DnD 3.5 - Party Themes
While most parties tend to be a disparate collection of unrelated builds, it can sometimes be fun to build a party around a specific theme.
Some themes include suggestions for building a party from 3-6 players where it matters.
Everyone in the party must be able to cast (or pretend to cast) arcane spells. Arcanists, Bloodragers, Rogues, Bards, Magi, Sorcerers, and Wizards are likely choices.
- 3 Players: Bard, Duskblade, Wizard
- 4 Players: Bard, Beguiler, Duskblade, Wizard
- 5 Players: Bard, Beguiler, Cleric (Magic domain), Duskblade, Wizard
The 4 classic elements are Air (Lightning), Earth (Acid), Fire (More Fire), and Water (Cold). There are a slough of class archetypes and options tied to the elements. Each player takes one element, and builds a character around it. Elemental themes lend themselves very well to outsider-centric campaigns and characters, so consider campaigns which take players to the outer planes.
- 3 Players: Earth, Wind (Air) and Fire
- 4 Players: Air, Earth, Fire, Water
- 5 Players: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Sound (Probably a Bard)
- 6 Players: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Sound (Probably a Bard), Force
Mysteries of the Far East
Eastern-themed characters have been popular since the introduction of "Oriental Adventures" back in 1st edition ADnD, and DnD 3.5 has provided options to play to this theme. Obvious examples include the Monk, Ninja, and Samurai. The Geisha Bard is a welcome addition to any party, and a Sorcerer or Wizard can serve as a Shugenja. An Oracle or Shaman can provide divine power and play to the mysterious feel of a far-east themed party.
- 3 Players: Ninja, Shugenja, Samurai
- 4 Players: Ninja, Shugenja, Samurai, Wu Jen
- 5 Players: Ninja, Monk, Shugenja, Samurai, Wu Jen
- 6 Players: Bard, Ninja, Monk, Shugenja, Samurai, Wu Jen
The iconic adventuring party includes a Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard. While this is a somewhat generic party, it is popular because it is so effective. For extra players, add support characters like a Bard and additional well-rounded classes like Duskblade or Ranger.
- 3 Players: Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
- 4 Players: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
- 5 Players: Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
- 6 Players: Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Wizard
Conceptually fun but difficult to play, single-class parties require players to explore different builds and character concepts within their own class. Parties like this may have problems addressing some issues which fall beyond the class's skill set, but takes these challenges as opportunities for roleplay and experimentation.
Many parties are dominated by Humans, but intentionally creating a party composed entirely of one race can be a great story mechanic. A party of traveling Halflings could be a good option for a light-hearted campaign, or an all Elf party could be fun as your characters' lives span multiple centuries, and your characters could spend a hundred years or more adventuring and watching the world change around them. For additional fun, combine the Single Race theme with other themes.
Touch of the Grave
Everyone is undead, partially undead, or undead-themed. Necromancers are an obvious choice, and the party will almost certainly be evil. Races like Dhampirs will be common, and it's probably best that everyone have an ability which allows them to heal when they are hit with negative energy. Remember that being undead-themed does not mean that everyone in the party needs to wander around with an army of zombies.
Warriors of the Wild
While there is no distinct mechanical difference between the divine magic of a Druid and that of a Cleric, "primal" divine magic has a hugely different feel. A party of wilderness-themed characters can be very unique. Barbarians, Druids, and Rangers are all obvious choices, but many other classes can fit the theme just as well, like a Cleric or Warpriest with Animal or Plant domains/blessings.
- 3 Players: Barbarian, Druid, Ranger
- 4 Players: Barbarian, Druid, Ranger, Witch
- 5 Players: Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer