Player Resources - Party Themes
Last Updated: January 21st, 2021
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 specific class/subclass suggestions for building a party from 3-6 players where it matters, but you should always feel free to explore beyond what I suggest. These are intended as fun suggestions, not as dogmatic rules to be followed as-written.
There are two alignment axes: evil-good and chaos-law. In a 4-person group, put one character at each extreme of each axis: one chaotic, one evil, one good, and one lawful. Classes may not matter much, but there are some suggestions:
- Chaotic: Barbarian, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer (Wild Magic), Warlock (Fey)
- Evil: Cleric, Paladin (Oathbreaker, specifically), Warlock (Fiend)
- Good: Cleric, Paladin, Sorcerer (Divine Soul), Warlock (Celestial)
- Lawful: Cleric, Paladin, Sorcerer (Clockwork), Wizard
Everyone in the party should be able to cast arcane spells.
- 3 Players: Fighter (Eldrith Knight), Rogue (Arcane Trickster), Wizard
- 4 Players: Cleric (Magic deity), Fighter (Eldrith Knight), Rogue (Arcane Trickster), Wizard
- 5 Players: Bard, Cleric (Magic deity), Fighter (Eldrith Knight), Rogue (Arcane Trickster), Wizard
- 6 Players: Bard, Cleric (Magic deity), Fighter (Eldrith Knight), Rogue (Arcane Trickster), Warlock, Wizard
Over time, 5e has introduced an abundance of options to fight effectively in the dark. Races with Darkvision fit very well into this party, especially if you want to play a race with Sunlight Sensitivity which you've been avoiding for fear of being outside during the day. But even if you want to play something without Darkvision, there's an abundance of options to get it.
- 3 Players: Cleric (Twilight), Ranger (Gloomstalker), Sorcerer (Shadow magic) or Warlock (Anything with Devil's Sight)
- 4 Players: Cleric (Twilight), Fighter (Anything with Fighting Style (Blind Fighting)), Ranger (Gloomstalker), Sorcerer (Shadow magic) or Warlock (Anything with Devil's Sight)
- 5 Players: Cleric (Twilight), Fighter (Anything with Fighting Style (Blind Fighting)), Monk (Way of Shadow), Ranger (Gloomstalker), Sorcerer (Shadow magic) or Warlock (Anything with Devil's Sight)
- 6 Players: Cleric (Twilight), Fighter (Anything with Fighting Style (Blind Fighting)), Monk (Way of Shadow), Ranger (Gloomstalker), Sorcerer (Shadow magic), Warlock (Anything with Devil's Sight)
Everyone in the party must draw their power from some deity. If possible, it could be fun for everyone to worship the same deity. Clerics and Paladins are obvious choices, but the Divine Soul Sorcerer and the Celestial Warlock also work.
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.
- 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
There are enough fey-themed options to fill out a party. Fey Wanderer Rangers, Oath of Ancients Paladins, and Fey Warlocks are obvious choices. If you run out of subclasses, and you can easily expand the party by adding Centaur, Eladrin, and Satyr characters of any class.
The TV Tropes article explains it better than I can, but the basic idea is that you have a three-person group with one emotional person, one rational person, and one person who is somewhere in the middle who is sort of the defacto leader or protagonist. In some ways, the Id character is chaotic, the Superego character is lawful, and the ego character is neutral. The party might be anywhere on the evil-good axis, but they should probably be the same evil-good alignment.
- Id: Barbarian, Bard, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer
- Ego: Druid, Fighter, Warlock
- Superego: Cleric, Monk, Paladin, Wizard
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.
- 3 Players: Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
- 4 Players: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
- 5 Players: Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
- 6 Players: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Fighter, 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 (especially Variant Humans), but intentionally creating a party composed entirely of one race can be a great story mechanic. The introduction of the Customizing Your Origin optional rules makes this easier to accomplish without sacrificing mechanical optimization, but even if you don't use that rule it can still be a lot of fun to play a single-race party and find options that work with that race's unique strengths.
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, such as doing an "Arcane Power" party of High Elves.