After you’ve made your primary character, you’ll want to carefully craft them some friends! We recommend creating a central party for your duet so that your encounters are more balanced and your primary character has someone they trust and care about to talk to and work with. You’ll want to take personality and character type into account when making the central party. The goal of this series of posts is to help you go about doing both. Keep reading for help with choosing character type.
If you’re interested in the companion pieces for this series, you can read about Character Personality using the D&D Alignment system or about determining character motivation.
We also discuss how to balance RP during your games and walk through some suggestions for how to optimize your party members without making them too powerful or out of balance. You can also read our suggestions for adding sidekicks to your one-on-one games and best practices for running their RP and combat.
I start with character type, or class, because it’s a bit easier and more straightforward than the balance of personalities, and it can be determined in your planning process before you start your duet. The personality balance is necessarily going to shift as your characters become more fleshed out and as you and your partner get more comfortably settled into your duet.
There are two things you need to keep in mind when choosing classes for your central party:
- What will best balance out your primary character?
- What would be most fun for the DM?
As we discuss somewhat in the making a primary character post or for playing a duet in general, part of the point of adding a central party to help your primary character is to make social and combat encounters more balanced.
You’ll want to add characters to your central party that can help support and protect your primary character. If you have someone who is more of a melee fighter with a high hp who can do a lot of damage, you might want to pair them with a caster who can stay at a distance but can control the battlefield more with area effects that might take out smaller targets. Or, assuming the same type of melee character, you could pair them with a different type of fighter who is going to be able to support them in encounters and stealthily move in and out of spaces the first melee fighter couldn’t navigate as easily either. Or you might just want all three.
Some of the already-existing advice for one-on-one campaigns suggests having the primary character be in two classes at once or having the player play to characters at once. If that works for you, great! We have a few ideas about modest changes to your party’s classes and magical items that can yield major results in terms of adapting combat for smaller parties.
Basic groups of the character types:
- high damage, hp, and AC;
- high magic;
- and somewhere in between the two.
If we’re just going off of magic, we could assume:
- no/low magic characters (most fighters and rogues, for example),
- those in the middle (like paladins and rangers),
- and high magic characters (such as druids and bards).
These groupings oversimplify the playstyle of the different character types, but they’re meant to help you evaluate balance and preference as you get started.
Examples of exceptions:
Barbarians, paladins, and fighters can all do a lot of damage, but paladins tend to have more magical abilities than barbarians and fighters.
Clerics, druids, and bards are all high-magic-using characters, but their subclasses can really change how well they do in melee fighting versus ranged combat.
Adding Additional Members
You’ll likely want to add on the members of your central party one at a time. So, building up from your primary character, first think through what type of support they most need. Then, after you have the two of them settled, you’ll want to figure out what would bring further balance to the party, and so on.
Note: Add on to your central party slowly so that both characters can get to know one another and both of you get really comfortable with those two character types. Central party characters that you add later can start at whatever level your central party members are already.
A few combinations we think would work well for central parties:
- Druid/ranger, paladin, and rogue (and later bard): (this is what we have, and we love it)
- Paladin, cleric, and sorcerer
- Barbarian, warlock, and wizard
- Ranger, druid, and barbarian
- Sorcerer, barbarian, and bard
- There are so many other options, but I’m sure you get the idea!
For the first several weeks, the central party will just be your primary character and their companion. After that, once the two of you (players) are comfortable and have a repartee established between the two characters, add in a third.
Adding the central party characters slowly lets your characters get to know one another, and you and your partner can get accustomed to their interpersonal relationship and their gaming functionality before you make things more complicated.
We waited until I was comfortable enough with the druid-ranger and the paladin before adding in the third so that I could do combat for the first two. That move opened Jonathan up for more complicated encounters since he wasn’t having to manage so much at once. We discuss balancing multiple PCs (or your PC and NPC/sidekick) in combat here!
The Most Fun!
At the end of the day, you and your duet partner have committed to playing a game together. And that’s awesome. Games, among other things, are supposed to be fun. And honestly, the fun factor should go as much into your decision-making about your core party as anything else. If you want to play two wizards running around a mystical realm, great! Maybe just don’t create really intense melee fights for yourselves and figure out how to best set up and play to your characters’ strengths instead!
DM, this has almost as much to do with you and how you would like to play as your partner choosing their PC based on preference did. Balance can certainly make things more fun, and it will keep the game a bit more open, but you also need to decide on the central party based on what type of character (or characters) you would have the most fun playing.
DMs, we have some suggestions for DMPCs in one-on-one games here. Though the central party members won’t be the main character in the same way that the primary character is, to you, they almost will be!
Some revised guidelines:
Operating from a fun-centric perspective…
- Someone needs to be able to heal the party
- Someone needs to be able to kill things when the time comes
- Someone needs to be able to talk to people and get the party out of sticky situations
- Someone needs to be able to be a bit stealthy, sneak up on unsuspecting targets, and unlock doors
After you’ve thought through the balance and fun of character classes, continue reading our series on Creating a Central Party with these thoughts on character personality. Or, if you want to skip ahead further, we also discuss the personality makeup of the central party beyond alignment.
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