Tips For Running Single Class Campaigns (PCs of the same character type)

From Brian A.C.

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0598

A Brief Word From Johnn

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Ready For A New Year Of Gaming?

My holidays were short and quiet. We stayed in town this year and kept things low key.

During a five day break, I read the rules to Whitehack, a neat little old school D&D clone.

I love the simplicity of the rules. I also like the spirit of the game, where players are given a skeleton for their PC and they flesh it out through gameplay and player decisions, instead of starting with a complex rules construct.

The GM in such games must make more judgement calls, because there are so few rules. That’s both freedom and challenge. My kind of GMing!

As long as the group agrees on the spirit and style of play (min/maxers and rules lawyers, for example, need to reorient a bit to bring their skills into play in other ways).

Anyway, I’m swamped these days and have stepped down temporarily as GM. But a player in my group has stepped up to GM Pathfinder, so I’m still gaming. Thanks Colin!

And in my free moments, I’m fantasizing about running a Whitehack game. I hope that happens in 2014.

How about you? Got any gaming plans for the New Year? Drop me a note, let me know, say hi.

Tips For Running Single Class Campaigns (PCs of the same character type)

Most games are played with a balanced group of character types. It’s uncommon to find games where the entire group plays characters of the same type. An entire party of casters or thieves, for example.

Such games offer a whole new set of challenges. What happens when a group of stealthy characters doesn’t have a combat focused character to stand in the front lines dishing out the pain? The group will need to find new solutions to compensate for their missing counterparts.

On the flip side, you can prepare a game tailored to the character type. If the group focuses on subterfuge, they can go on missions that require stealth and a sharp tongue, instead of being forced to play through combat intensive games. This gets the entire group involved.

Here are a few tips on running a single character type campaign, plus advice for games focused on just combat, magic and subterfuge PC groups.

Avoid Impossible Encounters

A normal group can handle a variety of encounters. However, you need to consider a group with only one type of character can get in over their heads in certain situations. And it might surprise you how fast in can happen. One moment the PCs are fresh and vital, the next there’s just one left standing and he’s in shock.

For example, if the entire group is focused on combat, they may not be prepared to deal with a powerful enchantment.

So design encounters the group has some way of overcoming. Look especially for outlier type stats and extreme abilities.

For example, a foe that’s hard to hit will stump groups that want to attack but don’t have good hit modifiers or abilities. Or, a foe with magic immunities against a mage group. Or, foes that paralyze versus a warrior PC group not good at resisting such attacks.

Push The Limits Of The Character Type

Now’s the time for players to design characters that use some of those often passed-over abilities.

Since the entire group is playing the same type of character, they should all fill different roles in that type.

For example, a group of magic-oriented characters can each specialize in a different type of magic. Maybe one can focus on enchanting items, another can focus on combat magic, and another on protective magic.

This will keep the party well balanced, they won’t be stepping on each other’s toes, and they get to use abilities often ignored in a typical group.

Encourage your players to explore all the options for the character type and collaborate to build interesting PCs that aren’t clones.

Handling A Combat Oriented Group

Does your gaming group love hack n’ slash campaigns where they get to tear up hoards of enemies? A combat oriented party would obviously be the best fit for this group.

What brings the group together?

Maybe the characters are prisoners of war taken for interrogation, and now they must work together to escape the enemy territory. They could be holy warriors fighting evil in the name of their god. Or they could just be mercenaries working together to earn some coin.

What to avoid?

Combat oriented groups will have a hard time dealing with enemies only susceptible to magic. They may also have a hard time if they are expected to be stealthy or be able to bypass traps and locked doors. If the party can’t handle these situations, its best to avoid them for the most part.

What kinds of adventures are good?

A group of combat characters would do great in any campaign that has lots of battle.

  • Soldiers in a war torn nation, sent on missions that require a small group of elite soldiers, rather than a large army
  • Settlers of a new colony, charged with clearing the land of hostile beasts and dangers
  • Guards on special assignment, such as VIP escorts
  • Mercenaries hired to hunt down rebels
  • Holy warriors charged with purging the land of pockets of infidels

Make sure there are a variety of challenges for the group, so they don’t get bored with an endless stream of battles. If one of the characters is a good leader, they can journey to different lands, using diplomacy to unite the various lords all under one banner, or they can use their wit to solve puzzles left in ancient ruins to guard their treasures.

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Handling A Magic Oriented Group

What brings the group together?

Magic users could likely band together for greater knowledge. They may seek long-forgotten tomes or new spells. Perhaps they quest for the source of magic itself.

If magic is illegal, and practitioners are persecuted, they may travel together for safety. They may even be rebelling against an anti-magic nation.

What to avoid?

Combat scenarios are best kept to a minimum until the party has acquired enough combat and defensive spells to hold their own in battle.

When you do offer combat challenges, they should be optional. Perhaps they can get rewards for overcoming them, but they are not required to advance the main plot.

It’s also a good idea to leave an escape route so they don’t get trapped in a battle that leads to a total party kill.

What kinds of adventures are good?

A party of casters may jump at the chance to find new spells. You could send them into ruins of an ancient magic empire to uncover its secrets, or journey to distant lands to find components for a magic ritual they need to perform.

You could have them meet the denizens of other planes of existence, or even have them travel to those planes and explore their strange landscapes.

Maybe the characters are the only ones who can stop a magical enemy in a world that has lost its knowledge of magic. They could also use their abilities to manipulate or help the rulers of entire nations, or become rulers themselves.

[Johnn: A great game system for magical entourage inspiration is Ars Magica. You can download the 4th edition core rulebook free at Warehouse 23 Steve Jackson Games.]
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Handling A Subterfuge Oriented Group

What brings the group together?

Perhaps the characters are thieves operating in the same city. A guild could bring them together for protection, to send them on missions, and of course to take a cut of their earnings. Regardless, the guild could function as a way to get the group working together.

Maybe the characters are a group of treasure hunters, traveling together for safety and splitting the rewards.

For a bit of a strange effect, the characters could be members of a traveling carnival that possess skills like acrobatics, knife throwing, juggling, tattooing, etc.

What to avoid?

Like magic users, characters focused on subterfuge may not do well in difficult combat scenarios. Avoid sending them into head-on combat most of the time. Instead, let them sneak up or gang-up on enemies.

Or make the challenge more about bypassing the enemies entirely. If they fail, they may have to go into combat mode as a punishment, where they may die or take massive damage if they don’t retreat.

What kinds of adventures are good?

This type of group would do well in missions where they can use stealth, diplomacy or specialized skills.

Have them break into buildings to rescue a prisoner, or delve into dungeons where they can overcome traps and wards.

An evil group may be sent to assassinate a powerful lord. They may be sent into enemy territory to steal battle plans to turn the tide of the war. Maybe the group steals an artifact and accidentally releases some evil creature it was guarding, and now they have to figure out how to stop it from unleashing havoc on the countryside.

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Overall, single character type campaigns can be a great change of pace and offer a whole different set of challenges and opportunities for the gaming group to face. Try it out and follow these tips to get the best results.

Brian A.C. is the founder of an all-in-one tool for gamers to do everything from tracking your loot to organizing your campaign.


Use Factions To Loop PCs Into The Campaign

CH writes:

One of my players has a PC that is tough to write adventures for. The PC is a devoted priest to her god. That’s it. Do you have ideas for focusing games on a PC with such limited range?

I don’t want every other game to be “deific inspiration to do blah” but short of forcibly introducing family NPCs that need assistance or threatening a temple, I’m at a loss.


Hi CH,

Here’s what I’d do.

Create four factions.

Two factions are foes of the god.

And two factions are internal to the PC’s religion. One faction might be hawks, the other doves, for example. Or one faction wants to wipe out sorcerers and the other is secretly run by sorcerers.

Then I’d give each faction a primary goal not related directly to the other factions. For example:

  • One quests for a relic
  • Another wants to find and raise a former awesome leader from the dead so he can lead them to glory again
  • Another is building a castle
  • The fourth wants revenge against the King

Next, give each faction an opposition to their primary goal that isn’t one of the other factions.

So now you’ve got 4 main factions (2 in the PC’s religion and 2 external) and 4 other NPCs/factions/forces — 8 total.

Last, connect every PC to one of the 8 factions in some compelling way. The thief’s guild wants him to find the relic first. The King wants the paladin’s help. The priest is approached by the anti-sorcerers to join their side. Etc.

Now every PC has skin in the game. But the spotlight is equally distributed amongst the PCs and the factions, even though this was all triggered by thinking about the PC’s god.

Getting Players With Genre Addiction To Try Something New

Jesper asks:

Hi Johnn.

Love your work! 🙂

How do you make a roleplayer who is a big fan of fantasy, love sci-fi?


Hi Jesper!

Create a one-shot sci-fi session. That lets the player try something new without committing (so they’re more likely to try it).

Talk to them about what they like about their favourite genre.

Then put those elements into your new game.

For example, lots of people like fantasy because of magic. It means anything is possible. It also means spell selection, spell use and possibly spell combos.

If your player is like this, then you can use super hi-tech, mind abilities or “The force” to mirror this cherished type of gameplay for them.

You can also get them a fiction book that is easy to read and a “best of” example of the genre. That introduces them to some of the standards in the genre, so they have more knowledge of what to do during the game.

People new to a genre often get frustrated because they don’t know what to do or what’s expected of them.

Finally, make sure you have some great NPCs.

Hope this helps.

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How To Encourage Roleplaying

From Damián Guardia

I’m a reader from Argentina. First of all I want to thank you, your tips are really useful. I have applied several of them to my regular Pathfinder table.

I need some tips on the next: is there any way a GM could encourage roleplaying and interaction AMONG players and do not making I feel as an imposition?


Hola Damián!

Try this:

  1. All players must speak in-character at the table unless talking about the rules or asking the GM a question.
  2. Refer to rule #1. 🙂

When you have players discussing plans, tactics and ideas in-character, the roleplaying will flow.

Try it and let me know how it goes!