During the A to Z blogging challenge, when I got to T, I faced a dilemma. I had shared with my son Giant Boy my idea for making a monster out of Michael Jackson based on “Thriller”. We had loads of fun geeking out in the car driving to wherever it was we were driving to at the time. Then, a few weeks later, I finished up S Is for Snakes, and Giant Boy, basking in the glory of my achievement, said, “Patermaximus, next is T. You get to do ‘Thriller’.”
And so I did, but in doing so, I didn’t talk about teamwork feats, which had also been on my list. Paizo’s Advanced Player’s Guide introduced teamwork feats, informing us that “[t]eamwork feats grant large bonuses, but they only function under specific circumstances. In most cases, these feats require an ally who also possesses the feat to be positioned carefully on the battlefield. Teamwork feats provide no bonus if the listed conditions are not met.”
This is such a great idea, but is marred by one glaring flaw, namely that it requires two or more players to deliberately plan their characters so that their characters all end up with the necessary prerequisites and choose the same feats. (Ignore the exceptions of inquisitors and cavaliers, who break the general teamwork rules in minor ways.) Skill points and feats are scarce resources, and the sort of character advancement via committee necessary to build teamwork feats into an adventuring group seems to ask a bit too much of most players.
Which is a shame because I really like the idea of teamwork feats.
I’ve read a couple of people suggesting to give teamwork feats to teams, but I haven’t seen any concrete suggestions on what this might look like in actual play. Here’s my stab at it.
Over time, an adventuring party does all sorts of things together. They kick down doors, kill monsters, and steal their stuff in a wide variety of settings. Adventurers experiment with various weapons, spells, and items, devising new tactics to adapt to a dizzying array of situations and foes. Along the way, the adventurers learn to read the intentions of their comrades-in-arms, forging themselves into a cohesive engine of destruction, death, and grave robbery.
Starting at 3rd level and every two levels thereafter, an adventuring party gets to choose one teamwork feat that the party can use. This is a bonus feat, and only members of the party who meet the feat’s prerequisites can use the feat. Since the teamwork feat doesn’t “belong” to any single character, party members who later meet the prerequisites gain access to the teamwork feat at that time.
For example: Wes, Eric, Terry, and Christopher create a new batch of characters to adventure together. Their PCs face many dangers and reach 3rd level. At this time, they get to choose a teamwork feat. They choose Coordinated Defense, which has no prerequisites, meaning all four PCs now gain the benefits of this feat.
By the way, I’m not sure if animal companions should gain the benefits of these bonus teamwork feats. My initial instinct is that, no, they shouldn’t, unless the animal companion has at least a 3 Intelligence. Since this won’t happen in the early levels, the animal companion would be treated as a new PC.
What about New PCs?
The idea of team teamwork feats assumes that your players run a stable group of PCs that does not suffer changes in personnel over several levels. This won’t always be the case. A life of monster-killing and treasure-stealing is dangerous, and PCs die, at which time they are replaced. Also, new players may join your group, and old players may end up with cohorts or animal companions that suddenly don’t have animal-level intelligence any more. These new additions to the party haven’t had the training time to justify use of the team’s teamwork feats. What to do? I see two ways to handle this: the easy way and the harder way. (Really, there’re are three ways, but when I typed this paragraph, I’d only thought of two, and I ended up adding the third way later on, but didn’t edit this paragraph. Go figure.)
The easy way is to let the new additions gain access to the team’s teamwork feats after they’ve been part of the team for one level. At that time, the new additions can use all of the team’s teamwork feats.
The harder way requires new additions to earn access at a slower pace. When the team next earns a new team teamwork feat, the team decides if they want to allow the new teammates to gain access to an old feat, in which case no new feat is earned, or gain a new team teamwork feat that everyone can use. (Did I just set a record for the most times “team” gets used in a sentence?)
For example: Christopher’s PC dies a horrible death. Next game session, Christopher’s new PC joins the team. He doesn’t get to use the team’s Coordinated Defense feat because he hasn’t been part of the on-the-job training for it. Using the easy way, Christopher’s new PC gets to use Coordinated Defense after he earns a level. Using the harder way is more laborious. The heroes fight and loot until they reach 5th level. At this time, the players face a choice. Have they been training Christopher’s PC to work with the team, or have they been training the team to work together in new ways? If they opt for the former, Christopher’s PC gets to use Coordinated Defense, but the team doesn’t get a new feat. If they go for the latter, the team chooses a new team teamwork feat. Christopher’s PC gets to use this new feat, but not Coordinated Defense.
Of course, there is also a via media. You could use the harder way, but eliminate the dilemma. Christopher’s PC learns Coordinated Defense and the team gets to choose a new teamwork feat for all of its members.
But What about Game Balance!?
Balance, shmalance. Over the course of 20 levels, a team of PCs end up with 10 bonus teamwork feats. Will this make them more powerful? Obviously. Will it destroy game balance? Not really. Treat the team’s average party level (APL) as being one level higher for every X number of bonus teamwork feats. I’m not sure what value should be assigned to X. E6 rules suggest that 5 feats equals one level, but those rules don’t take into account the generally more powerful nature of teamwork feats. Since I like numbers to divide evenly, perhaps treating every four bonus teamwork feats as +1 to APL would work. So, that hypothetical party of four 20th-level characters with 10 bonus teamwork feats would be treated like an APL 24 group of adventurers. That might work, but without extensive playtesting, it’s really just a guess.