack it hard enough, as it were.

It's not tradition, it's the way the game was made. If you make the game differently, break or change the various underlying assumptions of play or are willing to devise various means to adapt, you can still get around the rule of 4, but 4 is the basic assumption.

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That wasn't the point, it really doesn't make it that much easier. It can be hard to find just one player with enough time to play tabletop games. It's a time-consuming, effort-intensive and often expensive hobby and time, energy and money are all things that are hard to come by. I'm lucky one of my players is my daughter, it's easy for her to show up seeing as she lives here and all, but for other people... I don't know. Play by post is either going to be easy or hard for you to keep up, I don't think one player is the deciding factor there, and as near as I can tell in-person roleplaying isn't viable anymore.
If it's not easier then what even is the point of the conversation? You're trying to extol the virtues of 3 over 4. So if three isn't easier, why...

What are we even talking about then?

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Originally Posted by Kylia Quilor View Post
Yes, but that's a lot of Ifs - you need a thief for locked doors, traps, various social encounters and sneaking around. If you render those unnecessary by using none of them (save maybe social encounters and having the priest be a face), then sure, a thief is unneeded.

Depending on the summoning rules - how durable and long lasting the summonings are, for example - true, you might be able to dispense with a fighter, but that's still reliant on the limited capacities of the wizard for spells, and if they devote their energies to summoning rather than blasting, they can't blast. Same with the priest - if they blast, they can't heal as much. And while a Bard or Paladin can do double-duty as a healer, they're not quite as good at that as a priest, while also filling the thiefish and fighterish arole respectively. But a Bard can't thief quite as well as a thief and can't heal quite as well as a priest. Potions work as a sub, mostly, though they take an action to use that could be spent attacking or blasting, and they cost money, especially getting enough to completely replace rather than supplement a healer.

Still, you can have them fill the niches, but the game is designed around challenge ratings being set for parties of four - the 3.5e monster manual explicitly says that if you want to playtest a monster you've created, set them up against a party of four of the appropriate level to the challenge rating. Pathfinder runs on the same logic - yes, characters are more powerful, but so too are monsters.

Even if you don't fill all the roles (which can be done - I GMed a 3.5e game where we had no rogue, and while there was a Bard, he really wasn't specced into dealing with traps all that well, so I just... didn't throw traps at the players that often. I wanted to avoid being a dick or risking killing players too easily, so I didn't deliberately exploit their weakness on a regular basis.) You need the four under the basic assumptions of the game. You can make 3 work, true, but they're not going to be quite as durable or quite as capable - an extremely minmaxed, well made party of 3 can probably punch well above their weight class, especially compared to a more average party of 4, but that's just proof that any game can be broken if you whack it hard enough, as it were.

It's not tradition, it's the way the game was made. If you make the game differently, break or change the various underlying assumptions of play or are willing to devise various means to adapt, you can still get around the rule of 4, but 4 is the basic assumption.
That's a lot of assumptions, actually. Let's go through a quick list.

1. You're assuming every game is specifically a D&D dungeon crawl when even in D&D most games are not dungeon crawls.

2. There are things you can include in games that let parties make up for lacking a particular character in combat. If you have healing items you can craft, or replenish, or that are just cheap and plentiful, the priest's healing becomes supplemental. If you have grenades (which as a technology I remind you are about 1300 years old) you can get area of effect damage when you need it. Good buffs or extra healing can make up for the lack of a dedicated tank.

3. Outside of combat, especially in dialogue, the roles are entirely artificial. Talking is the best example. There's no reason any particular class shouldn't be able to do the talking in a given situation. Just as one example, if you have an esteemed member of the clergy in your party, why are you having a criminal talk to the guards? Really, anybody BUT the rogue should be the one doing the talking right about then, and the rogue should be making themselves scarce.

4. There's no reason why only fighters can tank, or only priests can heal, or only wizards can blast. Letting other classes do those things too is NOT hard. There's also no reason why all those roles are even necessary, or will even work in all games. How do you tank if the opponent has ranged weapons and can just shoot past you? What if your game isn't a fantasy? Whoops, now we don't have any casters, and the game didn't fall apart. What if you're running a campaign with little or no combat? Or what if it's on a battlefield with no traps? Those roles are for one very, VERY specific type of game.

5. There's no inherent reason why a game needs to assume four players. Just because D&D does it doesn't mean it has to be that way. Or that it's even a good idea. Actually, D&D's track record is pretty shoddy. There's good reasons to not emulate D&D while making a new game, just pick what parts of it you like and discard the rest.

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If it's not easier then what even is the point of the conversation?
I said it's not easier to get and keep enough players, not that it isn't easier in any way. It's a LOT easier from a design perspective, and it's easier for the GM too.

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You're trying to extol the virtues of 3 over 4. So if three isn't easier, why...

What are we even talking about then?
I'm not trying to "extol the virtues" of anything. I didn't say 3 was superior, just that it's perfectly viable.

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Originally Posted by Avianmosquito View Post
1. You're assuming every game is specifically a D&D dungeon crawl when even in D&D most games are not dungeon crawls.
That's because the whole of D&D is founded on that very assumption. The Priest was not supposed to be blasty enough to replace the Wizard. You're not supposed to have enough Wands of Cure Light Wounds to ignore the Priest's healing. The Fighter is supposed to hit things with sharp things, not throw grenades.

However, you game is not D&D. Thus, the assumptions of D&D are less useful to look at. You don't look at D&D design when building a FATE campaign unless your intent is to emulate D&D.

As such, the answer is fairly simple:
Because D&D is originally designed that way. Others games do/don't do it because they are also designed that way. Heck, even most MMOs are "Tank, DPS, AoE/Debuff, Healer" to this day.

So, for your game, you have to ask "what challenges are they reasonably expected to face during a campaign?" and "what classes can be reasonably assumed to handle what challenges?". If the answer to the former is 3-5 things and the answer to the latter is 2-3 things per character, three characters is a fine assumption. But in D&D dungeon crawling, there were four general problems and each core class had one solution.
If that is not the case in your game, stop looking at D&D. Quit trying to ride the giant's shoulder if your goal is not found in the giant's walking path.

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Originally Posted by Veradux View Post
If that is not the case in your game, stop looking at D&D. Quit trying to ride the giant's shoulder if your goal is not found in the giant's walking path.
I am doing my best to just ignore that giant. My best just isn't good enough, it seems it may be impossible to ignore. I was not looking at D&D until it was brought up, and I will go right back to not looking at it as soon as I possibly can. I don't think highly of it, it is something I have no desire to emulate and it's an association that frustrates me but unfortunately I cannot avoid. My game could be played entirely by rolling 4-sided dice and be set in the orbit of a dying star playing robotic ferrets on a broken dyson sphere, with 4 stats with ratings out of 5 stars and D&D would still be the first and usually ONLY comparison that anybody would ever make. It's clearly a waste of time trying to disassociate from it at this point.

I am going to make the game I want to make, in the setting I want to write. Whether it ever gets acknowledged as its own thing, or not. And it's becoming increasingly clear "not" is the only possibility there ever really was.

Can we please talk about something other than D&D? I've never played it, but Dragon Age came up. Destiny, Dark Souls and probably other "D" games also have 3-person parties. And are there some tabletops that also have 3-person parties? I could look at those.

Well, most of my campaigns are geared towards a party of 2 with up to 3 helpers, but it's assumed that those would be NPCs. Make of that what you will, but I definitely don't think that the assumption of 4 PCs is somehow inviolate.

Of course, I have an easier time if more or less players* show up, because I don't do** "balanced challenges"

*We play with whoever shows up, no matter how many, so the campaign might well have 10-12 players and only 2-3 PCs on the table. Or there might be 8 of them. It's easier to run such campaigns when all the players are adults with lives.
In fact, I'm thinking of enlisting a second GM as well, so the game would go regardless of my availability, but have yet to find anyone willing who also has a remotely similar schedule.

**Presumably, getting paid for running games might change my opinion, if balanced challenges were required, but then it might just end up with me refusing the gig!








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