CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Connect the Dots

Keeping Your Players Entwined In Your World

Last week’s character followed the deity Hembad. This week’s random rolls produced a character that follows Seramaydiel. What do both of these deities have in common? They’re about dealing with people. Connections and communication are within their purview and they help keep people together.

How many times have you seen a character who is the last of his race or tribe? Or whose family has been slaughtered? How often do players who don’t write their family out in total destruction even talk about their parents, or siblings? When was the last time you saw a character with a wife and kids?

One of the reasons we call this phenomenal being a “murderhobo” is that the character has zero connections. No friends. No family. No home. But it isn’t solely up to the player to make these connections. The GM can help ease the player into a life focused less on random wandering and more on being a part of something bigger. Sure not every player enjoys this style of play. Sometimes even I love a good hack and slash but some players may not even think of the possibility.

The first place you can look to help guide your character is in character creation. This is one of the reasons I advocate for a sessions zero. If you’re not sure what that is check out this article for our friends over at improved initiative. Some people may use full questionnaires, which to me seems like taking a test, but at the very least ask your players some questions. Do you have family? Who are they? Do you have friends? Why are you friends? Where do you live? These should help get your players think of their characters as someone connected to the game world.

Even if you manage to get Torg barbarian from the north whose family and tribe was slaughtered by giants, there are still ways to build connections. As an example of this is the game I play with my friend, sometimes editor, and GM for my Rise of the Runelords (henceforth RotRL) Joel. He doesn’t have a blog or anything for me to pimp but if you’re looking for some great maps for your own RotRL game check out the thread he helps curate over on the Paizo boards.

For those of you who haven’t played, this isn’t much of a spoiler as it’s listed in both the description of the game in the books and is talked about extensively in the player’s guides. The game revolves around a small town called Sandpoint. Instead of just jumping right into things, Joel had us wander the town during a festival to play games. We got to meet and get to know the people therein. He also added a lot of other little things where our interactions with the town--outside of saving the day—made us heroes to some and rivals of others. Even the tavern in which we made our home at the beginning became a way to meet and interact with other people. The PCs may not bite at everything, but if you throw in enough instances for non-combat interaction with the people in the area, you’ll get a few nibbles.

Connections to people are not the only thing that will give the characters a more robust existence. Connections to places are also important. Again, I like RotRL because it revolves mostly around one town. It gives us all a chance to find a place to call home. Maybe your players will live in the rooms at the local tavern, but you can give them an opportunity to put down roots. Our GM has done an admirable job with that. After we cleared out a small island of the coast of a ghost, the town offered us the chance to buy the property cheap. Being well-known heroes meant we could rehabilitate the image of the land in the eyes of the people. Suffice to say my investigator jumped at the chance.

Maybe your players aren’t interested in a home, but there are plenty of other things you can throw at the wall and see if they stick. One of our players is the harrow-equivalent of tarot-reader and alchemist got herself a license to peddle her wares from her gypsy cart. Setting up a small business is a great way to give the characters a way to contribute to the local economy—outside of dumping all their loot into it. Whether it’s a blacksmith, an alchemist, a scholar, or a poet, find a way to link their character’s skills into something he can offer the town, and possibly make money in the process.

There’s, of course, a million more ways to build connections with your characters, much more than a weekly article can contain. Hopefully these ideas have at least gotten your creative juices flowing with ways to make your characters a bigger part of the world.

How do you help guide your players into being connect to the world? What kinds of relationship would you suggest other GMs try and help build? Why do you think these connections are important, if they are at all?

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