Thursday, June 12, 2014

Team Cooperation Rules

We're used to having characters work as a team when they're on adventure. Yet this is usually in a complementary way. There are fighters and clerics, there are rogues and magic users. Each member of the party has a specific role and is specialized for it.

Now what happens when two or more characters work on a single task using the same skill? How would we handle this when the participating characters have different skill levels? For example two rogues trying to disarm a trap or two magic users casting a spell or two clerics trying to raise a dead party member. Or two shadowrunners trying to hack into a system. Or two members of the enterprise trying to fix the warp drive before the Romulans catch up.

What would we expect out of this and what use would it have? There is for example the task that can't fail, like disarming a nuke. Bad things happen if that goes wrong so it can't go wrong. On the other hand there can be tasks that can't be resolved without two or more members participating. For example the classic example of turning two keys that are four meters apart. Not that you need a special skill or roll for that, but you get the point.

In terms of rules this is what I'm looking for:
  • There is a difficulty rating for the task.
  • Characters have a skill that grants them some probability to succeed.
  • Characters have attribute bonuses that grant them a better chance to succeed.
  • Individually the task can be very challenging. Each can try, but with their individual odds of success and only with their individual attribute bonuses.
  • Working as a team they should get a bonus from adding their individual attribute bonuses and for teamwork.
  • Working as a team their individual skill level should affect the overall odds of success. 
    • Having many good characters of the same skill level should improve the overall odds. 
    • Having one good character and many of lesser skill should not improve the odds as much as the prior case and/or should increase variability (the odds of rolling further from a good central value).
  • Working as a team should reduce the time spent at the task. For example many observers should spot the enemy faster than one. This may finally end up in the GM making the call, but it would be good to have a mechanism to convert time to success rate and vice versa. In the previous example many eyes could be on the lookout in a 360 perimeter that reduces the time required to go full circle around the camp, but is not so good at reducing the odds of failure in any one area. There is a lower chance of success, but if it happens they enemy is spotter further out. On the other hand there can be a focus in one area at a time (like a lighthouse). The odds of success are higher, but only apply when the "lighthouse" is painting the area. There are higher odds of success, but the enemy may be spotted later (or sooner if they get lucky, but luck is the topic of another post).
  • Rolling as a team is done by a single roll instead of many for each individual character and that's always good.

If we're to see this graphically, I would look for distributions that work like the following:

Task and characters acting individually

Experience isn't only a bonus modifier that moves the curve to the right. It changes the curve making it more compact and higher on the central value (reduces variance). This means the expert is more consistent being an expert and tends to roll closer to a good value than a lesser trained character. You may notice the less skilled character can also roll higher in some cases. This is a particularity of the dice mechanics I'm using which I'm keeping and calling it beginners luck, but I digress, more on that in another post.

I see characters of distinctively different skill levels acting as a team to behave in the following way. The graph shows three levels of expertise: novice, skilled and expert. When building teams we see that the expert and novice together don't add much except maybe the novice's beginners luck. The green curve for the team is right underneath the black curve for the expert. Things get interesting when the expert works with the skilled (yellow curve). The change in variance isn't that great (the yellow curve is just slightly under the black one), but there's a considerable shift to the right. Showing an improvement in odds of success when working as a team.

As a final note I'll add that I haven't included individual attribute bonuses or other type of bonuses. Things can really get interesting when characters pool their attribute bonuses. What may only be a + 1 for intelligence when working individually may convert to a + 3 if all members pool their + 1.

How do you handle team work in your game? What bonuses do you provide for team work? Have you forced your players to work in teams because that was the only way to overcome a challenge?  Like the aforementioned "turning two keys at once" example in which the fighter or wizard need to help the rogue unlock something or disarm a trap because the mechanical parts are too far apart for one person to handle.


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