I’m not a big believer in party composition. Play what you want is my motto, meaning that no one should feel like they got stuck playing the healer. My thinking has always been that, if the party lacks a set of lock picks or a dedicated front-line dude or whatever, clever play and a few GM adjustments can make up the difference. All it takes is some potions, a well-chosen scroll or two, and a little imagination. So long as you’ve got the bare-minimum competencies in place, you should be good to go!

Note that my theory assumes those “bare-minimum competencies” are actually in place. Folks, I’m here today to tell you that is not a safe assumption.

Recently, I failed in my GM-ly duties as adviser to the party. It was the Strange Aeons game I’ve mentioned before, and I thought character creation went well. It was a mix of new and veteran players, and a party of bard/blood rager/kineticist/sorcerer/investigator seemed like a viable mix. A count of five PCs put them over the AP’s recommended party size of four, so a lack of dedicated divine casting didn’t strike me as a big deal. I mean, two of those classes have cure light wounds available from level 1, and another has the option of infernal / celestial healing.

Surely, thought I to myself, They’ll be fine! One of them will pick up the healing option, and we’ll skip merrily along with the eldritch horror from there.

We went over the usual session zero stuff, nailing down meeting times and house rules and all the rest. We covered everything from mature content to re-rolling off-the-table dice, so I figured we were set. Unfortunately, one thing that didn’t come up was coordinating spell selection.

The adventure began, and things were going well enough. Horror things happened, the party pledged to watch one another’s backs, and everyone fell into marching order. When combat inevitably rolled around, our dowdy band of fresh-minted heroes fought bravely. The dire rats went down easily enough, but the zoog that lead them presented more of a problem. If you’re not familiar with zoogs, suffice it to say that they’re some truly unpleasant low-level mythos monsters. For purposes of this story, the important thing to know is that their bite causes bleed damage. Under normal circumstances, magical healing is the go-to solution for bleed. It was the first session for an unconventional party though, so that wasn’t an option. Nobody had taken a cure spell!

No reason to panic though. As every good pathfinder knows, all it takes to stanch a bleeding wound is a DC 15 Heal check. Guess what nobody put ranks in? The evil rodents were dead, but everyone was gushing blood like it was a Bleach RPG

“I rolled an 11 to stanch the blood!”

“Four!”

“Fourteen. Dammit!”

They began to fall unconscious one by one. And as session 1 of my latest campaign began to wind down, and as my players began to make Constitution checks to stabilize instead of Heal checks to apply first aid, I reflected that healing might be an important bullet point to add to the session zero discussion in future.

What do you say, guys? Have you ever failed to coordinate your party composition? Did you make like Succubus and actively seek out a workaround, or did it come back to bite you before you got the chance? Sound off in the comments with your tales of non-healing, non-casting, can’t-pick-a-lock-to-save-their-lives heroes!

 

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