Dungeons & Dragons Online

Teamwork Checks – Teamwork is an important element at any table and these simple rules can help foster it

You can find a prettified version of this on GM Binder or find a PDF version along with my thoughts of this on Dump Stat.



Teamwork Checks

Some tasks are just too great for any single adventurer or hero to accomplish by themselves. Other times, a knight might just need a little help from their roguish friend, helping them to carefully step quietly past searching guards.

Teamwork checks are ways to allow characters to help each other without simply giving each other advantage. It has a higher DC than a regular check, and the fate of two or more characters can hang in the balance. This type of check can be used as a versatile tool, capable of being used in time sensitive missions, useful for highly trained characters to help their less inclined companions, and more. This type of check doesn't replace a simple skill check, but rather can be used as an option when two characters are working together and you want to emphasize teamwork.

Teamwork Framework

When facing a situation where multiple characters are attempting a similar activity, you may allow all of them to roll the check. This creates a strange dichotomy within the group. The ones skilled at the task, like a rogue who is an expert in sneaking, and then the less fortunate, like a fighter weighed down in heavy armor that clinks every time he steps. You might hear from the players that the fighter will just stay behind, or that the check doesn't matter because they are just going to fail. The rogue will roll, but some may be completely incapable of failing, making the check just an excuse for them to roll the dice but face no consequences for it.

The idea of a Teamwork Check is that it matters what the total of everyone's die is instead of just relying on a simple pass/fail mechanic. A highly skilled rogue is of course not going to get caught, but are they skilled enough to help their friend sneak past the guards? When a check is called, instead of passing or failing individuals, instead you tally up everyone's results and compare it to a higher DC. If the cumulative total of everyone's check meets or exceeds the Teamwork DC, the team succeeds. If the check fails, then the team fails together and must continue to work together to figure out how to get out of the situation.

Basics

When a group of adventurers comes across an objective that everyone must accomplish, then you as the Game Master may decide to make this a Teamwork Check. There are a huge variety of reasons why you might decide this, but one of the most important reasons it that the team needs to succeed, not just an individual adventurer. Everyone should accomplish this goal, and so it it is up to the team to work together to accomplish this.

This is a simple procedure using the steps below.

  1. You announce what the problem facing the adventurers is, and then announce that you need certain skill checks to take place. This could be the same skill, like sneaking across a street, or different skills, like if the team is attempting to build a complicated trap.
  2. While the players roll their checks, you come up with the DC for this check. The DC is often going to be the base difficulty of the check multiplied by the number of characters attempting the check. This means if you think something is fairly easy but has some risk for failure, you might decide on a DC 10 on a normal check. Looking at the number of characters who have to roll the check, in this instance we will say 4. The new DC is 40 (4 x DC 10).
  3. The players then announce their results such as: 15, 8, 13, 21. You'd then add those results together for a total of 57. The team handily triumphs working together even though one of the characters would have failed on their own. This allows the party who are especially skilled to help those who lack their expertise.
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Difficulty

As the Game Master, you may decide that accomplishing an activity as a team is harder or easier depending on circumstances, and so you can easily adjust the DC up and down until you are happy with it. If you are using Dungeons & Dragons – 5e you can use the chart below as a rough guide for the difficulty of checks with different number of characters taking part.

Difficulty in D&D 5e
Task Typical DC 2 Chars. 3 Chars. 4 Chars. 5 Chars.
Very Easy 5 10 15 20 25
Easy 10 20 30 40 50
Moderate 15 30 45 60 75
Hard 20 40 60 80 100
Very Hard 25 50 75 100 125
Nearly Impossible 30 60 90 120 150

Benefits of Teamwork

A major benefit of Teamwork Checks is that high numbers don't go to waste when you roll a check. If the DC is only 10 but you rolled over 20 on the check, it can feel like a big moment of victory. Which can then quickly become undone because someone else rolled a 1 on the die. You are discovered, not because you did anything, but because someone else rolled poorly.

Teamwork Checks are useful for putting those big numbers you roll into use. No longer is it just a pass/fail for yourself, but you could easily hit the DC and then your 'unspent' points above the DC can then be dropped onto another character's check, evening out the skills across the party as a whole. This makes it so that even if someone rolls obscenely low, if you are talented enough, you can easily pull them through the situation and make up for their low rolls.

Not only do Teamwork Checks make it so that the team pass and fails together, but can help create moments between characters. The sneaky rogue can be helping their fighter move quietly across the courtyard, picking up their slack and helping to soften the sounds of thudding plate. The bard could be playing music to assist a wizard deep in study as they try to study the information found in a library, offering chill beats for the wizard to study too.

Consequences for Failure

When a team works together, they might fail together. This means that its no longer just a wizard left behind who was unable to jump across a gap, but now it is up to the team to figure out how to respond. As the Game Master, you can come up with the situation at hand based on each player's individual roll, or allow the table to decide what is happening from the failure.

Whether the adventurers succeed or fail, the adventure must go on and so keep in mind that failing a Teamwork Check doesn't mean everything ends, but rather the team must spend longer at a task, rolling the check again, or must find a new way to sneak into the castle.

Consequences for Success

When a team succeeds together, its a time for success. You might narrate how the team succeeds, or let the players describe the scene. You can highlight how one character helps another, opening up the check for a small bit of roleplay before returning to the game at hand. If the check was especially difficult, you might even reward a bit of experience to the party based on how difficult it was, and if you do, make sure to highlight it to the group so that they realize that working as a team helped everyone get closer to level up.

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Teamwork Check as Hit Points

When creating a Teamwork DC, you can choose a high DC with the expectation that it won't be accomplished within a round. Instead, the party spends rounds rolling against the check and accumulating their scores. Each round could be hours or days, like researching at a library, traveling a hostile landscape, or any other long term activity.

You could allow different skills to be used for each round, or encourage the party to be creative and come up with uses of their skills. In addition, you could decide that they can't repeat a check with the same skill over and over again, making them get creative with their checks.

A Few Additional Rules

Here are a few helpful rules to think about when running a Teamwork Check, or just running a table in general.

  1. Teamwork Checks should be used when the team wants to work together. If one player doesn't want to take part because they are afraid the others might drag them down, then it can make for tension at the table if they are forced to join. This checks are meant for those highly skilled to help those who aren't and some may dislike that they can't just pass a check by themselves without also risking some failure for working with others.

  2. Teamwork Checks are best used when the entire team needs to succeed at something and everyone at the table has a clear idea of what they are working towards. If a single player just wants to go somewhere, and is trying to drag the rest of the table with them, than it might not make any sense to make a Teamwork Check, especially if the characters themselves don't want to go. Everyone should agree to work together to solve the task.

  3. Variety in checks can help tell a greater story. There may be certain situations where everyone rolling the same check makes sense, and then other times where it might not. If the party is attempting to beguile a noble, not everyone has to roll to diplomacize or persuade them, others can but in with a performance, telling white lies about the party's accomplishment, or showing off with muscles. Each result gets them closer and closer to the noble's threshold, the Teamwork DC.

  4. It can be small, or huge. Whatever task you are attempting to accomplish might be something small, like just climbing up a castle wall. It might even be massive where the party has to spend days or weeks studying a device, and are not expected to get the DC on the first try but rather every day they continue to add to their cumulative score until they reach a huge DC to finally finish.

Teamwork in Play

Sneaking

A common Teamwork Check might be to sneak into a castle, through a complex cavern network, or anywhere else that one needs to move through without gathering attention. This is a great option for those who wear heavy armor as their low rolls can be made up for by the team.

Hunting

A team might be on the hunt for a mythical monster or just a giant boar for the cookout happening that night. In this instance, there is a countdown to success. The party needs to find their target with a certain amount of time and the DC you have selected might be easily accomplished in a single round of rolls, or require multiple rounds where you add the results from multiple rounds together. Each round could then count as an additional hour of work as they search for the dire boar, scared of not having enough time to get it ready for the cookout.

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Secret Looks

Two members of a team might be trying to get each others attention, or they could be trying to pass on secret messages while being observed. In this instance, one character could make a deception check to pass off a wink or strange look to their ally, while the ally they are trying to communicate with must make an insight or perception check to notice the odd look they are getting. If the result of their two checks meets the DC, they are able to pass along the information. If they fail the check, the wrong message could be passed along or one of the people just doesn't notice it.

Traveling

The distance a team must travel could have a DC associated with it, and so you ask the party to make checks to slowly chip away at the DC of the trip. For every round of checks the party makes, another day or week passes as they continue to make their way. This could be very useful if the team is going through a wide variety of terrain so that they can use more skills than one or two of them, like using athletics to help others clamber up a cliff, performance to distract a bear, or their knowledge of water craft to build a raft to travel a river.

Regaling an Audience

Great feats of accomplishments can be further embellished by a team, maybe trying to get the best deal out of a noble for an adventure, or to ask the king for some land. In this situation, everyone must take part in trying to win minds and swing opinions. While some may not be as talented as others, every little bit helps and players could think of clever uses of their skills to help them.

Difference from Skill Challenges

Skill challenges and Teamwork Checks are similar in that they require multiple checks, but they differ in that even a 'failed' check still adds to the team's total. A skill challenge places value on an individually failed check, with some negative consequence to go along with it, while a Teamwork Check has no negative consequences if someone 'fails' the check as no individual can fail, only the team can.

Difference from Group Skill Checks

Group Skill Checks still rely on pass/fail, just relying on the majority of characters taking part in the check to succeed. Which still means that the an expert at a skill can't use their high roll for more than just succeeding on a check and hoping at least one other succeeds on the checks.

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