If we're looking to have a balanced party, we can't all play walking deathstars that can shrug off hits and knock down a dragon in a single blow. To round out the party's skills and abilities, we need support characters.
The most common type of support character is the healer. When playing a healer, it's your job to keep the other players in your party alive. Do that, and they'll be sure to protect you and keep the party moving forward. It's a lot of responsibility to have everyone's lives in your hands, so do your best to manage that responsibility. As a general rule, most systems don't differentiate PC effectiveness based on hitpoints. A character with only a handful of HP is going to be just as effective as one at full health. So your prioirtiy should be keeping people from going down rather than keeping them topped off, especially if your healing output is limited. Other than that, just keep your targets prioritized based on context and who is most effective at performing the task the party needs in the moment.
Another common support role is the buffer. These characters try to increase the party's overall effectiveness by buffing the party members. This can be giving your damage dealers an extra boost to their accuracy or damage, or making sure that everyone in the group is able to resist that poison cloud you were all caught in. Buffers essentially manage their party's status effects, and also ensure that they don't get debuffed by enemies and become less effective. A related type of support is the de-buffer. Instead of applying posiitve effects to your party, you apply negative effects to your enemies. In this way, you make them weaker and more vulnerable to the attacks of your allies, thus making combat safer and quicker.
There is also the more vague type of character simply referred to as a "utility" character. These characters typically aren't designed with combat in mind. Instead, they carry a vast toolkit of abilities or spells that allows them to solve other challenges, such as bypassing locked doors, crossing vast chasms, surviving harsh environments, tracking down enemies, or performing any number of other useful tasks.
Another useful type of character to have around in some games is a crafter. Crafter characters can make items that are useful to the party. Their goods will help increase a party's effectiveness inside of combat, and typically can be sold for extra income to support the party's various needs.
Other systems might have more specific niche-type of support roles, so I encourage you to do your research and see what alternatives are available to you. What matters most is that you know that killing things and taking hits isn't the only way to help your party. You can do many things inside of combat or outside of it to increase the effectiveness of the party and contribute to the overall success of your group.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For more from me, feel free to check out my personal blog. Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.