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Surfing HalfOrc
2009-05-28, 10:54 AM
OK, we've all done the old "You are all drinking in a tavern when a mysterious stranger approaches with a job offer..." routine.

What else have you tried to get the ball rolling? My latest was a not especially original "You are all at a fair when a minotaur and a horde of kobolds suddenly attack and kill the mayor, stealing his amulet of office."

One character was a drow, so I had him in a portable cell, awaiting his hanging for the capital offense of being born a drow. The towns' people allowed him to opt between doing the hemp fandango or chasing down a minotaur. The rest were villagers, local huntsmen, and one member of the local aristocracy.

Any thoughts of more original beginnings, but still semi-realistic? I kind of like the Banestorm from GURPS Fantasy, but that's been over done as well...

Ehra
2009-05-28, 10:57 AM
One time we started outside the tavern and we had to walk in and talk to the guy we were supposed to meet so he could give us our job. It was epic.

RTGoodman
2009-05-28, 10:59 AM
It's only slightly less cliche, but I've started parties in prison before. Or in court, at least.

ghost_warlock
2009-05-28, 11:07 AM
I've started campaigns with the party...

being chased through the woods by an athach
standing at the mouth of a dungeon
in prison
in a chain-gang, captured by slavers
waking up on a hill with no memory of how they got there
being attacked by a dragon
waking up in their rooms at an inn, in the middle of the night, hearing the screams of people outside being chased/eaten by zombies

Danin
2009-05-28, 11:09 AM
Ooh geeze, I have quite a list.

I started this most recent campaign with a single character traveling down a road on his personal quest. He came upon someone (another PC) struggling against dragon kin. Hearing the sounds of battle in the distance they rushed to a small way town under attack by the main force, where the other two PC's were protecting a number of fallen defenders and women and children.

The docks, in the midst of stealing the navy's new warship.

A school for wanna be adventurers run by an ex adventurer.

Meditation class in a wood elf village that was quickly attacked by gith.

Beyond that, I have in fact done the standard inn and prison beginnings, which I also enjoy. My new favorite tactic is starting off the PC's staggered, introducing them slowly, so they all get their moment in the spotlight.

Totally Guy
2009-05-28, 11:10 AM
When I started a campaign I announced that one of the characters was celebrating thier birthday as a paper thin justification for them being in the tavern.

shadzar
2009-05-28, 11:25 AM
The biggest problem is probably how all these races are in the same place. If you have a starting city and the PCs have known each other for a while living near each other or just close you could try some of these:

The hospice you are at to try to get healing from is attacked during the war and the [insert monster/foe type here] is coming through the doors with weapons drawn!

Your slave train/ship is slowing down as people are getting sick and the slavers are having to cull their herd. (Well you might not need live close for the races on this one.)

By order of the [insert ruling party here], you have all been summoned to aid your country and fulfill your duty as citizens....

For your crimes you are to be put to work in the service of the country...(goes good with the above to mix party members together)

Notice boards can offer interesting adventure starts:

Traveling circus looking for skilled laborers or entertainers. 2 meals per day guaranteed and travel expenses are paid for by the company. (Well you can eat them, but the meals taste like...)

In two months time [insert popular place] will be holding an annual championship. Prize 1000gp!

Random things:

"My cows is bein' killed by somethin' and we's all would like you all folks to go and find it out and we will pay you this much and give you this 'fresh' meat as payment for you alls helpin' us."

You have a vision that tells you to be [insert place here] on the last day of the harvest at sundown.

"Hey you dang kids get off my lawn!"
While running from the [insert old undignified person] you run into an army heading off to war and are put to work.

After the drought many people have lost their families and you must find somewhere else habitable for the rest to live.

Want more?

Nerd-o-rama
2009-05-28, 11:40 AM
I've used a few:

You're all previously established members of a pirate crew. Write it into your backstory (this is super-easy, but requires players to collaborate on backstory).
You're all summoned to X place by the military/ancient conspiracy and given a mission (requires PCs who are willing to take orders from NPCs for a while, so not for everyone).
You all happen to be in town when suddenly SOMETHING ATTACKS and you have to stop it (requires player characters to not be cowards or jerks, or at least unable to run and hide).

Tsotha-lanti
2009-05-28, 11:47 AM
Starting out is actually two different things: starting a campaign (and a party), and starting an adventure.

Campaign & Party
What you want to do is give your PCs an actual reason to be together. I've used...

1. You're all family living on the same stead.
2. You're all cops in the same department.
3. You're all members of the Silverymoon guard.
4. You're all roommates at college.

Providing individual motivations can be good, too, though this doesn't tend to tie the PCs together well (they may not agree with the assumed conclusion that "our best chance is to work together even though we have no reason to trust each other!"). That's more for starting them on adventures than as a party.

Adventure
You want to start with action, usually. Something happens, and the PCs have to deal with it, react to it, or figure it out. This is a more personally involved method than your typical "someone tells you to go to place X, where you kill monsters and find treasure" method, though it can be used to make the PCs more eager to accept such a quest; maybe the evil wizard/beholder/city of drow is responsible for the thing that happened. (Compare Eye of the Beholder to Menzoberranzan, or the gold box games Pool of Radiance and Death Knights of Krynn.)

Combining
You can do both at the same time, though, which is probably what you really were getting at: bringing a bunch of disparate misfit adventurers together. There's a ton of ways...

- You're all in a prison cell together.
- You're all on a battlefield together.
- You're all caught in some disaster or attack together.

These can work wonderfully - best, even - for types of games wildly different from your usual fantasy fare. Zombie or horror games, for instance, can easily start with these "forced together" circumstances. (Indeed, for your typical zombie survival, it's important that the PCs not really know each other, since internal tensions and the risk of infighting are essential to the genre.)

Human Paragon 3
2009-05-28, 11:50 AM
My personal favorite start of a campaign was the entire party hanging upside down over a wolf pit.

With a one-year long period gone from our memories.

Strangest of all, we hadn't seen each other since that fateful night 3 years ago.

And wait... Where's Hauser?

Is he the key to all this???

wykydtron
2009-05-28, 11:55 AM
I've never done it myself but I read one article that mentioned having your PCs wake up at a dinner party with no recolection of how they got there, but when they wake up everything, including the people, are rotting and death lingers in air. Suddenly the local guardsmen are trying to know the doors down . . .

One of my favorite ideas so far.

Coplantor
2009-05-28, 12:06 PM
"As you walk wander through the woods, you stumble upon a young lady, dressed in robes and holding a big book, you can see that she is waering an armor under her robes and she has one too many knives in her belt.

Greetings she says I know this might sound strange but... van you help me with a little problem I have?"

She said she was mugged but she was actually trying to get inside the burglars camp in order to retrieve a long forgotten map holding the secrets to wonderful treasures... wich she would've gladly shared with the party if we had'nt switched from 2nd edition to 3.5 the next session.

Project_Mayhem
2009-05-28, 12:23 PM
We had the classic: 'You are all suddenly wrenched from your respective homelands by some powerful magical force, and you appear in a great desert'

It was a fun way of mixing characters from different settings

Blue Paladin
2009-05-28, 12:25 PM
Probably my best intro was this one:

"All of you were drafted into the local militia to help fend off the raiding barbarians. [at this point the players are rolling their eyes and thinking: railroad... so this is going to be a military campaign]

You can know each other from beforehand, or maybe you first meet from all being in the same unit. [players think: yada yada]

But now the raid has been beaten back and you're all released from service. Here you are, back in town. What do you want to do now? [players think: !!! the rails... they're gone?!]"

It was very sandbox; I had a map of the city with quite a few plotlines all over, so they could stumble on those if they chose. If they wanted to leave, I had a map of the country with a few plot ideas centered around the origin city (and the neighboring metropolis, a few days travel away). If they kept going north, I would have time to think of more plots as they moved through the land (which they ultimately did, while heading to the capital).

It was quite a fun campaign for me, as two or three unrelated plots later meshed together in unexpected ways. Like the one-off encounter "mad scientist" wizard (who escaped into the wilderness), later proved to be behind the death of the local lord. It was surprising and, speaking as a DM, quite gratifying to see everything grow together.

Choco
2009-05-28, 12:26 PM
I try to have my PC's at least start out knowing each other, so they have an actual believable reason to stick together and risk their lives for each other, other than "cause they are all PC's too". Though whenever I try to make it that they start out as part of an organization (note I mention start out, I never say they have to remain in it...), it usually goes like this in my group:

Me: "You all start out as part of <insert organization here>, write in your backstories how you got there and how long you have been there."
5/6 of the PC's: "K, that sounds awesome!" *write backstories*
The other PC (AKA non-conformist emo): "BUT I DONT WANNA!!"
Me: "..... Alright, you can meet up in the first session, I already have an encounter in mind, think of why you would travel with them, this is a Good campaign this time BTW.."
emo: "BUT I DONT WANNA BE GOOD!!"
Me: "Alright, you can be neutral, though do realize that the rest of the party has no reason in character to put up with any evil acts.."
emo: "Aww, but how would they know I am evil until I backstab them?"
Me: *facepalm* "You know what? You do that, make your chaotic evil/chaotic stupid character and see how long you can avoid the Divine Inquisitor figuring you out, that might actually be entertaining for all involved."
emo: "Alright I'll be neutral... but I wont take orders from anyone!"
etc. etc. etc.

So eventually we settle on a reason for the non-conformist following the group on their journey and the first session when they all meet up is always a blast.

It sounds bad from my description, and though it is often annoying to me and some of the other PC's at the time, once the game actually starts he is the best RP'er of the group by far and the game is definitely never dull... much fun to be had by all.

Coplantor
2009-05-28, 12:27 PM
Oh wait! I remember how Coplantor's (as my DnD character not my Gitp account) first adventure started! He was staying at his friend Ferethros house and his mother told us "Or you start earning money or I'll kick you out" So we joined a theater troupe, killed a vampire, catapulted rocks at a city, joined a secret society, got engaged and got trapped in the hypercube!

Tempest Fennac
2009-05-28, 12:27 PM
I often just have the party going to wherever they need to go at the start of the game to save time.

Lapak
2009-05-28, 12:33 PM
My most recent campaign used the planned climax of the previous one as a kickoff point. Said climax involved continent-wide war, the destruction of several major cities, and the severing of trade routes; the new campaign started immediately after the resolution of this conflict. The new first level characters started as caravan guards who had just arrived at one of the major cities that had been hit worst by the war (there weren't many 'major cities' to begin with, and fewer now.) They had the double motivation of 'trade is wrecked, so you're no longer needed as caravan guards' and 'this city just lost all its major protections, and needs adventurers to hold off the Things from The Wilds while they rebuild.'

That worked pretty well.

Cedrass
2009-05-28, 12:34 PM
One of my nice start was at the end of a dungeon. Surprisingly, the side quests it generated and all that happened overthrew my main quest :P

The group consisted of:
- One elven sorceress
- ONe Fighter
- One half-celestial/half-human Monk

They started at the end of a cavern where a gang of Gnoll had been hiding. Having "killed" the gnolls, I give them the loot and there was a pair of cursed boots that prevented the wearer from running. The sorceress instead of identifiying decided she'd put them on to test them out. They got in trouble because of that, had one character die, no more money so they were indebt to some other guy who raised him for free and they ended up being mixed with a lot of trouble and people. Too bad the quest died on it's own, would have been fun to see how it ends.

V'icternus
2009-05-28, 12:36 PM
I basically make a city, then say, a few days before actually starting "Alright guys, you start of somewhere in this city. You can be anywhere, and can have any reason for being in the city. Just tell me before we start, okay?"

You'd be surprised how many start off in taverns and prisons...

Deepblue706
2009-05-28, 01:10 PM
I've had PCs start off...

-In a courthouse, defending themselves against accusations of various illegal activies that they are unaware of even happening, due to them all having been to drunk to remember the previous night's activities.

-In a King's Court, having answered a summons for help.

-Amidst a battle with a horde of orcs, their party just being a few soldiers who got separated from the rest of their forces.

-On a dusty old trail in the middle of nowhere

Blackjackg
2009-05-28, 01:52 PM
Let's see... Town square, town square, town meeting. Next one will probably be "You're in the squallid hold of a prison ship, manacled and lying in your own filth. Good luck."

SlyGuyMcFly
2009-05-28, 02:00 PM
A couple of taverns, and a city gate once, but the best one went like so:

DM: You are all travelling in a zeppelin when you see a flash of light and the envelope is suddenly on fire.

All: :smalleek:

Egiam
2009-05-28, 02:18 PM
I started a one shot adventure in a monastery. The monks required adventurers to do some violent things.

The Glyphstone
2009-05-28, 02:23 PM
The only campaign I've ever run actually used/is using the "everyone is in town for [pick a reason] when monsters attack".

Corlindale
2009-05-28, 02:35 PM
I've used:
"You are all in the house of the town mayor waiting to be called in because you've decided to respond to a non-specified job ad he had posted"
- which is basically "You are all in a tavern together", but fast-forwarded to the first quest and with more rails. Hey, I was a total beginner GM...:smallsmile:

Later I did sort of the same campaign (at least the first half of it) for a different group, and this time we agreed they would all be affiliated with the Church of Pelor (the quest was such that it could easily be twisted to be commissioned by the church) and probably have worked together before. It actually worked wonders to have such a group - never have I experienced fewer problems with getting the party to stick together, as player or GM. Of course it only works if everyone's in on it and OK with being some form of Good.
The players also found it a nice change from other campaigns that they, right from the outset and without too much effort, were both popular and respected in most cities they went to - everybody loves the clergy of Pelor:smallbiggrin:

I also did the prison-cell classic once, but that was only when starting a one-session improvised pure hack'n'slash dungeon adventure (in which we all made high-powered characters and then took turns being the DM, each improvising parts of the dungeon as the party progressed - great fun).

Doc Roc
2009-05-28, 02:38 PM
I like starting things on airships, during a pirate attack, or at a hiring hall where people have prepped a couple of different characters and everyone talks over OOC who they want in the group. The ones who don't get hired go on to be NPCs. Nothing is wasted.

valadil
2009-05-28, 02:43 PM
Ideally I start my campaigns with a series of singular you's instead of one big plural you (or y'all if you prefer). Individual preludes to the game work best and feel way less contrived than "all of you happen to be at LOCATION when PLOT happens ... now you're a party!"

Wckd
2009-05-28, 02:53 PM
We usually just start where we left off last time, and find a quick(but crappy) way to introduce any new PCs. Last monday's d&d session 5 of 7 PCs ended up dead, my character was among the two survivors, but I will be dm'ing next session, so with just one PC carried over from last time I have the perfect opportunity to start out with something original, and this thread is a great place for inspiration! Keep up the good work! :smallbiggrin:

Starscream
2009-05-28, 03:20 PM
My current group started in prison, awaiting execution on false charges of witchcraft.

Yeah, it's a cliche. But everyone in my group was either brand new to the game, or had played one campaign before (in which they DID start in a tavern).

I figured it was a good enough way to get the ball rolling. Save the interesting openings like "You are plummeting to the ground from 50,000 feet up. Winged lobsters are biting your toes. What do you do?" for the more experienced players.

Randel
2009-05-28, 05:24 PM
Heading for the Tavern only to find that its been burned to the ground, the corpse of a mysterious looking old man is a few feet from the wreckage with arrows, burns and sword marks in him. Luckily, he's still got a coin purse with some gold in it.

What do you do?

Flickerdart
2009-05-28, 05:42 PM
Across my more recent campaigns, I've...had people meet in a tavern twice. Once, it was because everyone in the village was rallied there, another because it was a meeting place designated by the main NPC, who then gets tailed by an unruly mob.
Other than that, I've had people start in a caravan camp, stopping for the night only to get robbed by bandits and then mobbed by shadow beasts, in the middle of a desert, and all over a city, whereupon they were contacted in ways suitable to their career.

Once the forums where I RP come back up, I'mma starting up a campaign that sends them off on a boat into essentially a country shared between lawless vagabonds and affronts to nature dumped there by the magician empire shortly before its fall. Starting on a boat's good, it leads them to where you want them to be at the speed of plot and they can't veer off course until the main quest has at least been given a chance.

TheCountAlucard
2009-05-28, 05:48 PM
Start with them all in Limbo, all playing Limbo.

Problem solved. :smallcool:

lordhack
2009-05-28, 08:18 PM
I find it best to start the adventure in media res (In the middle of the action for you non-drama types) as it gets everyone excited right away. My most recent campaign began with the group's wagon being attacked by goblins while they were on the way to town. Unfortunately, less then half the party had ranged attacks, so I had to say they could throw the supplies (mostly large hunks of meat) out at their attackers.

Coplantor
2009-05-28, 09:37 PM
My first DnD campaign started when we stumbled upon a group of goblins in the middle of the town, they attacked us and we fought back. we won and claimed their heads... seems like they were suspects/witnesses of the lord's recent murder... guards wanted to imprisson us and so we ran.

Rhiannon87
2009-05-28, 10:57 PM
My campaign started in a tavern. Sigh. First campaign and all that. I think that if I were to start it over, I'd have done it differently. Ah well... learning experience.

Another campaign started with everyone being invited to a big fancy party, getting seated at a table together, having a fight break out, and then ending with us all being thrown in prison. Almost a combination of tavern and prison, really.

And the other campaign I'm in started with us almost in mid-combat. The DM was like "okay, you're all here investigating this zombie outbreak for whatever reasons, and you've been working together for at least a week. Take a few minutes to figure out how you all ended up here." Cue rapid discussion of party assembly. Then he told us to roll will saves, followed by initiative. Good times.

2009-05-29, 12:08 AM
Favorite start:
you are all in a castle standing over the dead bodies of the king and his family with weapons red with their blood and no memory of how this happened. What do you do?

d13
2009-05-29, 12:17 AM
I tend to start every campaign with a potentially good RP encounter for each of the pjs.

Let's say... If I have a Fighter who hates thieves, and a peacemaker Cleric; I probably would have the Rogue stealing something, hopefully the Fighter going after him, and hopefully the Cleric trying to "STOP THIS MADNESS!!" (?)

No "This is Sparta!" puns allowed here.

Still, my favourite one is "You have been forcefully recruited to the milita, in order to defent the city from a [insert 'mostly evil' race here] siege".

A few hopeless battles, everyone goes down. They wake up to find the city has been destroyed, and there are very little survivors xD

Saph
2009-05-29, 12:20 AM
Eh, I don't think it really matters where you start the campaign. A tavern's as good a place as any. In my experience the most memorable fun of a campaign comes from the players, not from the DM. It's what the players do that makes things interesting - so it's their actions that matter, not their starting positions. A tavern's as good a place as anywhere else.

I'm not so much a fan of 'gimmick' starts, though they're easy enough to come up with.

Instant Adventure Starter Generator (roll 3d6 in order)

"You are all in . . ."

1) a prison 2) an airship 3) bed 4) the king's private chamber 5) the marketplace 6) the Death Star

"when suddenly . . . "

1) a group of monsters appear! 2) you are shifted to another plane! 3) a dragon attacks! 4) assassins try to kill you! 5) someone collapses dead in front of you! 6) you're summoned for an important mission!

"and also . . ."

1) you've lost your memory 2) you're being framed for a crime 3) a war is starting 4) there are helpless civilians everywhere 5) everything is on fire 6) everything is on fire and about to explode.

"What do you do?"

Though I admit they can be fun. :)

I mostly use gimmick starts when I'm doing a one-shot with very little preparation; the game's only a few hours long, so you want minimal setup and lots of flash. For longer campaigns I prefer something slower - give the players some time to RP and get comfortable. Like, say, in a tavern.

- Saph

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-05-29, 12:21 AM
My campaign hasn't started yet, but I'm planning on having it start in a dilapidated abbey that's recently fallen under siege by one of the myriad factions that have emerged in the recent civil war.

Sir Homeslice
2009-05-29, 01:00 AM
"You are all in . . ."
4) the king's private chamber
"when suddenly . . . "
4) assassins try to kill you!
"and also . . ."
1) you've lost your memory
"What do you do?"


Rolled 3d6, and got this.

In any case, my last campaign started with the PCs being yelled at by an incredibly stressed military captain.

potatocubed
2009-05-29, 01:34 AM
I once started a game where the PCs were all slaves who had to escape from their masters and make a new life for themselves a million miles from home - but I did this because the group in question had an annoying tendency to split the party, and I thought chaining them all together was a good way of preventing that. :smalltongue:

magellan
2009-05-29, 01:46 AM
I agree with saph here. Taverns are perfectly fine. Not to mention that in RL people who have just met in a tavern can get pretty friendly with each other pretty fast as well.

pendell
2009-05-29, 09:01 AM
Haven't tried this one, but how about:

"You are all minions of [uber bad guy] -- that is, until a band of heroes stomped [uber bad guy] and destroyed his philactery. Somehow, you managed to escape from the exploding castle and by luck have all found your way to this secret bolthole. Unfortunately, the [order of chivalric knights] has tracked you and are kicking in the door. What do you do?"

Respectfully,

Brian P.

BigPapaSmurf
2009-05-29, 09:02 AM
My fav was when I had them all kidnapped from their homes by a powerful wizard who put them all into temporal stasis and used them as "wax figures" in his tower, some high level PCs killed the wizard and set them free. The gnome caster woke to find himself in full platemail staring into the eyes of a great bear, (which was also in TS) all he could do with all the armor on was fall over.

Learnedguy
2009-05-29, 09:08 AM
"So you start up hanging upside down above a big kettle. Something green and vile is boiling bellow you"

DeathQuaker
2009-05-29, 09:39 AM
My favorite campaign beginning was from a Star Wars campaign I played in: "You have ten seconds to explain why the Stormtroopers are chasing you."

For less dramatic, or at least slower-paced, beginnings, I am becoming increasingly fond of simply establishing that the PCs already know each other. The GM can provide the basis: "You are all in the town militia together and you've been given your first assignment"--or the players can: "We decided we met on the boat to Port Town and we've filled in our backgrounds from there. Bob is helping me find the Temple of Sally, and Joe and Eldariel are trading craftsmanship tips."

A lot of times this avoids problems as to why certain characters would agree to work together (or rather, those issues are resolved pre-gameplay rather than during it).

The only caveat is to make the joint-party-background simple, allowing for enough room to let players build the concepts they really want to play (within reason, of course)--while still giving them a unified goal.

And if the GM has specific ideas about what he wants the joint party background to be like, he needs to communicate clearly about what he is looking for up front. I did see one campaign fall apart before it ever started because the "joint background" development went crazy. It basically went something like:

GM: I want you guys to come up with a joint background all by yourselves, and you can play any character you want.

Players: Okay, so we're probably going to play this, this, and this, and we've decided we either met on the road to Place, or that Bad Guy attacked Joe and Eldariel and were rescued by Bob and Sally.

GM: No, no, no, you have to have GROWN UP together. In the same town.

Player of Bob: But I wanted to play someone from West Place, and Sally's player wanted to play someone from East Place.

GM: Well, you can't do either, because the game is going to take place in North Place, so start over.

Players: But you said we could play whatever we wanted...

GM: Well you can, but you have to be from North Place, and also, you have to figure out why Thing happened to you.

Player of Eldariel: You didn't mention Thing before. Now that totally negates my background idea...

It didn't end well. I backed out of the game in the middle of this... the rest of the players struggled with the GM for another month or so before they gave up.

So... don't do that.

RS14
2009-05-29, 09:56 AM
I've started a campaign at dawn, with the nobility of a remote settlement riding off for an annual hunt, which the players were expected to attend.

I've also started out in a relatively metagame way: the players were arriving at a ruined city, having journeyed together, and were instructed to choose from among a list of possible abandoned structures to lay claim to. They eventually found people sneaking around inside it.

Calinero
2009-05-29, 10:05 AM
I think my favorite way I have ever heard of was in a tavern. It went something along the lines of:

"You are all sitting in a tavern. A pirate ship crashes through the wall. Roll initiative."

Personally, I have never started a game in a tavern. Therefore, to be unpredictable, I'm actually planning on starting my next one in a tavern. It will be all the more amusing because it's Cthulhu, not D&D. I'm sure that there's a tavern in 1920's Boston somewhere. Or at least a pub.

Eldariel
2009-05-29, 10:16 AM
I started a campaign in a prison. Part 1 was naturally prison break; played the classic "you've lost your memories"-card too. Another one started in the streets of Natur in the Abyss. That was about getting some souls back. One was a simple matter of the game starting with a bandit ambush. Then there was that "burning troll"-game.

Choco
2009-05-29, 10:42 AM
Then there was that "burning troll"-game.

Those are awesome, the perfect enemies for low-level min-maxers...

Anyway, the DM of a game I was playing in had the best opener of any campaign I had been in. After everyone had their characters built, before we could even get to any backstories, he simply said "Alright, roll your initiative". We were left to actually tell what we wanted of our backstories to the other PC's in character during/after the fight, and give written backstories to the DM after the first session.... It was actually rather fun.

Glyde
2009-05-29, 10:48 AM
Only survivors of an airship crash (Each character on the airship for their own reasons. They got to roleplay a bit while on it) was how the very first campaign I DMed started.

Dragonus45
2009-05-29, 10:58 AM
Right now im trying a new idea for a campaign I'm starting in a week. The pcs will all me heroes of a what seemed like minor battle, forced together when there respective platoons were decimated. There actions held a flank that led to a major victory that scattered the orc horde totally and completely. After that battle they get some rewards and chose to set off on there own (wars over) and then they get started immediately in town. It gives them reasons to trust each other, and even gives them reason to give the blind eye here of there. Plus it helps segue into the main quest i have planned for them.

Set
2009-05-29, 11:08 AM
My Freeport game started on an elven-crewed light merchant ship, under attack by an underwater foe (whom they never saw, and was part of a plot hook for much later in the game), and the party saved the ship through quick thinking and a Tanglefoot Bag...

My Scarred Lands / Hollowfaust game started in line, waiting to be approved to enter the city, with each of the PCs having had a brief solo encounter / session on the way to the city (either on their own or as part of a caravan or other group of travellers).

The only tavern-based intro I remember was one in which the party was sleeping in a tavern, and woke up to smell smoke, having to gather their crap and run out of the building to discover the town being attacked by torch-wielding goblins. The party hadn't met before, having arrived at seperate times, but met during the wild melee that ensued.

And then there was the Spelljammer game, where we all woke up in a Mind Flayer prison on an asteroid somewhere, and my character (a Gnomish Giant Space Werehamster) tunneled us to freedom! Yeah, who knew a burrow speed would be so useful in a space adventure? It was a strange prison. The Mind Flayers had left all sorts of books in the cell, and it was later speculated that they wanted us to read, to 'fatten up our brains.' :)

Tamburlaine
2009-05-29, 11:11 AM
Most recently: Everyone is on the tube heading in to work. Suddenly there's a flash of light that knocks you out. When you wake up, everyone has superpowers.

Next up: Everyone is in the crowd watching the massive diplomatic procession of the first ambassador from a far-off city. Suddenly, the ambassador is assassinated, causing a panic.

Funkyodor
2009-05-29, 11:30 AM
A cool one was Pirate raid on a transport the characters where on. Captured and a couple levels as a pirate. Some characters support the first mate, the others support the captain. But it doesn't really matter. After a few levels you throw the characters off balance and capture them with a military force and thrown in a prison work gang for pirating. Then you throw them for another loop after a couple of levels trying to escape / survive, and hit them with an opposing military force and free them to be conscripts for the enemy for their freedom. It was pretty fun.

Individualize each characters growth from a juvenile through young adulthood (older if the character is a spell caster type / vagabond). Get them in a keep for various reasons, and in various places, then introduce one at a time in an escalating situation like a Keep invasion.

Have them meet in at a sewers junction where they each are going to the same house for different reasons.

Start in a tavern, but as the night goes on a noticable NPC leaves. Have the law show up looking for him. Enough players interested can change it into an ad hoc mass deputization and hunt for the felon. Or it can change into an ignore the law and be somewhat welcomed into the underbelly of the city thing.

Abandoned warehouse, everyone arrives in response to a notice for "quick cash, no questions asked" type message. In this instance we entered a mortuary at night to retrieve a body... Long story short, Phantasm...

Dienekes
2009-05-29, 11:38 AM
I've proudly never started a campaign in an tavern.

Partially because I've only run 1 successful campaign, but I digress. I started with all the characters in a city doing random things that would work with their character. I introduced that it was being attacked by an invading force (I used elves because the party had no elves and, blame Tolkien and Paolini, I dislike elves) and had the first day of campaigning end up with all the characters meeting each other and being forced to work together.

It took longer for the meat of the campaign to get started, but I thought it was much more memorable.

woodenbandman
2009-05-29, 12:03 PM
"You've all come from wherever you're respective pasts lie to this place which is a..."

And then you ask the PCs how they know each other, why they're here, where here is, and what they want to do next.

Fredthefighter
2009-05-29, 12:06 PM
"You've all come from wherever you're respective pasts lie to this place which is a..."

And then you ask the PCs how they know each other, why they're here, where here is, and what they want to do next.

I used this one. They met in a field and nearly missed meeting the halfling in the party (the only non-human in the party until the half-orc showed up)

Zen Master
2009-05-29, 01:49 PM
I came up with this today - it's still moderately unfinished, but still.

The characters (level 12) are chosen to combat the ur-villain, because in their youth (level 3) they were in a similar situation, and accounted well for themselves. Their combined skills are considered the only way out of the current crisis (which is entirely undefined as of yet).

As the level 12's combat the ur-villain, there are flashbacks to the adventure of the level 3's. For clarity I should point out - both level 3 and 12 characters are created at the same time, it's not a reference to an earlier adventure.

As the fight progresses, the flashbacks start to get fairly ominous. It's clear during play that the low levels are in way, way over their heads.

Naturally, the intro ends with the high-levels realising they never succeeded at their low level quest - rather, they were placed under geas, and are now in fact promoting the ur-villains true plot (again, totally undefined).

Kornaki
2009-05-29, 02:00 PM
One of the more interesting games we had... we were bodyguards for an envoy of one of two warring nations, traveling to the enemy's capital to negotiate a peace treaty. We get just inside the city, when

"A crack of thunder, then another... lightning bolts pour down from the sky as black clouds swirl into a vortex over the center of the city..... *WHOOOSH* A massive wind nearly blows you over as the vortex opens up into a portal to the Underworld. Thousands of ghosts pour out and scatter across the city"

"Ok, we're just gonna show ourselves out..."

"You look back at the city gate, and see naught but a wall of pure negative energy blocking the exit. The former city guards, their corpses shattered and drained of any semblance of life, begin stirring under the control of a new master"

:smalleek:

woodenbandman
2009-05-29, 04:47 PM
I came up with this today - it's still moderately unfinished, but still.

The characters (level 12) are chosen to combat the ur-villain, because in their youth (level 3) they were in a similar situation, and accounted well for themselves. Their combined skills are considered the only way out of the current crisis (which is entirely undefined as of yet).

As the level 12's combat the ur-villain, there are flashbacks to the adventure of the level 3's. For clarity I should point out - both level 3 and 12 characters are created at the same time, it's not a reference to an earlier adventure.

As the fight progresses, the flashbacks start to get fairly ominous. It's clear during play that the low levels are in way, way over their heads.

Naturally, the intro ends with the high-levels realising they never succeeded at their low level quest - rather, they were placed under geas, and are now in fact promoting the ur-villains true plot (again, totally undefined).


That's really cool. Reminiscent of (spoilers in white text) : Bioshock

msully4321
2009-05-29, 07:46 PM
I came up with this today - it's still moderately unfinished, but still.

The characters (level 12) are chosen to combat the ur-villain, because in their youth (level 3) they were in a similar situation, and accounted well for themselves. Their combined skills are considered the only way out of the current crisis (which is entirely undefined as of yet).

As the level 12's combat the ur-villain, there are flashbacks to the adventure of the level 3's. For clarity I should point out - both level 3 and 12 characters are created at the same time, it's not a reference to an earlier adventure.

As the fight progresses, the flashbacks start to get fairly ominous. It's clear during play that the low levels are in way, way over their heads.

Naturally, the intro ends with the high-levels realising they never succeeded at their low level quest - rather, they were placed under geas, and are now in fact promoting the ur-villains true plot (again, totally undefined).

That's a really cool idea, if difficult to pull off. The danger is that since the high-level stuff depends on the low-level stuff happening as planned, you are establishing as canon things that the players haven't done yet, thus potentially setting yourself up for disaster if they go off the rails.

This became a bit of problem in a campaign I was in, in which two campaigns were being run in the same world. Near the conclusion of the campaign, the other party was told that we had done something that we had been planning for a long time, but hadn't done yet. The DM told them this in order to have a climactic ending to a session. My character was beginning to have second doubts about it... We did it, but gave him a lot of crap.

Ellye
2009-05-29, 07:57 PM
I never started a adventure in a tavern... not that I can remember, at least.

Last one started with the Big City that the players have just arrived by ship going through a military lockdown due to... something.

Tough_Tonka
2009-05-29, 09:45 PM
I started my last Eberron campaign in a lightning rail train bound for Sharn. They all introduced themselves in the passenger car before the ship was hijacked by a group of thieves trying to take one of the passengers for ransom.

Set
2009-05-29, 11:02 PM
Most recently: Everyone is on the tube heading in to work. Suddenly there's a flash of light that knocks you out. When you wake up, everyone has superpowers.

Ooh, we had a GURPS Supers game that started like this.

We started out as college students at a fictitious 'Columbia University' (I even picked the school colors, since my character was in sweats), at the homecoming game, and a mutant supremacist named Warchild released a bio-weapon that caused everyone at the game to mutate randomly. Only five of us (the PCs) survived, the rest died in a Wild Cards like manner (amusing coincidence, since the DM had never heard of Wild Cards).

That's always a fun way to start the day, being the last survivors of something, forced to band together for survival. Doable in D&D easily as well, with the PCs being survivors of a shipwreck (storm? piracy? dragon turtle attack? forgot to pay the Sahuagin tribute?) or fleeing a burning town (war? pissed-off druid? drunken wizard's duel gone horribly wrong?) or fleeing into the desert to escape the destruction of the caravan they were guarding / being ferried along on by (bulette? gnolls barbarians? a magically sentient and vicious living sandstorm?).

Agrippa
2009-05-30, 12:58 AM
We had the classic: 'You are all suddenly wrenched from your respective homelands by some powerful magical force, and you appear in a great desert'

It was a fun way of mixing characters from different settings

There was a freeform RPG (even though I don't think that these characters fit freeform games very well) on Avatar Spirit.Net. Basically a cruel and psychotic Djinn named (or just Mr. Popo) magically kidnapped a diverse group of characters to run them through a sadistic (if unimaginative) series of games. If they play to his satisfaction he promises to release them (probably a lie). These characters are divided into two teams. These are the characters and their teams. My characters are in bold italics.

Team 1
Doran Mekel
Naruto Uzumaki
Kallen Kouzuki
Percy Jackson
Allen Walker
Jasdevi
Aria Patrick
Long Feng
Jonathan Teatime (Me of course. I also played his best friend on team two.)
Maximillian (or just Max)
Tsubomi Okuwaka

Team 2
Lord Voldemort
Nappa
Lelouch Vi Britannia
Iggy
Anathema Demonstra
Annabeth Chase Jackson
Uryu Ishida
Ignis Prognatus
Sephiroth (Yes, I played this guy as Teatime's best friend. It was a crossover. He also started to form an allance with Voldemort, handed him Materia and explained it to him.)
Natsume Hyuuga

Talic
2009-05-30, 01:10 AM
Prison cells for Drunk and Disorderly? Done it.

Taverns? Done it.

Strangers around the same campfire on a caravan escort? Done it.

Office of Transient Authority, in a 3 hour line, awaiting licenses for their weapons? Done it.

4 seperate characters in seperate places going wherever they want in the city, until they all meet up? Done it.

Long term hospice care (nonmagical), recovering from a life-threatening plague? Done it.

Knaight
2009-05-30, 12:02 PM
Since my players are extremely adept at making enemies, I usually start in such a way as to give them a head start. It makes things interesting. For instance:

Your being chased by guards. One of them yells "Stop Thief". After a while the guards managed to capture them, then they woke up in a prison cell and were taken to a military facility. They all wake up with amnesia, and elemental powers, with their memories of the current country being chased and captured by guards, bought by the military, then waking up in a cell.

You all wake up inside a cardboard box, moving slowly down a conveyor belt. After running some system diagnostics, you realize that you are being transported to some military or other. You also realize that these boxes would be pretty easy to break out of. Of course, this was a sci-fi game playing robots, so it doesn't transfer over well.

I usually don't have quests per say, certainly nothing along the lines of some person gives the players a quest, they complete it, somebody else does. Usually the games end up being about the struggle for survival and acceptable existence given a lot of enemies, or the characters manage to get involved in stuff way out of their league, and start trying to sort things out and figure out what to do, and what is right to do.

Dragor
2009-05-30, 01:00 PM
On the ruins of a bloody battleground, surrounded by dead soldiers with varying banners. You don't know who won, who you were fighting for (as you were certain you were fighting for someone) and why you don't remember anything.

Well, that's one I've wanted to use, anyway.

Xuincherguixe
2009-05-30, 02:01 PM
How about a town hall meeting?

"First order of business, Jenkins farm. It seems that it was built without a permit."
"Point of order! That should be the second thing we discuss."
"... That's... a good point. Alright, scratch that. The recent zombie invasion. What are we going to do about it?"
"Fine the zombies!"
"... I don't think that will work."
"How about we have the adventurers do it!"
Obviously, the PCs would all be fairly obviously adventurers, what with having shown up in full armor and all.

Xondoure
2009-05-30, 02:37 PM
Here's an idea:

"The world is on the brink of change, and new forces are emerging. The darkness now spreads to the far reaches of the world, and something must stop it."
You play as the chosen of a new god. You may have originated from anywhere on the planet, and be of any alignment, but all that is now meaningless, you have been brought here to fight for his cause wether you like it or not.

Surprisingly, this is not a railroad plot. Once on the quest, the adventurers can rebel, join the darkness, or even depart for other quests, ignoring their destiny. Here's the trick, the characters don't know its not a railroad plot because you presented it as such. The challenge is to keep the other options hidden and guided, so only the more creative role players will be able to shape there own future.

That said, its pretty much another variation of "You are in some mysterious setting with no idea how you got there". Although if you wanted to shake things up, you could always say that one of the characters was sent by his masters, or another one was sacrificed to the god, or whatever else the players come up with. (I'm personally a fan of the sacrifice one)

Doresain
2009-05-31, 01:10 AM
Oh wait! I remember how Coplantor's (as my DnD character not my Gitp account) first adventure started! He was staying at his friend Ferethros house and his mother told us "Or you start earning money or I'll kick you out" So we joined a theater troupe, killed a vampire, catapulted rocks at a city, joined a secret society, got engaged and got trapped in the hypercube!

that is probably the most awesome completely unrelated series of events ive ever heard...but you should have added "and that was just the first session"

anyhoo, i think the most original opening sequence ive been a part of was in the middle of a big festival being held in new cyre...then all of a sudden the prince is attacked by mysterious robed figures, and the party was his personal bodyguard

Darwin
2009-05-31, 05:12 AM
I once had my group start at the bottom of the well. It took half a session getting them out of there, and let's just mention that at least a few bones were broken in the attempt. Eventually I had an NPC come by who gave them a helping hand :smallsigh:
Rougly 20-30 minutes after getting out of the well, the party gets a TPK from a rat swarm. I had a hard time not to laught at them :smallamused:

Ovaltine Patrol
2009-05-31, 07:33 AM
For the ultimate railroad start, which can be helpful for some campaigns, try putting them on a boat (or better yet a zeppelin, everything is better with them).

Once, I ran a game with just two players. While they were making their characters, I made high level versions of those characters. We ran the first session with the high level versions which ended with them getting blasted to smithereens by inescapable railroading. Then their characters woke up and I handed them their lowbie versions and narrated that they couldn't be certain if those events had been a dream or not. It was kind of Planescape: Torment inspired.

All of my campaign starts do not require railroading, but some of them do :smallredface:

Frozen_Predator
2009-05-31, 07:37 AM
had some moderately interesting starting locations with my group, including prisons and taverns

most interesting was the on for our current campaing, with the entire party being in a city where the count was getting married. all starting on different locations.

the party came together in a back alley trying to hide a dead body and thinking of a way to get out of town which was getting placed under lockdown due to war breaking out.

Captain Six
2009-05-31, 09:14 PM
My first campaign started pretty originally considering I was 15 at the time I came up with it. It was in the governor's meeting room of an island city.

The island was one of many that fell between several feudal lords and they all wanted to claim it as their own. The gnomish governor was surprisingly alright with that idea and instead of having his island slaughtered and conquered he invited representatives of all the nations to meet with him. The PCs were among these, allowing them to be pretty much anyone from anywhere who thought that holding sovereignty over an island would be fun.

The gnome, who's name has been long forgotten, opened the meeting that he was going to set forward a few tasks and trials that he wanted complete, the 'winner' of these trials would have him swearing loyalty under the lord they served, keeping his beloved island even if it meant submitting to another. It was at that point one of the representative's translator stabbed his supposed boss in the back, killing him.

That campaign never really took off beyond the first session, but I'm almost glad because what I had planned really didn't live up to that intro.

EagleWiz
2009-05-31, 09:41 PM
None of the other members of my gaming group have played bioshock, so I always wanted to have them start on a plane zeplin. Crashing. In the ocean. Near a lighthouse tower. For the evilulz.

That or: You all wake up inside a tomb. Near a statue of a demons mouth. You cannot see inside the statue and nothing penetrates the darkness. What do you do? :smallbiggrin:

Colmarr
2009-05-31, 11:41 PM
My current group started in prison, awaiting execution on false charges of witchcraft.

I've only ever started a campaign in a prison once, and in that case very few of the charges were false :smallsmile:

The "theme" of the campaign was "the Dirty Dozen". The DM told us to make morally grey characters, including a reason for them to be in prison.

And then the bad guys attacked the prison and we escaped (barely) in the ensuing mayhem. Good times :smallsmile:


None of the other members of my gaming group have played bioshock, so I That or: You all wake up inside a tomb. Near a statue of a demons mouth. You cannot see inside the statue and nothing penetrates the darkness. What do you do? :smallbiggrin:

I've ner really understood the ZOMG in that particular trap. Only the most naive/foolhardy of players sticks a body part into an opening through which they can't see. And anyone smart enough to stick something other than a body part into the mouth will very quickly realise that it's not to be trifled with.

Or are you implying "Welcome to the Tomb of Horrors", in which case evillulz abound :smallbiggrin:

Colmarr
2009-05-31, 11:42 PM
Double-post.

RangerOfFortune
2009-06-01, 12:29 AM
Our DM has fully acknowledged the cliche of starting in a tavern, and does one of two things about it:

1) Start in a tavern anyways! 4 out of 5 times we end up trashing the tavern and ignoring any plot hooks. One summer we played an entire campaign without touching the main plot once. We were quite surprised at the end!

2) Assume and skip. Just pretend we did all the usual stuff (met in a tavern, talked to shady guy, etc) and just throw us in the first room of a dungeon.

These options allow the players to test out their characters and get used to them (or change them) and gives the DM a chance to refine his opening story to better fit our characters/play style. Mainly works because our DM is incredibly creative.

Duff
2009-06-01, 02:20 AM
Heading for the Tavern only to find that its been burned to the ground, the corpse of a mysterious looking old man is a few feet from the wreckage with arrows, burns and sword marks in him. Luckily, he's still got a coin purse with some gold in it.

What do you do?

I like that a a reversal of Trope

Forbiddenwar
2009-06-01, 02:49 AM
One problem I had recently in starting a game, is that even though they were all trapped in a room with no visible exit (and presumably they would have to work together to get out) Nobody would speak! Think, you're trapped in a small room with 4 strangers, and no one says anything. It was dead quiet for about 2-3 minutes when I realized it wasn't going to work, so I created a young girl NPC and ask a Bunch of annoying questions.

HI, what do you do?
Do you like flowers?
Can I have your wooden jewlry thing, it's pretty (to a cleric regarding their holy symbol)
That looks sharp(sword) you hit things with it?
Have you killed before?
Who do you think would win, my dad or you.
Wow, you're old!

Worked like a charm. They didn't have backstories, so by talking to this girl thay had to make them up, and share them with each other.

(Note, I imagine a little boy bring them drinks would have worked just as well.)

AngelOmnipotent
2009-06-01, 03:59 AM
Longwinded so behind a Spoiler for tl;dr:

My current campaign has started off rather oddly. They're in a world where Magic only "appeared" around 500 years ago and no one knows where it came from; some people were just born with an odd ability for it. The highest level spellcaster in the known world is only a level 10 Wizard. Because Magic only appeared 500 years ago there are very few books to teach the Wizards so their spell seleciton is limited, and Sorcerers know so little about their own magic they often blow themselves up before they reach a higher level.

Divine magic has always been around, but you have to be in really high favour with your god and pray for days just to get a simple cure spell. This makes religious people rather feared because they have this capability.

The party are all farmhands (literally, level 1 Human Commoners) that know nothing of magic aside from the Mage's Guild deals with it. That's it. However, hopes and dreams play a big part and they're convinced that if they travel to the Caves of Trials by the night of the Summer Solstice and pass their trial, their "power" within themselves will be released and they can go forth and live their dreams.

So all the PCs arrive at these caves but all they find when they are there are bandits (and nothing more) just preying on the people they know will be travelling to the caves. Of course if no one hears back from their family member then it's just assumed that they've gone off to do their adventuring!

So they got robbed and only manage to escape with 3 of the 6 horses they had, and whatever weapon they had in hand. Rather sad they travel towards the nearest village. Having not known anything of the outside world beyond their own villages they're just hoping they're going the right way.

On the road they get their horses stolen in a typical "oh I'm wounded in the middle of the road, you've all dismounted to tend to me and left your horses unattended" and they're still 3 days out without any food, water, shelter, clothing or any survival skills. It was only sheer luck that it started raining and they managed to grab a drink by running through the rain and wringing out their clothes to get the water.

So, thoroughly p***ed off they arrive at the village to find a man selling "Magical Potions" that awaken the power within you. However he hasn't received his weekly shipment from the Wizard who sells them to him. Of course the PCs are excited at finally getting a chance to live their dreams and offer to help in exchange for some potions.

They go to the Wizards tower and through strange events happening they get sucked through a portal into an alternate universe where -everything- is magic. To not have magic is abnormal, to be an "unmentionable", and the trade and sale of Mundane items is highly illegal (for reasons they have yet to find out). On the other side of the portal they also turn into their "Fantasy" counterparts - the person they always dreamed of being when they were a kid; A superhero they invented, a character in a story book, etc. (IE. Their actual character concept, race and all, replacing their first level of commoner with their first level of whatever class.)

And now the proper story begins now they're in a world that, even though they know nothing about it, it feels strangely natural :smallbiggrin:

Well I had to give them something odd to start with. They were sick of the usual Dungeon Crawl that the rest of the GMs they've been with have fed to them, and I have an apparent reputation to live up to :smalleek:

Zen Master
2009-06-01, 06:29 AM
..... potentially setting yourself up for disaster if they go off the rails ......

Yes - I need the low-level part of the adventure to be fairly railroad-y. And I admit to being slightly horrified by the idea of the players somehow finding a way to avoid the trap entirely, thus foiling my nefarious plot.

maclaird
2009-06-30, 12:33 PM
My group were all soldiers who were released from service when peace broke out. They met on the roads from the battlefield and decided to look for work together.

Duke of URL
2009-06-30, 12:42 PM
Let's see, in my most recent games, I've started the party...

1) In the middle of the woods, on their way to a village that's requesting help, where they seek shelter from a storm in an old ruin.

2) At a graduation ceremony (granted, this was Paranoia, not D&D).

3) Huddled in a cave after the magical explosion that turned them into intelligent, awakened cats with class levels. (Borrowing someone else's plot hook from a unfortunately short-lived PbP game.)

chiasaur11
2009-06-30, 01:26 PM
Reading this, I've decided if I run a game, it'll start (prepare for a shock) in, not a tavern, but a bar!

Namely, Cheers. This will have no bearing on the actual adventure.

Fixer
2009-06-30, 02:29 PM
OK, we've all done the old "You are all drinking in a tavern when a mysterious stranger approaches with a job offer..." routine.Actually, I don't recall EVER doing that. I always let the characters RP getting to know each other and then throw something in to catch their attention (red herrings often work best). Makes them move quickly and organize to move the story along.

I have been GMing for 29 years now. Wow, I am so old. :xykon: