Thursday, 8 December 2016

Character Pooling

TEAM PLAY (Optional)

Extract from Fallen Cities game (in development).

Team play is an option where a small group of players run and control a larger group of characters. There are several ways this can be handled.

Classically every player runs one character in a role playing game, but this is convention only. There is nothing that says you can’t run one, two or a bunch of characters at the same time. It isn’t really all that much harder to run two characters than it is to run one.

In several games I have played we had two or more characters available to us, but we only used one of them at a time, during a single adventure/session. This can be useful with games that have mortality rates, you just swap to your alternate character. This is better than fudging the arrival of a complete stranger.

Running multiple characters also works well when you have only 2 or 3 players, it gives them a much more viable group and prevents the GM having to scale down everything to suit the numbers they have playing.

In a game like Fallen Cities, where there are 8 different character archetypes, but you only have 4 players, you can allow them to run 2 characters each.  But if you have 5 players that doesn’t work as well, and you are still short of the 8 that would be ideal.

There are two options I am suggesting to handle this:

Spare Character Pool:

Where each player has one primary character they run, and any extra characters that may be needed, or wanted, are placed in a pool and are available to any player to act with at anytime. When a player wants to act, if they want to use one of the pool characters, they just do it.

Shared Character Pool:

This is a full extension of the pool idea. Players do NOT have a fixed character, they all share all the characters. When a player wants to act they simply select a character they wish to do it with and do it. AW mechanics actually lend themselves to this style of play.

You can include some controls, such as the same player cannot control two characters in a row (although they can suggest what another does).  This can be prone to dominant players taking control, but there are some systems you can put in place to handle this, and that you would probably do anyway.

In the first case the pool characters sheet is simply left in the centre of the table when not being used, which means the last person to use it puts it back, relinquishes the sheet to show they are finished with it. When a player wants to act, and if they wish to do so with a pool character, they simply take control of the sheet and do what they do, then return the sheet to the centre.

Another option would be to give everyone a copy of the pool characters, but then someone needs to be responsible for updating those sheets and keeping everyone uptodate.

If you find you have trouble controller who acts with pool characters, for eg one player tends to hog one of the sheets, you could bring in a rotation rule. Have a token that represents access to the pool and only the player with the token can take control of the pool character at any one time. Once they have used the token they pass it to the player on their left. Nothing stops any player from suggesting actions, but only the token controller can act in the voice of the pool character.

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