Creating Party Synergy

Totally a group effort

Something that I really want to get my players in the mind of is more group cooperation and planning when it comes to encounters. My players do fine when it is social, skill, and role-play encounters, but once it comes to beating something with a stick they go into independent mode, and usually coordination goes just far enough to try and get out of the way when the caster lobs a fireball into the throng of enemies, although this is more for self-preservation than actual cooperation.

I really want to start pushing the party in ways that they haven’t been pushed before… to really rely on one another in combat, coming up with cool new ideas and solutions.

I would be a terrible person if I made it seem like my players didn’t come up with unique ideas, solutions, and the like, because they really do. Sometimes they even come up with them together, but largely these are independent avenues.

Here are two examples of what I mean:

This one is from a post I did awhile back:

Meanwhile Jack ran his demolitionist to the windstorm that the preacher had summoned and with a -4 (-2 for off hand, -2 for second action) through a can of nitro at the storm. His idea was that it would explode in the storm creating a fire tornado.. pretty cool right?!


Jack botched his roll, basically hitting a zero due to his modifiers. So I rolled a d8 to determine trajectory. The Nitro ended up being bounced out of the storm and flung right into Lady Death’s face.
Nitro is a large burst template and the firey blast killed everything in the radius.. all that was left when the smoke cleared were two lone enemy shooters looking around scartching their heads.. wondering what the hell had happened.

Now while this idea of Jack’s failed due to a botched roll, it was still a really cool idea! And even though it didn’t work it still created one of those great RPG moments that we still talk about at the table.

Here’s another:

I was playing in a 3.5 game a long time ago and the DM put us up against a really tough enemy (at this point we were level 1 or 2, cant’ remember). The only two player left conscious was a friend and I. I was playing a sorcerer and he was a Cleric. We were almost out of spells and things were looking grim. I cast my last Summon Monster I to keep the enemy busy for a moment and asked the cleric what spells he had left, which was pretty much nothing. He had a few and one was Create Water.

I had nothing left save 1 use of Ray of Frost. I then mentioned about casting Create Water above the enemy, and I would cast Ray of Frost on the water after holding my action to go right after the cleric. The cleric agreed and we brought it up to the DM.

The DM liked this idea because it was outside of the box. So the plan went off as we described and a block of ice fell on the enemy, killing it.

I would like to design more encounters where certain criteria needs to be met. This could be things like traps going off for the rogue to disable in the middle of combat, or a portal that is spewing out demons and it requires the spellcaster to use Spellcraft and sacrificing spells (just raw power at that point) to close down the gateway while the other players defend them.

I would also like to start adding abilities or something to creatures what require the party members to combine abilities and over come the obstacle/enemy. This will require a bit more work on my part when designing the enemy encounter, but I think the pros would more than out-weigh the timesuckage.

Anyone have thoughts, comments, or anecdotes to share on the subject?

About wrathofzombie

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn. View all posts by wrathofzombie

2 responses to “Creating Party Synergy

  • Phil

    Another fun way to get parties to work together is to present them with combat scenarios where tactics are essential, like setting two enemy archers off to one side, a good thirty yards away, so that the party needs to decide who splits off to tackle them while the others fight the main combatants. This sort of decision forces people to begin speaking to each other and assigning roles.

    Another is to have combat scenarios where the main point isn’t to just grind the enemy into dust, but to accomplish a goal, like escaping with a saved hostage, or stealing an artifact from a temple, such that the thief needs to be protected as he tries to grab the idol or whatever as the others protect him.

    That kind of combat where thought is required does wonders for forcing players to work together 🙂

  • Anarkeith

    I’m working on an encounter with a group if minions providing ammo to the BBEG. The party can choose between denying the ammo, killing the minions, or focusing on the BBEG. The ammo is a hazard in itself, as in it can, under certain circumstances, knock the PCs off elevated terrain.

    I’m really trying to look at the PCs non-combat skill lists for inspiration. Then give them clear objectives that affect the combat in some way.

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