One of the most popular topics in Role Playing philosophy is the initial encounter of any campaign. The “initial encounter” the event which kicks-off the adventure. Sometimes the heroes are all separate entities in a tavern and stranger comes in attracting their attention. Other times, they’ve all answered an add at the adventurer’s guild. Maybe they were individually hired by an eccentric wizard. These situations all fall into the category: “you find yourself at a table talking to some dude.”
Another type of initial encounter “is the party meets each other for the first time,” usually at a crossroads in town. This results in the awkward scenario of describing your character and convincing the other players why your characters should all instinctively trust each other. Because this awkward from both a logical and a role-play situations, it is often hand-waived and the adventure really gets going once they all agree to talk to the NPC that sets up the scenario (see above).
Since these are tired cliches, a lot of DMs have experimented with starting the adventure off with some action, which is a great thing. Some examples are
- the party is walking down the street and a stranger runs up to them and falls over dead from a stab wound, or
- they are all part of a caravan guard and the adventure starts and the caravan is under attack, or
- everyone is on a boat in the middle of the ocean it suddenly starts sinking…
This is a great way to avoid the awkwardness of starting a campaign and getting going with some adrenaline. I think I’d like to start my next campaign off not right before battle, but right in the middle of a battle. It could start 4 rounds in already, with all the participants having taken a little damage and maybe a dead minion two. With this the players would have to jump immediately into action, and at the same time figure out who is trying to kill them and how to get to safety. If the PCs start off as strangers, it should be obivous to them they are all on the same side. It could be fun making introductions in the middle of battle; it seems like something they might do in a superhero cartoon.
In a system other than d&d you might be able to get away with starting the campaign just as the characters suddenly regain conciousness (in the middle of fight). They would have either temporary or permanent amnesia and have to piece together what the hell is going on. This extends extend the “middle of combat” idea from the players to their characters. I imagine a game setting where you can define your character’s prototype on the fly. By declaring your character is casting a spell gives them spell-casting ability, or if they run away, they would get the attributes of a rogue, etc. I feel like I’ve seen that kind of character building in a video game.
Have you started a campaign in the middle of action, or in some other way that wasn’t in a tavern or meeting with a hiring NPC ? Was it successful? How was this experience colored by being a DM or player?