How Do You Know Each Other?

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?”
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5 thoughts on “How Do You Know Each Other?

  1. We just added another player to our game last week, but we didn’t have anything like a “how did you meet?” discussion. What my boyfriend–er, DM–did was this: My character gets an encounter. It’s a couple of ogres with the other player unconscious in a pot, about to be eaten. Myself and another NPC save the other player, and he asks to join our party.

    I thought that introduction worked out rather smoothly. Felt very natural, no awkward conversations or anything. 😀

  2. When I am DMing, I base my initial ‘meeting’ type based on who I have playing. If I know that I have players who DO like to create backstories, I’ll let them work together and decide how they met/why they’re together.

    However, when I have new players, players that don’t write backstories, or I’m feeling in the mood for tension, I very much enjoy the ‘Heroes for Hire’ technique, where the players sign on together to complete a job for [insert NPC]. This is fun because there is an incentive to work together, even if the players cannot trust one another.

  3. @The Last Rogue,

    Ah the DMG 2! I’ve been meaning to get to that. I want to go through the Player’s Strategy Guide first, though.

    @Spring,
    Yeah introducing new characters through action is a good way to do it. I’ve seen it mixed up where it’s unclear if the new character is foe or friend at first, although it’s a bit of gamble depending on the group.

    @Ryan,
    At first I read your comment as “compete for a job” which sounds like it might be a great way to start a campaign, forcing the characters to work together even when they might not want to. The success of that would be highly dependent on the group.

    But the general everyone is brought together by an NPC for a job is a standard because it works. Do you do something to reduce the awkwardness of everyone going around and describing their characters, or do your groups just get it over with and on to the game?

  4. @Mike The least awkward way we’ve pulled it off is to have characters come into the [tavern/inn/lair] of the investor one by one. Each player introduces their character as they walk in – kind of a grand entrance thing. Experienced players go first.

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