The Seer Vitz

Party Mentality: Cooperation or Competition

When I DM, I generally prefer to have all the characters get along. With fewer inter-character squabbles, generally my adventures run smoother. Yet, should characters be forced to like each other? Should the party be all-for-one and one-for-all mentality?

I have played in a campaign where the characters are not best of friends. In fact, each was a thief looking out for "number one". When it suited them, they helped each other, but they only trusted each other as was required. After they had each amassed a large enough sum of money, they made traps to protect the wealth. Not just to keep it away from outsiders, but to keep it safe from their allies. In the end, a few of the characters ended up dead (some by hired hit men, others by an outright attack).

Yet, that game ran smoothly. That is because the object of the game was an individual plot. Each character played the proper thief to the best of their ability. However, in normal circumstances, are individual goals a wise idea for characters? If each character is only looking out for himself all the time, will that be a truly enjoyable game?

It is possible, but I have also played and DM'ed quite a few games where the lack of party cooperation led to disastrous endings. Instead of helping each other, the players decided that it would be best to help themselves out. They would turn on each other in a heartbeat! If they saw just a little chance for self-advancement, they would go for it. In the end, this type of behavior ruined the game.

But, clearly there is no clear-cut choice. I say, if the game is not ruined by character selfishness, it should be allowed. However, if it is very important that they work as a team, it should definitely be encouraged that they do such a thing. They don't have to love each other, or even like each other for that matter, but they should at least get along. Otherwise, what is the purpose of them adventuring together? Personally, if I didn't like someone to such a degree that I wouldn't trust them (or that I wanted to actually harm them), I certainly would not travel with them! Unless I was forced to travel with them, I would look elsewhere, and if I were forced to travel with them, I would stay as far away from them as possible.

In closing, I say let the characters choose. If they want to be close and always help each other out, encourage it. Yet, if they want to argue and be at each other's throats, don't entirely discourage it. Try to make them realize that they should get along, but don't force the issue. If you do, it will probably just cause a wider gap. No player likes to be told how to run his character. So don't.

What do you say? Think me a fool? If so, tell me. If not, you can tell me that also. See you in the newsgroups!

James A. Vitz
RPG Columnist