View Full Version : Bringing characters together

12-31-2007, 05:29 AM
I thought that since we have got a lot of great threads out there talking about creating a campaign, we might want to take a look at the next step, or at least I do :D. What I am talking about is the part of the campaign that I always seem to have one of the hardest times with, the very beginning. There is all of this great story laid out infront of the characters waiting for them, but how do we as DMs/GMs start them off on the path while still making the beginning seem natural and not forced?

I think everyone has experienced, if not had their fill with, the "you are all in a bar and.... scenarios, as well as the anonomous boy running up to each character calling them to his master who has a mission for them, and the four other randomly, and yet perfectly picked strangers, to do.

I myself am starting up a game, and will probably be posting a lot more here in the near future so, To start it off, I've got a little alteration to one of the above starting scenarios that I have been tossing around. The characters are all in a bar a bit later in the night, so they are the only real patrons there (yeah I know), I let the characters get into the first few minutes of the game, but once one of them talks about stepping outside to go do a task, I have the city guard march in declaring that the rebels have been said to be meeting here tonight, and everyone is to be taken for questioning. Everyone then gets asked to make a very low knowledge local check, and gather from the check that not many supposed rebels ever return from questioning.

This forms an instant bond within the party, since they've got to work at least somewhat together to escape the situation, but is it really worth it? The players now probably have absolutely no trust for any city guard, and they've probably hurt/killed some guards in their escape, so now they're on the run until they can find some way to fix the solution. One fix, and a continuation of "bonding" the players together could be that one of them could have at some point made an enemy out of a guard, and his way of getting back at the player is to label him a rebel. They could find that this guard and some of his buddies are making a profit off of labeling people rebels, and capturing them, and so by bringing these corrupt guardsmen to the light of justice, they could clear their names.

12-31-2007, 05:51 AM
I make the players do the work and write it into their back story.

12-31-2007, 05:59 AM
Bringing players together is definitely DM perogotive. I wouldn't worry about it seeming forced... New players are just learning about your campaign setting, so they should understand some kind of meeting is needed to get it started. If you have players with problems with this, then maybe they need some one on one talking to to work out their issues.

I like to throw the players together in some situation and then have them describe how they got there. For example, the PCs are all guarding a caravan on a dangerous trade route. Each player would describe how their character got there, with certain limits set by me: for example, the players have never been to the city the caravan is travelling to, they can't have any familial relation with NPC members of the caravan, etc. They could be just traveling to explore, could have been hired as a guard, might have been apprenticed to a merchant, etc. This also then serves to introduce the PCs to you and encourage roleplaying.

As far as your plot starter, that sounds like a great beginning, I like the idea. You can tweak it a little by giving them just a little bit more information, or maybe have a NPC in the bar stand up to them and say something in a sarcastic tone like "I know you're boss just is dying to label me a rebel. Just because I got the upper hand in that business deal with his daughter, is he going to lock me up like the others?"

12-31-2007, 11:04 AM
I really like the opening as you have put it together. Rather than city guards they could be bounty hunters or other adventurers who are hoping to collect on ransoms put out for "information about or capture of rebels". The particular lot that comes through the door is known to the barkeep as trouble makers that make the majority of their living through getting non-citizen travelers/adventurers to admit they are involved in rebel activities through torture or intimidation. If a large group were to walk in and they start pushing the only adventurer types in there (your party, while not friends, all look the part) around. At least this way you don't have to worry about actual city guard deaths and unless they actually admit to crimes before city officials they don't have to worry about jail.

12-31-2007, 11:45 AM
The methods mentioned here are basically the same that I have used in the past, which boil down to:

The PCs meet at a tavern and are quickly presented with an opportunity for adventure. (Wasn't this method made famous by Dragonlance?)
The PCs are summoned individually as logical counterparts and asked to work together on a common mission.
The PCs come into the game knowing each other already. They may be childhood friends or siblings, or they may have already adventured together in the past. But, the assumption is that they know each other well enough to travel together. This alleviates the oft all-too-arbitrary first meeting scene.
The PCs all happen to be at a place and time where they will be presented with great danger and must work together to survive.You could also try starting your game much like the time honored tradition of many novels. The characters are all pursuing different threads of the story that eventually bring them together. You could do a series of solo-games with each player that brings them up to the point that they start to meet each other. Or, you could provide them with enough detail in their background to explain their motivation for joining with the other players and working towards a common goal.

By chance, one of my D&D games started out as a solo game for a few sessions, and we slowly added additional players. This worked out fairly well, as there was generally only one new character introduced per session, so the story could be crafted to specifically bring in that character. The only draw back was that the players somewhat felt that the first character in the game was the central character, and their characters were at times periphery. This was in part because of the way I started the campaign, with the first character receiving the overall epic plot hook, and everyone else joining *his* mission. Although, I didn't intend for it to come across as his mission in particular, so it is something I'd watch out for in the future.

12-31-2007, 04:59 PM
I tend to mash the PC's into the situation, let them figure out (and tell me and everyone else) how they got there, and then go on from there.

There are a few basic ideas that I hold to:
1. Players are there to adventure, thus, their characters are LOOKING for adventure. I don't need to come up with a reason for them to adventure.
2. If the Players try and turn it into a "why should I adventure" kind of situation (making it hard for me to get them into a group), I don't play along (see 1 above). If the Players want to have their characters sit in the inn and listen to the world around them, that's their choice. However, the members of the group who want to start adventuring will. I leave the other characters at the inn/caravan/bar/jail etc... and the player is invited to pick up playing an NPC who is either going along or in the same location who IS interested.
3. Getting past the introductions is just part of the deal. It's awkward, yes, but if you managed to put together a group to play, and they've come from differnt places, groups of friends, people you searched out just to play RPG's with, etc... then you can do it with a group of PC's. :D

The campaign I'm currently gathering a group for will start out traveling with a caravan as hired guards. That initial combat scene where the PC's have to rely on eachother to beat off an attacker, or for that matter, that initial non-combat scene where the PC's have nobody else but themselves to talk to while on the road can quickly bind a group together so that they'll be willing to look for other adventure together.

I once tried individual introductions. I put each player in a separate room, ran them through rumors, etc... of a treasure hidden near the city where I'd told them beforehand they were going to be in. When the all got to the point where they were approaching the enterance to the barrow where the treasure was, I put them all at the same table and they had to introduce their characters, and deal with other people being out for adventure. Not only did they all come together, they played those characters for several years.

12-31-2007, 05:15 PM
I think introducing each player to the story slowly would be hard to pull off and you easily run the risk of the first character becoming the main character in the eyes of the other players. I figure if you get a bunch of PC's in one location, introduce a calling or tragedy, and they all answer the call, your good to go.

01-03-2008, 11:26 PM
I'm starting my campaign this weekend (yes that one I posted about in December and now it's a Blackmoor campaign, I'll update there later)... my intro is as follows:

Everyone is in town for the annual Spring festival/event. This includes a druid blessing the land to be bountiful in the coming year.

Then the bad guys attack. It's actually a feint to check the city's responsiveness so it won't be an all out 'burn the town down' attack -- but it will be serious.

As the peasants and whatnot start running to shelter, the local Lord identifies the party (the people who don't just run at the first sign of danger) and commands them to take down the attacker's catapult.

This forces them (under noble command) to work as a team for a specific objective, and gives them a chance to meet on their own terms and set the pace. From there I have adventure hooks galore so it's about giving them credible offers to stay together for a while and do work.

Long term there is a plot behind it all, but the basic goal is to give them short term rewards for working as a group so it seems natural to the characters backgrounds.

I prefer throwing the fat into the fire and seeing what's left to forcing it. Otherwise I have them work collaboratively to make parties before we start.

01-04-2008, 01:57 PM
I've done a few games where my character and someone else's were good friends and grew up in the same town/near each other. Worked out pretty well. One time I used that, I was a bard, and the fighter was my bodyguard. :P Then we met the rest of the party.

01-04-2008, 03:21 PM
Sounds good so far grimwell. Be sure to let us know how your players like it.

01-05-2008, 10:03 PM
Lets see, last couple of games.

Al the PCs are local villagers that are called on to make a rescue. They grow up together and have strong ties. That one worked a charm. Great game for the three years or so it ran.

Currently all PCs were members of a circus that was shipwrecked on a distant shore.

Outcasts of society holed up in the same hovel.

I have certainly used the "called together for a reason". That works if you have a strong reason, and a strong leader.

In any case you need a cause or reason for strong bonds between the PCs. A reason to risk their neck for each other beyond the next bag of gold.

01-05-2008, 10:09 PM
Currently all PCs were members of a circus that was shipwrecked on a distant shore.Sounds like a great start for supers themed game. Was it a D&D adventure?

01-05-2008, 11:29 PM
Sounds like a great start for supers themed game. Was it a D&D adventure?

Yep. D&D is what I do.

01-06-2008, 03:34 AM
I'd love to hear more about that adventure. Can't imagine what any skilled warrior would be doing in a circus lol.

01-06-2008, 02:17 PM
Feats of skill - making Catherine Zeta-Jones naked, carving candles as they burn, bow-shots, daggers at 100-yards into a 1" target on the King's chest... etcetera.

I've used circuses many times to train fighters in something other than swinging a bastard sword.

01-06-2008, 09:18 PM
I'd love to hear more about that adventure. Can't imagine what any skilled warrior would be doing in a circus lol.

Well in this case there wasn't one. Him they picked up on the way. The Samurai under magistrate that investigated the wreck ended up joining the party.

They started with mainly rogue and magician types and branched out from there. One member is they Shaman that wasn't part of the circus but was on the same ship and her Minotaur companion.

Tanuki rouge -- Acrobat.
Gnome magician -- set and costume design.
Half elf craft -- (earth type magic) fortune telling, trained hawk act.

That was the circus survivors. Also on the ship.

Human Dreamweaver Shaman. Half way between the craft and a cleric. Works mainly in spirits and dreams.
Minotaur fighter.

Added to that from the locals is:

Human fighter-rogue. (I am not a ninja) Magistrate.
Kenko magician rogue, his clerk and the NPC.

Since them they have lost the Craft, gained a human cleric, and an NPC Human craft. They also have an NPC half elf Decker who is local to the twisted world they are on. Currently two very powerful local NPCs are backing their attempt to locate and wake one of the lost gods. I god near and ear to the NPCs, but in a place that would home in on either one of the NPCs and hound them out or to death.

01-06-2008, 10:08 PM
It would be a great way to assemble a party of... irregular races, classes, feats, etc... in a fantasy setting. Something along the lines of Aeon Flux, The Head (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Head), or The Maxx (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Maxx).

01-07-2008, 12:29 AM
Glue: What ever you use you need a reason for the PCs to care about each other and to be doing what they do.

That is why I insist that the players work together to hash out their character concepts. I want a party united form the start, not something I need to pull together.

I believe the need for that party unity is the reason you see a fixed number of starting scenarios. There are only so many ways to do it.

01-07-2008, 08:59 AM
I prefer having the players hash out why they are together in most cases. Sometimes, the getting to know each other can be one of the best parts of the journey. It can add much to the dramatic tension and storyline. I guess it depends on where I plan things to go in the future.

I remember frequent conflict in early games when the characters (sometimes players too) were just thrown together without a second thought. While looking back on the chaos gives me many fond memories, at the time it was a real pain.

01-07-2008, 09:03 AM
I think bringing characters together in a group full of real life strangers is even more important since it is a way for people to get acclimated towards each other. It is definitely an area of the game which can enhance the rest of the campaign, at least for several sessions, when done properly.

01-07-2008, 12:20 PM
Since I've always been a little low on players in my game, I'm been using the "Plot NPC Partymember" successfully lately. Simply, the primary plot hook is tied to an NPC that will adventure with the party. The NPC's primary job was to get the PC's together, supply plot, and ask as a font of knowledge when the PC's ask questions. I normally keep this character a healer type, but do use one to balance the PC's together. They are always laid back, and stay out of the adventuring spotlight, that's the PC's job. If the PC's don't want him along, he'll settle down as their base of operations and do other things while waiting.

My current example is Nathan, an Illumian Archivist who hired the PC's in order to search for a lost tome of knowledge. He's a non-combatant loaded with mostly utility spells that he lets the other know, should they need him. He may be a little wimpy, but will defend himself if he's attacked, but not as effectively as a PC. And, as an added bonus, he's a walking light source for the humans.

Another good reason for my NPC plot hook characters, my gamers haven't given me good enough background to actually have hooks from.

01-07-2008, 12:40 PM
Sounds like you could use some new players or the ones you have could use a good kick in the pants.

01-07-2008, 10:33 PM
With a campaign I'm considering getting started I have an interesting approach.

In this setting, there was an "Apocalypse" which was foretold by a crazy old priest, whom said that the sky would rain fire down upon the land, and leave the realm in shambles. Only one person believed the old man, a gnome, whom instantly began working on a device to protect his city from this "Apocalypse". When it happened, he was able to get the device to work, and it sealed the city off from the rest of the world. As a safety measure, it was left running for 400 years. The only people whom have ever left the city since, have been law offenders. To preserve space, they are forced to leave the city rather than jail them.

It wasn't until recently, when the power of the generators for this device began to dwindle that the idea to send out selected individuals to find other sources of power and perhaps other survivors came into being. And this is where the campaign begins. A city shut off from the rest of the world for 400 years, sends out a group of individuals in search of help and other survivors in a world that was destroyed around them, and has since re-grown.

To get this group together, I simply let each player decide if they are willingly leaving, or are being forced to leave with the group because of some crime they have committed, which will be pardoned upon their return with help. The group will quickly come to realize that they MUST rely on one another to survive in a harsh world where they are completely alone.

01-07-2008, 10:44 PM
Sounds like a good campaign so far! Must have been some divine intervention for gnome machine to work, especially that long. :) I think it would be funny if nothing had happened to the world, but probably not as good of a start. It is a very strong way to bring the characters together.

01-07-2008, 11:00 PM
The group will quickly come to realize that they MUST rely on one another to survive in a harsh world where they are completely alone.

I like it. It's something different from my usual approach. It's well thought out.

Have you considered the effects of a "spaceship" enviroment on the culture of the city?

01-08-2008, 01:36 AM
That is a great setting so far. When they go outside will it be a harsh wilderness setting or something more post apocalyptic?

01-08-2008, 08:01 AM
I am actually going to be starting up a different thread in the Campaign Resources forum, asking for a bit of help with smoothing out the campaign some. It will go into much more detail about what I have already decided on the setting among other things. So rather than steal this thread, please go and visit that one so this one can stay on topic? Hope to hear from you all soon!

01-08-2008, 02:28 PM
I have already decided on the setting among other things. So rather than steal this thread, please go and visit that one so this one can stay on topic? Hope to hear from you all soon!I look forward to it.

01-09-2008, 09:22 AM
I'm starting my next session with an initiative roll. A bar fight has broken out in a Stormreach tavern between the party and some ruffians with no love for the Blackwheel Company, which the players are a part of.

01-10-2008, 03:36 AM
I was thinking of a great beginning for cyberpunk campaign today :rolleyes:

All the players wake up in a laboratory and they're hooked up to machines. They've got wires and tubes going in and out of every pressure point and orifice of their bodies. There is an alarm going off in the background for an unknown reason and all of the scientists are frantically vacating the room. At the far end of the long room there is an area that is closed off by itself; semi-translucent windows embedded in each section of the iron walls that enclose it. Two distinct human screams can be heard behind the enclosure, one male, one female.

Following the muddled pleas for his life the male scientist in the room is smeared across two of the windows. A blaring reverberation fills the room the PC's are settled in as the middle aged woman's screams are silenced; her entrails and viscera covering the right foot of the behemoth as it punctures the base of the iron paneling.

The PC's, their veins pulsing wildly with the rhythm of absolute fear, begin to evacuate their metal slabs as quickly as is possible. Contorting their limbs, yanking violently from their medical grade confines, they start to head for the door. Each PC slings their heavy limbs forward, step after shaky step, every movement mimicking the drunken staggering of a seasoned alcoholic. A few feet from the only exit in the room the light bleeding from the hallway lights is snuffed into darkness. Their ticket to freedom revoked they turn to face the monstrosity as it staggers from the gaping metal mouth of its decimated cage.

Only now, their cells buzzing with adrenaline, does their collective haze start to lift. Each PC begins to notice they are missing key appendages. Hands, arms, legs, and even entire segments of skin missing. In their place armor plating, cybernetic limbs, hands replaced with multiple barrel cannons, ammunition trailing from wrist to knee, retractable blades jutting from various joints.... each person reborn as a living weapon. The Goliath at the far end of the room stands two lengths longer than the tallest of them. If this monster was ever human it could no longer be seen. It was nothing like them. Whatever was done to this poor abomination was an act of cruelty, this much was certain. Feeling sorry for your enemy however is a fool's errand. To state its intentions were predatory was truly a compliment and the biggest understatement of all time. If any of them was going to live long enough to find out why they had been selected for civil modification, they would have to act and react as one. Collective thinking was a welcome side effect of their wireless uplink to rooms tactical server array.I could go on but I think I'll save that for another thread, assuming anybody wants to hear more :p

01-10-2008, 07:58 AM
Augh! I come to the Fantasy forums to avoid Sci Fi! :p

But if you're claiming this as a beginning to a Fantasy Sci-Fi mix, you have discovered my biggest pet peeve of all time!

01-10-2008, 01:50 PM
Nope it has nothing to do with fantasy at all. The PC's awake with a neural link and a situation they must survive. Teamwork is hardly a given but it increases their chances of living through the encounter.

01-10-2008, 01:53 PM
But why is it in the Fantasy forum then? We're being corrupted!

01-10-2008, 02:04 PM
Just avert your eyes. We're on a new page now, your safe. Never go back to page two, EVER!!, and I promise you'll be ok ;)

01-10-2008, 02:49 PM
I was thinking of a great beginning for cyberpunk campaign today :rolleyes:
I could go on but I think I'll save that for another thread, assuming anybody wants to hear more :p

Don't say, DO!

01-10-2008, 03:23 PM
Don't say, DO!I'll start new thread in the sci-fi forum later tonight. I wanted the original post to be more detailed but given the topic of the thread it was posted it in I felt I should keep it somewhat brief.