Fourth Edition is designed with the assumption that there will be one Dungeon Master and approximately five players. When a team does not meet these expectations – particularly where there are only one, two, or three players – it becomes more difficult to plan encounters. Over the course of this edition, players have devised some solutions. Sometimes players will each control two characters. Sometimes Dungeon Masters will introduce a companion character, or perhaps even the dreaded Dungeon Master Player Character (or “DMPC”). Other Dungeon Masters will simply reduce the difficulty of encounters to accommodate the fewer number of players. I propose a separate solution: the Team Player Character (or “TPC”)
The TPC combines qualities of Hybrid Characters and the Piecework Creatures I devised in a prior blog.
The TPC is a single character with multiple full classes. Each full class is managed by one player (who generally plays a separate standard PC). In combat, each player rolls a separate initiative and gains a full round’s worth of actions (standard, move, minor, and free) on that turn. Outside of combat, the players must roleplay the TPC by consensus. Generally, the TPC should not be taking the lead in social situations. In exploratory scenarios, given the durability of the TPC compared to PCs, the TPC will generally take the lead. However, since the TPC is played by all the players, there should not be the usual issues with jealousy or one player hogging the spotlight.
Alternately, a TPC is a good choice for a “duet” campaign. The one player can combine the powers for five characters but need only roleplay a single character. While this is certainly a bit more complicated than roleplaying one character, it is simpler than one player roleplaying an entire party. It is also easier for the DM to plan encounters.
A TPC is generated as follows:
General stats: The TPC’s name, race, Backgrounds, gender, and physical description will either be established by the Dungeon Master or by consensus of all the players. The TPC should have the same level as the party median. If a race offers a choice (such as a choice of which Ability receives an increase, or a racial feat, or power) the players must agree on the feature.
Abilities: Each player chooses one Ability of the TPC. Those Abilities begin at 16 (before any racial bonuses). The Dungeon Master then sets one of the remaining Abilities at 8. The remaining Abilities (if any) will be 10. Racial bonuses are added after Abilities are chosen.
Classes: Each player chooses a class. Generally, the players should agree ahead of time that the classes should have something in common. Either they all use the same power source, or they all serve the same party role. Two players may select the same class. However, no builds are selected for any of the classes, and the TPC cannot gain any build-specific benefits or feats. A TPC cannot be given a hybrid class.
Companion: No matter how many arcane or primal classes a TPC gains, it can possess only one familiar or spirit companion.
Feats: At first level, a TPC gets one feat per player controlling the TPC. Players are not limited to feats for which the TPC qualifies based only on the class chosen by that player. A TPC cannot take any multiclass feats.
Skills: At first level, a TPC is trained in one Skill per player controlling the TPC. Each player may choose any Skill on the any of the class lists for the TPC’s classes. The TPC is also trained in any Skills for which training is automatically gaine as a member of any of the TPC’s classes.
Powers: At first level, the TPC gains one at-will power, one encounter power, and one daily power per player controlling the TPC. The player can choose powers from any of the TPC’s classes. A player can also choose an encounter or daily power that has already been selected, if the TPC has been assigned that class twice. Such powers can be used twice in an encounter or day (depending on the type of power).
Action Points: A TPC begins with one action point.
Hit Points: A TPC begins with hit points equal to the sum of the first-level hit points of all of its classes. (Accordingly, the Constitution score is added once per player controlling the TPC.)
Healing Surges: A TPC has a number of healing surges equal to the sum of the number of healing surges for all of its classes. (Any bonus to the number of healing surges from items, feats, etc. is added after this sum is derived.) The value of a healing surge is equal to the total hit points of the TPC divided by the number of players controlling the TPC, and this product is then divided by six. Any feats, items, or powers that increase the value of a healing surge are then added to this total.
Proficiencies: A TPC gains the armor, implement, and weapon proficiencies of each of its classes.
Equipment: Each player gets 50 gp to purchase equipment for the TPC. The players may pool their resources when selecting the equipment. The players should work together to make the character work.
Abilities: At 4th, 8th, 14th, 18th, 24th, and 28th levels, each player controlling a TPC chooses one Ability to increase by one point. Each payer must choose a different Ability that the other players choose. At 11th and 21st levels, each of a TPC’s Abilities increases by one point.
Experience: A TPC gains experience has if it were a single PC and levels up along with the rest of the party.
Feats: A TPC gains one feat every level. The players controlling the TPC must take turns selecting feats.
Powers: Whenever a TPC reaches a level where the TPC would gain a new encounter, daily, or utility power, each player may choose one such power for the TPC. The power may be chosen from any of the TPC’s classes, and a power may be selected twice, if the PC has been given that class twice.
Paragon Path and Epic Destiny: A TPC does not gain a Paragon Path or Epic Destiny.
Retraining: At each level, the players who did not choose a feat for the TPC at that level may retrain one Skill, Feat, or Power. The players should take turns choosing, for the TPC cannot retrain more than one Skill, one Feat, and one Power per level.
Initiative: After initiative is determined for all other PCs and NPCs in the encounter, each player rolls an unmodified d20. Add the TPC’s initiative bonus to the highest of the rolls. That player will control the TPC first and at that point in the initiative order. The player with the next lowest roll will enter initiative after the first PC or NPC with initiative after the TPC. The player with the next lowest roll will enter initiative after the next PC or NPC with initiative. Continue until all players have a place in the initiative order. If you run out of PCs and NPCs, the remaining players enter combat at the bottom of the initiative.
Immediate Actions: Only the player who last controlled the TPC may invoke an immediate action for the TPC. Each player may invoke only one immediate action per round.
Status Effects: If a TPC is hit with an attack or power that imposes a status effect other that hit point loss (including ongoing damage) or penalties to defenses, each player rolls an immediate saving throw. The TPC is only affected by the status effect during the period where players who failed the saving throw control the character.
Targeting: A TPC can target the other players controlling the TPC as if they were “allies” of the TPC. However, no power of a TPC can affect more than one other player at a time.
Player Control: Because a TPC is not controlled by ay single character, the TPC should take the backseat in roleplaying. A strong but silent personality works best for the TPC. Players may choose to take turns roleplaying the TPC. If they choose this route, one player should roleplay the TPC entirely for an encounter or gaming session. If control changes more often than this, the TPC will feel a bit schizophrenic. However, even if one player roleplays a TPC for an encounter, any combat that ensues will follow the standard combat rules for the TPC.
Dungeon Master Control: Alternately, the DM might want to control the TPC during non-combat situations, using the TPC as a sort of mentor to the PCs, doling out exposition at opportune times, or stepping in to help PCs if they seem stuck. However, the TPC should not become a DMPC. The TPC should be a secondary character at best, and the DM should not invoke any actions of the TPC, except talking, without the consensus of the players.
One problem with playing a TPC is explaining why a TPC is so much more powerful than the PCs. (This is obviously less of an issue in a Duet Campaign.) The DM and players should hash this out before introducing the TPC. One explanation may be that the TPC is much more experienced than the PCs, thus using the TPC mechanic to approximate introducing a “higher level” PC without having to worry about recalibrating NPC defenses. Another explanation is that the TPC is “special” or blessed. The TPC might be a scion of the gods, or a prophesied savior.
Popular Culture Example: For those familiar with the animated show Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang might have been generated as a TPC, being a full-classed Airbender, Waterbender, Earthbender, and Firebender.
Challenge Design: A TPC should be considered the equivalent of a number of PCs equal to the number of players playing the TPC.
Parcel Distribution: A TPC generally is treated as a single character for determining how many parcels need to be distributed each level. However, if the TPC requires multiple implements to work, the DM and players should probably ensure the TPC maintains all primary implements at an appropriate level.
Encounter Design: Because TPCs are played by multiple players, they are often not played as wisely as PCs. They may be more reckless, more random in their strategy, and sometimes surprisingly effective. It will take some time to get used to how a TPC changes the flow of a game.