Being a Team Player

One of the (many) challenges faced by a player is forming a bond with your teammates. This encompasses a variety of things, including:

Why Not Focus on "Being an Individual"?

You might be wondering why I'm calling so much attention to working within a team when there is so much that could be said about playing a strong, interesting, individual character. A valid question, for which I can provide two answers.

Answer #1: I've already devoted a good deal of attention to making interesting, individual characters. If you missed it, you probably didn't read the Quintessence of Quirks or the Dissertation on Disadvantages.

Answer #2: In my experience, no player truly needs any encouragement toward making a "maverick", "lone wolf", "takes orders from no one", "leaps before looking", "rushes in where angels fear to tread", "shoots first and asks questions later" kind of character. No one. Not one. Period. In fact, making a Wolverine / Punisher / Captain Kirk kind of character seems to be almost instinctive to most players; they come out of the womb with a character sheet like that. Where most (if not all) players do need encouragement is in making a character that can function with a group of other characters and have some kind of attachment to them.

Hopefully, this document will help provide you with that encouragement.

What The GM Can Do

Yes, I know this doc is targeted toward players, but there are things the GM can do that will significantly help players get along in a team.

The Pre-Game Warm-Up

The very best thing the GM can do to encourage team-play is, before the adventure even begins, sit down and ask the players what kind of connection their characters have with each other. This will only take five minutes. Where did they meet? Do they have anything in common? Why are they hanging out with each other? Where would they feasibly meet together? (No wait, lemme guess... a tavern, right?) Most of the time, the gaggle of PCs that get mixed together are the most motley crew in the world; there's no obvious reason why this cadre of misfits would gather together in a social setting, or indeed in any kind of setting at all (short of, maybe, a prison). This means that you and the players need to invent some reasons why they would be connected. Said reasons can be wholly contrived, totally unrealistic reasons, but any reason is better than no reason at all. Believe me, the five minutes you spend doing this beforehand will be paid back with interest throughout the rest of the adventure.

Team Contests / Rewards

When designing an adventure, the GM can make sure it contains tests that give each player the opportunity to use some of their unique, individual abilities of their character (so they can bask in the limelight for a moment), and (at least) one test that requires the players to work as a team.

The GM can announce that he will award character points based (in part) on good teamwork.

Tell the Players to Read This Friggin' Doc

'Nuff said.

What The Players Can Do

There are many good reasons for being a team player, but there is one reason in particualr that trumps them all: If you help your teammates out when they need assistance, they will rescue your sorry butt when you're bleeding to death.

Here's another incentive (as if the reason I already gave isn't good enough): You can take disadvantages and quirks that explain why you would work with your teammates. Restate: You can get paid to be a team player. Here's how:

Team-Oriented Disadvantages

Typically we think of "disadvantages" as foul personality traits or undesirable limitations that hinder our character. However, the SJ Games folks have included some disadvantages that could be considered "good" in the sense that they are virtuous traits, that as a principled character would have (things like "Honesty", "Pacifist", "Cannot Harm Innocents", etc.). "Team Oriented" disadvantages are an example of such "virtuous" disadvantages. The following is an example of the kinds of disadvantages you could take that would pay you points for being a team player. These are all probably worth between -5 to -10 points each.

If team play really needs to be encouraged, the GM could be generous about the point values for these disadvantages, i.e. say that a 'Sense of Duty - Teammates' disadvantage is worth 10 points even though 5 points is probably plenty.

Other Ways Be A Team Player

If your disadvantage points are all spent (how did that happen?) there are other ways to find a connection with your teammates.

Dealing With A Changing Team

It's highly likely that you're not always going to be adventuring with the same group of buddies. Sometimes players have schedule conflicts and can't attend a session. New players might join your gaming circle. A player might get tired of a character he's played for awhile and make a new one. You might be using a Rotating GM approach like we do. Somehow, some way, your character is going to be with a different group from time to time, and it's a good idea to have some trait that serves as an excuse for getting along with a bunch of different people. The following are some suggestions.

Deliberately Teaming Up

A group of players might decide to willfully make a cogent team. (Hey, it could happen.) There are a couple of ways to do this.

Use The Team Rules

Under the GURPS system, you can make a team "package" that is a bundle of advantages and disadvantages that everyone gets when they are brought into the team. This typically includes some sort of Patron/Contact and some sort of Duty. The great thing about this approach is that the disadvantage points taken don't count against your total; you can still take 40 points worth of disadvantages in addition to the disadvantages you get in the team package.

"Follow The Leader"

The other way to make a team is to have one player make a character and then the other players, in turn, make characters that are similar or complement each other. An example of this might be a traveling group of minstrels: One player makes a "mandolin strummer" character, the next player makes a "juggling jester" character, the next player makes an "acrobat", the next player makes a "snake charmer", and so forth.

It is entirely possible to combine the "Follow the Leader" approach with the "team package" approach. That could make a very tight team.