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Optimizing the RPG Experience for Building Camaraderie As Quickly and Strongly as possible

by Hawke Robinson published Jun 20, 2015 05:05 PM, last modified Feb 05, 2023 12:22 PM
Drawing on Therapeutic Recreation theories, methodologies, and protocols, there are a number of "ice breaking" techniques when forming new groups, to help improve building camaraderie. Also taking into account Tuckman's theories on group formation (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing (Adjourning/Mourning)). This article combines all those concepts with using role-playing games to achieve these goals, and techniques for optimizing the RPG experience to improve this process, as well as some examples of games that build some aspects into their systems. This is a work in progress.

Building Camaraderie As Quickly and Strongly as possible

This is a sub-section from the much larger aggregate of research, "Notes on Experiments in RPG Optimization" -

I am still copying and pasting from hundreds of my research documents and notes, trying to share within everyone as much useful information as possible, but this is a lengthy process. And rather than wait forever for it to be perfect, I am sharing in the raw form, as it happens, so that people can at least get some benefit to help them in their efforts.

There are a wide number of "ice breaker" techniques available in Therapeutic Recreation / Recreation Therapy (TR / RT) that all Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (TRS) are trained in. These help speed up the process of camaraderie building within groups for recreational activities.

Many of these techniques can be used prior to sitting down at the table, and after a game session, to build player relationships faster than the RPG segment might normally allow for.

Bruce Tuckman's theories on the stages of group development include:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing
  • and optional Adjourning/Mourning

These are fairly well researched stages of group development, and they definitely apply to RPG groups. However, there are a number of "artificial" factors that can be implemented in a gaming context to accelerate the process, though be careful about skipping over too much of the storming process, else groups may never truly realize the real "Performing" stage.

Tuckman's theories generate lengthy discussion, covered by many books, which is outside the scope of this document. Those of you familiar with the theories, will see just how well these map in the formation of role-playing gaming groups.

There are a number of techniques in the RPG segment, however, that can be used to help facilitate the group cohesion and camaraderie building. This section elaborates upon these RPG approaches.

If unlimited time/sessions, follow typical Tuckman Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, +


More details coming soon.


Tools to Accelerate Camaraderie Building Whether One-Short

Rich background stories interlinked with other PCs.

Core adventure components that enhance likelihood.

Fellowship focus in any game system.

House-building in any game system/setting (when setting makes possible, not all settings map well).

 More details coming soon...


Heroic Game Play, TOR RPG / AiMe, Fellowship & Fellowship Focus (Very Helpful!)

 More details coming soon...


"House" Building Mechanics (Most remarkable Ultimate Group Bonding Tool!)

A Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) RPG. While rumors, bonds, background stories, etc. are all very helpful for facilitating bonding of new groups, the ultimate RPG mechanic I have found is the House Building Tools from The Song of Ice & Fire RPG (Game of Thrones RPG). This takes some time, it can easily take 1-2 hours for all new players, but I have now repeatedly observed, quite astoundingly, since it is a very group involved process (and if handled correctly, so everyone has buy in), creating even before anyone has started any of their own character creation, their own "House" that links all of their to-be-yet-created characters. At the end of this process, the bonding and in-group vs. out-group (The rest of the campaign world) formation is remarkably formed. I would say that this process easily jump starts the group bonding anywhere from 3 to 6+ sessions in about the time of just half a (3-4 hour) session. They create a party sense of identity, history, home base, political placement, etc. It is quite an involved process.

This is similar to Pendragon's mechanics.

The downside is though is it is designed only to work in the Game of Thrones setting. However, I have successfully modified and tested it to work in a World of Greyhawk D&D setting, and had similarly remarkable bonding successes with the participants.

I hope to next try to modify it to somehow work in a Middle-earth setting with the Adventures in Middle-earth (AiMe) Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5e Open license) expansion.

Experiment - Greyhawk Setting, using Game of Thrones House-building Approach (Success!)

With a juvenile group, some on the Spectrum, that had been having repeated group cohesion problems, and repeated TPK's. I was asked to see if  I could help improve.

This was a group of particular unruly teenagers, 2 with formal Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses, and 1 other likely on the spectrum though un-diagnosed, and 2 others without diagnosed disorders, but being 15 to 17 year-olds, riddled with many of the challenges of that age group.

I used classic AD&D 1st Edition Greyhawk boxed set, and AD&D 1st Edition characters/rules, and merged House Building rules from Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones (GoT)) RPG to try to build camaraderie up front.

Then ran them through U1 - The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.

The party had considerably better cohesion and cooperative play, and functioned far better than all their other sessions of the past year.


 TODO Experiment - Use House Building in Middle-earth Setting, and other regular D&D settings