Getting a campaign underway can be tricky. A party that doesn’t use a group template, is prone to the awkward moment where the characters all have to describe themselves and the players have to manufacture reasons why all the characters are going to immediately start trusting each other with their lives. In a recent game, the GM (Quinn from at-will) started the game using a compromise between hand-waving the introduction and making us create the characters together with a common background. In our game he paired up the players and declared that each pair of characters comes into the game already working with each other. From here, the GM asked us to answer the question “How do you know each other?”
This was tricky for me because I was caught off-guard by exercise at I did not know the other player or anything about his character. Because I was playing a Paladin that hated city folk and my partner’s character was a Druid, we came up with a common story that the two had teamed up to save some forests and were now looking for a new challenge. Unfortunately it turned into a veneer of a backstory; after playing for awhile, we found the two characters at opposite ends of every discussion, but not in a cute odd-couple kind of way. Despite it not working out too well for me (it did for some of the other pairs), the question still sticks out for me as a good way to think about party development.
I think it’s worth it to start a campaign considering that some or all of the characters know each other. In particular if you haven’t all constructed elaborate individual histories, this is a great way to communally fill in back story and provide a starting point if you have player’s block and can’t think of something. It’s also worthwhile to work with your GM on how you might already know some NPCs. I’ve played in campaigns where the GM told everyone to come up with two or three “contacts” that the character knows and can go to for information, advice, or patronage.
To summarize, Mike’s Advice:
- Ask yourself and one or more players: “How do your characters know each other?”