Better ways of bringing the party together / starting a campaign


Advice

Scarab Sages

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I’ve been thinking of better ways of starting a game. Most games seem to start with a variation of "you meet at a tavern" or the PFS-style “I’m your boss, do this”.

Some of the adventure paths have more interesting ways of bringing the party together:
-The players are all attending an event, when something suddenly kicks off
-The players are shipwrecked and need to work together to survive
-The players are press ganged by pirates

Here are some others I’ve thought of:
-The players are soldiers in a large army which has just lost a huge battle against [BBEG] forces. The survivors are retreating while being pursued.
-The player’s home town is attacked by [monsters]
-The players all awake together in a strange place with amnesia
-The players are all prisoners who get broken out of jail

What else can we think of?


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Don't forget Carrion Crown's intro: You are summoned to an acquaintance's funeral... :)

For me, I like when the *players* say, "This is how we know each other!"


Actually I really like that idea. In my mind its the comedians funeral from Watchmen. A sad funeral of an old man with lots of contacts. A bit depressing but cool!


One thing I had in mind for LoF was making use a "GMs agent" PC recruiting others for a planned adventure.


There was a similar thread a couple of days ago here with awesome ideas, especially the one where the every party member has been turned to stone somewhere in the past and they all wake up in a wizard's mansion.


FireberdGNOME wrote:


For me, I like when the *players* say, "This is how we know each other!"

This has been had the best results for me. One of my favorite games we had a get together the week or two before just to figure out how they knew each other and why they were joined up for and ready for adventure...

Ususally one or two are related, then so and so is a friend of person one, and so forth. Regardless i consider it VERY important to have a solid 'why would I hang out with these guys' motivation set in stone.


Not just the "why would I hang out with these guys", but "why would I risk my life for these guys!" :D


I once had a game where I did the whole "you're all hired for a job" (about ten years ago now) and all the PCs were strangers. It did not work.

The group split into two based on personalities, and I was basically running two games at once. I stopped that game after the first session. Since then, I tell my players that all their PCs have to know each other ahead of time, be friends, and be willing to risk their lives for each other. (Also, no jerks, people unwilling to work with the rest of the team, etc.)

I think the "you meet in a tavern" trope died a while back (seen this in numerous games, many non-D&D, with different groups), but I still see DMs today, in my group after I've told them about this, still trying to make it work.

Back when I started with 2e, "you all meet in a tavern" was a strong trope. (We didn't always meet in a tavern. A few years ago, I read about an adventuring group that joined up because they all happened to meet at a crossroad, but I suspect the DM had a good session 0 ahead of time. The meeting was only random in universe terms.)


You are asked to meet at a tavern. The party turn up late. When they get there the tavern is ablaze....unknown to the party, many adventuring groups are trapped in the blaze! Suddenly a horde of xxxxxxx attack.....what do you do!!!


Meeting in a tavern is the old, old standby that works. I once turned the trope on its head by having the party all be academy graduates who arrived at the tavern to celebrate when a dwarf asks for something to be retrieved in a mine.

But the dwarf was a powerful, wealthy owner of a number of mines, and showed up with uniformed bodyguards and an ostentatious display, and it turned out that the mine was actually a cover operation for an excavation of a buried temple and an attempt to retrieve an unholy artifact.

I've had the party meet up early in the morning at a muffin vendor they heard a lot about.

They've all, by chance, browsing, or employment, all ended up in the same merchant's tent in a bazaar.

Once, the party (sans one) was a birthday gift of slaves to one member, by the member's father. The master-slave dynamic lasted all of five seconds, but that was the point the father was trying to make.


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- You meet in a bar

- A mysterious stranger hires you

- You are guards on a caravan

- You all are members of the same church

These are all cliché ways of starting a campaign. What if you simply tweaked them.

- You meet in a: Brothel/Church/debtor's prison/floating castle

- A mysterious stranger: begs you/contacts you from beyond the grave/magically dominates you/blackmails you

- You are: mercenary soldiers/circus performers/strangers adopted into the same traveler family/field agents of the same cartographer

- You all are members of the same: rogue's guild/family from different generations brought back from the dead/piece of literary fiction/foreign city

I have heard it said that there are only 6 original stories and everything else is a permutation thereof. Well, if that's true there's probably only 6 ways to start a story. Your goal then is to pick a standard trope and twist it in a new way that makes sense to your game.


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You meet at the bar and a stranger approaches you about a job. You agree to it and leave; as the door swings closed one of the PCs remembers they left their hat inside. You all turn and there is nothing but a vacant lot, the PCs had dancing on a breeze amid overgrown foundation walls and rubble.

Just then a passerby calls over to you. "Why you standin' around gawkin? Don't you know the story of the Fall of the Hammered Dragon Inn?" The old woman weaves a tale that a mysterious stranger hired a group of adventurers there for a job and bid them spend the night in the inn to set out in the morning. In the night the stranger murdered three of the four. The wizard awoke and struggled, unleashing a torrent of eldritch fire in the process. The place burned to the ground and all the occupants perished.


- You all appear in front of a castle. You have no memory, and each of you is carrying a crystal.

- You are all young nobles from neighboring kingdoms working together to face a common enemy.

- You are the crew of a freelance ship (or spaceship) seeking your fortune.

- You are students at the same high school suddenly thrust into a fantasy world. Your bodies have been exchanged for those on your character sheets, and you're trying to find a way back to your own world.

- You are a misfit band of outlaws fighting a guerrilla war on behalf of a country's oppressed people. You are battling an oppressive coup while the country's true rulers are away fighting a war.

At this point, you probably see what I'm getting at. : D


The prophecy says when the dark lord returns to spread his/her darkness over the land, the hero's who defied the dark lord would return to save the world.


Many adventure paths (Curse of the Crimson Throne, for example) have custom campaign traits that serve to help bring the party together. I thought it worked out pretty well when I ran CotCT.

CotCT Book 1 spoiler:
In CotCT, the party is brought together by hatred for a common enemy - Gaedren Lamm, an despotic crime lord well past his prime. The campaign traits include having a family member who was wrong by him, being wrong by him yourself, etc. The very first adventure the party is put on is taking him down.

For my most upcoming campaign, I asked my four players to pair off and create characters who knew each other and worked together in their background story. We're even doing play by e-mail background stories for both groups. Thus, I only have two groups of adventurers to bring together rather than four individual adventurers. I'm also laying lots of common plot lines for the character pairs.


I always like silly ways to get together.

Everyone is in the audience at a comedy play, except, MURDER IS AFOOT.

Same thing but at a jousting / men at arms tourney. 3 goblins in a mansize suit are fighting in the grand mekee and when there mischief is discovered a small group of goblins wades into the crowd and butchers people. Best part is you can get some powerful npcs in there to show off what sort of power is available in your campaign. Maybea wizard throws in a Selective Dazing Fireball in a high powered game. Or maybe hes magic missling away.

Carnival, Something angers the elephant elephant runs off and pcs go to recover it only to find a cabal of evil druids..


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I started a game with a low level mage using an old summon scroll. The party of 1st level adventurers was blinked out of whatever they were doing, summoned across the realm and plunked down in front of a mob of creatures and were commanded to fight.

When the spell ended they remained. The summoned fled and was later found dead.

I really changed how they looked at the spell summon monster. (the monster has to come from someplace right?)

-MD


Antariuk wrote:

There was a similar thread a couple of days ago here with awesome ideas, especially the one where the every party member has been turned to stone somewhere in the past and they all wake up in a wizard's mansion.

I love that stone idea. Could be awesome. I immediately thought of something cool like making a party of dhakaani in eberron and having them "wake up" in modern Eberron


Flamephoenix182 wrote:
Antariuk wrote:

There was a similar thread a couple of days ago here with awesome ideas, especially the one where the every party member has been turned to stone somewhere in the past and they all wake up in a wizard's mansion.

I love that stone idea. Could be awesome. I immediately thought of something cool like making a party of dhakaani in eberron and having them "wake up" in modern Eberron

Which novel was that, Thorn of Breland? But I agree, awesome idea :)


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We didn't go much into it when the campaign started (at the time I figured that my character was looking for the same sort of work as the other player characters and thus fell in with them), but in hindsight I could see curiosity bringing my character together with them. My character was a half-elf summoner from a village that had no other half-elves and no elves (other than my character's father, who was at best an occasional visitor). Since the other player characters included a female half-elf ranger, my character would definitely have wanted to get to know her better (to find out more about himself, since it was obvious that he would get nowhere with more obvious interests).

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I play with the same group of players pretty much constantly. We have been together for years now.

That means that we know each other well enough to make the 'strangers come together' opening a workable option.

Some starters I've used are:

- I 'borrowed' the pressganged by pirates starter from Skulls and Shackles.
- I had the train the 2nd lvl PCs were on (all for their own reasons) hijacked by bandits. Then in the middle of that combat, they were all attacked by an Ancient Blue Dragon. Everyone fled due to Dragon Fear and when they returned, the train was destroyed - they met and became friends while surviving the desert on the trek back.
- In a thieve's guild game, I gave the PCs a list of 4 guilds. They decided as a group which one they wanted to join and then when the game started they all met at their initiation job.

I've always wanted to start a war-themed campaign by having the PCs each start on their own, minding their own business when suddenly they get word they have been drafted.

I also kind of want to start a campaign WITH the "mysterious stranger at the tavern" cliche... simply for fun.


"Roll initiative..."

Combat best place for descriptive introductions.

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