In the Shine Cycle, my fantasy series-in-preparation, I hope and plan to show the characters of apparently-ordinary people doing extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances, and often developing remarkable abilities. Last year I began a series of character profiles (on hiatus until I produce more material), but these characters do not always achieve their exceptional deeds alone.
In the world of the Shine Cycle, experts have always known that two mages, bards, or occasionally even mundane warriors or craftsmen can in some cases produce far superior results working together as a team than separately, or even than normal estimates of synergistic effects predict. This always depends significantly on the character and personality of the people in question, making them hard to predict, but the factors influencing this are usually the same as those involved in friendship more generally. But until Mary and two others form their trio, on the order of eighty years or so after their arrival, it was thought that this effect was limited to pairs.
After that, and when other groups proved their success was not a fluke or otherwise unique, the Academy and other schools for mages and bards added training in working together with others. Once this training became widespread, the formation of these groups of two, three, or occasionally five in Situations (such as, but not limited to, battle) became almost common. Most groups are transitory, forming under the pressure of the demands of the time and then parting like any comrades once the need passes, but some particularly complementary groups become nearly-permanent. These take various forms: a new noble assembling a court, bards forming an ensemble, a more advanced mage assembling a team of assistants, or simply long-term close friendships.
These groups don’t necessarily have any relation to political opinions. Some are political allies as well as close comrades on the field, while others are political opponents, though their shared experience makes them cordial opponents. But these teams are nearly impossible with participants who are not friends or at least casual acquaintances, except in the most extreme circumstances—for example, the three surviving members of a corps of mages might be able to hold this sort of link together by will and power alone long enough to escape despite mutual dislike and abrasive personalities, but this would be highly uncomfortable and would put them out of action for weeks afterward with metaphysical exhaustion.
And there’s another limitation to this effect: teams like this have routinely achieved great victories on the battlefield, but only limited success in naval engagements, and even less in air and space combat. On the other hand, ship-to-ship Power usage is hard even under the best situations in peacetime, with help on both ends, and there are strategic and tactical reasons why commanders would usually not put any known groups together in a ship even if this effect worked reliably.
As I revise old posts (more on that later this week, I hope) and prepare new material, I plan to mention when characters in such teams played important roles.