There is a stereotype or cliche associated with role players. As recently as a couple of weeks ago the TV show ‘The Goldbergs’ had an episode dealing with D&D and how the kids who played it were gym class rejects. I have been playing role playing games for 30+ years and I have to say that while it is not 100% true, I would say that the great majority of those I have played with were not the types who had a lot of experience playing team sports. There is nothing wrong with that. If I had not attended a small private school heavily influenced by 60’s hippie values I probably would have never played a team sport myself.
And there are plenty of other ways to acquire team skills. Acting in plays or musicals requires a great deal of the same skills that you acquire playing in team sports. There are other places where people can learn and acquire those skills. And I believe that learning at least some level of those skills is essential to living in our culture.
What does this have to do with role playing and being a better role playing? That is best illustrated in what happened in an encounter the boys had on Saturday.
The four members of the party had come to a place where they needed to get past or deal with 3 Hill Giants. One player came up with a plan. 2 of the characters were going to sneak up to one of the giants. And the other 2 were supposed to create a diversion, attract the giants attention so they would not see the 2 that were sneaking up and getting into position to strike. Maybe not the best plan but not the worst either.
What happened next is a bit of a sore point and an illustration of someone not understanding the concept of teamwork. The 2 characters who were providing the distraction were the gnome wizard and the dwarf warrior in heavy armor. The gnome stepped out into the open and cast a very obvious spell at two of the giants. He was expecting that the dwarf would join him, and provide cover. Because that is the generally accepted role of the dwarf fighter: be the tank that others can hide behind. But the dwarf did not do that, instead, he hid in the rocks and moved with stealth. Which meant that the 2 giants only had one target to throw boulders at, the next thing you know there is no more gnome wizard.
What does teamwork look like in a role playing game? How should it work? Well, the biggest thing that people on a well-tuned team do is they know their job and perform it. Everyone has their role. In my Denver game, we have very well defined roles. There is the tank Paladin. A second front line fighter in the priest of Thor. We have a Sorcerer to provide the area effect attacks. A Priest whose primary role is party healer and support. And another character who is the mobile archer/skirmisher. We all know our job.
That is what makes teamwork essential to being a good role player. I am not saying that you cannot have a party of all fighters, with no healing. Or a party of all spell casters with no front line characters. Those groups can work. But everyone has to know their job and work in cooperation with each other.
If you want to avoid encounters like the one I described then it is essential that people develop some team skills. If you don’t, you end up with people losing characters, having negative experiences, and you fail to accomplish your goals. I can point to numerous examples from movies where a group of heroes has to learn to cooperate before they can be effective. This is the same thing.