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The Ties That Bind


Alex Greene

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Friendship is important to Mythras. Not only do the Players need to come together - so do their Adventurers.

This article explores the nature of team friendship, and what it means to the success, or failure, of a Mythras adventure.

Beginning with Session Zero, when the Adventurers are being generated together, the Games Master should bring the characters together, finding what is common to them or creating connections if they do not seem to have anything immediately in common.

Backgrounds

Cultures

Adventurers can be connected together by their Cultural backgrounds. They might have a common Culture, or radically different Cultures -  a Civilised poet having to interact with two Barbarians and a Nomad, all from different Clans. It might be a challenge for the Games Master to get Adventurers to bond together if their Cultures have animosity towards one another, but even that can be doable, with a little tweaking of their back stories.

Professions, Factions, and Cults

Adventurers with similar Professions can be brought together very easily. The most common example is a team formed from Adventurers who served together under the same military unit, and who are now branching out as mercenaries for the same sponsor. However, Adventurers from different Professions can still be brought together to work as a team, if the Games Master works on the back story, such as Adventurers from different Guilds being brought together to work for the common cause of all of their factions.

Background Events

The Adventurers don't need to all have the same Background Events - but the Games Master can find a way of weaving the different kinds of background event into a single running narrative which links them all. An enemy who has been making one Adventurer's life a misery for years might be spreading that misery to a second Adventurer's family; the same woman might be an old flame to one Adventurer and a harridan of a Rival to another.

Connections

This has been covered in a previous article. Connections do more than bind the Adventurers to their factions or to significant non-player characters, including the antagonists: mutually significant Connections could bind the Adventurers' fates to each other, such as the entire party having the same Enemy, or every member forced to bind together in the face of an onslaught from a hostile Cult.

Family

If Session Zero includes the family generation stage, the Games Master can use a common element, or set of interlinked elements, to bind the Adventurers together. Perhaps the Adventurers' families are Allies to one another, or they serve together in the same unit, two military families with separate, yet joined, traditions of military service, fighting side by side.

The Four Five Stages of Team Building

This comes from a psychologist called Bruce Tuckman, who wrote a paper in 1965 about the path teams take when they come together for a specific task, designed to facilitate the best team performance.

This process has a number of stages, usually four, with a fifth added later by Tuckman.

Forming

This is the phase where a new team forms. Individuals are unsure of the team's purpose, how they fit in, and whether they'll work well with one another. They'll be looking to the team leader for direction.

This is the time where the Players bring up interesting facts about their Adventurers, and the Games Master brings them all together under the leadership of the party's leader. The Players, too, are busy trying to establish their Adventurers' viewpoints and ways of working.

Storming

This is the point where the party leader begins to establish each Adventurer's roles and responsibilities - who's responsible for what, and so on.

The storming stage is where Players and Adventurers start to push against the established boundaries to make room for their Adventurers. Conflict can arise between team members as their true characters and preferred ways of working surface and clash against each other.

Team members may challenge the party leader's authority or even the mission, and some individuals might begin to feel overwhelmed.

Norming

The storming phase is always temporary. The Players come to know each Adventurer, both their own and the others'. The team members start to resolve their differences, appreciate one another's strengths, and respect the authority of the team leader.

Once they know one another better, they will feel more comfortable asking for help and offering constructive feedback. They'll share a stronger commitment to the goal of the adventure, and make progress towards achieving it.

Performing

At this stage, the team is working together in full flow, and performing to its full potential.

The Fifth Stage

This is the stage that comes at the end of an adventure. It might be a one-shot scenario, a multi-session single adventure, a mini-campaign, or a full scale campaign; but at the end of the story, the team is all set to split up, their job being done.

The last stage, according to Bruce Tuckman, is often called Adjourning ... or even Mourning. In game, it usually means that individuals reach the end of their stories. They will have come to the end of their Hero's Journeys or Heroine's Journeys. They will have achieved their dreams, reached Apotheosis, or met a heroic, tragic, or grisly fate. And the survivors will have spent their last accumulated Experience Rolls, cashed in their last favours, and suffered the consequences of their dark secrets being revealed.

All that will be left will be for the team members to dissolve the group, say their final goodbyes and mark the parting of the ways.

The Lifespan Of A Group ...

The life of a group is a single story. It doesn't matter if that story is played out in a single sitting, or over the course of a dozen years of weekly sessions: the campaign measures the life of the group, beginning at the forming stage, and proceeding through all the stages until the last act of the mourning stage.

What makes this work is all the bonds formed by the Games Master and the Players, which keep the team working together, keeping it going even when team members have to be replaced, until the final ending which sees the Adventurers' ultimate triumph and final dissolution.

Properly managed, those bonds can connect the team's fortunes, making it, and the adventures the team goes through, both unmissable and unforgettable.

Edited by Alex Greene

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