Magical NPCs for Support Roles vs. Player Roles

With the last post, there was a comment from Tom Harrison on Google+ that I had to ponder a bit… Tom’s input was… “Ok, so here’s my beef. Why does this NPC need a class? Why not just offer a set of services and put a price on them? Because that’s really what it’s going to come down to, isn’t it?”

alchemy-essence-of-gandleveryHe raises an excellent point. Why exactly would a player want to play in such a support role during a campaign? I’ve struggled with this question a few times over the last 30 years of gaming myself. 🙂

Personally, I like playing more active roles such as wizards and thieves. And I’ve had fun playing the occasional front line fighter as well. But I usually don’t play the character who “buffs” the party. I tend to stay away from clerics for that same reason. So I totally get the “not wanting to play a supporting role” concern.

That said, I think there are a lot of folks out there who do like playing those roles. Without a party cleric, your party isn’t going to get far – so someone usually plays the healer.

Because of this, I think the party alchemist, especially in a longer campaign with more spellcasters, could be extremely useful. Perhaps not all the time, but more often than not… Here are a few possibilities.

  • Imagine having the ability for both a Cleric and an Alchemist to temporarily enchant or improve weapons for the battle at hand
  • Or recharging an expended magic item at a critical juncture
  • Or creating a scroll, potion or powder from an unused spell at the end of the day “just in case” the party needs it at a future time

If we make the alchemist at lower levels (1-5) more useful for those three tasks, as well as give them a few additional abilities or spells, I think that would be enough to make this a useful player class.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments and let’s hash this out! 🙂

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