RFC - RP Style Questions for a Party Before Starting Out


While the GM's role in Session Zero has been discussed, I think the players also bear some responsibility for figuring out how the party functions prior to the first encounter. True, part of the fun of a campaign (at least for me) is watching those dynamics develop session after session. But I find that so many of the (tiresome) at-table arguments and in-game disasters could be avoided if players took some time to make some preliminary decisions about the kind of game they are going to play.

NOTE: I don't think any given playstyle is "wrong". It's a freakin game. But I don't find it much fun if one person comes to the table with an "FPS/hack-slash" approach and another wants a "stagecraft/deep immersion improv" and still another is big into "collective lore-building on the shared Golarion canon."

To that end, I've thought of a few questions (with options that are by no means the ONLY answers), but would appreciate any suggestions. Go go Galton's Ox Weighers!


1. How are we going to treat NPCs? By this, I don't mean an in-game attitude (that will vary, obviously). What I mean is, are we going to treat NPCs as devices/pretexts/lootbags or are we going to treat them as actual people?

EXAMPLE: The Mayor starts talking. Do we wave our hands and say "just give us the quest highlights"? Or do we spend time on talking with her about things other than where the goblins are?

2. Are we going to treat our characters as the unalterable centerpoints of the fictional world, around which every story bends, or are we going to see them as protagonist in one story, that intersects with other stories whose protagonists may not share our sense of self importance?

EXAMPLE: A player dies. Do we find the nearest sufficiently high level priest and deduct the money from our character sheets and go back to work? Or do we accept that maybe a priest who can cast raise dead might have other things on his agenda than commerce?

3. How are we going to treat one another's characters? Are we going to tally up the various numbers and try to keep them in balance? Or are we going to interact as individuals with wants/needs that are not necessarily numerated?

EXAMPLE: We found an ancient trove! One character is obsessed with Thassilon and there is a ring of force shield that manifests as a glowing Rune of Greed. Do we check the spreadsheet and realize he has too much wealth comparatively and therefore sell it and balance the gold? Or do we let him have it, regardless of the fact that this means another character is functionally more poor?

4. On a related note, how are we going to treat the items we find in campaign? Will they be numbers? Or narrative devices?

EXAMPLE: We find a rope of climbing. Do we sell it for 1,500 gp, which could buy us two wands that might achieve the same mechanical goal? Or do we say "Neat!" and incorporate it into our character's idiom?

5. What is our attitude as players to the campaign world? Is it a source of mechanical advantages and challenges? Or is it a place to interact with?

EXAMPLE: Do we play a Mwangi witch with the winter witch archetype, because who would see that coming and the save DCs get pretty sick, especially against jungle creatures with no defenses against cold? Or do we accept that a Mwangi witch might face things that are adapted to fighting Mwangi witches, because that's where they live?

6. What is our goal as players, in one word?

Some more that have occurred to me.

7. Are we a team? Or is the campaign about forging a team? Or are we each in it to have the most awesome character we can have as individuals?

8. How committed are we to the long arc we imagine for our characters?

EXAMPLE: We find a scimitar of narrative significance, but we've all built archers or two-hand gods. Do we sell it (or, if it's an artifact, trade it to an outsider for goodies)? Or do we accept a mechanically less optimal character for the satisfaction of using every part of the story?

9. How much time do we want to spend discussing our plans? And how committed are we to them, once they are decided?

EXAMPLE: There is a door. Do we debate our formation for half an hour before entering? Once we kick it down, do we stay in formation, or does everyone realize they'd prefer to chase off in all directions? Or is the door already down and the combat half over by the time we've gotten to the end of this set of questions?

Sovereign Court

*gives the +1 scimitar of narrative significance an experimental twirl*

These are interesting questions. When forming a party we tend to focus more on figuring out the niches for each PC, rather than methodology as a group. Maybe we just happen to have a lot of consensus on playstyle already.

How to handle treasure intended by the GM as special and awesome has been a recurring thing though. GM comes up with something odd and interesting, party wants to do something different with it or sell it. Happens quite often.

I don't really have a good answer for it either. On the one hand it's nice to actually embrace the awesome and run with it. On the other hand, PF as a system really rewards long-term planning your weapon choices and specializing.

Ascalaphus wrote:
*gives the +1 scimitar of narrative significance an experimental twirl*

Careful with that thing! Do you want to cut a plot hole?

Ascalaphus wrote:
I don't really have a good answer for it either. On the one hand it's nice to actually embrace the awesome and run with it. On the other hand, PF as a system really rewards long-term planning your weapon choices and specializing.

I'm not really looking for definitive answers. I think either option is valid, and I don't see that as being the problem to be resolved. But, in my experience, the game is much less fun if some of the people show up to play one kind of game and some of the people show up to play the other. I do have a preference, but more important to me is getting all the players on the same page before the campaign starts, so we don't have to argue endlessly things like:

"Sure, it makes you invisible, but we're only 3rd level, man. Your WBL is totally out of whack. Let's sell it. Now what's the purchase limit here in Bree?"


"Sorry, we can't afford to bring your character back from the dead, because I refuse to sell the mithril skillet that we found six levels ago. Also, I failed that Perception roll to scout the room because I put all my points in Profession (cook). I'm just a cook! STEPHEN SEAGAL IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL!"

Sovereign Court

Hehe :)

I've been thinking about this and I agree your questions are important. There's a girl I used to game with. She's a cool girl, but all her characters were basically the same psycho-y types, and she really didn't have much of a clue about whatever game system we were playing. That grew rather tiresome. Now, PF clearly wasn't a good system for her to enjoy, but the character selection was actually more annoying.

Shallow psychopathy is the first (and usually only) refuge of the incompetent role-player. Discuss.

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