|That the big bad? Oh, he'll never see THIS coming...|
Tip #1: Don't Be A Monkey wrench
A monkey wrench, in this case, is a character is specifically meant to not work as part of the team. Whether you're a sociopathic loner who is always trying to go off on their own, a character who was made as a joke who put all their skill ranks into Craft (basket weaving), or someone who insists that they are going to stay at the bar drinking instead of going out on the adventure, a monkey wrench is someone who creates problems in a team environment.
I covered some of these in The 5 RPG Characters We Should All Stop Playing, but I'd add in concepts like The Pointless Traitor, The Coward, and The Thief as well. You need to come to the table ready to play, and you should embrace that this is a team sport, instead of one that's all about who has the biggest, baddest character, or who can screw over whom.
Tip #2: Know Each Other's Schticks
Before you can work together, you need to understand what your teammates are capable of. Sometimes it's pretty straightforward. Argus the Hammer is your warrior, he's got a high AC and a warhammer. Strong fighter, can take a beating. Harlen Ratch is an archer, likes to stay mobile, and prefers a longbow. Ariadne is a sorceress with a focus on ice spells, and Jurienne Craigs is a healer who prefers empowering his allies to fighting.
You don't need to give everyone the full run-down on who you are, where you come from, or list every spell and feat you have. Just make sure you pow-wow with each other before heading out on the trail, and understand how your abilities work best together. If you can provide protection for a teammate, then you might be more useful bodyguarding a spellcaster than rushing into the fray. If you can provide buffs, but everyone needs to be within a certain number of feet of you, make sure they know that. Make battle plans that include everyone.
Tip #3: Think Tactically
How many times have you been at a table where people get so lost in just swinging a sword or slinging a spell that they forget there are a lot of other options on the table? Remember, sometimes the best thing you can do is to get into an advantageous position to give a teammate a flank, to grapple the necromancer to try to stop him from casting more spells, or even to use the Aid action to help a teammate succeed.
Your efforts are about group success, and smart tactics wins fights a lot more often than lucky crits do.
Tip #4: Communicate
Communication is key in any relationship, and that includes the relationships between team members. While you don't need to bare your soul to all the PCs at the table (especially if you're hiding sort of a big secret that you're hoping will come out later, like you're a deposed prince, or there's a price on your head, or both!), you do need to make sure you share pertinent facts. Like if you need your party members to clear a path for you to charge, or if you need everyone else to hold while you prepare to to carpet bomb the area filled with slavering horrors.
You should do this in-character, maybe punctuate your words with knowing glances, nods, etc. But you'll run into a lot fewer situations where one player has to totally re-think their strategy because someone else got in the way without being told they were in the way.
Tip #5: Synergize and Modify
Have you ever seen (or been) a player whose main strategy hurt the party as well as the enemy? One of my go-to examples is using an eversmoking bottle to create smoke screens. If the PC who pops the cork can see through the smoke and uses it to get the drop on enemies, that's cool, but what about the three to four other PCs on the map who are now blind, too?
What you need, at that point, is a way to take your main strategy, and combine it with something else that helps the rest of the group. Maybe the alchemist can make everyone potions that gives them blindsight, or the wizard can craft lenses that cut through the fog so everyone can see. This gives everyone the advantage of fighting blind enemies, and you won't accidentally blow up your fellow party members if you start firing blind into the fog.
No matter what you can do, there's probably a way to make it better utilizing the resources and know-how of your party mates. Whether it's the halfling using an ability to enrage enemies to try attacking him (and thus letting the barbarian with a reach weapon skewer the foe as he rushes his pint-sized friend), or the wizard centering his fireball on the barbarian in the fray (and thus activating his Rage Power that allows him to gain temporary HP from fire instead of taking damage), don't be afraid to create your own version of the Fastball Special.
Remember, You're All In This Together
It isn't just one of you looking to overthrow the Lich King and send his demon army back to the forgotten realm... it's all of you! So remember, work with your team, find common ground, and make everyone feel like they're contributing. And, as a bonus, make sure you point out that, while your PC might have made the slam dunk, it wouldn't have been possible without someone else's PC giving you the assist.
For more thoughts on teamwork, take a listen to Razor Jack over on Dungeon Keeper Radio.
That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday update. Hopefully folks find a good reason to use these tips at their tables! If you'd like more from me, check out my Vocal archive. If you'd like to stay up on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, to support Improved Initiative, consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or dropping some change in The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Every little bit helps!