Good starting points for PCs ?


Homebrew and House Rules


I was curious as to what you all think are some good key starting points for PCs.

I had thought about having them all awake on a ship at see.

What are you views and experiences?


At a bar all good adventures start at a bar


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Depends on the adventure and what they are going to be doing and why. Usuaully I will present an overview of what they are trying to do when the adventure begins, and ask them to figure out why their characters are doing it. From that I can usually determine a good starting point. But in general, I start with the players already have established ties to eachother somehow.


As Kolokotroni said. It all depends on the adventure.

I have been GM'ing for 12 years and my experience is that starting at a climax is a great thing.

My last beginning was simple. The PCs are travelling out to an outpost at the border, none of them have ever been there before. When they enters everything seems normal and when they reach all the way into the outpost, they are suddenly in an heavy ambush - some bad guys knew they where comming. And after the whole fight they find notes about an assasination of the outpost leader and a very few clues.

This way it whole beginning is powerfull and the PCs knows that stuff is about to happend. And that is good.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Each of the PCs is responding to Help Wanted fliers for someone who needs to assemble a strike force of varied specialists. Lots of NPCs show up as well, but after some trials and interviews, the PCs are selected as the best candidates for the job.

A side benefit of this is that none of the PCs need to know of each other beforehand (except perhaps by reputation), and during the interview process they might make a few new contacts or rivals you can use down the road.

Silver Crusade

We began our great adventure with a ritual ceremony in a little village celebrating the new moon, ruined by a sudden bandit attack. It was pretty epic as we didn't know who was which character/player beforehand, and we were the last people remaining to defeat the invasion while villagers fled, leaving the four of us standing and looking awkwardly at each other for our first meeting.

- The barbarian came from another country. He swam several kilometers on flying water currents several kilometers ahead of the ocean to land on the first foreign flying island where he could hone his skills and become a warrior. He frowned upon our culture, and even more puny soldiers and girlish nobles. Badass material and fun roleplay straight from level 1.

- The ranger was a young homeless villager that tracked the bandit leader to learn about him and prepare a skirmish some times later as to avenge the temple who was so kind to him, but came upon too late, and started shooting arrows from the woods when the attack began. Level 1 child of nature !

- The monk was a in training, and wished to behold the ceremony as a symbolic way to begin his life of ascetism. Asses where kicked when gangsters started wrecking havock in the peaceful town. Level 1 kick ass !

- My fighter was the latest son of a noble family, who reach the rank of Captain through his blood ties and never left his luxurious manor in the most wonderful quarters of the Capital. His first "real" mission was to be the bodyguard of the minister coming to see the ceremony. He failed miserably, left his job to an underling to defend the village and chase the rogues, and broke an orb containing a druid's soul. The minister got killed by a complicated but awesome low-level scheming plot involving drugs. Level 1 scapegoat, but awesome to play character.


I have had a DM have the characters go through buying equipment only to tell us that we all awake in cells with rags on. He like doing stuff like that lol and killing our horses. We stop giving em names as they usually ended up lunch for some wandering monster.

What is more rewarding? Having them all know each other or it playing out in a opening like Maxximilius mention above.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Walking to market on the unfortunate day when two powerful wizards decide to duke it out overhead.


Currently my PC's are part of an adventurer's guild called the Archivists Guild. They investigate occult activity and search for historical relics. Our first official game is in a couple weeks as we just got done w/character gen. Here's the agenda:

Party comes to town looking for their contact at a priory; said contact will help them with info and a guide for a local ruin. There is a weird blight in this region and the town is throwing it's spring festival. The pc's will 1) have the chance to play a bunch of games, resulting in a scene where PF versions of the Avengers have to peel "The Bulk" off any of the PC's in the hand fighting ring; 2) move to meeting their contact at dusk in the beer tent only to get the info they need at the same time that mites hidden in the crowd provoke a barfight; 3) need to stop a bunch of gypsies from seducing them into a dark fey revel.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
DrkMagusX wrote:

I was curious as to what you all think are some good key starting points for PCs.

I had thought about having them all awake on a ship at see.

What are you views and experiences?

Ship at sea is a good one, passengers boarding at many ports and they just happen to be the ones present when X happens.

Recruitment campaign is a good one too, be it 'help wanted' or floating a company.

All in a bar/market place/temple square/town meeting when the fight breaks out is a common one.

All PCs are the up and coming youth of a small village.

The PCs are drawn together by a mysterious stranger, united by a common goal or enemy.

"The Z are attacking! You, you and you! You're in the army now, defend this wall!"


prison, either they just got in or out
or military, either they just got in or out.

Both account for a single lvl in a non-npc class.

Silver Crusade

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-The pc's are the harem of a evil queen and must escape.

-The pc's played some nasty game where you wager with (part of) your memory. They lost.

-The pc's are in a underwater city, which is slowly flooding. They must find out what happened/escape. Follow up with:

-the pc's are inside a stranded apparatus of Kwalish (submarine) that stranded just off the coast, and have to swim a little bit.

-the pc's are on/after a magical ship that can submerge. Think Harry Potter or Pirates of the Carribean.

THE DEFORMED LABYRINTH
-The pc's are inside a labyrinth. Parts of the maze are built for Large or Tiny creatures. The pc's must find potions of reduce/ enlarge person to navigate the labyrinth.
Put appropiate monsters in the Large and small Labyrinth (Large Dire rat, Pixie musket master, etc.)
For extra fun, there's a time limit. If they turn back, levers are 10 ft above them on the wall, or too tiny to manipulate.
In General: size-based puzzles. See Alice in Wonderland for more inspiration. For extra strangeness and fun, subvert typical encounters:
-"You come across skeletal remains that tower above you. Among the bones is a huge ring"
-"With a Perception check of 27, you notice the skeletal remains of some fairies. They are wearing some sort of amulet, but it's too small for you tu use.
"With a Perception check of 28 you find a tiny secret door in the wall. Even if it wasn't a secret door, you would have probably overlooked it."

lABYRINTH OF LAMASHTU
-A labyrinth built on a flood plain. There are holes in the walls. if the PC's don't get out soon enough, the labyrinth will flood. Pc's will encounter electro-conductive fungus or shocker lizards.

examples of rooms:
-magically kept at freezing point. Most doors and locks inside are almost frozen shut. Water flooding in here will slowly turn into ice.
-already flooded, with black or red, but otherwise harmless water.
The things IN the water are...not harmless.
-Some doors are marked with the holy symbol of a non evil "water" deity, (Pharasma, etc)Unlock them to access safe rooms with supplies.
-Scrying pools can be found offering a view of the outside world, to taunt those lost within.

etc etc. this is a liquid-themed labyrinth.

Silver Crusade

THE DEN OF GREASE
A labyrinth drenched in grease. In some of the chambers the grease in flammable. The walls are only 30 ft high, but too slippery to climb. It is riddled with magical fire traps, and creatures with an affinity to fire.

Adventurers must beware of steep slopes, pits, and narrow ledges.
Secret trap doors are hidden beneath the grease that coats the floor.

To taunt pc's, oil flasks and alchemist's fire are stren throughout the maze.


The best starts I've had engaged the players.

We were starting at 3rd level in a specified city in the story world, I told everyone the basic start would be, and made them wright rudimentary backgrounds with two rules...

1 your background must contain a story hook, something you are searching for, a nemesis, a group searching for you, anything that can be foreshadowed in the starting adventure that I can work into a natural follow up adventure.

2 Your background must tie in to at least two other party members in some way. Essentially, in stead of me telling them 'why they are together' (I.e. you've all been adventuring for awhile) I let them tell me why they were together, which leads to some more natural and intuitive ties that bind a group together, while still letting a character play the "i'm s secretive loner and nobody knows '_(fill in trite secrete background here_' about me" without everyone have to wonder "why the heck are we bringing along the laconic shadowy mysterious ninja that won't talk to anyone"?

This kind of start has the players caring about each other before the quest ever began. And made the "an old bearded man in a bar is offering you some work" trope feel less trite than it is.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I started my newest campaign with a short drop and a sudden stop. For all the characters. Executed for minor crimes by a corrupt and evil king, then brought back by a paladin leading a rebellion against said king. Good for forming a little solidarity and some anger at the enemy.


All start at a separate spot in a trading post. Said trading post is the victim of an awful disaster. Earthquake, attack by orcs, maybe strafed by a dragon. Each of them is on their own and they have to make there way to safety. The survivors arrive to a clearing, or a cave as the only survivors. Or so they think.


I've learn to accept that my adventures start in a bar and end in a cave. As a friend put it , "I'll head to the nearest cave....what? All evil live in caves..."


For new players I go with the tavern. I like to establish the cliche. For vetrans there are lots of good options many already mentioned, military service, prison, and in town for an event. I loved Curse of the Crimson Throne's start. By picking traits they all had a score to settle with the same man all it took to be a party was someone who knew that man's whereabouts and the suggestion to work together.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Gnomezrule wrote:
I loved Curse of the Crimson Throne's start. By picking traits they all had a score to settle with the same man all it took to be a party was someone who knew that man's whereabouts and the suggestion to work together.

Agreed! That start up was awesome, possibly the best-executed start-up for an adventure path I have found yet.


So above I said I'm doing this fey revel thing in my game and it got me thinking; do I even need the pretense of the setup? 2 alternate starts to my original idea:

I drank WHAT: the party comes to AFTER the revel. Literally my players sit down at the table and I describe how they're naked in a mossy forest glen with only vague memories of meeting their Inquisitor contact the night before. This won't work w/my characters (who HATE mysteries and asked for a linear story) but the hook would be piecing together the clues to figure out what had happened and how do they fix it.

Ghost town: The party is delayed on the road; side adventure, inclemet weather, whatever. The actually show up the morning AFTER the revel. The town of Erdanstadt is deserted and the monks of the priory have no answers. Again; I don't think my players would stand for the mystery of it but it could be really cool.


This thread's got me thinking; what other starts could be cool?

Noir: Narration as we close in on the fighter - I've had a lifetime of killing. In the Goblinsbane War I saw enough death to turn the blood in my veins to icewater; I left the militia and retired to the farm to be done with it all. But then SHE came through my door...

The party in this scenario starts off as having seen action to get the to their starting levels (even if it's level 1) and tney've opted for early retirement but someone or several someones arrives to pull them back into the life.


MC Templar wrote:


1 your background must contain a story hook, something you are searching for, a nemesis, a group searching for you, anything that can be foreshadowed in the starting adventure that I can work into a natural follow up adventure.

2 Your background must tie in to at least two other party members in some way. Essentially, in stead of me telling them 'why they are together' (I.e. you've all been adventuring for awhile) I let them tell me why they were together, which leads to some more natural and intuitive ties that bind a group together, while still letting a character play the "i'm s secretive loner and nobody knows '_(fill in trite secrete background here_' about me" without everyone have to wonder "why the heck are we bringing along the laconic shadowy mysterious ninja that won't talk to anyone"?

I'm a fan of both of these concepts. I also enjoy the technique asking the players questions:

"You're holding the half-elf by the scruff of his collar, raising your fist... who sent you after him and why?"

It takes practice, and good flow between the GM and players, but when it works, it sings.


If you have them make story hooks in their character's backgrounds, make your players commit. My last game I had my players sketch out backgrounds and one said his female cleric was hunting heretics for the church. This worked perfectly as the main villain was one such heretic. I figured I'd drop a few clues about the villain's sins and BAM - the cleric would take it from there.

Fast forward a few levels and 7 games later; I am, acting as the NPC cleric of a rival church, literally TELLING the PC why he should go after the villain. The fact was that the player made this cool hook but also an EVIL character; after the first game he was more concerned with amassing an army of cool undead to use as a goon squad so he basically forgot what the plot was about. He actually looked right at me with a straight face and asked "why are we after this evil chick villain again?"

Le Sigh

Anyway, make your PC's commit. Thats why, in my current reboot, I want PC goals to be SMART goals; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Murdering ALL heretics of the church doesn't work, but going after 1 specific one would be. Currently my players have made goals like the fighter is looking for "a cool magic sword" and the cleric (a history buff) wants to recover a relic of real historical importance.

Our first 3 story arc will take us through a shrine dedicated to an ancient king. This will basically handle 2 goals right there.

Finally, with such short-term goals I've told my players that as the game progresses they should modify their goals or create new ones as needed. Our rogue says eventually he wants to be a robin hood type but hasn't put together any goals around it. However since I know he's thinking along those lines I'm going to have a lot of NPC's and situations geared toward becoming a band of merry men, if only they had someone to lead them...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I've had the party be individuals hired for as caravan guards, and started the campaign with the words 'Roll Initiative' as a bandit attack begins.

I've had each character wake in a different part of a dungeon, uncertain how they got there, to be greeted by a magic mouth that says 'I want to play a game...'

But one of the best ways to start is to ask the players how they know each other.


"That's it Lenny; just one more lock and this guild's vault'll be open!"

"I know Squiggy! Just think; on the other side of this stone is a FORTUNE in gold, jewels, and relics we can hock! We'll be living the highlife for sure! Just... one... last... pull and..."

Then I tell the players they've got 1 round of surprise and to roll initiative. I then go on to elaborate with the fluff:

Waiting in the vault all night has paid off. You were tipped by superiors at the Archives that one of your patrons, the Merchant's Guild, was going to be robbed and that relics in their vault would be lost; that can't happen. And now, as a band of unsuspecting thieves are about to get away with the crime of the century the only thing standing between them and the living history of these lands is you!

I've been GM'ing a long time and used a lot of modules as well as homebrews. I've had parties start in bars but also shipwrecked on desert islands; w/out starting gear in the middle of town; in prison; as caravan guards and lots of variations on these.

I'm a fan of starting them in the middle of a throw away scene too. Indiana Jones style: you're staring at an ancient temple; the clues leading you here were as simple as the greedy mind of your guide who knows all too well of your goal: the idol of the hovitos. But you know what must be done. It belongs in a museum and you're going to make sure it gets there!

From there they have a little 5-room dungeon, the NPC buys it, and in recovering the idol they anger a horde of natives/fey/goblins who chase them off. Cut to the next scene when they're receiving the ACTUAL adventure for the plot line and you're off to the races...


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I tend to like to isolate the PCs if it's a new gaming group. For example, shipwrecks are great for this. It lets me put the characters in an isolated situation so I can see how the players react to having their expectations changed. For example, is the cavalier player going to throw a hissy fit that his horse is back on the mainland in a stable or drowned? Is the tank character going to whine and moan if his heavy armor got lost at sea? I'd rather know about the players up front and who's going to take things in stride and who's going to throw hissy fits. It also let's me concentrate more on the player's the first game or two, to get to know them.

If it's a group I've been GMing for, or playing with, then I don't have to do that, and I start them off in various ways. I've used the 'small town friends' intro, which is where they are all from the same small town and things are going wierd. Or the 'same big city' intro, which is where they are all in the same big city and answer the same recruitment ad. Alternately, 'all on the same vehicle' works well, be it a coach or a ship, which is attacked by bandits/pirates.


mdt wrote:

I tend to like to isolate the PCs if it's a new gaming group. For example, shipwrecks are great for this. It lets me put the characters in an isolated situation so I can see how the players react to having their expectations changed. For example, is the cavalier player going to throw a hissy fit that his horse is back on the mainland in a stable or drowned? Is the tank character going to whine and moan if his heavy armor got lost at sea? I'd rather know about the players up front and who's going to take things in stride and who's going to throw hissy fits. It also let's me concentrate more on the player's the first game or two, to get to know them.

You should be very careful with things like that, or the first game with the group will be the last.

It is all about expectations, if I play a cavalier I expect to have my mount around, if I know that it will not be an option for the adventure, I would perhaps play something else.
Even worse is if the new GM seems to show favouritism for some classes, such as taking away the fighters armour but allowing the wizard and sorcerer to have their spell component pouch intact.
If one is going to strip players of class resources then strip away everything for everyone or noone.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Oh, he is very careful. My wife played the cavalier he spoke of. (She had originally looked at paladin and changed her mind a few days before the game.)

Luckily, she and I know better than to build one-trick characters. My dwarf carries a chain shirt for the times his heavy armor is inappropriate attire.

What reason would he have had to deny a wizard his component pouch on a ship? Doing so just because the cavalier had to leave her horse behind is showing favoritism to the cavalier, by punishing the wizard without reason.

P.S. We're still gaming with him.


TriOmegaZero wrote:


Luckily, she and I know better than to build one-trick characters. My dwarf carries a chain shirt for the times his heavy armor is inappropriate attire.

So, a wizard relying on being able to cast spells is also a one-trick pony.

Quote:
What reason would he have had to deny a wizard his component pouch on a ship? Doing so just because the cavalier had to leave her horse behind is showing favoritism to the cavalier, by punishing the wizard without reason.

In both cases you are removing class features for thematic reasons. A component pouch could easily be lost/destroyed in a shipwreck, and unlike a horse it cannot swim ashore on it own.

As I said it is all about expectations, if one know that one can expect to “stripped of possessions”-start it works fine, if it just dropped in often seriously backfires.
Before making characters any good GM should give some info about what sort of adventure to expect for the enjoyment of all involved.

Silver Crusade

Korpen wrote:
Stuff about cavaliers losing their mount.

I played a cavalier up to level 14 in kingmaker. Even in such a heavily outdoorsy campaign, half the time it was impossible to bring my horse around.

Cavaliers seem to be a bit of a mixed bag, though. On one hand you have great charge feats and challenges. But you also have teamwork feats and orders that help the team.

Most of the time, the people in my campaign were too far away from me to benefit from my teamwork feats and such. Because I had charged in.

I feel that if you are using 100% of your resources 100% of the time, the game is too easy and the DM isn't making it a challenge for you.

If you lose your horse, you can always obtain a new one later when it works. A hard done by character, builds character, and teaches the player to diversify instead of making a one trick pony.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Korpen wrote:


As I said it is all about expectations, if one know that one can expect to “stripped of possessions”-start it works fine, if it just dropped in often seriously backfires.
Before making characters any good GM should give some info about what sort of adventure to expect for the enjoyment of all involved.

Oh, I don't disagree. We weren't happy with the 'in media res' opening, but the way he handled it was bearable, if not optimal.

Had he mentioned this beforehand, I would not have recommended cavalier over paladin for my wife. My choice may or may not have changed, since my character had already determined he would have a light armor backup.

This being a new group, we just didn't see a cause to raise a fuss over it. If he had said 'no, you brought your horse with you, roll to see if it drowns' or 'you were obviously wearing your heavy armor around the boat, make your swim check', THEN we would have left.


Old school: "You've come here seeking rumored riches, and perhaps for other reasons as well. In the middle of the clearing there's a hole in the ground and stairs descending into darkness."


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:


Oh, I don't disagree. We weren't happy with the 'in media res' opening, but the way he handled it was bearable, if not optimal.

Had he mentioned this beforehand, I would not have recommended cavalier over paladin for my wife. My choice may or may not have changed, since my character had already determined he would have a light armor backup.

As a little bit of self defense ToZ, do remember you and your wife missed the first game. The first game was everyone being offered the job on the fishing fleet, deciding to take it, and making arrangements for care of animals and storage of un-needed equipment. Had you made the first game, you could have declined to go on the ships in the first place (indeed, the entire group could have declined the job), which would have changed what happened. Since you missed the first game, you had a choice of being in the fishing fleet when it crashed, or changing your characters.

It still would have been a valid way to gauge new players either way. People who would have thrown a hissy fit about not having a horse or pouch or something else would have thrown it when the job was offered, not just because they joined the second game. Wasn't trying to single you and your wife out in the example above, but you were the only two new players, so it was sort of a given you'd be my latest example.

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