Aug 28, 2012

Improving Teamwork Rules in Openquest

This post has been edited to incorporate Aash's suggestion in the comments.

Openquest is my favourite game system, but its teamwork rules are shit. All of the problems I laid out here with teamwork in adventure games hold true for it. This isn't its fault - it inherited and simplified a tradition passed down from the Runequest family of games, which all have complicated assistance rules that involve lots of addition and little choice. Openquest at least has the virtue of simplifying the addition.

Our constraints:

1) Openquest's Big Bonus Rule, that tells us bonuses and penalties have to come in blocks of +/- 25%

2) Assistance should not easily of boost the chance of success on tasks over 100%, while still being capable of doing so from time to time.

3) We want to provide lots of choice, rather than lots of math. This means that teamwork must allow different ways of contributing to any particular test, which must be able to be used simultaneously by different PCs based on their individual choices.

4) We want to avoid just having each PC roll their skill individually until one of them succeeds at the task, which makes success on tasks where only one PC succeeding almost certain to succeed, and ones where several PCs need to pass almost impossible to cleanly succeed on.

5) Characters should not need the same skill as the one being tested to assist. When I had a data analyst and a copywriter working with me IRL, both assisted my work (producing and mailing ask letters for a major charity) despite neither having the same skill set or team role as me. 

Proposed Rules:

1) In a teamwork situation, only one character rolls for any particular test ("the lead"). This should be either the person directing the others, or the person most directly responsible for the success or failure of the task for some other reason or the person with the highest skill.

2) Characters other than the lead may choose to assist, to cooperate, to collaborate with the lead, or to sit things out. Players should declare which one their character is doing in an orderly fashion (either by initiative, or progressing around the table or some other satisfactory means). One a player has chosen to assist, collaborate or cooperate, and with who, they must do as they chose until the lead has rolled. Characters sitting things out may not contribute to the teamwork test mechanically.

3) Assistance involves acting according to the direction of the lead, and adds +25% bonus to the skill of the lead. Assistants must have the same skill as the lead at 25% or better. Assistance bonuses are not cumulative, but may be redundant (viz. if two people are attempting to assist, and one is prevented from doing so for some reason, so long as one assistant persists the +25% bonus remains).

4) Collaboration involves one of the characters who is not the lead testing a relevant skill prior to or simultaneous to the lead's test. It is up to the collaborator to explain why the chosen skill is relevant, subject to referee approval. It does not need to be the same skill as the one the lead is testing (but may be). Each collaborator must test a different skill from any other collaborator, so only one may test the same skill as the lead.

A critical success by a collaborator provides a bonus of +50% to the lead's test, a regular success provides a bonus of +25%, a failure provides a penalty of -25%, and a critical failure provides a penalty of -50%. Collaborator bonuses and penalties are cumulative with one another.

5) Cooperation involves one of the characters who is not the lead simultaneously testing the same skill as the lead. Cooperators must have the same skill as the lead at 25% or better. If the lead succeeds, then the roll of whoever got the best result amongst the lead and any cooperators is used. If the lead fails, then the worst result amongst the lead and any cooperators is used.

6) Cooperators and collaborators may have assistants, with the same restrictions as if they were the lead.

7) Collaborators may assist cooperators and vice versa as if the other was a lead.

I think this system satisfies the constraints, and would appreciate feedback on it.