One of my favorites I have come up with is telling everyone that they have to make a character who would desire to guard a merchant caravan guarding a dangerous trade route and/or valuable cargo.
The start of the first session is all of them in a group interview with the merchant in question (typically an encounter where they negotiate pay and whatnot.). Good times, it introduces the characters and generates RP interaction.
And this is crazy
You have my sword
Let's adventure maybe?
And now that's stuck in my head. Thanks for that.
One of the campaigns I'm playing in now started out with a standard "old man thinks you random individuals in town look sturdy enough to kill these bandits, and he'll pay you" to disguise the true reason everyone works together for the rest of the campaign. The bandit lair was an old temple with the secret for immortality. The adventurers decipher how to use it but don't realize the downside: Now they can't go more than a mile or so from eachother without enduring excruciating pain.
You could use the snowball effect, though it requires some player participation.
Ever read The Inkeeper's Song, by Peter S. Beagle? Story begins with one character, who is loyal/indebted to a powerful mage. The mage is somewhere else, trapped, and sending her dreams in an attempt to get help. The woman, of course, starts off after him. Along the way, she rescues a village girl from death, and the girl goes with her. The girl's lover, angry and confused, follows. The first woman is still just trying to find her friend the mage - when she crosses paths with another woman in almost her exact situation (minus the star-crossed lovers), searching for him.
The young man follows his lover, the lover follows her savior, the savior follows her master, and the master provides direction. Meanwhile, there are others who may have heard this mage's call before he became too weak to continue it. A highly personal common goal, rather than just a loot-the-dungeon sort of thing. And you can draw something like that out through any number of adventures. The mage may be on the run, or imprisoned somewhere that moves about, on a ship or a caravan, or the party might just have to follow his footsteps to find him, which could lead them through any number of odd adventures.
Granted that making the players come up with something may feel more natural...just wanted to point out that there are methods of bringing any characters together, even a bunch of loners. So long as they learn that they can't act so much like loners while they're stuck together.
Isn't this the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy falls out of Kansas - 1st PC. She is set on a quest to find the Wizard of Oz and to avoid the Wicked Witch of the West by Glinda - campaign. She meets a Scarecrow Golem who has achieved some form of sentience - 2nd PC. Together they rescue a Tin Golem of similar intellect from rusting - 3rd PC. Finally they meet my personal fave: a Lion at the hear of a dark wood - 4th PC.
Finally the game is set and then they ACTUALLY begin encountering hazards; field of poppies, social challenge to get into the Emerald City, side quest for the witches broom, rescue Dorothy (teach THAT player to miss a session!) and finally the ultimate end of the campaign wherein winning a social challenge against the Wizard's avatar reveals him as a charlatan.
I'll tell you what though: if I pulled a reveal on one of my players like Glinda does at the end when she tells Dorothy she could've gone home in 2 seconds from the moment she donned the slippers? I'd have a D20 embedded in my left eye faster than you can say "follow the yellow brick road!"
-You are all in the army, war is over, and you are going home together
Oooh, that's not cliché to me! Gank.
Got it right out of the Eberron campaign setting for 3.5
Narrativists are likely to grumble at this trope, but a simulationist like myself rather likes it. Consider that the 1st edition level 1 fighter titles was....VETERAN.
As I see it, after a war there are likely to be lots of little adhoc groups, squads and the like, who have gotten used to shedding the same blood in the same mud. Making the transition to mercenary band/adventurer group after mustering out of the King's army honestly seems pretty natural. I'll bet lots of such groups in the real world got their start this way, and if not this way (immediately after the war is up), the 'Old Army Buddy' is a very well-worn trope for a reason. I know LOTS of people with 'old army buddies'.
Skipped most of the thread, because it's getting so long, but I just wanted to say that this is one of the things that impressed me about Pathfinder Society.
When I returned to RPGs last year after a 20+ year hiatus, I played in a public setting for the first time, as opposed to the home campaigns I used to play with friends in high school. My first thought was to check out the latest D&D, so I bought the 4th edition starter box and showed up at a store for a Living Forgotten Realms session. We literally started with our characters in a pub, not knowing each other, and an NPC walked in and declared that he was looking to hire adventurers to help his town.
With Pathfinder Society, the in game Society itself IS your reason for the PCs to work together. And everyone is responsible for coming up with their own reason why their character would be a member of the Society.
Even if you're not going to play Pathfinder Society Organized Play, you can still borrow the Pathfinder Society game world concept for your campaign, especially if you're going to have a series of adventures that don't tie into each other with any sort of overall story arc.
"Hey guys, check out this Dungeons and Dragons ride! WHOOOOAAAHHHH!!!"
So begins the D&D cartoon...and your next game!
5 friends in our real world assemble for some form of diversion; D&D game, a Ren Fair, poetry slam...whatever. Suddenly a commotion of light, sound and magic. With violent certainty the 5 beings realize they are caught up in the thick of it. Suddenly it stops and they find themselves face to face with some enemy.
Moving to defend themselves purely on instinct they find themselves possessed of great power and skill, armed with weapons both archaic and preternatural. The enemy falls like wheat shorn from the stalk.
A mysterious figure appears and informs them their journey is just beginning. They little to do and much time to do it in. Wait. Strike that...reverse it.
So begins the epic journey of (insert team name here)!
I've been toiling with writing out a home-brew campaign, but I have three different scenarios to its opening. One, the PCs awaken to the Inn being on fire and the town being bombarded with cannon fire, where another nightly raid has started. Second opening would involve a train, but since that isn't Pathfinder as of yet, its not going to happen as an opening any time soon. Then there was the third idea for an opening: I'd inform the PCs they are going to be hung for crimes they may or may not have committed.
Two would work in Eberron with the lightning rail...(you have not played Eberron until you have fought a running battle on the roof of a lightning rail hurtling out of control toward immanent disaster, truly).
In A-team starts like Inkwell's #3 above, do you just tell the party as you all sit down at the table the first time "ok, so the guard opens the cell door and says 'it's time'" or do you actually give them the set up before hand?
I started my game this past saturday in a bar. The fighter was on his back, having insulted some guy's mom, while the rest of the party was scattered throughout and didn't know each other.
The fighter has a monk brother (2 characters played by 1 player) so they helped one another; the rogue basically fended for himself; the alchemist hid behind the dwarf cleric until he got fed up with the scene and hurled a bomb which ignited the bar.
FYI: never have an ADHD alchemist confined in the corner of a small bar...
If A-team starts like Inkwell's #3 above, do you just tell the party as you all sit down at the table the first time "Okay, so the guard opens the cell door and says 'it's time'" or do you actually give them the set up before hand?
My view would be the latter, because the situation calls for them to not have their equipment available on their person at the starting gate.
This wasn't the beginning of the whole game, but a beginning of sorts. 1e Oriental Adventures D&D; I have a kensai dedicated to the tonfa, another to the katana, a ridiculously well-roleplayed samurai and a DM NPC wu jen named, predictibly, Wu.
Anywho, the gang got caught unawares by some ninja. I dropped them all to 0hp and of course both the hot-headed kensai players got up and left the table. My samurai player waited patiently, IN CHARACTER waiting for the party's ultimate fate. I rewarded him after an hour-long break from the table by coming back with the other 2 players and resuming. They awoke, 1 hp, hanging from wooden crosses suspended 10' in the air in nothing more than loin cloths...
Still the samurai player just sat there, listening; it was kind of creepy. He caught sight of Wu, who'd SOMEHOW evaded capture. Then he spotted what the ninja leader was doing. At the beginning of the game the samurai had rolled phenominally and inherited a magic item - a helm that magically transformed into a full suit of +1 armor. Out of honor to his ancestors HE decided at the beginning of the game that he'd ONLY wear it if the situation called for it; in 3 levels he hadn't donned the thing once.
The ninja leader is about to usurp the power of this family relic.
Samurai screams himself up to 18/100 strength (actually screamed in my basement) and rolls to free himself which he aces. He drops the 10' and because of a house rule makes a save to take no damage. As he hits the ground he crits the ninja guard in the face. Normally it wouldn't have killed the guard, but I figure I'll just make EVERY ninja on the island a minion; it's NINJA island with over 100 of the guys there, how far can they get?
Samurai p/up ninja's sword, throws katana at katana kensai's ropes; hits and frees one hand. Katana kensai frees self and drops, making save. Wu pulls of last spell freeing tonfa kensai with a magic missile and is promptly out of spells.
Tonfa guy makes rolls to use the ropes to descend the spar while UNARMED/UNARMORED samurai and katana guy begin wiping the floor with ninjas. Honestly they both critted 3 more times while fighting their way, uphill, into a sea of black jumpsuits. Bringing up the rear tonfa guy finds a pair of the fighting sticks and wades in.
Now of course they were still up against a LOT of ninjas. Wu, who was described as having a "7 demon bag" is called upon to lend support. Selling a bit of his life force to one of the demons he pulls out a clutch spell, one he got extra damage with for being a mainly earth guy and whips off a Hail of Stone...max damage rolled in plain sight. He killed 5 ninja right there and then collapsed giggling.
Of course all 3 main PC's, still at 1 hp, make the leader's dais. His 2 elite guard square off against the kensai; katana guy FINALLY goes down epicly taking his guard w/him and tonfa guy finally gets HIS crit of the night and dispatches the guard no worries.
Samurai and leader lock blades and samurai TROUNCES the dude! It was so ridiculous! I literally got up and YELLED at my d20. He beats the guy down and rather than let him die since I had SO much of the campaign invested in the guy I pull a "beg for mercy" maneuver. The samurai complies and commands him to flee and never return, then takes his family helm...AND STILL DOESN'T PUT IT ON!!!
He also collects the party's gear and, seeing the ninjas regrouping they pick up Wu and katana guy and flee to a boat to sail off of ninja island.
I know it doesn't qualify perfectly for this thread but I just felt I had to put it out there. To honor you, shidoshi.
Gigglestick: That's an excellent suggestion. I'm curious, do you let them know they may get the bonuses out of their character generation and backgrounds? Or do you just assign it as an unexpected reward?
Depends on the group, but I normally let them know ahead of time that there will be an additional reward for good backgrounds that tie the characters together. With some players, it gets them motivated to make more 3 dimensional characters.
I'm playing in a JR game right now where the GM gave us 4 traits (instead of 2) and one extra feat as long as we tied them into our background...
"Sons of Katie Elder" My dm started a campaign once with- "okay, you all have the last name Preston. Go." We were all brothers (group of eight, that was fun to figure out ;)) campaign went on for a year, levle 17-18 at the end. We still talk about those characters. We had Rusty Nails "the word" Preston, the youngest of the group that didn't understand why The Symbol could go around calling herself "The Symbol" and insisted on being called "The Word" from the time we met her till the end of the campaign. Dashel Preston and Jayde Preston twin rogues, we always had a flanking buddy. Elvis Preston the bard. Maxwell Preston, wizard the cast prestidigitation on Rusty's food to make it taste like chalk every single time mom served it up so Rusty always thought mom was a terrible cook. Marcus Preston. and Charleston Preston, a pro-freedom cleric. That group was amazing to play with *reminiss*
At the mention of reading the samurai post from Mark Hoover, it reminds me slightly of my most recent one. We are doing Pathfinder rules in eberron, and I opted to play a warforged fighter (adamant body). The DM, in his folley, opted to make the warforged an insane monster stat wise (started with 22 STR, for example, and 32 hp at 1st level). No one else got this kind of treatment (a goliath barbarian, an escaped slave human fighter from Darguun, a halfling rogue who thinks he's a fighter (wields a greatsword), a kitsune wizard, and a changeling oracle. Most of the players, minus the goliath and the human, are all about the bizarre and silly. The halfling is constantly stealing stuff simply because he's a rogue. I asked him out of character once if he thought he was a good role-player with that character, and he thought he was. I just shook my head.
Well, after a few session, I convinced the DM to let me kill off the warforged (with all the stat-bonuses, it wasn't even fun really). So I decided to go a different route with the character. Hobgoblin Samurai under the Order of the Blue Rose (for those unwilling to get the books out, an order that is promotes peace and tranquility and disdains needless violence) from Darguun.
The DM decided that I was the enabler for the escaped slave to get free, but I simply remained for a long time afterwards until I left in search of glory and Dhakaan relics (my personal backstory, but one easy to incorporate into adventuring).
Throughout our initial travels, the party is constantly restraining the rogue to keep him from stealing things. My character, instead, simply sits and speaks with him in character and actually logically convinces the poor halfling of the error of stealing.
So we go to Rhukaan Draal (goblin empire capital) for a quest, and as we are leaving with our merchant friend, we are jumped by several bugbears who felt cheated by our merchant NPC that is taking us where we need to go.
With it role-played perfectly, the samurai agent of peace doesn't threaten the bugbears into cowering or fleeing, but instead hanging their heads and contemplating the error of their ways. My entire argument started on the premise that it was against the laws and code of the Lhesh Haruuc to fight with merchants, as they well knew, and to defy the Lhesh is to invite war upon him. Then I continued on how they shouldn't be squabbling over petty grudges, but contributing in a more positive manner to society as the ancient Dhakaans did to showcase goblin superiority over the 'lesser' races. After all, the goblins held an empire together for over 10,000 years. The humans can't do 1000.
Afterwards, the DM, who was trying not to die of laughter, gracefully awarded me a hero point. The other players, used to hack and slay or "good roleplaying" being nothing more than clowning around, were awestruck. Now, their characters are actually happy to travel with this deranged hobgoblin...
There are any number of "hooks" to get PC's to work together. The tired cliche of meeting in a Tavern has to be one of the worst.
- PCs are the sole survivors of an airship/sea ship crash. Their survival depends on reliance and trust on the others.
- PCs are already members of an existing organization (Pathfinder Society, Thieve's Guild, Town Council, etc.) and are already familiar with each other. All of a sudden, goblins attack the building they are in for an important meeting (which, oddly enough, was held to discuss goblin raids).
- PCs are duped into working with each other by a wise old sage who contacts them individually and gives them cryptic clues so they won't kill each other. "Trust in the one-eyed poet", he says. One of the other PCs wears an eyepatch and speaks in rhyme. They are all on the same quest and talked to different incarnations of the same sage.
- PCs are all imprisoned by the main bad guy and have to rely upon each other's specific skill sets to get free, find their gear, and get to the "rally point".
- PCs are all hired guards in a traveling circus or gypsy band as protection. The ringleader is slain, and they must solve the mystery.
In the end, it's up to the PCs to play together. If they start being problem children, I will intervene and make them play nice or leave the gaming table. Telling the DM that "my character just wouldn't do that or work with them" every time (you know these players) is a cop-out for someone simply looking to troll.
Go read the flavor text of a Paladin. It even says they will work with an evil party if it serves the greater good. No better lesson of "play together or don't play at all" in my mind.