Players are often concerned about rounding out their parties with tanks, healers, casters, and other sorts of combat roles. When considering party composition, it is more rare for players and parties to debate noncombat roles.
Perhaps the most obvious noncombat role is the party "Face." The Face character acts as the party's spokesperson, representing the interests of the mercenaries and murderhobos in more polite company. Whether you are meeting with a nobleman, haggling for prices from a tightfisted merchant, or simply trying to not frighten the peasants, the Face character will be the one doing most of the talking to ensure that the party is well received and that their goals are furthered.
Though words are the weapons of choice for Face characters, this isn't to say that they fail at use of more conventional weapons. In D&D, most face characters are from classes that lean heavily on charisma. The majority of them are Bards, but Paladins, Warlocks, Sorcerers, and even Rogues tend to make good Face characters. This isn't to say that other classes can't fill the role, but these classes start with a leg up in that they utilize charisma, which is also the key skill of the Face character.
Face characters can be solely about the Face. They negotiate, bribe, manipulate, and swindle, and avoid combat altogether. Much more commonly, they perform this role in addition to a combat role, though diplomacy is their first line of defense.
To be clear, you shouldn't let your party Face dictate policy solely by virtue of their role. If you want to allow the Face character to take on a party leader role as well, there's nothing wrong with that, but this should be agreed on by the other players ahead of time. Given that the Face is usually the one talking to the NPCs in a more meaningful way, they may be tempted to start making decisions and promises for the party that they wouldn't make of their own accord, and this can lead to the Face character steering the players in directions they might not want to go. On a side note, this actually might be really good for roleplaying. Face characters are sometimes unscrupulous and manipulative liars, so treating the party like minions they can boss around with honeyed words might make for an interesting manipulator character and an interesting dynamic for the party when they inevitably come to realize that they are being used. However, this could lead to some conflict between characters, which is generally discouraged. As in most things, talk among your fellow players to decide what is and isn't acceptable. Manipulating characters can be okay, but manipulating players isn't.
On the subject of manipulation, there are actually several subtypes of Face characters. The first is obviously the Manipulator. They lie and twist words to get people on their side. These are often evil or at least criminal characters, but this does not have to be the case. Another sort of Face is the Diplomat. This character approaches the situation with reasonable arguments and compromise. They are usually benevolent peace-seekers, though again, exceptions apply. The next sort that comes to mind is the Charmer. Rather than try to achieve some sort of end, they simply want others to like them personally, which usually makes it much easier to deal with that NPC. A party can also have multiple Faces. This typically works best if you have Face characters from different subtypes to allow for more flexibility, but even having two Diplomats in the party can be a great boon to social interactions.
Last of all, I'd like to encourage those who are shy to not immediately count themselves out of this role. The Face character doesn't need to be played by the most talkative player at the table. Roleplaying games are about a certain level of escapism, so wanting to play a character that is more of a social butterfly is perfectly natural. You also don't have to worry about hindering the party or failing to perform your job because of your own social skills. Most roleplaying games boil down social mechanics to dice rolls at some point, so as long as your character has the necessary skills, you can easily perform in this capacity. If you're still anxious about it, check with your GM and try to see if they can maybe narrate your in-character interactions in a way that presents you as being more charismatic than you could present yourself. It is also worth noting that roleplaying games are a social activity. By playing a more social character, you might just get out of your shell a little bit and start to feel more social yourself, which is always something to feel good about.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For those who are interested in reading further, I suggest checking out the article "Core Party Composition" on my personal blog to have a look at the more traditional combat-centric roles characters might fill in a party. 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.