GURPS101: There Is No “I” In Team


As I am sure you are aware of, I’m currently playing in +Douglas Cole‘s Alien Menace campaign. So far, it’s been a blast. But after our first mission was completed I asked about how others felt about the Teamwork perk and Doug said (and I’m paraphrasing) “Yeah, every character who completed the mission gets that for free, let’s move on.” At first, I didn’t think about it other than “Okay, cool. I got a extra point for stuff.” But over the last few weeks it’s sort of trickled down in my head…what a wonderful idea. Again, if you’ve read my blog before you know I’m a very Rule Zero sort of GM and I’m all about inter-party cooperation. My players rarely chaff at buying group- or team-related advantages. In fact, most of the time they set aside a budget for such traits and buy them when they get enough points stored. That’s all well and good, but what about another way? Why make your players pay for something you want them to have anyways? There are a few options. This post assumes you have familiarity with the article “Team Up!” that was written by Y. T. and Antoni Ten Munros as it explores concepts and ideas that were either expanded or created there.

Completely Free
Figure out what traits you want your players to have, then give those traits to them. Yes, Bob, it’s that simple (and obvious). That said, you could also set up a time table and hand them out in increments. For example, if you want all player characters to end up with the Teamwork perk for their adventuring party you could say that on their 5th game session everyone gets it for free – as long as they have actually been work as a team. GMs could even use a variation of the Training Montage rules to justify a sudden synergy between

It’s a Fire Sale and Everything Must Go
As above, but instead of giving the traits for free, offer a discount instead. This could be any multiplier the GM is comfortable with, but x1/5 cost is probably the “sweet spot” – enough of a discount that even point-stingy players are willing to toss out a few XP for the greater good.

“Mission Accomplished”

If the GM goes either of the above routes he’s going to want to decide how often he gives out team-traits. If he gives too many the players won’t appreciate what they are given, if he gives too few they’ll lose interest. Unfortunately, the only guideline I can give here is to use the number of times you play. If you only meet once a month, then a new trait every other mission might be appropriate, if you play every week then once ever six or seven sessions is probably appropriate. Conversely, it might be appropriate to use “dramatic stops” for a measurement. For example, if you run your campaign as a series of related story arcs then before each new story arc might be appropriate if the PCs actively trained and worked together during down or maybe every other story arc if not.

Team Points
One interesting possibility is to riff off the Named Possession perk. Said perk basically ensures that a magical item you own increases in power as you do. Essentially, the more character points you earn, the more energy you can spend on new magical enchantments and the like. Using this model, a given team or group that operates well together might earn character points independently of its members. The GM should decide how many points are awarded, but the more a group works together during a adventure the higher the number of points should be awarded. Additionally, the various members might wish to contribute any amount of their own unspent character points and can do this at any point the GM deems appropriate or between game sessions. This model would require the Teamwork perk. From then on the GM should award the group itself “team points” which can be spent just like character points, but with the following caveats:

  • Spent points can be used to buy transient benefits (e.g., Influencing Success Rolls) for any team member
  • Spent points can buy permanent traits like the Coordinated Action Technique (GURPS Powers, p. 165-166) or Coordinated Action advantage (Pyramid #3/65: Alternate GURPS III, p. 9), and so on. Once bought, all characters on the team add the trait to their character sheets. This costs the normal number of points for the trait to be purchased and requires that it be purchased once per team member.

Example: The Buckleswashers is a small band of adventurers composed mostly of halflings except for a single gnome. They’ve all acquired the Teamwork (Buckleswashers) perk and the GM is using the optional rules for Team Points. After many sessions the Buckleswashers have managed to save up 80 team points. They decide to purchase Coordinated Action 1 [12] and Esprit de Corps 1 [1], since their are six members this will cost 78 team points, leaving 2 team points left in reserve.

Picking Over the Bones
When it comes down to it, players working together both in-character and out-of-character is a good thing and something the GM should encourage. That said, working together might not be appropriate for all campaigns, especially ones that encourage paranoia and politics. GMs should talk to their players about what they want to do and how they feel about team play if he is unsure of what their expectations are. He should also actively discourage a “player versus player” mentality unless that’s the sort of game he’s trying to run!

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  1. I like the idea of developing the equivalent of Style Perks around team action. That seems like something that could be developed further, though I'll admit I'd need to study your and Antoni's article to ensure that's not already well-trod ground.

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