Do your players understand the Holy Trinity?
You’ve done it, you have created the perfect adventure. It has villains, traps, treasures and a story so compelling that your friends are completely hooked and emotionally invested! Everything is going perfectly, and they reach their first battle.
… and one of them gets killed fighting a group of rats. Something that you intended to be an easy warm up ends up being a serious set back. Now you have to wait while your friends creates a new character and everyone else is demotivated. All because you forgot to consider one detail:
Your players suck at fighting.
I don’t understand what went wrong!
It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into your adventure, your players will never be able to swim with the big fish until they learn the core idea behind party dynamics, the ‘Holy Trinity.’
The ‘Holy Trinity’ refers to the three core responsibilities or jobs that a winning team has dedicated members for. Those responsibilities are healing, tanking and damage dealing, in that order of importance.
Imagine a soccer team: Some players are dedicated to offense, some players are dedicated to defense (or generally staying in a certain area of the field) and one players is dedicated to being the goalie. Imagine how unsuccessful the team would be if every player just ran around the field doing what they wanted. It would be chaos, and they would always loose against a team that used at least the basic strategy.
The three roles:
1. The Healer: This is the most important role, and an adventuring group should always have one person dedicated to this task (like a dnd 5e cleric). You can think of the healer like the goalie: Half of the time the goalie just stands around doing nothing, but when the time comes they are the most important player on the field. It can also be boring being the healer, just like it can be boring standing around while you watch the other players run around and score goals, or run around and decapitate orcs. But some problems can only be solved with healing magic, so somebody has to have it.
2. The Tank: The tank has a simple and all consuming focus, keep the bad guys away from your friends (like a dnd 5e paladin). The tank is built to have the highest amount of hit points possible and the highest AC possible. Just like a real tank, they are meant to roll into battle first and absorb all of the enemy fire with their thick armor so that the rest of the soldiers don’t have to. A real tank also has a big ass gun on it, but a tank character doesn’t have to deal out a lot of damage to do their job, they just have to absorb damage. By doing so, they give that opportunity to the damage dealer.
3. The Damage Dealer: who is the person that is built to do as much damage as possible. This person has the ‘fun’ job, which is to kill all the enemies as fast as possible (like a dnd 5e rogue). There isn’t really anything too complicated to this, everyone knows gets how to kill a bad guy, but you don’t really get the chance to decapitate someone if they decapitate you first. The tank makes sure to absorb all the enemy fire and the healer makes sure to keep the tank alive with healing magic, so the damage dealer is free to attack and kill bad guys every turn without having to worry about getting killed themselves.
… and that is the basics of party dynamics! If you have new players that haven’t heard of the holy trinity, their party usually ends up looking like one of two things:
- Everyone has a character that doesn’t seem to have a particular focus
- Everyone makes a damage dealing character (because they are the ‘coolest’ characters to play)If you notice this is how your group looks, here are some things to try before the adventure starts and they end up loosing in disappointingly easy battles:
- Try to convince one person to be a healing cleric. If there is at least one person dedicated to keeping everyone alive, most of the time they can fumble through the rest.
- Make sure that they start off with some healing potions, hopefully that will keep them alive long enough to gain some experience points and learn the value of healing.
- Help them to think about basic adventuring strategies, like checking for traps and not letting enemies surround them
- Help them to optimize their armor and weapon choices. New players can often just pick what they think looks cool, and they could get a little bit more armor or a little bit more damage by choosing the equipment that is right for their character build.