Party Mechanics

Well Jack, bless his enthusiastic little soul, has asked for some other bloggers for this thing, so you all get to suffer my two-penneth for a while. As a long term employee and the resident primary game-master of the RPG club, there are so many bits of wisdom I’d like to share, it’s hard to pick any one thing. I could talk about grit and panache, about making life easier on the next guy to stumble across your code. Heck, I could try to give some SQL tips, as if I knew more than the thousands of other folk out who’ve put pen to paper already.

One thing I’ve noticed, both in programming and in gaming, is how easy it is for some important bits to get forgotten. So, let’s address that a bit, and tie it in to some RPG stuff as well, because that way it’ll be less boring. For me, at least.

So, let’s talk party mechanics for a bit. I’m sure you’ll be passably familiar with the concept of character classes, and your warriors and wizards and clerics and whatnot, and maybe even your cheerful songs that say not to split the party and not let the thief out of sight. It’s not the full definition of a character, but it’s a good place to start.

Gather a few together and you have a party. All these different individuals grouped together for hopefully the common good, or at least vaguely pointed at the kind of people slightly worse than they are. Conflicts happen, because what’s a story without conflict, and people get their time to shine.

Trouble is, it’s a bit too easy to try to measure everyone by the same criteria. Typical are the boasts about who’s doing the most damage to something, or just plain measuring combat ability, which can lead to a sort of jockeying for supremacy and even turn to resentment.

That’s not something you should get caught up in – for starters, your party is supposed to be working together anyway, not competing for the biggest numbers. But more importantly, you can’t measure everyone the same way. Your party wizard might blow off someone’s face with fire and that’s cool, but looking down on the guy with the sword because he can’t do quite as much damage – or with as much flair – isn’t.

Some roles aren’t flashy – but they’re still essential.

But maybe that’s not what the guy with the sword is there for; maybe he’s there, armoured like a fortress, so that the wizard doesn’t get his pasty little face stomped on. Let’s say you’ve got that; cleric’s supporting everyone else with their own spells, rogue’s infiltrating for good positioning – everyone’s working to a bit of a different individual goal, and that makes for a better outcome overall. Some of these roles aren’t flashy, but they’re still essential.

There’s all kinds of situations that might play to different strengths, and you’ll have to rely on each other. In one game I play, my party companions include a vulgar dwarf barbarian who thinks he’s an orc, an actual half-orc shaman who is halfway to undeath, and a cloud-cuckoolander of a druid whose animal companion is probably smarter than he is. When you’re with a bunch of individuals like that, just being a normal human, however boring it might sound, can be an advantage in it’s own right, as it was during that one time we had to make a diplomatic mission to some fancy noble wedding ceremony (It’s amazing how refined you can look when your companions are spouting nonsense, smelling like death or trying to get into fights).

Let’s bring that concept back to the more relatable world of programming, in a desperate bid to give this relevance. There’ll be people who can talk up a storm and sell things well. There’ll be people who know the latest bleeding-edge stuff and write something really cool and shiny. Then there’s people who are just out there making stuff actually work, whether it’s old or new.

The world we’re in is one of ‘celebrity’, so some people are going to stand out. Much as that’s needed sometimes, it isn’t the be all – movies aren’t made just by the actors after all. So, be wary of measuring yourself against other people, especially the ‘loud’ ones, because in all likelihood you’re doing something at least as important!

To effectively manage diverse teams, be it software engineers or adventurers, remember to acknowledge the people who aren’t crying out for that acknowledgement. The wizard might have taken out all those goblins with one fireball, but the guy who stood in front of the wizard getting slashed at so he had the chance to cast that spell deserves at least a nod, right?

Keep true, folks.