|Matthew Morris RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8|
While I have DM'ed before, it was a long time ago (like, 14 years ago) and a for Dark Sun campaign that grew in player size gradually over time, making it easy to work in new PCs.
I've taken an interest in Pathfinder and am keen to begin a new campaign. The issue is that it's a group of five (two old-hands, three relatively new) from the get go, and I know from experience that these players sometimes are prone to the "Why would my PC want to hang out with these guys" argument or inter-party drama.
What would you recommendations be for starting the campaign in a way that gets around this scenario in an uncontrived manner? While I'd love for them to fall naturally into a group, it can be difficult to steer them in that direction and I'd prefer they all start on good terms from the beginning.
My thoughts at this point are:
1. During character creation, work in a hook into each character's background where a PC is at least related/friendly/a colleague of another PC.
2. Mutual survival: The PC's start shackled and rowing on a slave galley far from home (their starting equipment is essentially stored in a storage hold of some sort), when the galley is attacked by a third-party - in the ensuing chaos, they have the opportunity to deal a blow to the slavers and escape to a distant shore. Or the city where they were all located is aflame, and they've all managed to escape the inferno via the city's long-abandoned catacomb network... something along those lines.
Anyway, have any tips or recommendations?
If you're using Traits (from the Advanced Player's Guide, and in nearly all Adventure Path Player Guides), tell your players that they must choose a Campaign Trait for one of their two Traits. Make a series of Campaign Traits that will benefit different character roles in the campaign and also hook them into the initial scenario and to each other. Take a look at the Traits presented in the (free) Skull and Shackles Player's Guide for an example.
Players like Traits because they are an additional small bonus for free, and also helps them flesh out character backgrounds.
Is the game already start? The PCs have already been created?
Having some tips from you will make easier for us to help.
What the setting? Golarion or homebrew?
Things I have used:
1. Everyone wakes up in a dungeon with no idea how they got there. A magic mouth tells them they've been selected for testing, to see if they can survive. (For added fun, have them start in different rooms and have to survive alone until they meet up and have to decide if they can trust each other.) Those that survive get hints about the person that did this to them and have a common vengeance to pursue.
2. The party starts out as travelers on the same caravan/ship. Misfortune strikes in the form of bandits/pirates or rockslide/shipwreck. The survivors share a common bond afterwards.
Tell the players: "Now, as a group, please come up with a story on how you all met each other and why are you all adventuring together. I'll start running the game once you folks have figured that out."
Works every time.
Our most recent campaign started with all of us graduating from an adventurer's school and given a mission to get us all started on our careers. Everything went on from there.
IF any of you can track it down, I would recommend Central Castings books.
Give the players a list of "Party Origins" that they may choose from. The Party Origins each have a requisite alignment, all PCs must be within one step of that alignment.
If you want some examples see HERE. Warning: Very, very minor Kingmaker Spoilers.
All good ideas and you seem like you have 2 good ones in mind yourself. Other things that I've used:
1. Shared event: a comet hits, the demon attacks, the blight hits the land... some singular happening that gets woven into their background. I used a modified Hollow's Last Hope for a 5th level start and that worked pretty well; PC's begin in a forest wilderness town without access to a cure disease outlet and has to suddenly combat a mold-borne disease so the PCs become defacto saviors...
2. Patronage: who doesn't like stuff? The PCs have some kind of benefactor at the beginning of the game that can provide them with anything from an extra healing potion to everyone getting the "rich parents" trait free and they all go on wild shopping sprees. Said patron can be anything: dragon in disguise, a guild, a kindly mentor, or a sucubus. The key is that the first couple adventures result from having to "do" stuff for them and eventually the party may move beyond the need for a patron, but their "parent" just doesn't want to let go.
3. Dreams: kind of in the same vein as Omega-man above there was saying, use an opening dream sequence to either a) inform them all individually of the coming danger or b) actually carry them to the opening gambit of the campaign. I ran a mini-campaign a few years ago to introduce a bunch of noobs to gaming so I updated Palace of the Silver Princess to a 3.5 game and instead of saying mysterious beings just port them to the site I had the slumbering monarch appear in their dreams and beg for their aid then flee through the woods. As the PC's pursued her they emerged, fully outfitted, on the edge of the site popping out of the tree line and having to intro themselves to strangers.
I think you've hit on the golden rule by pre-planning a character gen session. I know it's more expedient to have everyone make up characters beforehand and then just sit down and start rolling their first attack, but if you REALLY want to see who you're dealing with at the table and how they'll all fit together you need that night of just putting pen to paper (or in my game, 5 laptops clicking away at once...) and just watch what they create.
I always give my players a rough sketch of the campaign (land, politics, the "start" general theme, like a "players guide") and them tell them to please create their characters with this as a group or with a backstory which could be easily fit together.
I think as the characters should be fun for the player, they should create their own backstory.
Thanks for me, my players are not playing soziopaths, so there always came something up, which creates "the group".
Thanks for all the replies so far, guys!
Looking at Golarian at the moment. While I want to do my own adventures, I'd like to be able to dip into modules or the like when I'm under strain.
Currently, we haven't started anything yet. I'm busy reading through the material (Core Rulebook, GM Guide and Bestiary I) and looking to pick up the Inner Sea World Guide PDF, finances allowing.
Over-arching event/story at this point is pretty vague. I'm putting together notes as I go, but I'm happy to wing it for the first few sessions while I generate a more substantive story arc.
That's... well, that sounds like a remarkably simple and effective solution, actually - especially in the case of my players. Doesn't that result in alot of "I'm a vagabond with no ties, no families and no responsibilities, hurrah!" though?
Hmmm, that could actually work. Especially if it's combined withThanis Kartaleon's recommendation of small character benefits. I'll give it a read through.
Mark Hoover wrote:
I like this idea as well. Possibly the PC's have been individually approached as being unique and they're drawn into some sort of new guild or group for more extraordinary missions?
"almost a hero wrote:
In such cases i usually tell the player "then you have no reason to be here".Seriously,the players should have anyway an event to work around that put them togheter.I went for what i suggested before:"you have all been hired by the Calistrian church" because one of them is a cleric of Calistria and put them all in the same caravan.
The other were just mercenary hired as muscles/scouts/scholars/whatever....what really matters is they are all in the same caravan.
If my request for players to come up with their "party backstory" is met with "my PC is an antisocial jerk with no reasons to hang out with anybody", I take the player aside and explain to them that RPGs are a social activity that works well only if everybody is actually interested in having fun together. As such, acting out your inner sociopath is not what I am looking for in anybody at the table.
If that fails, I kindly bid the player farewell, because that wouldn't ever work anyway.
If you as the GM like figuring out ways for them to cooperate, fine. If you don't like it, you don't have to, make them come up with a way and focus on the story.
+1 GorbaczHave had plenty of sociopaths at gaming tables over the years,always ended in the party TPKing itself or at the best of ending everyone in the party selling another to slavers or rapist (in case of females elves or humans)....but usually i was the first one to leave the table in such cases.
Almost A Hero wrote:
1. During character creation, work in a hook into each character's background where a PC is at least related/friendly/a colleague of another PC.
I heartily recommend reading the Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign guide (downloadable free PDF from Paizo) as the best example of working in traits to a back-story to provide an anchor to hook the player's together.
Indeed... I started doing that long ago when I GM'ed TORG (it was a suggestion in thir book). I used it every time since. Gets rid of the painful "you meet in a bar" scenarios.
I almost always seem to be the guy that ends up missing the first session or two an any long-ongoing games, so my character ends up being that wierd guy they meet after they've already somewhat gelled as a group. Much like me in real life. :P
Agreed with the upthread suggestions that having the players work out their characters and their reasons for being together before the campaign really helps.
Alternately you can just start the game with them stitched together as a humanoid centipede. That gives them all an immediate common goal.*
*Do not do this thing.
+1 to G & G.
I am so mad at you for making me look up the reference and learn there was a sequel.
Also, the latter grants free Leadership to one or two of the PCs I guess.
And I would have to disagree that sewing them together would give them a common goal. Just think of all the people tied together in movies. They can't even pick a direction to start moving.
I just now realized I've never used the "odd couple handcuffed to each other" scenario.
I do think that the best way to work out the "how do the PCs get together" is to have the players come up with a plausible means for their characters to be working together.
However, if they aren't willing or able to do that, then I have no problem with "you all find yourself in a bar and a guy walks in and says "Howdy folks, I'm in need of some help to solve a problem. There's treasure and glory involved. Anybody interested?"
There is some excellent advice above.
Quoted for truth:
Almost a Hero wrote:
Doesn't that result in alot of "I'm a vagabond with no ties, no families and no responsibilities, hurrah!" though?
Actually, yes. And if you're running an adventure path, that can actually be a good thing. This is why I don't often give players Gorbacz's line, although it's a good one. What I say is: "Make whatever you want, but they must be the type of character who can answer the call to adventure and work in a group."
That is my sole criterion. If people really want to play isolated amnesiacs, why should I stop them? My job is to let them play.
A character who ignores plot hooks or throws them back in the GM's face is a manifestation of a player who enjoys wasting the GM's time and effort. I make it clear up-front that I have no patience for that — but everything else is cool. Even the mysterious loner ranger, so long as the player is at peace with the plot hooks.
I think it depends on where you intend to go with the game.
If you have an overarching storyline and/or villain, then you can tie the characters individually to that before the game starts or build those ties in game. Then the party doesn't need an internal reason to stick together, they've got outside pressure, this situation they're dealing with.
Pick an Adventure Path and play that. They all have hooks to eliminate that issue.
That sounds a lot easier than it proves to be in practice. Depends on the GM and players, obviously. But in a homebrew, it's often easier to shift things around to suit the players' whims. In an AP, the players need to take a shot at the target, blindfolded.
The traits that PF puts in the AP are an excellent tool for this. If you are making your own campaign I suggest doing something similar.
Also, after several instances of intra-party conflict (not the fun joking kind), I have made a new rule.
"You, the player, have to find a reason your character is willing to work with the others."
We had an instance where 3 out of 5 where anti-social loner types. The monk had a conviction that all necromancers are evil. The archer attacked the gladiator for not throwing a match so he could make a 100 gps. The paladin refused to cooperate with anything 'sneaky' or 'underhanded' and he was the only one in the group that didn't have alot of ranks and gear for stealth. Etc...
An anti-social loner types and anti-authoritarian rebels make very good main characters in a novel. But taken to the extremes they usually are a PC's, they do not make a cooperative party.
Evil Lincoln wrote:
And the supposed hooks in the APs often do no more than get the characters involved in the first part of the adventure. They still have to answer the call to adventure to continue. For example, the hook in Serpent's Skull is just that you're shipwrecked. Everyone's going to want to work together to get off the island, but the hook for the whole rest of the adventure really relies on little more than greed and curiosity.
There's also the problem that the GM and players may not want to play an AP. Some people actually liking making up and running their own adventures.
Now, if I have a player group that is motivated by tangible rewards, I've also given out a bonus for players who work hard to come up with a concrete background that ties everyone togehter and gives them a common goal with plot hooks.
Something like an extra trait for everyone if they use it to tie in their backgrounds or a very minor magic item (scroll of wand with few charges) or piece of evquipment if you can use it to tie in the rest of the players in a background. (And it can be a way to overcome weaknesses in the charcter designs....)
As for antisocial players who don't want to be part of the group....i tell them when they join that this is a group RPG...you don't have to be totally group oriented, but you ahve to be one of the heroes and you have to expect to spend most of your time working with others in the party. You're not allowed to actively act to interfere with the reasonable goals of the rest of the party and if you decide to go off on your own, then all of the CR controls are off...
I give them three strikes to learn how to play nice with others, then I tell them to find another GM...
But leaving it to your players to come up with a concrete background can often lead to some great roleplaying, especially when the less creative members get dragged into an interesting background by others and get a chance to open up their own roleplaying skills.
(I've had players in a few groups who manipulate from teh sidelines...they're really good at arranging things so that other characters shine and get to use their abilities and skills while they sit back and interact...it can be fun, and sometimes frightnening, to observe.)
There was a sequel? 8-\
In preparation of my RotRL game I'm going to run, I told all of the players they had to have a reason to be in Sandpoint. With their basic ideas, I helped them fill in the details. I also made it known that while they all don't have to be related or best friends, they would all be aware of each other and be on speaking terms with everyone.
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.
All great ideas so far.
One thing I have done successfully is combine two ideas at once. For example, the characters are all starting out as New Haven militia members (same organization) and the first scenario is the town being smashed, pillaged, and over run by invading evil humanoids (characters are the survivors of some bad event). OR another time where I used, the characters are all marked by prophecy and bear a magical tattoo on the back of their right hands. According to the prophecy bearers of the gift of the Dragon's Mark will defeat the great evil. I often then use obscure prophetic passages as clues to future missions. I combined that with: You all start as children in the same village and have grown up together as friends.
But in the end the best way to get everyone going is what was suggested earlier: Have the players work out between them how and why they adventure as a team. Simple and extremely effective as it gets them thinking like a team before you even place a single scenario in front of them.
I have even worse news for you both....they're turning it into a full trilogy.
Stop this planet, I want to get off right now.
I may be sorry for asking, but what movies are you folks talking about?
^^^^ Human Centipede. Don't research any further, it's not worth it.
Another thing to have players consider as a group:
Where do they want to take their characters in general terms? What are their goals?
Because certain player goals can conflict to the point of stabbing each other if things come to a head.
"I want to use the party to gain personal power and then betray them all when they least expect it." is one of those that can give some cause for concern for example.
Dabbler: Will definitely give it a read.
Kind of like carriage cars for
Evil Lincoln wrote:
Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:
Every reason or rationalization I tried to provide for them to be together was rejected as not meeting 'my character concept'. So now I use the rule above.
Excellent advice from both of you. That's exactly why I'd like to try and make the group as cohesive as possible from the start - I don't mind so much having plot-hooks ignored (although it can get a bit tiresome if someone deliberately avoids it), but I've found that a player's 'character concept' can be amazingly flexible from moment to moment.
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?
Michael Radagast: Sorry, I haven't, but I get what you're saying.
Also, I read through some of your organisations, DM_aka_Dudemeister. Nice work. I might give them the opportunity of belonging to an organisation before we start generating their characters so they can work it into their backgrounds. I know a few of the players will get a kick out of the benefits (they like optimising builds and whatnot in other games).
I personally try the you are in a tavern approach most of the time (I am constantly introducing new players), I feel some connection to wanting a new player to have the default experience. Though there are a number of things you can do to make it more than just random.
1- Barfight- Let them lose the fight. They wake in jail with someone who needs help, or has a treasure map but is too old, or is actually the rightful ruler of the region but has been suplanted, or a slumming aristocrat arrested in the same brawl that has need of guards/investigators to recover lost items from his families lost merchant caravan.
2- Attack- While getting drunk the party hears the call to arms. The city is being raided. The majority of the guard is tied up manning the walls and the main gate but the river culvert, sewer or recently blasted hole in the wall needs manning. A lone guard begs for any to help. Those that assist are wined dined and well thanked and offered work for another problem.
3- Fortune Teller- A seer is in the bar and while the PC's dine separately has an ominous message for them perhaps linking threads of all their back stories.
I too recommend looking at the AP system which does a very good job of developing hooks for diverse characters. Even if you do not want to play an AP the system they use to bring the characters in is a good one.
The other option I like is have the players make the characters together at the same time and naturally what the party needs will start to create one a good balance and start the players getting a feel for how their character is going to fit with the others. Even if they RP the first meeting. This often turns into we all already know eachother.
Another option is to fiat that they're all friends.
The Knights of Myth Drannor, for example, start out as friends wanting to get out of the hick town and get a Royal Charter.
Ghost Tower of Inverness' tournament hook was "You're all sentenced to death. Guess what! you get to explore the spooky tower of death instead!"
A World of Darkness "Second string" idea I had was that the first line mentors/parents had been killed, so the Dhampyr, Kinfolk, Sorcerer, etc had to team up in case the MacGuffin that killed a Kui-jin, Werewolf, Mage, etc. comes after them.
The Dragon Age II hook "You've just survived a year of indentured servitude, what now?" also works to bring everyone together.
There was a Greyhawk adventure we played where we were all broke/out of school/out of temple/etc. and carrying toys for charity (and to get paid) We get mugged, and then mutual anger unites us.
Just some ideas.