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D&D 3E
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30th-Sep-2005 01:31 pm
Death Star
The DM hat has fallen to me again, and I'll be starting up my campaign in a couple of weeks. I'm looking to do something new and interesting as a way for all the characters to know each other and have a reason to be together in a party. I get very tired of the old cliche 'everyone meets in a bar', but I've also gotten tired of some of my other standbys.

The ones I've used in the past:

Other PCs were hired by Party Leader
PCs were all hired by a particular NPC to fulfill a particular task
PCs were childhood friends/from the same town.
PCs worked together in some organization (military, mercenary band, robber band, religous order, guild, whatever), and were assigned to the same mission.
PCs were all wrongfully imprisoned and escaped together.
PCs were part of a caravan that was ambushed, and were the sole survivors, and had to make it to civilization.
And the old cliched everyone meets in a bar.

Of those, I have to say that the prison-break was my favorite, but I don't want to overuse it either. But I really dislike having a party that has no logical reason to be together, no cohesion, and no party loyalty. Anyone have any good methods for why the party knows each other and adventures together that you've used in the past?
30th-Sep-2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
I've sent my PCs out under the guise of "as you graduate your guild, one last task lays before you" and throw them all together then before the big adventure and I've had one group who teamed up to get revenge on someone.
30th-Sep-2005 08:03 pm (UTC)
The party wakes up, having been raised from the dead by a kindly cleric, who found them savagely murdered at a crossroad. They were all killed at different times during the night, in a ritualistic fashion. The PC's have no knowledge of each other, who would have done it, or why, and so far as they know, they were just travelling to the next town to look for work.

They're not missing any equipment, or money... they only thing they have in common is that maybe somebody really, really hates them...
30th-Sep-2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
Okay, I ~have~ to use that next time I run a fantasy game.
30th-Sep-2005 08:27 pm (UTC)
Generous cleric...dumping 20-25k worth of diamonds on total strangers...

(see the material component for Raise Dead)
30th-Sep-2005 08:27 pm (UTC)
OK, that is truly EVIL. I love it. Not sure if it'll work for this current campaign (based on what I've got developed so far), but I will *definitely* have to use that one at some point.
30th-Sep-2005 09:31 pm (UTC)
Nice to hear I'm not the only one who's pulled something like this. TPK right at the outset, then when a cleric raised them and the party couldn't pay--even with their starting gold put together--they had to serve out the debt. The plot hook's not as integrated as being murdered, and thus having a mystery on your hands, but on the flipside that makes the method more versatile.
30th-Sep-2005 11:58 pm (UTC)
damn. that is ingenious.

My group always ends up using the "you were hired by [blah] to this job [bleh]"
I'm guilty of it was well.
3rd-Oct-2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
me and the dm were talking about this one this morning its a truely great idea ,,he was saying it would be great to give the cleric a vendetta have all of the charicters and there fasmilys killed by some big bad 15 level warlord and the cleric raise them and "just not have the funds or power now to raise everyones family" but....if they were to gather there strenght and take out this warlord or lich or whatever he is sure he could talk his order into bringing all of there familys back from the dead... that way you can have them work there way up to fighting this guy seeking out majik items to aid them in there quest,,taking out his generals,along the way and if tyhere strong charictors and lucky with the rolls by 11th level you could send them after the big man himself and either have said good cleric go back on his word making for a new enemy or the party will have become close by then ,,or you just end with a happy and everyone goes home kinda thing
30th-Sep-2005 08:04 pm (UTC)
You wake up in a dark room. Next to you are (the other players, possibly plus one NPC) people you don't know. There are chests around all of you equalling the number of people in the group. You have to figure out where you are, who you are, what class you are, and how to get out.
30th-Sep-2005 09:19 pm (UTC)
Nice, how does that work out with character generation though? OOC they know what class they are(as standard anyway, I can think of a couple of ways around it, but wondering what you did); and however good they are at keeping ooc knowlege down it will almost certainly be taken into account at some level.
30th-Sep-2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
I'd hold ontotheir sheets, only letting them have their appearance and clothing.

then, when they make a few guesses, hand them the sheets.

This is a clever idea for a Premade Game.
30th-Sep-2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
My last few:

PCs were members of the same mercenary company, and were thrown together.
PCs were hired by another PCs father to protect him, or help him find out who murdered his cousin.

Variants on a theme, I guess.
30th-Sep-2005 08:26 pm (UTC)
I like the prison break idea. At character creation, tell your players to think of a reason why they might be in prison - it gives you some extra backstory hooks :)
30th-Sep-2005 08:47 pm (UTC)
I personally just use the cliches that you've mentioned above ;p See, we don't start new campaigns all that often, and the initially meeting only happens once and its not like thats the most interesting or important aspect of the characters, so it doesn't really hurt the game.
30th-Sep-2005 09:00 pm (UTC) - Its all in the individuals grasp.
The key thing for keeping variety in the begining ive found is these two elements: Chance, and Reason.
Variety can be easily combined with the chance element, allowing for a completely diverse party such as chance met on road, rescuing one of the PC's, or running into them at the mouth of the dungeon your going treasure hunting down.
Reason is a bit more difficult, involving connections with family, factions, government, and guilds, and the level of such.
One of my favourite scenarios was an elaborately maintained meeting of six seeming strangers, involving four randoms, and two twins.
The twins, old childhood friends whom have kept in contact via bird messenger's, as ones father is a falconer, the twins a city official. then, an element of thew local thieves guild was introduced, as he was keeping track of the main pc due to rumors circulating that he had possession of the map to some ancient treasure. link onto that another rival merchants guildmember set secretly to keep track of the thief, and a local dockmaster whom was following the thief for suspicions the man had murdered his cousin, and wham, a six person party.
30th-Sep-2005 09:25 pm (UTC)
Ahhh the always impressive, the Character starts off falling at 20 miles above the earth. Its a great character waker uper.

Seriously though, if you know how this is going to end, start at the end and then flashback the entire game to the past.

"You all wait nervously as the gigantic monstrosity towers before you. His acidic breath begins to pit your armor. You can't help but think how this all came together..."

The problem with that scenario is that You CANT kill the PC's or it ruins the whole flash back. You could have an PC die and go back as you "adjust things" by saying a memory of your fallen comrade drifts through your mind. Or something like that.

In the end some cliches are cliched for a reason. They work. But my all time favorite was done by a DM several years ago...

"You wake up with a dead wooker next to you. Several other guys are all passed out next to you. What do you do"
30th-Sep-2005 09:26 pm (UTC)
thats supposed to be "Dead Hooker"
30th-Sep-2005 10:38 pm (UTC)
Seriously though, if you know how this is going to end, start at the end and then flashback the entire game to the past.

"You all wait nervously as the gigantic monstrosity towers before you. His acidic breath begins to pit your armor. You can't help but think how this all came together..."

The problem with that scenario is that You CANT kill the PC's or it ruins the whole flash back.

You don't have to play through the flashback. The players don't need to know everything the PCs do -- start in the middle and let the players make up the beginning by encouraging their PCs to make references to the past as they move forward. E.g.:

R: "This is going to be better than that time we took out X!"
D: "As I recall, you were raiding the treasury while the rest of us did all the work."
M: "I lost an eye in that battle -- I very nearly died!"
R: "Hey, I was just making sure there weren't any reinforcements on the way."
S: "Keep it down. We've got more pressing matters to attend to."
5th-Oct-2005 04:40 am (UTC)
Heh, I was planning on running a similar game that started at the end and 'reset' to the beginning after one session.

I told them all to make 17th level characters as I wanted to run 'a high-level game' (which I was -- one game), but I wanted to know some backstory. Where they were from, how they started adventuring, which groups they joined, etc.

The first session was going to intro with them standing just inside the walls of a city they were sieging, demonic winds howling around them, and the sounds of battle barely audible at a distance, with a high priest of one of the churches advising them that they had secured the perimeter and needed to proceed to the temple at the center of town, which was down the road. The priest would advise them that he wished them luck, and joke that perhaps if they were lucky, they would be able to celebrate the Vendrisan Fair of 7323 together.

That foray would be somewhat uneventful (except for some lower CR guardians that they could easily dispatch). They would get inside the temple, and fight the remainder of the villain's party individually to secure access to the main room (as they needed to destroy the defensive measures the villain had placed to keep the main chamber of the temple isolated).

They would make it to the main villain's room, where the villain would confront them and offer them one last chance to side with him with a very well written speech (as I had been told by one of the prospective players when it didn't pan out), and then a fight would begin. The villain was simply trying to stay alive and stall long enough for whatever they had started to complete, which was something the PCs would have a vague idea on but not really be sure of. The villain's plan, which they WERE aware of, was to strip the power from and destroy all of the remaining deities, as she felt mortals were simply pawns in their games and deserved to live in a world free of divine restrictions. Pretty cliché stuff.

Anyway, the battle would end (one way or the other), and as the ritual would be about ready to finish, one of the other villain party members would pop back in and mess things up, for they were a double-agent for the gods. However, they messed it up in the wrong way, which causes this temple to begin unravelling existance.

I had the description be similar to the event horizon kinda thing, where everything slowed to a standstill, and the have everything get torn apart (although not in as simple of a description).

Then I would have each of them wake up, with a pounding headache, in whatever town they said they met up in/started in. It felt like they'd had a strange dream, in which they could only remember one thing (it was a different thing for each person, but they were all tied to what the second villanous character did wrong by interfering, clues that could piece together the solution).

I would proceed to hand them all level one versions of themselves based on the information they had given me when I essentially asked for a level one version of their characters, tell them that a poster near wherever they were unconcious was welcoming them to the Vendrisan Fair of 7318, and end the session.

The ol' unexpected time loop.
30th-Sep-2005 09:46 pm (UTC)
I always like an event that ties everyone together.

A friend ran a campaign for us where there was a child everyone in town had come out to see. Moving through the crowd were three men walking towards the child in a shady manner. On top of a building across the street were three men with crossbows. We all just happened to be there, but when things started happening, we all banded together to fix the situation. We were all good characters, so naturally we tried to help people. Most of the crowd scattered and ran when things went down, so we were the only ones left. Since the guards were slow to respond we had to decide as a group what to do. One of the NPC's gave us a tip that the child was important and that if it was found enemies would kill the child. We ended up taking her and hurriedly flying into the night. We got together for a purpose, and became friends (or rivals) along the way.
30th-Sep-2005 09:55 pm (UTC)
I begin by developing the party. What kind of adventuring group do the players want to run? A mercenary bodyguard company? The people who break the backs of the Home World empire?

Then they design characters with that group in mind.
30th-Sep-2005 10:27 pm (UTC)
What I'd like to do the next time I start up a game with a new party is just jump right in. The PCs already know each other and believe that they are near the end of a Quest (say, confronting a BBEG). Of course, their actions have reprecussions... The PCs' relationships and reasons for questing are filled in and fleshed out as the players grow into the roles.

I've tried the "all seek shelter in the same inn as a massive storm approachs" (which is best used with a murder mystery -- a couple hours in, the innkeeper is found dead, and a limited number of somewhat shady NPCs and the PCs themselves are the primary suspects), which works well. As the night passes, the PCs will not only solve the mystery (hopefully before one of them dies), but also pool adventure hooks and find that they work well enough together to journey onwards as a group.

I've also gone with the survivor, hiring, and commotion approaches, but none of them really require a whole lot of teamwork and tend to have PCs staying together for metagaming reasons instead of in-game ones.
1st-Oct-2005 03:30 am (UTC)
That's brilliant. If I can ever come up with something like that....wow.

Would make a terrific one shot.
30th-Sep-2005 10:34 pm (UTC)
What my game did was mostly the 'Hired by a Nice NPC', but my character was a latecomer. And a Primer in a Planescape setting.

the Party was in this Aracnoloth's Tower (Shemeska), and what happened to my poor Primer was that he tripped a switch and was Plane Shifted to the middle of the tower.

So, they rescued him. And he's stuck with the party. It works. It's a good way to get extraplanar characters involved.

Another idea, for a planar game: The players have all Plane Shifted, one way or another, to a dungeon, let's say of the Illithid persuasion, for dastardly experiments. The way they got there was a bunch of boobytrapped points on random planes, which rerouts people trying to teleport there to the dungeon. And now you have to escape. Of course.
1st-Oct-2005 12:53 pm (UTC)
I only skimmed thru some of the above...so excuse if it duplicates anything.

Make the pc's apart of one big family. This means they can not like each other but there family bond must override all. Perhaps have your campaign start by something working agsinst the family unit ( forcing them to become adventurers ).
1st-Oct-2005 01:17 pm (UTC)
im allways wanted to start ma game off with the charictors being locked up,tried and hanged only to have there deaths faked so they could be used for "dangerouse missions" like in the ramond fiest krondor books. there options are then to do as there told and forget there old lives or actually be hung and killed. the PC's could hate each other and it wouldnt matter much.
1st-Oct-2005 05:34 pm (UTC) - A different method
I like to start my groups out seperately. Having solo sessions which each character first, then having them meet during a massive battle with a common foe, or a great tragedy that only they survive.

another approach to that method I like to use is to split the group in half, have them hired by seperate npc's each with their own intentions, but basically doing the same job. They run into each other during said mission and after briefly attempting to kill each other they realize that they've been set up, and they figure out where to take it from there.

neither of these approaches work with a very large party, But I feel they allow for alot more character development and a very open ended plot.
3rd-Oct-2005 07:21 am (UTC)
One campaign I ran had the characters meet in a gladiatorial arena.

The first combat session was PVP.

In the upcoming campaign I'm starting, everyone meets on the same boat, heading for the same city, but are all total strangers. When the captian is killed on the final night of travel, the PC's are the main suspects, and can't leave the city until they prove their innocence, thereby forcing them to work together.
3rd-Oct-2005 06:38 pm (UTC)
I started a cool adventure where 4-out-of-5 of the PCs were Bards and the remaining PC was a Fighter bodyguard. I know 4 bards is a wierd party make-up, but it turned out pretty cool, and Bard was only 1st level. We didn't have to worry about getting the party together, plus starting in a strange new town was just part of the groups normal behavior.

"The Gaudy Bards and their Bodyguard" - official party name
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