I’ve been catching up on Legends of Tomorrow, and there’s something that show does incredibly well that needs to happen more often in RPGs: Teamwork.
That show has complex characters with few overlapping interests, morals, strengths, and weaknesses working together as a powerful team.
Myself and some fellow creators wanted to offer some advice to fellow players (and remind ourselves) about how to be a better team player.
Use your strength to support someone else’s strength
When a character is searching the library for a particular book, there are a lot of ways to use unrelated skill sets to aid your teammates. An illiterate thief could slip behind the desk and comeback with the keys to the private archives. An out-of-place brute could bump into things until someone takes pity on their awkwardness and comes over to help them, becoming a distraction. Personally, I love thinking of it as a puzzle and trying to figure out how to aid a teammate while lacking the most obviously helpful skills (such as any investigation or perception-based skills when looking for a book). – RexiconJesse
Of course everyone knows to include GM hooks in backstories, linking yourself to the world at hand. However, that is where it often stops, which is a damn shame. Keep creating connections in the world while you play. Invest in a shop, get a person a job, make friends, and keep in touch! Send letters, connect with extended family, spy on enemies. Keep building bridges wherever you go. It will liven up the play, make the world feel more alive, and actively provide hooks for your beloved GM to feed back to you in an engaging way. – u/Mimirion
Every action has a reaction. It needn’t be equal nor opposite. Your character, remarkable though they are, is a member of a team of equally remarkable people. Unless you’re in some sort of themed or gimmicked group, they are likely remarkable in totally different ways! React! In character, figure out what your superstitious barbarian would think of his warlock ally’s fiendish spells. How would a spindly mage react to the fighter’s strength or the monk’s speed? It doesn’t have to be a particularly positive or out loud reaction, but it should at least exist. An acknowledgement of someone else’s super cool character doing something super cool is one of the best gifts you can give a fellow player. – u/M0rdenkainen
Buy gifts, throw parties
When you’re getting stuff, buy something small for a party mate, even if it’s a spa day or rope or lunch while shopping. You could get a nice journal for a spellcaster or an artistic party member. A sketchbook for the birdwatcher. New strings or reed for the musician. A new keyboard for the techie. A favorite snack for literally anyone (who eats). Learn people’s birthday and throw them a surprise party at the tavern. Get the whole party in on it and throw an NPC a birthday party. – RexiconJesse
Your character is part of a team
When you’re creating your character, make someone who wants to be part of a team. Lone wolf’s can be cool characters in the right medium, but RPGs work best when there is a team working together. Create somebody who can be relied upon in the most dire situations, and your party will return the favor. – u/TuesdayTastic
Be there for the best story
There is no winning in RPGs in general, not as a player. Of course there is character survival, but that probably should not be your end goal. The goal is to have fun, and walk away with the best story. Ask yourself, time and time again; “What would my character do that would make for the best story?”. It is a question asked from a player perspective, rather than a character’s, and therefore the answers are different too. Most often a suboptimal move makes for the best story, and those stories will be remembered. – u/Mimirion
In character, actively invite other characters to a non-story-driven task
Need to buy new equipment? Have to check out a building? Invite a fellow party mate to accompany you. Even if nothing story-related happens, there can be a shared moment or experience between the two characters. Maybe you both discuss pulling a prank on another party mate or share an idea of how to rig an alarm system while camping. Friendship is often built on a succession of small interactions (or so I’ve heard). Life is made of small moments that add up. Make time for some of those to happen with the group. Small gestures go a long way. – RexiconJesse
Be interested. In the world, in the story, in each other. If someone is telling a tale, ask questions. If they are having a problem, try and lend a verbal hand. There is nothing worse than being in a group that feels like a bunch of individuals who couldn’t care less about one another. Curiosity drives exploration – of the world, of the story, of your allies’ psyches. Without it, why not just sit in the tavern and drink? u/famoushippopotamus
Whether you think you can do it on your own or not, ask for help
There’s always a chance you’ll need help or something unexpected will go wrong. If that happens, you’ve already got a friend there ready to help. And whether it succeeds or goes horribly wrong, you have someone to share that experience with. Working together builds trust and team cohesion. – RexiconJesse
Understand that creativity and collaboration requires people to understand who they are. A team isn’t about carries and deadweight, it’s not about a leader and followers, it’s about everyone understanding their role. I don’t mean the holy trinity tank, heals, and dps, but rather team roles like party face (frontman), quartermaster, scribe, cartographer, tactician, and any other story driven role an adventure might require. If players want a team to work, then everybody needs an identity on that team. – u/foofieboo
“Cooperative Storytelling” is the tagline of tabletop RPGs. Most people know it, but still see it from a one-dimensional perspective. The environment built by the GM is not only there for you to make decisions on, it is a canvas for you to help colour in as well! Start by adding small details into the world at hand; When there is a pub, tell your GM you will play the locals card game that they are playing there every night. When there is a creepy road ahead, feel free to add the figure you thought to see in the low fog on the left, or how you could swear you heard a humanoid voice over there somewhere between the blackberry brambles and that lone pine. That is what true cooperative storytelling is. You not only listen to the GM, you actively help them paint the picture, helping your fellow player to immerse themselves ever deeper in the game. – u/Mimirion
Of course I’m on Twitter [@RexiconJesse] and Instagram [RexiconJesse] and Reddit [u/RexiconJesse] and Good Reads [Goodreads.com/RexiconJesse]. Also Facebook.com/RexiconJesse