View Full Version : DM Help How do you bring a party together?

2015-06-04, 11:20 PM
As a DM, I've come up with several different ideas for adventures. A witch hunt in a dark forest, the party sets off to find the hidden lair of a slain dragon, a mysterious wizard asks for payments to keep away the undead that have been terrorizing a village, etc.

I have no doubt that these will be great adventures when I have them written.

But then I come upon the question of how to bring the party together? :smallsigh:

I don't know if there is an actual number for how many times the "you all meet in a tavern" cliche has been used, but I'm sure it that number has three digits, maybe even four.

Are there any DMs out there who can help me come up with something that is more original than a tavern? Please?

2015-06-04, 11:22 PM
Put them all in line to enter a city of refugees with a travelling circus in front, but the circus bear breaks out and attacks the party.

2015-06-04, 11:38 PM
Depends on the strength of the party at the beginning of the game. It may very well be that requests were sent around in flyer form and the party were the only ones with the power and will to accept the job, or if they're even higher up the strength scale they might be brought together personally by the person or people in need seeking out those with legendary skills.

There's also the "you guys are already a group" approach, though that only really works if all the players know their and each others' characters pretty well from the get-go, which often won't be the case.

They could all be prisoners, whether by lawful government or by some significant bad guy. They escape together and end up deciding to stay together.

Maybe they're literally part of an adventurer's guild, and were perhaps assigned to each other or met and chose each other as a party.

2015-06-04, 11:49 PM
I generally, as a part of OOC character creation, give them a starting location and a vague premise of where the campaign is going to go, then tell them they need to work out why they're all going to be hanging out together and interested in the starting task as the beginning of character creation/backstories. "Ok, create a character of -campaign starting point value or level- who has a reason to be in -name of town- and would be willing to explore the nearby ruins with the rest of the PCs" or somesuch. If I have an overall plot arc or specific type of story I particularly care about them following, I'll include that at this time, before they have enough information to start creating characters and get quite as invested in a character concept best saved for a different game ("your character should be willing to work as part of a mercenary company" or "you will all be going on a long journey through unexplored territory, so create someone who has a reason to do that" or whatever).

I've found players are more likely to at least start out following the plot I had in mind if I make them come up with reasons why their character would be interested in the first task before they've even started to build their characters. It'll go someplace else entirely from there, of course, because they're players rather than script-readers, which is fine, but it gives us a nice shakedown cruise of a few sessions that I actually have prepped well as I get to know what kinds of things this group is likely to come up with.

2015-06-04, 11:54 PM
May be too specific to help but:

I recently started a Planescape-style game (Lots of missions to wildly varied realms, one central realm which is the 'hub'). The players were recruited by a mysterious individual known as the "Master of Stones". What I did was a set of very short (10-15 minute) scenarios with each player individually, with their character alone, at a point of their own story, where the Master of Stones asks them to play a game of stones (basically 'Go'). This meant we could see the character in their element. I asked the player how their character played the game, which gave a change for them to abstractly think about how their character acts. (The players, to be fair, really picked up on this really well)

As an example one player, a Marksman who both always wants to show off, and has a backstory where that ended up getting his friends killed, played a game where he showed off, taking pieces left, right and centre in flashy, bold moves - but didn't pay attention to the broader picture, and didn't see the strategy which took a 1/3rd of his strength and lost him the game.

Each character's "pick up point" was designed to fit in with their character - the Marksman was bored, and broke; the Inquistor of the Church of Truth had just been betrayed and thrown in jail for political reasons, the survivalist warpriest who lives in the crapsackiest of crapsacky worlds was dying of a Death Worm bite. In addition, the story meant that when the Master of Stones asked them to join him, offering a deal where they get to live in luxury in exchange for completing various missions for him, they had good reasons to accept.

So that's a very direct way of bringing them together!

2015-06-04, 11:55 PM
Sorry, I forgot to make my point!

What I tried to do was think and tailor in the campaigns storyline with the characters storyline.

2015-06-05, 12:09 AM
- Quest giver groups them (constable deputizes party, adventurers' guild puts them in the same company, mysterious patron invites them all to the same hunting lodge, etc.)
- Happenstance forces characters to band together to survive (all get caught up in same attack on village, passengers on a ship that sinks, etc.)
- They meet while out on the same mission and decide to team up (outside the witch's house, dragon's cave, etc.)
- Players establish prior relationship of party members via backstories (don't laugh, it could happen...)

Karl Aegis
2015-06-05, 12:29 AM
By "meet in a tavern" I assume you mean "all woke up in the same bed one morning". I've never actually seen anyone start in a tavern myself. The concept of anyone wanting to be in a tavern at any other time than sleeping hours is completely alien to me. What do people do in there, drink sake in the afternoon? How ludicrous!

As for bringing the party together, set up a situation where the players will coincidentally arrive at the same place at the same time for the same purpose and take the gamble that your players will all join up. You might want to encourage them to join up sooner than later if your system is particularly lethal.

2015-06-05, 12:37 AM
In my current campaign, I ran individual backstory adventures with each character that got them to the point where they would all meet.

Fumble Jack
2015-06-05, 03:10 AM
In my most recent game, my players were either passengers, prisoners or part of the security detail of a royal galleon, they came together as survivors of a vicious pirate attack on the ship.

You can try to get your players together, by jumping them right into the action, it could take a bit of work, once you know what their character backgrounds are & you'd be able to establish your adventure idea/plot hook right from the start.

2015-06-05, 04:03 AM
In my campaigns the players always have to make their characters together as a group which all know and like each other.
Anything else makes very little sense.

2015-06-05, 04:26 AM
Shipwrecked surivors on an out of the way island with hostile tribes of gnolls and various unfriendly sea life are a great way to build party cohesion.

Runaway slaves that have escaped a work camp and are being hounded by a pair of Cilops is a good way to start off a Dark Sun adventure.

Surround the party with enemies and leave them an outlet to escape. That's how Sun Tzu would do it.

2015-06-05, 04:59 AM
One I intend to use in the future: Only survivors after a disastrous battle (one which should also set the tone for the campaign); individually they'd be left for dead, sent to safety, managed to hide, captured and sent back with an ultimatum, etc.

2015-06-05, 07:22 AM
Let's see here...how to throw a party;

1)Hire a venue
2)Book some entertainment
3)Buy booze and nibbles
4)Send invitations

Now, in D&D terms, it seems like you've already sorted out the venue (dark forest, dragons lair, etc.) and the entertainment sounds solid (witch hunt, slay the dragon, etc.). I presume the PC's have their starting gear sorted, so that's the booze and nibbles. Just got to send an invitation...

Take a look at the PC's backgrounds. Are they famous (or notorious) enough to warrant the attention of someone who might send a literal invitation to go do the thing?

"Dear Adventurer. It has come to my attention that you are a noble hero and doer of mighty deeds. Please come to our aid, you are our only hope (apart from the other 3 guys we're hiring)."

Is one of the PC's a leader type who could be hired to put a team together?

"Dear Adventurer. We are in desperate need of Heroes; we have heard you are willing to help, but this job is too big for one. Please find enclosed dossiers for some candidates we have researched. Please assemble your team and report to the Mayor as soon as possible."

Do any of the characters know each other from their backstory? Either recently or distantly?

"Hail friend! It's been 10 years since last we met. I hear there's a dragon need slayin' two towns over. Fancy another jaunt together?"

It's pretty much one of those or arrange something serendipitous (aka: contrived)...

"It's strange that we all felt a call to come together here to this clearing..." *FLASH* "BEHOLD! The Sorcerer Wandalf has a quest for you!"

2015-06-05, 08:49 AM
I don't, any more. I tell the players what the game's going to be about, broadly speaking, where we'll be starting, and ask them how their characters know each other and why they're working together.

2015-06-05, 09:13 AM
1) Already a group. Caravan guards, guards and entertainment for a festival, adventuring group, veterans, travelers on the same coach, wound up on the sane platform on the Infinite Staircase, etc. Then the green slime hits the gnomish device.
2) Simply in the same area--say, the market square or a festival--when the green slime hits the gnomish device.
3) Someone calls for aid for something minor and/or that needs to stay off official radar and/or the officials aren't doing anything about and/or the officials are the problem.
4) As members of non-diametrically-opposed factions, the organizations have sent a few of their people to do something. Then it snowballs.
5) Survivors of the previous party hire a few new schmucks to replace previous members who died horribly. Done off-panel, so to speak, and no one pays any attention to the fact that the replacement goldfish new allies have numbers after their names, which happen to be quite similar to the deceased's.

2015-06-05, 10:35 AM
Forget the pointless rigmarole of "bringing them together".

Start them together, get the players to tell you what they're all doing in the same place at the same time. Better yet, have the PCs already know each other, and define some pre-existing relationships.

2015-06-05, 10:59 AM
Typically what I do is print out a copy of a job offer or a written version of the initial "hook" for the first quest, then give it to my players. That way, they can make characters who would go on the adventure I've written.

2015-06-05, 11:18 AM
In my current campaign, I ran individual backstory adventures with each character that got them to the point where they would all meet.That's how I got the PCs situated in my seafaring game; they all came from different places and ended up in the same port city at reasonably the same time, just when the captain needed a crew and the others needed jobs. :smalltongue:

2015-06-07, 01:57 PM
When I had a group (they moved) I did a "you are all invited" thing

Angel Bob
2015-06-07, 05:05 PM
I'm fairly proud of the way I brought my PCs together. I devised it for a group of first-timers, so I both utilized and played with classical D&D traditions.

All four PCs happened to be in the same town during a series of mysterious murders. Each received an anonymous letter, asking them to meet in the local tavern to discuss courses of action.

At the appointed time, each PC arrived at the tavern, and met each other for the first time. They then found a hooded stranger in the corner of the tavern, who revealed he had sent the letters. He explained that the nearby goblins had acquired new, powerful magic weapons, which might be responsible for the recent murders, and promised the PCs a hefty reward if they hiked out into the wilderness and stopped the goblins.

The twist: the goblins had nothing to do with the murders. The quest-giver was a vampire, the campaign's BBEG. He sent the PCs, the most powerful people in town, on a wild goose chase so that he could continue his schemes in their absence. The PCs weren't happy when they returned and caught him in the act, and when he escaped, they vowed to track him down and stop his schemes from coming to fruition.

From the very first session, I'd gotten the PCs personally involved and invested in the main plot, whether they knew it or not. :smallamused:

2015-06-07, 06:02 PM
something that I have always wanted to try but admittedly hard to pull of .have them all be travelers who stopped to sleep in different parts of the forest/mountains/totally not ominous Gothic castle on a gloomy hillside ,where in the middle of the night they a wake to being attacked by a swarm of monsters and are all pressed to retreat to the same defensible location in which they must work together to survive the night.you know a great teamwork/bonding experience

2015-06-07, 06:54 PM
If all else fails, mountain dew and cheetos

2015-06-07, 06:59 PM
The simplest way is having all the characters happen to be at the same place, at the same time, and all seeing the same adventure hook. This quickly unites the party into having a IC goal, and prevents split party segments, which helps because those aren't always practical to have in the game.

2015-06-07, 07:50 PM
I particularly enjoy "Right place, right time" where the PC's, for their own reasons (detailed or derived from backstory) are in the general area of the plot, when something plot happens which forces them into action. Doesn't work well if one of the PC's are the discerning type or won't bite (intentionall or not) plot hooks if their shoved up their nose (intentionally or not).

2015-06-08, 01:55 AM
"Ok, create a character of -campaign starting point value or level- who has a reason to be in -name of town- and would be willing to explore the nearby ruins with the rest of the PCs" or somesuch.Usually this, and having some of the PCs already know each-other is common, though not required.

Gets everybody together quickly, doesn't require any fridge logic in play, and as a bonus, it lets you have characters that are somewhat cautious/secretive without it being an OOC problem.

2015-06-08, 07:03 AM
I have used

- Meet in a tavern
- Work for someone who sends them out on a mission
o This can the local lord
o Merchant guild
o Caravan guards
o etc
- Have a Market square where people pin jobs on a board PCs see notice and apply and become a group
- All travelling together on a boat and are the only survivors
- Anything else from backstory

2015-06-08, 11:13 AM
I usually tell the players where the game is starting and what the starting "motivation" is, and that they should make characters who are there and who find whatever it is motivating.

Sometimes, I'll provide even that: "You're all trainees in a platoon of the military" or "You're all members of the marching band at your high school...and you're the ONLY members, so it's in danger of shutting down."

Other times, I'll tell them not only to have a reason to be where it starts, but to know each other and have reasons to work together.

Going so far as to say: "You are an adventuring party responding to a call for such to go on this adventure," is acceptable. Put it on the players to decide why they're working together and why they're pursuing the quest.

Work with each of the players individually to come up with their characters and specifically what they were doing the night before the adventure starts. Then take a week or so to do some planning of my own.

When the game starts, they all wake up together in the same building or room, with different clothes on and with no explanation for how they got there. Make them isolated enough that they can't just split up and go their separate ways initially.

As the adventure progresses, give them will saves; successes trigger flashbacks to events that happened some indeterminate time ago but which they didn't previously remember. Incidents of working with these people, or meeting them, or whatnot.

What's actually going on is that they've been an adventuring party together for quite some time, but something caused them to lose all memory between the "what were you doing the night before the game started?" setup and the actual game start. They'd built or bought or secured the building, themselves, the real night before, and lost their memories before they woke up.

Their meeting and becoming a party is played out in flashback scenes throughout the campaign.

2015-06-08, 12:29 PM
I definitely say don't have the players create characters in a vacuum and then try to bring them together. don't leave players in the dark about what the game's about. Instead, have everyone create characters together who fit the game you've planned, and incidentally make sure everyone is on board about the game you're gonna play. It's called session zero, and it's the best.