Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Team Play

Last Wednesday's playtest brought up the conversation on the value of character teams in RPGs and by team play I don't refer only to all players working as a team. No, I'm also talking about something I've seen generally shunned by players and that's playing with many characters.

I've usually heard that players can't handle more than one character. That roleplaying will only be "skin deep" as one mind can't handle multiple personalities at the same time (at least not a sane one). Characters, it seems, would end up being personality clones of each other. Their only distinction being their stats and skill sets.

On the other hand I'm working on a modern warfare game in which characters are highly trained professionals. As such they work as a team very well. Something that is hard to achieve with players who just meet once a week to play. Squad coordination is better achieve when all members think and act as one. In real life this is achieved through training and can be achieved in game by having one player control the squad.

So here's the sitrep:

  • A one player to many characters type of relationship would lead to less character development by making it harder for the player to manage so many distinct personalities.
  • One player coordinating many characters allows for more "professional" looking actions from the squad (group of characters) and less time spent "getting their act together" between players.
  • For a mission to be successful it may require more characters than there are players available for the session.
  • High lethality in the game means a character can be incapacitated or killed. So having many characters is a way to guarantee continued play.

What is to be done?

We discussed the idea and I agree that the best would be to make the unit the fundamental element for the player. Players will have units with many characters in them. This doesn't mean they need to always play with a unit. A player can use a single character from a unit for the duration of a session or mission. It does mean though that the PCs will have a benefit from being in the unit.

  • A new player can have a one man unit and then grow from there.
  • A unit will be more powerful and better balanced than a single player. It will provide a pool of resources depending on the mission at hand.
  • Morale and leadership bonuses can be given in the game for members of the same unit.
  • Unit points allow the unit to grow. These are handed to the player when a character becomes incapacitated and can no longer be played. They can be used to create new characters with similar skills and strengths as the one that became incapacitated.

The unit sounds like a good solid idea, but I still have some concerns about balance, power growth and a player not being able to develop many characters as well as a single character. What are your concerns with players running more than one character in a game? What issues do you have with large parties that have more than one character from each player? What about the endless minutes players spend coordinating something? How do you handle that? Played last Monday with +Kaan Emirler and he addressed the issue with a game mechanic called "the flow". Our characters had to pay something for us the players to talk and get our act together. Do you impose time limits on your players when they work as a team?

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