If there is one thing that my life of online games, sports, and sports movies/shows has taught me is that a group with good teamwork and communication is a much stronger force than one without it. Yet, despite this and the fact that almost everyone knows it, it seems fairly rare for a group of PCs to really gel in that magical way that forms a true team. Even in games where the design tries to force it it can be an elusive creature. Today I want to talk about that.
It should go without saying that trust is one of the most important aspects in any team. You need to trust your teammates to be able to do their job, you need to trust them to shore up where you may be weak, and you need to trust them to be able to cover for you when you need to reach for that win. Without trust a proper team can't really form, and at best you get a group of people who are working towards the same goal.
Doing It Once Doesn't Mean It Is There
This was a bit of a surprise for me when I learned it, but just because a group has come together once doesn't mean that it will always be there. There are a lot of aspects to a team that can be missed, especially when the group thinks they already have it. This can apply to a group of players in a different game, or even to the same PCs in the same game but in different situations. It can be frustrating to gel perfectly once, and then feel like the group is under performing from then on.
Along with trust, communication is a key part of the team, and also an area where RPGs can be a strain. Think about how long it takes you to play through a combat round, now realize that in game that time represents 6 seconds or less. Combat - and action sequences - are rapid and fluid, but the way we deal with them is anything but. Now, this can lead to more communication as the players plan out what to do in intricate detail between rounds, or less if the GM restricts table talk. Either way though, it makes communication for a real team feel hard to hit because generally it isn't the team working together, it is everyone doing what one player is saying to do. It works more like chess pieces than a real team.
Even worse, when the GM restricts table talk the situation can change rapidly from when one player talks and another player gets to act. In a recent game one player called a shot on the boss with a heavy weapon, with the plan to be to lure the boss away from others. Only, on the boss's turn it lunged for an injured player and was definitely going to stick in melee. Everyone reacted, and the fight was won, but that one character was left feeling ignored. Did anyone do anything wrong? No, not particularly, but the trust and communication still broke down in game.
Building A Team
That is enough on the problems, how do you build a team in your RPG? Well, in much the same way that you do in real life. Have the group over come some big and hard event together. This tends to build trust and gives a common ground they can meet on. After that, mix things up with some easy challenges and some harder ones. Restricting communication can help a lot, because then they have to see what their fellow players are doing and work with that.
As A Player
As a player the best way to build a team is to trust the other characters. In many combats people have a tendency to jump in on an ongoing fight, even when it isn't needed. It does move things a long faster for the fight, but can also slow the team down in other areas. Don't be afraid to trust your teammates in situations. If someone says they have something, maybe focus your attention somewhere else. But nothing is going to trump trust and communication in building a team.
Have you had any great team work experiences in your game? How'd they play out? How'd the work?