Teamwork Tabletop (working title) is a cooperation-focused tabletop game ruleset developed by Jay Holden. Click here to download an archive of the ruleset and supporting materials
Teamwork Tabletop is a thought exercise in playable form, intended to test and explore a core hypothesis.
Hypothesis: RPGs where roles or classes inform each player’s choices (this is the vast majority of modern tabletop and MMO RPGs, including Dungeons & Dragons) foster a sense of individualism in players at the expense of co-operation. During an encounter the thought at the forefront of each player’s mind is how to optimize their own individual contribution, as opposed to setting up his/her teammates for success. This is an issue at the high-level design level: specialized roles by definition limit player-characters’ contributions to what the character is good at. It’s also a problem in the nitty-gritty design details where characters frequently do not have abilities that explicitly assist their teammates (or if they do, they are strictly sub-par or sub-optimal compared to fulfilling their roles).
To encourage team-based play, the rules for basketball and football were used as reference. The following are those notes:
In football, for each play (tactic), only a handful of players in a squad of 11 are eligible to advance toward the goal; the others contribute by blocking the other team so the opposing side does not impede success.
- For most plays, the halfback is the one advancing toward the goal; in others, the fullback; in a few, or in a pinch, the QB. The wide receiver is always the high-risk, high-reward player
- QB typically pass, but can run
- Tight Ends (1x) block and catch (50/50)
- Wide Receivers (2x) typically catch, and rarely block or pass
- Halfbacks (1x) typically run or catch, but can pass
- Fullbacks (1x) run, catch or block
It should be noted that, in football, aside from the defensive players dedicated to protecting the QB, each role is eligible to do 2 to 4 tasks that advance the team to the goal. The meta has narrowed that down to 2 or 3. Any of these tasks could be optimal at any given time depending on what their teammates and the opposing side are doing.
High Level Design Phase
The study of football and design goal lead to the following sub-goals:
- Every character should have 2-3 viable options or actions at any given moment.
- Using the optimal action should depend more on moment-to-moment context than a character’s “build.”
- Characters should be able to contribute to the encounter goal while also setting their teammates up for success.
- Characters should have resources they manage at the individual level as well as the group level.
Low Level Design Phase
- Created the core, groundwork-level mechanics: AP/Action Points; movement and distance; individual resources that refresh daily and per-encounter.
- Created the Witch Hunter character with multiple avenues of dealing damage as well as supporting teammates.
- Refined actions available to Witch Hunter: melee attack; ranged attack; damaging encounter-based magic; supporting daily-based magic; Teamwork
- Created the Templar, followed by Spellblade, followed by Blood Knight, each with their own attacks and magics
- Created each character’s Teamworks by combining one of the character’s abilities and another character’s abilities. These Teamworks are more efficient than using each of the abilities separately.
- Filled in the missing non-groundwork rules like Resist, Reacting, etc.
Playtest, Round 1
Conducted a 1-hour playtest session with 3 players. Notes are as follows:
ap cost of spells?
how does shield interact with block
when does fire damage happen
Teamwork – MP cost for whom?
MP and SP costs?
Said they like the idea of the teamwork mechanic
stowing equipment etc costs nothing – make this clear
minimum healing for Templar’s Heal – boost
make death/dying rules
create a run/disengage mechanic
players say they liked teamwork mechanic; did not use it
3 focus turns
Rally until end of next turn
Iteration, Round 1
Based on the first playtest, 2 key issues surfaced: 1) the players did not use Teamwork; 2) the players were frequently tripped up when referencing their actions’ resource costs.
While the use of Teamwork is one of the central premises of the game, it is unclear whether the playtest is a reliable indicator of whether players would use Teamwork in actual play scenarios. Generating the Teamwork resource sometimes requires certain strings of actions in a specific order from each player (ex, a Witch Hunter’s Firebolt spell generates 1 Teamwork if cast while a Spellsword’s Firestorm spell is active). Therefore, players would have been more familiar with how to generate Teamwork if they had played the game more than an hour, had familiarity with the other characters’ abilities (by design, they did not for the first alpha session) and played a part in the creation of their own character.
Regardless, it is an important design issue that must be kept in the forefront of the next iteration if the players do not use Teamwork during the next playtest. Possible avenues for addressing that failure would be to make the Teamwork more approachable/simpler to use.
To address the second issue of resource cost tracking, a card-based action system has been created. Each character has one card for each of his/her actions that includes a description of that action and the AP and MP/SP costs of using it.
As of April 2021, this game is still in the early playtesting phase. A second playtest is planned for May.