Rules Encouraging Teamwork or Soloing

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I've seen video games claim that they encourage teamwork, and in many cases the encouragement is little more than a nod in the right direction, while the bulk of the game's systems/mechanisms actually reward individual play. For example, the team leader-spawn system is supposed to promote team cohesiveness by placing respawning players near the same place: where their team leader is. However, there is no requirement to stay near a team leader after respawning, which makes the team leader little more than a shortcut to the objective.

It occurs to me that RPG rules can have the same effect of encouraging teamwork or encouraging going solo. The ubiquitous hit point is perhaps a less-than-obvious cause of solo play. Ostensibly, hit points/health are what keep a PC alive. However, with a low hit point total, a PC might choose to stay near her healing companion, or at least near (or behind) allies. With a high hit point total, a PC can safely venture away from allies, relying on that mass of hit points to keep her alive instead of assistance from her friends. The ability to heal herself has a similar effect on a PC's teamwork as high hit points.

Take magic usage, and/or flexible spell selection. What is the party rogue, besides a meat shield, when the party magic-user can just spontaneously use a spell slot or magic points to unlock any door or detect any trap? Nevermind how some magic items can make specialists obsolete.

In the other direction, gear that degrades encourages teamwork. When the ranger's axe-head breaks from the haft, sure, his dagger will continue to threaten the gobl-ent to some degree. But a nearby ally could forfeit a weapon or hand over a secondary weapon to keep the ranger in the fight. A solo ranger would have a harder time asking the creature to please wait while he digs through his saddlebags.

Assisting actions promote teamwork also. If you know you'll get better resolution rolls when a teammate also rolls, or when both players contribute to the same success pool, it's objectively better to have a teammate around.

What are some more examples of teamwork or solo-play encouraging rules?

Which rules are supposed to promote teamwork, but aren't much more than window dressing?

Which rules seem ambivalent, but actually encourage one type of play or the other?
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
What are some more examples of teamwork or solo-play encouraging rules?
Almost every D&D 4E power had synergies with other powers. Greatly encouraged teamwork.

Momentum from 2d20. Fate points in Fate. Plot points in MHR.
Which rules are supposed to promote teamwork, but aren't much more than window dressing?
5E’s help action.

MHR has affiliations. It’s solo, buddy, or team. You get a different die type based on if you’re alone, partnered up with one person, or working with a team. It’s window dressing because in play everyone would just game the system and argue for their best die regardless of the situation.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
  1. Marking rules encourage teamwork.
  2. Auras and other by-range buffing.
  3. Buffs that affect multiple allies (or aren't particularly useful on self).
  4. Debuffs that are more effective with more attacks at/hitting an opponent. (Example: grants advantages. Not example: action denial.)
  5. Transfering your action to another (such as actions that grant allies actions).
  6. Adding to ally pools (both in combat and out of combat).
  7. Defensive reactions for protect others.
 

aco175

Legend
Flanking. I know a lot of people do not like it, but it encourages PCs to move where they can help others kill things faster. I see in my games where it moves the rogue from a hide and snipe archer to a get in melee and backstab flanker.

I was also thinking 4e warlord class with a lot of 30ft give your attack powers.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Encouraging teamwork:
Group checks for stealth checks

Encouraging solo work:
Refusing to use group checks for stealth checks
Love this example. D&D only assume that every character can contribute in combat. Other pillars of play have no assumption that everyone will be able to contribute to every scene. And a lot of rules seem to have practical aspects that actively discourage a character with not-advanced rating (skill, whatever) from participating as they will bring down the average or worse, be the failure that invalidates everyone else's successes like in stealth checks.

So group rules that assume that the people who do well can help those who do not do well are important methods of reversing the anti-teamwork mechanical reinforcement in those scenes. Characters watchign to wave others across a courtyard when the guard isn't looking and the like are staples of media and real life for this sort of thing, and are proponents of teamwork in RPGs.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Marking rules encourage teamwork.
Is this from D&D4? If not, an RPG example would be nice. For a CRPG, in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, you actually mark your targets, though the mark exists only in your augmented reality. Then, your allies know whom and where they're shooting.
Defensive reactions for protect others.
These are always tricky for me. Should you be able to protect an ally? Sure! Should you be able to do it once your ally's opponent has already placed himself in striking distance and found your ally's vulnerable spot (not the shield!)? Meh...
Encouraging teamwork:
Group checks for stealth checks

Encouraging solo work:
Refusing to use group checks for stealth checks
I hope it's obvious that a group check encourages teamwork while a solo check does not, and that group checks probably don't apply to all situations (depending on your game). Given this, what does a group stealth check look like?

All PCs roll stealth checks, and the GM applies the highest or lowest roll to the whole group?
All PCs roll stealth checks, and the group finds success or failure if over half of them pass?

In Modos 2, I'd do something like this:
Set a progress goal for 2 contests per PC, average 4.5 progress on a (success). Ex: 4 PCs need 36 progress to prevent alarms.
Ask each PC to choose his or her action(s) contributing to stealth. Ex: distracting guards, planning a route, guiding allies.
Let the narrative determine who rolls when. Ask the planners to roll first, or when there's a fork in the road. Roll to distract guards when they get close. Roll to guide allies when moving within earshot of others.
Roll high and you get to add progress (1d8) to the group's progress pool. Roll low and the circumstances (GM) roll progress against you. If the GM gets 36 progress first, it's time to drop your backpacks, sprint, and pray!
 

Darth Solo

Explorer
Mutants & Masterminds 3e has Teamwork rules:

"Sometimes characters work together and help each other out. In this case, one character (usually the one with the highest bonus) is considered the leader of the effort and makes the check normally, while each helper makes the same type of check using the same trait(s) against DC 10. The helpers’ individual degrees of success (and failure!) are added together to achieve the final outcome of the assistance. Success grants the leader a +2 circumstance bonus. Three or more total degrees of success grant a +5 circumstance bonus. One degree of failure provides no modifier, but two or more impose a –2 circumstance penalty! The GM sets the limit on how many characters can help as part of a team check. Regardless of the number of helpers, the leader’s bonus cannot be more than +5 (for three or more total degrees of success) nor the penalty greater than –2 (for two or more total degrees of failure)."
 

Voadam

Legend
5e D&D's rule where aiding another on a skill check gives them advantage is a big mechanical rule incentive for people to buddy up for skill things like investigating a crime scene or persuading a potential ally to join in an effort. I have seen this encourage people with non-maxxed skills to join in and participate on activities that in 4e and 3e they would more likely have generally held back on due to the high chance of skill check failure and left it to the solo character with the best skill modifier.
 

payn

Legend
What are some more examples of teamwork or solo-play encouraging rules?
I think you got a lot of this in 4E and PF2. Moves that position the enemy, deliver riders, and encourage a bump, set, spike dynamic in combat.
Which rules are supposed to promote teamwork, but aren't much more than window dressing?
Mongoose 2E Traveller has a connections rule. During chargen two players can link together back story element to share a learned skill. Once the game starts, I have not seen any players really look back on it and bring it up in play. 🤷‍♂️
Which rules seem ambivalent, but actually encourage one type of play or the other?
In PF1, they had teamwork feats that required investment by multiple characters. When each PC has the feat they can get bennies together in combat. The results were iffy because the feat system was so borked. It was often not worth giving up a feat for anything but the most optimal choices. So, an interesting idea that just didnt have the heft to promote it at the table. IME. (Some classes like Inquisitor could take the teamwork feats and use them solo, but that is a bit of an outlier to the rule).
 

MarkB

Legend
From Blades in the Dark: There are two easy ways to get an extra die when making a check, both of which cost Stress, the finite do-cool-stuff resource pool for the game.

If you're going solo you can use Push Yourself, which grants you an extra die. If someone's assisting you, they can use Help, which gives someone else an extra die.

Where it encourages teamwork is in the cost - Push Yourself costs 2 stress, while Help only costs 1.
 

From Blades in the Dark: There are two easy ways to get an extra die when making a check, both of which cost Stress, the finite do-cool-stuff resource pool for the game.

If you're going solo you can use Push Yourself, which grants you an extra die. If someone's assisting you, they can use Help, which gives someone else an extra die.

Where it encourages teamwork is in the cost - Push Yourself costs 2 stress, while Help only costs 1.

Outside of @Blue 's 4e Marking and Defender suites (forcing catch-22's on Team Monster which either protects allies, sets up allies, or punishes enemies), this is the first one that came to mind for me.

The other two in Blades that encourage Teamwork are:

* Leading a Group Move: One Teammate leads and assumes the Stress Liability if any group member (including themselves) rolls a 1-3 (1 Stress per 1-3 dice pool result). Each PC rolls their dice pool, top result among the group stands.

* Setup: Increase Position (consequence severity) or Effect (what you can accomplish with an Action Roll) by setting your ally up.

Torchbearer has similar where you're Helping (add +1d6 to teammate dice pool) either via using the same Skill as primary, an associated Skill, a Nature Descriptor, or a Wise. If you spend a metacurrency, you can mark an advance (pass or fail depending on the result) with the Skill. Further, if you're able to use a Wise to Help, you insulate yourself from fallout if the result is a "Failure as Success but Condition (you don't get a Condition)."

Dogs in the Vineyard has similar in its Conflicts where you Lend a dice to an allies Dice Pool. Probably the most important aspects of winning the stakes of Dogs' Conflicts is (a) getting and avoiding Reversing the Blow and (b) knowing when to Escalate. Well-played use of Lending will enable allies to Reverse the Blow.




Things in games that encourage Soloing or Splitting the Party are the following:


* Broadly-competent, robust, resourceful, and resilient PCs (either through PC build dynamics or other system tech/principles). Dogs features this, Blades features this, Dungeon World and Stonetop features this.

You can also build toward this in 4e with capable Striker builds or beefy Controllers with Multiclass Feats to increase breadth-of-Skills + 2 Utilities and/or Skill Powers devoted to calling upon Healing Surges as Minor/Free Actions at the Encounter level (Bladesingers, Duelist Rogues, Barbarians, Monks, Swarm Druids, Slayers). This can also be accomplished with a Companion Character alongside the "solo" PC (a Companion Character doesn't have to be a tangible thing...it might be a spirit or a sense of purpose/conviction or display of prowess merely stated up as a CC and given position and action economy). Encounter budgets work beautifully regardless of how many PCs are in the group so a Level +2 Encounter works different for a Solo fight than it does with 3 PCs (because the budget works off of the # of PCs).

* Having a "Home Base" as the nexus of play and having multiple Opportunities and/or Threats to pursue or resolve. Apocalypse World, Blades in the Dark, Stonetop, and The Between works off of this model. One PC or a team of 2 PCs pursues a small Score here in Blades while the other 1 or 2 perform another small Score. Same thing in the other games but it has nomenclature different from Score.

The point is the play loop centers around a physical nexus, a shared home base (a Steading like Stonetop, the Hardholder's stronghold in AW, The Crew's Lair in Duskvol, Hargrave House in Fantasy Victorian London in TB). We improve our standing and we head off trouble and the best way to do that is to pursue multiple agendas simultaneously while allocating resources accordingly. The GM just cuts back and forth between PCs/Split-parties.
 

aia_2

Explorer
This is a very interesting topic, for sure there are game systems conceived to strenghten a party and others which have not this feature embedded in their rules (if not the opposite).
My true question is on top of that: does a GM need a set of specific rules to achieve his goal (be either looking for the teamplay or the soloplay)?
And moreover: why should soloplay be wanted in an "ordinary" party of several players? I do see one only answer here...
 

My true question is on top of that: does a GM need a set of specific rules to achieve his goal (be either looking for the teamplay or the soloplay)?

So different systems do quite different things and I would frame what those things are not in terms of "GM's goal" but in terms of "system's goal." If the participants at the table want to do what that system does, play that system. If they want to do what this other system does, then play this other system.

And moreover: why should soloplay be wanted in an "ordinary" party of several players? I do see one only answer here...

So I answered this a bit in my post directly above, but it also dovetails with my answer to your first question.

Take Torchbearer (one of the games I mentioned above). Torchbearer is a multi-phased game (Journey > Adventure > Camp > Town). Adventure phase will never, ever see Solo play. The system isn't designed for it. Its the most brutal sort of D&D that has ever been conceived of and executed. Go it alone and prepare for an early retirement at best or a dirtnap more likely. The game is predicated upon marshaling a lot of resources across 3-4 Adventurers (Inventory/Light Sources, Skills, Nature/Descriptors, Wises, Fate/Persona, among others). You just can't deal with the demands of the Adventure phase (I won't go into it deeply, but its brutally resource-sensitive and Turn-sensitive).

Contrast with Stonetop. Those PCs can absolutely deal with solo scenes either in Stonetop or chasing down an Opportunity or executing A Plan (these are both Pronouns) beyond the walls of Stonetop by Requisitioning (a Move) Assets (Stonetop personnel like guards or experts or a mighty steed or a pair of horses and a wagon). A GM might be cutting back and forth between 3 different play loops in the course of a session (perhaps 1 PC in Stonetop dealing with an internal Threat, 1 other PC pursuing an Opportunity outside of Stonetop who has Requisitioned a pair of Horses and a guard, and a pair of PCs off on a far-flung Perilous Journey as they deal with a Threat to Stonetop).

Its all in (a) what the game is in service to overall and (b) the systemitized execution of that service (see my post directly above). A game that doesn't know what it wants to do (fails (a) ) or knows what it wants to do ( (a) ) but isn't designed particularly well (fails at (b) ) will harm a play experience and require a work-around (if that is even worth the trouble). But there are plenty of games that do both of (a) and (b)lTorchbearer and Stonetop among them. Just don't go into Torchbearer expecting the sort of play that Stonetop is for and produces and vice versa.
 

Voadam

Legend
Shadowrun comes to mind in encouraging solo activity. Three different character roles and typical activities can only be done or are mechanically significantly best done by solo specialized characters. Decking, Astral projection, and piloting. Most every character can fight, talk, and investigate, but only magical characters can go astral. Most anybody can use a computer or use a vehicle, but only deckers or technomancers can go fully into cyberspace and interact enough with AIs to effectively hack in Shadowrun, and Riggers are designed to be specialized cybered up driver/pilots a significant step above any non cybered specialist. Deckers and Riggers can be built to be part of a shadowrunning field team but they often work best staying out of the field and just doing their specialied roles remotely. In older editions before drones were a big thing riggers were basically designed to be getaway drivers who stayed in the car.

It is a lot like the scouting role in D&D, best done by a specialized solo character doing something separate from the rest of the party.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
. . .Sometimes characters work together and help each other out. In this case, one character (usually the one with the highest bonus) is considered the leader of the effort and makes the check normally, while each helper makes the same type of check using the same trait(s) against DC 10. The helpers’ individual degrees of success (and failure!) are added together to achieve the final outcome of the assistance. Success grants the leader a +2 circumstance bonus. Three or more total degrees of success grant a +5 circumstance bonus. One degree of failure provides no modifier, but two or more impose a –2 circumstance penalty! The GM sets the limit on how many characters can help as part of a team check. Regardless of the number of helpers, the leader’s bonus cannot be more than +5 (for three or more total degrees of success) nor the penalty greater than –2 (for two or more total degrees of failure)."
Maybe it's just me, but this sounds like one of the teamwork rules that actually encourages solo play. "Each of your helpers rolls. Then add up degrees of success. Then net them against degrees of failure. Then you get +2 if it's positive, but not -2 if it's negative. Unless it's two degrees of failure. Then it's negative..." Even if I were confident in my buddy's ability to check over DC10, I might rather just do the roll myself to get it over with. And there's little chance I would invite another buddy to help ( for the coveted three-success +5) because one crummy roll negates my first buddy's hard work, in which case I might as well go solo anyway.
 

John Dallman

Adventurer
Take magic usage, and/or flexible spell selection. What is the party rogue, besides a meat shield, when the party magic-user can just spontaneously use a spell slot or magic points to unlock any door or detect any trap?
Do you actually see this happen? The only occasions when I have is where the rogue reckons he needs help. I've played most of my D&D with free spell choice, and the magic-users generally want to hang onto their spell slots for emergencies.
 

Voadam

Legend
A bard who specializes their social skills as a face role is generally a specialist designed to do the talking alone.

A bard whose powers are boosting their fellow party members is more mechanically focused on working with other team members.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Shadowrun comes to mind in encouraging solo activity. Three different character roles and typical activities can only be done or are mechanically significantly best done by solo specialized characters. Decking, Astral projection, and piloting.

The new edition of Shadowrun has shifted Decking - you can't generally effectively hack systems log distance any more, and hackers can do things to wireless-enabled technology from physical space. So no more of the Decker being off on their own adventure.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Do you actually see this happen? The only occasions when I have is where the rogue reckons he needs help. I've played most of my D&D with free spell choice, and the magic-users generally want to hang onto their spell slots for emergencies.

Yeah, spell slots are a valuable resource. Using them on something another character can do without using up resources is a poor tactical choice.
 

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