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Rolled A Three
2013-02-06, 04:54 AM
One of the biggest problems I face as a DM is coming up with reasons as to why my lovable bunch of misfits know each other or are assembled together to face their impending certain doom. Out of curiosity, this has brought me to come before the members of the playground and ask; what are reasons for your characters being chosen for this adventure?

I'd prefer answers that aren't as cliche as 'you're a group of adventurers'. Reasons that contribute to the purpose of the story are more-so what I'm looking for. :)

ArcturusV
2013-02-06, 05:07 AM
Well, first step is usually either forming a campaign that naturally puts people together:

DM: Okay, before you all roll up your characters, keep in mind that you're all going to be soldiers in the Imperial Army of Holy Smiting.

Or pull naturally on the backgrounds that players tend to come up with, like in my 4th Edition Game:

DM: "Okay... 2 of you are slaves. 1 of you was almost kidnapped by slavers but rescued in your background... the other guy is a former prisoner. Okay, you all know each other through your Slavery Commonality/Prisoner state."

Note that they all chose these backgrounds without me putting any spin on them or something, I just ended up with a lot of characters related to doing a stint without personal freedom.

Third Method, Convergence, which can work sometimes.

DM: "Okay... none of you do know each other yet... but you're all traveling in a caravan heading off to Location X... and stuff happens on the way to make you band together."

Fourth Method, daisy chaining backgrounds. Sometimes with groups I'll just tell someone something like...

DM: "Okay, first guy to get a character into me gets whatever they want. Second guy has to make his background tie into the first character and give a way that they would know and work with one another. Third character has to tie in with the second, etc, etc, etc."

Kol Korran
2013-02-06, 05:08 AM
Well, one approach is to tell the players what the campaign is (very generally) about, and what the starting scene is.then let Them come up with a reason. Another old favorite is to throw them into a sort of situation that forces them to work together (or at least already it quite plausable) and let the players use this initial adventure to form bonds between them.

Group dynamics are the responsibility of the play e'er rs. You can help, but the initiative should come from them.

(You can check my "it began with a crash" adventure log to see one fairly good, example of characters that don't fit coming together, in my signature )

mjlush
2013-02-06, 05:08 AM
One of the biggest problems I face as a DM is coming up with reasons as to why my lovable bunch of misfits know each other or are assembled together to face their impending certain doom. Out of curiosity, this has brought me to come before the members of the playground and ask; what are reasons for your characters being chosen for this adventure?

I'd prefer answers that aren't as cliche as 'you're a group of adventurers'. Reasons that contribute to the purpose of the story are more-so what I'm looking for. :)

Assuming I've not done a 'framing device' like your all at school together, your all Knights of the Bastion, etc

I simply ask them flat out why do you know each other and get them to work it out between them.

Jack of Spades
2013-02-06, 07:30 AM
Sometimes you'll get lucky and the players will connect the characters themselves. This is why I can't recommend enough the practice of devoting 'session 1' to character creation. Having everyone in the same room talking out their backgrounds while they fill out a character sheet often causes a lot of "Oh cool! What if my guy and your guy were..." conversations.

Hell, last time we built characters in the same room, connected backstories became common enough that they hit a sort of critical mass and connecting backstories became a goal in itself. And this was in a game where we would explicitly not be teaming up-- in fact, my character only ever talked to one, maybe two PC's the entire game (we were doing a survival-horror game, so it was short and brutal).

Ravens_cry
2013-02-06, 07:38 AM
I liek the all part of an organization route, it gives you some handy ways to deliver plot hooks. For a morally ambiguous campaign, you all wake in jail and it's 'do or die' could work.

nedz
2013-02-06, 07:50 AM
Some I have done

You all live in the same village.

You all live in the same village. A plague sweeps through the village: you are the only survivors.

An artefact has been stolen from a temple. Your temple/guild/whatever asks you to investigate. PC's meet at the temple.

You are all in the army and have been assigned to the same unit. Here are your orders.

Rolled A Three
2013-02-06, 07:58 AM
Excellent suggestions, eager for more.

DigoDragon
2013-02-06, 08:02 AM
Another option is to work with the players as they build their backgrounds and set it up so that a relative of PC A knows a relative of PC B and the the two relatives send their respective PCs to work together. Usually works best if the reason they knew each other is based on a past major event of your campaign world.
For example, they were both soldiers in an important war and kept correspondance afterwards.

some guy
2013-02-06, 08:56 AM
Yeah, most of the already said reasons I've used for campaigns.
For fast one-shots I usually let the players roll on this table (http://bxblackrazor.blogspot.nl/2010/08/give-me-reasonor-hundred.html). (For the table itself you need to scroll down a bit). This way players at least have 2 connections.

CarpeGuitarrem
2013-02-06, 09:51 AM
I'd prefer answers that aren't as cliche as 'you're a group of adventurers'. Reasons that contribute to the purpose of the story are more-so what I'm looking for. :)
Ditto this.

There's no reason the players can't be asked for this, really. Plus, it can be a good way to get a bead on what they want out of the game.

FATE systems make use of this--your character is created via a series of Phases, and some of those Phases involve being part of (in a minor way) another character's previous ventures.

Also, for quickrolled relationships, you could leverage Tenra Bansho Zero's (http://www.tenra-rpg.com/support.shtml) Emotion Matrix (the first link on the page). You roll a d66 (i.e., 2d6, one of them is pre-designated as the horizontal axis, one of them is pre-designated as the vertical axis), and that tells you what your character's gut reaction to another character is. Now, you're more than able to modify that, but it makes a really great starting point.

"Emotion....Thirst for your blood. Well, that's interesting."

Winds
2013-02-06, 10:21 AM
I'm finding in the PbP games here, players are largely expected to write their backstory in a way that gets them into position.

In real life, our longest-running games involved all our characters working together out of self-interest. By example, a Forgotten Realms game where they all were after self perfect/wealth/fame and working with each other let them work towards that goal.

SowZ
2013-02-06, 10:22 AM
I like their initial team up to be one of necessity in a desperate situation. Starting off session one with an invasion or some super storm or something similar that forces people to work together to survive. Then I use some plot device to explain why these people are the ones who are responsible for doing XYZ.

Of course, I don't like telling them how to achieve XYZ or in what order or who to ally with, so if the party disagrees on how best to achieve the goal they have to achieve they might split up anyways. Campaign I'm running right now started off with the group being hunted by this super powerful org. They were all attacked at the same time and so fought them off together. They never really stopped being hunted, and plot wise for the first few sessions the only real goal was 'survive.'

USS Sorceror
2013-02-06, 11:36 AM
Hmm, well in my latest campaign the setup was something like this.
Party paladin is traveling about a land foreign to him and searching for a purpose when he comes along this village.
Party ranger is fleeing her homeland because she is possibly being hunted, and stops in this same village for rest.
Party wizard is an alchemist on the side, and has stopped in the village to see if he can sell his wares.
Party bard is a roamer and rambler, and stopped in the village because he saw there was a huge party going on.
Party barbarian is the village blacksmith.
Everyone meets, gets to know each other, and bands together for a common purpose (in this instance, rescuing a kidnapped baby).

Yora
2013-02-06, 12:17 PM
In my games the PCs aren't a loveable bunch of misfits. I start almost every campaign with asking the players to come up with a background for their group first, and then start working on their characters second.

Synovia
2013-02-06, 01:13 PM
One of the biggest problems I face as a DM is coming up with reasons as to why my lovable bunch of misfits know each other or are assembled together to face their impending certain doom. Out of curiosity, this has brought me to come before the members of the playground and ask; what are reasons for your characters being chosen for this adventure?


I know this isn't really what you're looking for, but one of things I've always been told in my writing is that you should really start a story at the point where the adventure begins. IE, if the story is about a bunch of adventurers trying to take down an evil warlord, it should start when the characters start trying to take down the evil warlord.

If the backstory doesn't directly affect whats going to happen, there's not really a need for it. Let the players roleplay it as it happens.

If the story requires the players to be a squad of soldiers in the army that is fighting an Evil Warlord, let the players figure out how they got in the army. Let them tell each other as it becomes relevant.

When you start a new job, do you know everyone around you's work history? No, you learn that as it becomes relevant.

Basically, they ARE together. Thats what important. Let them figure out why.

neonchameleon
2013-02-06, 01:28 PM
One of the biggest problems I face as a DM is coming up with reasons as to why my lovable bunch of misfits know each other or are assembled together to face their impending certain doom.

I simply tell mine to say how they know each other and why they'll work together for the first adventure or two as part of their backstory.

Lapak
2013-02-06, 01:33 PM
DM: "Okay... none of you do know each other yet... but you're all traveling in a caravan heading off to Location X... and stuff happens on the way to make you band together."


Well, one approach is to tell the players what the campaign is (very generally) about, and what the starting scene is.then let Them come up with a reason. Another old favorite is to throw them into a sort of situation that forces them to work together (or at least already it quite plausable) and let the players use this initial adventure to form bonds between them.These two. Put the characters in a situation, then toss the ball back in their court and ask them what they're doing there. This is exactly how the most recent campaign I was in started, actually; the DM told us we were each traveling as part of a caravan and prompted us to say why.

This also has the advantage of handing the DM ready-make hooks for adventures beyond whatever is about to happen when the campaign starts. If one person is in the caravan as a guard, sure, whatever. But if another is traveling to the city ahead in order to hire on with Baron Von Lastname, or to do some research at the Great Library about spirit-talking, you've got stuff to work in later at no cost to you. Same is true if they are starting in a dungeon, or in the army, or are tossed up together on a beach as the only survivors of a shipwreck: if the players provide you with context about what they were doing there, it gives you something to build on.

Narren
2013-02-06, 02:30 PM
I'm a fan of just letting them tell me how they know each other. As they discuss it more and more, the background of the group becomes more fleshed out. Player A and Player B become siblings, Player B and Player C become former child hood friends that are now semi-rivals, Player D is chasing Player C because he/she is smitten with him/her, and Player E is some newcomer mercenary that no one knows or trusts just yet.

tbok1992
2013-02-06, 03:34 PM
"Everybody wakes up together in an Inn room, naked and with a massive hangover. Your clothes are scattered about the room, and there is also a goat and a monkey there as well, along with many, many empty bottles of ale."

... At least it's original!

Dsurion
2013-02-06, 04:04 PM
I find the old, "I don't have time for this. The responsibility to figure out why you are together as a group is yours, not mine, so figure it out or the game is off," to get the job done.

TuggyNE
2013-02-06, 10:26 PM
You roll a d66 (i.e., 2d6, one of them is pre-designated as the horizontal axis, one of them is pre-designated as the vertical axis)

That's actually either a d100 (in base-6 notation) or d36 (in base-10 notation). There are only 6*6 = 36 possibilities, not 66.

nedz
2013-02-06, 11:14 PM
It's a d666 Hmm, that was unexpected.

1337 b4k4
2013-02-06, 11:59 PM
I don't really bother with "why are you together" because to me it's such a stupid question. Sure it works for literature where the author needs to contrive to get everyone in the same spot, realistically, most social and work groups form by simple and random connections. Seriously, the next time you're out with a group of friends, look around and as yourself "why are we all together" and realize what a silly question it is. You're all together because somehow you all met at least one other person in the group and you shared some common interest. Assume the same is true for your characters and move on to more important things, like looting some dungeons.

Jack of Spades
2013-02-07, 12:19 AM
That's actually either a d100 (in base-6 notation) or d36 (in base-10 notation). There are only 6*6 = 36 possibilities, not 66.
D66 is still the accepted shorthand, so hush.

I don't really bother with "why are you together" because to me it's such a stupid question. Sure it works for literature where the author needs to contrive to get everyone in the same spot, realistically, most social and work groups form by simple and random connections. Seriously, the next time you're out with a group of friends, look around and as yourself "why are we all together" and realize what a silly question it is. You're all together because somehow you all met at least one other person in the group and you shared some common interest. Assume the same is true for your characters and move on to more important things, like looting some dungeons.
This is pretty true. An advantage for just assuming that everyone's met in some not-too-important way is that it allows the group to find a comfortable dynamic without being burdened with "Well we met via X, so we should act Y." It also saves you work and the campaign time.

Another thought to chew on: Good players can be relied upon to create "serendipitous" ways for their characters to tag along with one another. John mentions he hates Steve, and Bob adds that Steve is an *******. Ten minutes of conversation (roleplayed or not) later, they're fast friends. Bob and Dave have a fistfight in the street. No matter who wins, they come out of it with mutual respect for one another and agree to work together in the future.. In mixed-gender groups this is especially easy: John asks Jane out to drinks. Bam: instant, plausible connection. Once the characters know one another, let them convince each other to come along on the grand quest for whatever reasons they can come up with-- even if that's just enjoying their company (which has literally been the only motivation for keeping parts of a party together in a few cases I've seen).

navar100
2013-02-07, 01:03 AM
Tell the players to choose to play characters who want to play. Players control their characters, not the other way around. If a player desires a drama queen character who laments having to leave home and requires direct interest motivation for why even bother going on the adventure, tell him he's right, there is no motivation, the character stays home and lies around the grass all day. Please make another character or go home.

CarpeGuitarrem
2013-02-07, 01:07 AM
That's actually either a d100 (in base-6 notation) or d36 (in base-10 notation). There are only 6*6 = 36 possibilities, not 66.
Yeah, I know, but the common (relatively speaking) notation is definitely "d66".

TuggyNE
2013-02-07, 01:38 AM
Dice notation:
It's a d666 Hmm, that was unexpected.
D66 is still the accepted shorthand, so hush.
Yeah, I know, but the common (relatively speaking) notation is definitely "d66".

That's what I get for being more of a geek than a nerd I guess. :smalltongue:


... Calling it a d66 is really weird, y'know? It's like calling a percentile die "d110" or "d1010".

jamewatson
2013-02-07, 01:57 AM
Sometimes you'll get lucky and the players will connect the characters themselves. This is why I can't recommend enough the practice of devoting 'session 1' to character creation. Having everyone in the same room talking out their backgrounds while they fill out a character sheet often causes a lot of "Oh cool! What if my guy and your guy were..." conversations.

SowZ
2013-02-07, 02:36 AM
Sometimes you'll get lucky and the players will connect the characters themselves. This is why I can't recommend enough the practice of devoting 'session 1' to character creation. Having everyone in the same room talking out their backgrounds while they fill out a character sheet often causes a lot of "Oh cool! What if my guy and your guy were..." conversations.

Character creation is usually a weeks long process in my games. The players have time to discuss things amongst themselves individually and the DM has time to meet with everyone, sometimes more than once, about their character personally before the campaign starts. There are usually lots of character links and I am able to craft a plot based on the specific characters themselves.

Jack of Spades
2013-02-07, 07:03 AM
Sometimes you'll get lucky and the players will connect the characters themselves. This is why I can't recommend enough the practice of devoting 'session 1' to character creation. Having everyone in the same room talking out their backgrounds while they fill out a character sheet often causes a lot of "Oh cool! What if my guy and your guy were..." conversations.
:smallconfused: Botched quote? This is literally the first paragraph, word for word, of my earlier post.

Character creation is usually a weeks long process in my games. The players have time to discuss things amongst themselves individually and the DM has time to meet with everyone, sometimes more than once, about their character personally before the campaign starts. There are usually lots of character links and I am able to craft a plot based on the specific characters themselves.
That's a perfectly valid way to do it, but it seems to me that the backstories end up even better connected when the whole group has had at least one good chance to talk about their characters together before everything's locked in and on sheets.

Narren
2013-02-07, 01:12 PM
I don't really bother with "why are you together" because to me it's such a stupid question. Sure it works for literature where the author needs to contrive to get everyone in the same spot, realistically, most social and work groups form by simple and random connections. Seriously, the next time you're out with a group of friends, look around and as yourself "why are we all together" and realize what a silly question it is. You're all together because somehow you all met at least one other person in the group and you shared some common interest. Assume the same is true for your characters and move on to more important things, like looting some dungeons.

I don't think it's a stupid question. If you've all been friends for years, or if you all work for the same group, I don't require too much more info than that. But including different dimensions to the party relationships adds a new dynamic to how they interact with each other and the world around them. For me, that's a lot more important than looting some dungeons.

Jay R
2013-02-07, 11:45 PM
Either in an email before the first session, or at the start of the first session:

"OK, guys, I've looked at your character sheets and read your backstories. As soon as you tell me how you met and why you're working together, we can start the game."

Averis Vol
2013-02-08, 01:52 AM
Depends on the game for me I guess, Last one I told them:
"Alright, you're currently citizens of Handrel, you can be born where ever you feel like but it has to end with you being a member of this city. Okay? Got your reason? Glad to see you creating a backstory for once, but you're all being drafted into the millitary as you are an active member of the city, meaning you are part of the town militia ready to be drafted at any moment. Ohh look, you got put in the same squad. Yay! happy coincidences, right?" :smallbiggrin:

Thats a little more dickish then the way it actually played out, but its the bare minimum of the how.

Jay R
2013-02-08, 08:58 AM
The easiest way to get the party together is to have a child scream from the second floor of a building on fire. They rescue the child; her father is the plot hook.

evildmguy
2013-02-08, 11:38 AM
I don't really bother with "why are you together" because to me it's such a stupid question. Sure it works for literature where the author needs to contrive to get everyone in the same spot, realistically, most social and work groups form by simple and random connections. Seriously, the next time you're out with a group of friends, look around and as yourself "why are we all together" and realize what a silly question it is. You're all together because somehow you all met at least one other person in the group and you shared some common interest. Assume the same is true for your characters and move on to more important things, like looting some dungeons.

Many have said something like this and while I agree that it will work for that adventure, what about longer term?

The last time I was out with a bunch of people, my wife and I were there for the band and the company, another friend and his wife were there because me and my wife were there and another group was there to drink. By the end of the night, one of the guys there to drink had pissed off my friend by drunkenly kissing all of the wives, the other two drinkers had left us for some other friends that were there and the other couple and my wife and I left early because of the kissing incident and because the audio person had left the main singer's audio down and cranked up the secondary singers such that we couldn't hear the songs!

So, absolutely, our group of disparate people came together for a common reason but by the end of it had gone our separate ways. That's my real world example to show that doing it that way will work for an adventure or two but if you have role players, which is what I prefer, they will eventually realize that they have other things they want to do that might not match up with everyone.

Look at USS Sorcerer's example, which is quite good!


Party paladin is traveling about a land foreign to him and searching for a purpose when he comes along this village.
Party ranger is fleeing her homeland because she is possibly being hunted, and stops in this same village for rest.
Party wizard is an alchemist on the side, and has stopped in the village to see if he can sell his wares.
Party bard is a roamer and rambler, and stopped in the village because he saw there was a huge party going on.
Party barbarian is the village blacksmith.

If the players decide their characters have become friends, this works. (Even if there is a little forcing of that.) But if the barbarian decides he wants to stick around his village, then there could be problems if the rest want to keep going. (Sure, that player writes up a new character.) Or the bard wanted to go toward the ranger's homeland due to a rumor he heard but obviously the ranger doesn't want to go that way!

Basically, here's what I'm saying. I think the players should get their characters together and have reasons for staying together in a fantasy game. (In Modern games, they just need reasons to call the other characters when something happens but could easily have their own lives otherwise.) Once the game starts, the players and DM need to work together to make sure the characters would stay together and that the adventures still work for the group. If not, then the group has to look at things and see what needs to be changed.

But that's me and my group and we tend to role play more and ask if the characters would stay together or if they would go their own way.

edg

1337 b4k4
2013-02-08, 12:32 PM
So, absolutely, our group of disparate people came together for a common reason but by the end of it had gone our separate ways. That's my real world example to show that doing it that way will work for an adventure or two but if you have role players, which is what I prefer, they will eventually realize that they have other things they want to do that might not match up with everyone.

Presumably the first adventure gives you all reason to continue questing together for the next adventure, which gives you reason to continue on to the third and so on and so forth forever and ever.

Of course, sometimes people do decide to go their separate ways, but that's not a problem. So your player retires that character and brings in another. There's nothing wrong with the band of adventurers changing over time.

tbok1992
2013-02-08, 12:34 PM
And here's a method of meeting to threaten your players with when they can't decide upon one for themselves:

"You are all serving as lust-slaves in the harem of a Drow Nobless, and you meet when you are all forced to serve as her chair during a debauched murder-party."

ArcturusV
2013-02-08, 03:26 PM
Well, the problem with characters not having some commonality between them, isn't that one guy will decide to wander off/remain behind, and have to roll a new character.

Here's the bigger issue that I've run into:

Paladin: I heard there is evil over there, I'm on a quest to smite evil. All of you, lets go over there and Smite Evil!

Ranger: Well I'm on a quest to hunt down the legendary White Stag, and the White Stag isn't IN that direction, it's in THIS direction! Lets go that way!

Thief: ... the hell I wanna tramp around one forest or another for? Now I heard there's a nice collection of jewels being transported to that city over there for the Crown Prince's Coronation Ceremony... lets go over there and steal them.

Cleric: Well I am on a quest to eradicate this plaguecurse, and there's a village out that way which is suffering from it and everyone lets go over there and heal them up and investigate!


Maybe a little extreme. But similar things happen. You all have unrelated backstories that just "happen" to run into one another. You don't want to split up, because, hey, that's why you're here, to run as a party after all... but each of you wants to demand that everyone else runs YOUR way. And get in that intractable "Well that's what my character cares about" stubbornness that is bad Roleplaying claiming to be Good. Course there are ways to handle it. But the simplest is generally giving them a linked backstory where their primary concerns are all the same.

e.g.: You're all knights on a quest to recover the Holy MacGuffin, this is your primary goal, and your backstories all relate to you being knights in the same court, and having done whatever deeds you want to earn you the honor/responsibility of this quest.

1337 b4k4
2013-02-08, 04:01 PM
Maybe a little extreme. But similar things happen. You all have unrelated backstories that just "happen" to run into one another. You don't want to split up, because, hey, that's why you're here, to run as a party after all... but each of you wants to demand that everyone else runs YOUR way. And get in that intractable "Well that's what my character cares about" stubbornness that is bad Roleplaying claiming to be Good. Course there are ways to handle it. But the simplest is generally giving them a linked backstory where their primary concerns are all the same.

Well of course, the big corollary to "it's a stupid question" is that your players are willing to mold their characters into a cohesive group. If you're players are going to stubbornly refuse to do anything than their own personal quest, you clearly have issues, but I'm of the opinion that something like that should be handled before you even start rolling up characters.

And it doesn't mean that your characters can't want conflicting goals. I play in one game where my character absolutely hates adventuring with the other characters and actively avoids them when he can, but in order to ensure the game is actually fun, I allow the character (or the DM) to come up with a reason why adventuring is always preferable to staying where the character is now and looking for something else. Sometimes it's as cliched as "Your character wakes up miles from where he last was and oh look, it's those guys again" to "As much as I hate you guys, being eaten by zombies is worse" but it's all about having fun, and if thinking too hard about that ruins the fun, then I don't need to think too hard.