Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mini Quests: Thoughts on Team Cohesion

You may have noticed that the mini quests mechanic discussed over the last few weeks has a pattern: two events are related to your patron/deity/faith/god/house, two events are "team player" type things that help out the group, and two have the potential to get a bit angsty. For example, the air events to help friends survive darkest fears (whether they survive or not), the earthy tendency to be a money-grubbing selfish person, the water quests to go investigate places that a character of your level has no right to be, and the fire rewards for rivalry and bossiness could all spur some conflict.

That's intentional.

I get sick of the "special ops commando team" style of D&D play. This is a natural outgrowth of D&D: the game eventually becomes about high-stakes exploration and combat. The consequences for failure are character death, failure to earn XP, and loss of magic items. The mechanical rewards are all driven by being a bunch of ninja-esque badasses who can dungeon crawl as efficiently as possible. Loose cannons, intraparty squabbling, and dissent have no role in such a game. Yes, a good DM can work around those tendencies by rewarding other behaviors, but still, that sort of thing is kind of hardwired into the system.

Septimus explicitly rewards players for dabbling in behaviors that could be considered somewhat disruptive to group cohesion. It gives people reasons to lie or have hidden agendas. Most importantly, it allows them to do so without sacrificing advancement. The players can indulge in some less-than-optimized sessions where they develop their characters and relationships and still get rewarded and make progress towards their metagame goals.

Of course, you don't want too much of that. So, none of the miniquests require you to be a selfish jerk. They just open the door to allow the possibility from time to time. Even that small opening might be enough though to generate a bit of healthy paranoia that then spurs genuine roleplaying as the players feel out each of their character's hidden agendas.

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