The title may be a little misleading, but hang with me. I was talking to Matt over the holiday and the subject of “balanced groups” came up–not game mechanic “class balance”, but whether individual player’s self-interest trump any attempts at group parity, team work and fairness. Even playing with friends, most players are actively trying to improve their characters, level up and gain the most advantages (whether through min/max strategies, obtaining items etc). One or two characters/players will eventually develop a character that maximizes their abilities to the game and the particular GM’s style–whether those efforts are for the best of the group.
That’s probably the best you can hope for with a group of friends or a long-term gaming group. How about tournaments or pick up games where you are gaming with people you just met, strangers. Are you really going to put teamwork first or your own characters survival and performance?
One of the reasons I abandoned any semblance of alignments is that player/character self-interest was pre-eminent in gaming behavior. Sure, a player may try to hide his intentions, rationalize them via roleplaying or try and subtly influence events, but in the end they are looking out for numero uno.
Does teamwork really exist in roleplaying or is it a group of rivals that cooperate for mutual benefit?