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, March 8, 2017

Not Just a Face in a Crowd

Parties with a Connection

The party meets randomly in a tavern and is sucked into the adventure. This is probably the most cliché beginning to an adventure, but it’s not that way because of the tavern. I’ve spoken about why the tavern trope isn’t a bad thing, but what is most overdone about this start is that random folk are just thrust into adventure right from the beginning with absolutely no connection.

There are many ways to start an adventure with characters that have knowledge of each other or come together for a reason instead of being randomly thrown together. As much as I’ve enjoyed the random strangers making the best of dire circumstance trope before – and I’m using it now cause that’s how the Hell’s Rebels Adventure Path starts – it isn’t my favorite. So what can we do to give our players some connection?

Childhood Friends or Family

Having players who know each other from the get go, either through friendship or relation is probably the easiest of all ways to connect players together. I think one of my favorite instances of this is the Heroes of the Lance. Although they added a number of new characters along their path, the initial group – except for two – were all childhood friends who promised to return home on a certain date after each taking some time to find themselves. This gives the added benefit of not only having them know each other but allowing them some growth that the other characters may not know so there is new stuff to learn about your friends.

I’ve run with this same idea twice before. Once I let the characters not only be friends, but I built the whole town around their race and class choices. This of course allows the players to fit directly into the starting location. On another occasion I was just running modules but the players all started from the same town and knew each other. They were looking to escape small town life, which is usually easier if you have someone to run off with.

One of the minor problems with this in Pathfinder at least – and by extension D&D – is starting ages of fantasy races. It’s kind of hard to be childhood friends when one race’s childhood lasts fourteen years, one lasts sixty years, and one lasts one-hundred years. This can be worked around, but it is something to keep in mind when making the characters for this type of party.


In some cases characters that have the same job can help ease the thrown together by circumstance trope. They can still be essentially strangers but they will have a reason for being where they are and doing what they’re doing. In the Shattered Star Adventure Path all of the characters start of as members of the Pathfinder Society sent to Magnimar for an assignment. The players can make characters from pretty much any place that are coming together for a purpose.

In the Rise of theRunelords game – in which I am a player – our GM had all the characters start out as petty criminals. Well, almost all of them, I was a member of the city guard being sent away for sticking my nose where it didn’t belong. So to start the game I am tasked with watching out over these “criminals” who are performing community service by helping me deliver an item to the starting location and then offering our services to the town.

I think something like this is also helped by a GM who doesn’t start the game with an odd occurrence, like combat, that just drags the players into the story. Allowing the players time to get to know each other means they will be more invested in being together in the first place. Our Runelords characters spent a day exploring the town together, getting to know both each other and the people of the place we were going to end up defending.

There are other situations that have a similar dynamic to being co-workers. Students come to mind as one of the major ones. The issue here is whether they go to a school that teaches varied subjects and allows for many classes, or if they are going to play a single class party. All wizards from a school of magic could be interesting. Although most folk steer away from single class parties I’ve had some fun with them and so have others I know.

Making parties that either already know each other, or within the confines of the game have a chance to get to know each other before the action starts opens up a lot of interesting role-play for the party. It also makes it easier for the GM to tie people together to begin the campaign. On a personal note, I find it limits that one player who makes the misanthrope who always sits in the corner and says, “my character wouldn’t do that.”

Do you prefer to have parties that are thrown directly into the fray with nary a connection between them? Or do you like parties that have some thread that ties them together? As a GM is one way easier for you to run? As a player is one way easier to play? What kinds of intra-party connections have you used in your game?

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