With this episode there were a ton of great ideas about how to get players and characters together, but I think we have even more to share with the hive mind of the Block Party! The classic "you are all in a tavern, and trust each other implicitly" has its place, but starting things out with a twist, or something different doesn't hurt! This one us to set the scene for players. What prep have you already done before they are coming together? Where are they meeting? Who, if anyone, is having them meet there? What is the reason the meeting starts to pull them together? Anything else you want to add! This one could go two ways, you could add a single piece and say that you want someone to pick up your thread, or you could easily tackle the whole thing and share your awesome campaign kick off idea with us! The choice us yours!
You wake up with a throbbing headache and a dried scab over your forehead. The heavy tang of smoke and blood fills your nostrils obtrusively, but you are too weak to even cough. Lifting yourself gingerly from the muddy ground, you try to get up, but something heavy is crushing your legs. You look behind you, and find yourself under a pile lifeless corpses, gathered into a heap in the center of town. You pull yourself free in horror and disbelief, and scramble away from the macabre scene.
An unkindness of ravens circle overhead, their caws now clearly audible to your clearing senses. Many of the houses were alight with fire, their husks crumbling in the setting twilight.
I called it the Freak Squad, and the players were all playing a maligned race. (Satyr, Beastfolk, Dhampir, Goblin, Kenku, Kobold, Rakshasa, Ogre Magi, Illithid, and some of the more evil dmg races) and no one could be a "goodly" race. So the set up was there were all playing "evil" races but were good (or at least neutral) characters. I set it up to where all of the PCs received this letter from a psuedodragon and start the game arriving at this castle which would start the game with them having purpose already. They would know they liked the letter and wanted to meet this person who wanted to get a group of people like the player character together to help people in the area and try and change people's minds about their races. So the first few sessions would be the meeting of this Lord Farik Silverhand and the other PC's with having them being sent on some missions together to help out the locals. I figured short cutting to having them already interested in a thing and meeting knowing why they were there was a good way to get past the whole, it sucks to start these adventures because as players we know we are going to spend all of our time together but as characters they wouldn't just adventure the rest of their life with a random person.
For dmsam's setup. If I was a player I would probably look around and try to find survivors, it would also depend if I had all of my memories and would know why I was in a pile of dead bodies.
If I was setting it up would you have all of the PCs wake up in the same pile or would you have one player start waking up, and then hope that they walk into places to find the other pc's? If they wake up in this town would they still know who they were? If so would they already know the other PC's?
I tend to talk to my players as a group as well as individually and figure out how they want to start out. I implore them to attempt to create bonds within their own group which usually brings at least two or three players into a connection with each other whether it's familial or something else ie they share a common past where they had encountered each other previously.
With that said I couldn't think of a very specific setting that I think is unique enough to share, though I do have an idea for a common thread that can connect all the characters at the beginning and at least start them on a similar path as a group. I don't have any of this really fleshed out but I think something along the lines of each PC having a personalized dream sequence the first night of the campaign that ends with them standing in front of a well-known monument or place in the area. At this point you can either have some skill checks set up as the PCs most likely attempt to look around the area and attempt to figure out why they've had dreams that brought them here. Maybe you leave a thinly veiled clue in each PCs dream that when combined bring them to the conclusion of why they are there. Alternatively there could be a person/persons there to give them their explanatory rundown. Maybe they're all brought there and then attacked by something they've never seen or heard of before.
I think there's quite a few things you could do with this scenario and a lot of different ways you could take it. I personally love using dreams as a vessel to tell my PCs things I'd like them to know that maybe they've missed or I had difficulty finding a way to tell them in another form. Also due to the nature of dreams I can throw in subtle hints that foretell future events which gives them something to think about and hopefully think back to as the foretold events occur. To be fair as well I usually throw in quite a bit of symbology that I may or may not use in the future depending on how things play out.
edit: I wanted to clarify that the dream sequence in my original thought process doesn't teleport them to this location, though you could definitely choose that option. I thought moreso the PCs would make their way there as most times they'll take the proffered carrot on a stick especially in the first session. If you have a PC that simply wants to continue on their life and/or dismissing the dream I think at that point how you bring that PC into the fold is very situational and depends on the character. Most of my preparation for this would involve writing up the dream sequence for the individual players as well as figuring out what happens after they've all met up at that spot or at least after some of them have met at that spot. I know this isn't very fleshed out but hopefully someone else might get some ideas from this.
I have created an NPC wizard that is a source of different facts for my PC's. During any given conversation I roll a four sided die at the top of his turn to see which personality comes out with his next statement, including rolling a four on two consecutive turns resets the coversation as if the party or individual has just entered his library with a cheery 'oh, hello! It's been so long since I have had any visitors!' And he remembers nothing he has previously stated. Other rolls include him giving them a piece of lore or history, to just playing a simple prank on the party. It's great fun! It also makes for a very interesting way to start a new encounter series.
I have a preference for starting in medias res, my first game with my current group started with them a band of mercenaries arriving at there new base of ops, and my most recent game they're starting of as members of a circus!
We tend to build up the history through play, though we sometimes intervene and write it, that happens later on.
I've done some new things in my PbP games, playing through the first encounters and stuff, which has been a bit different.
- "the DM is a mystical figure from another plane of reality that can only communicate with us through the magical program known as Skype" - Nasim "Knifey" Val
I have trouble with this, but here is one that I really like.
I had an adventure where my PCs were magically teleported into the an important NPC's office. The twist is that they don't know they were getting teleported and magic was a licensed practice. Now they have to work for the NPC to not be thrown into prison for trespassing and unlawful use of magic.
In the campaign I'm currently working on I have this Monster Hunters Guild at the center of the whole society which keeps the land safe. The players are all creating characters that are in the capital to join that guild. The firat session is going to be the aptitude test where they perform different tests and see each other in action a bit, get to talk to each other during waiting etc.
Then the guild will work out who passed, so the PCs have a night to spend in the city, maybe meeting each other in taverns or during conflicts with other participants. The next morning, the group will be all put in the same group for the second part of the emtrance exam, a field mission testing their ability to work with others and their applied abilities.
Its a bit long winded and maybe a bit railroady, but I feel its a more or less organic way of having random strangers end up with each other.
1) The cart comes to a stop, and you are roughly pulled out and pushed to the ground on your knees. A burlap sack covers your head, and though you cannot see, you can hear the riotous cacophony of a large crowd somewhere in front of you. The hood is torn from your head to reveal blinding sunlight from the rising sun that leaves you dazzled for a moment as the governor of your province steps out before you. "You have been convicted of crimes deemed by our sovereign to be unforgivable. However, in his infinite mercy, the emperor has found it within himself to spare your lives. Considering the gravity of your crimes, you cannot be allowed even the slimmest chance of escape." As your eyes adjust, you can see a huge pit stretching before you, miles into the distance. Encircling the pit is a huge wall of stone thirty feet high, with guard towers every quarter mile. Below, and stretching into the distance, you can see a multitude of dirty, ragged prisoners. Their chants and hoots echo up to you as you balance on your knees at the edge of the pit. The governor smiles grimly. "I hereby sentence you to life imprisonment in Graywater Prison. May the lords of heaven be merciful in their final accounting of your soul." The governor nods, and guards behind you place a boot between your shoulder blades and push you into the yawning pit below.
So this campaign has three distinct parts: a) imprisonment and escape b) training and recon c) infiltration, redemption, and revenge. This all presumes that the PCs are framed for something they did not do, and sentenced to life in an "inescapable" prison. Setup would include: detailing the different factions in the prison; finding a couple of different ways for the PCs to get out, that are plausibly difficult or involved enough that few if any other prisoners have ever escaped; detailing the main NPCs in the prison; setting up random encounters for the prison; outlining the rest of the parts of the campaign.
2) Everyone found a flyer for joining the city watch that said something different: "Get paid to beat people up -- legally!", "Serve your city and uphold the law!", "Bring evil to justice!", "Trust and respect can be yours!", and so on. After a rigorous three month academy, the party begins their first day on the job with the city watch of a major metropolis. All classes can be accommodated as different specialists within the department. Very quickly, they all find themselves working on the same case from different angles and cooperate to resolve it. Their success leads to them being grouped together as a squad.
Ahead of time, the metropolis will need to be worked out, different factions outlined, different plot threads fleshed out, and NPCs built.
3) You board a boat bound for a distant and exotic land, as a member of an expedition group lead by an eccentric aristocrat. In the large cabin you share with other expedition members, you meet while stowing your gear and choosing bunks. The first encounter is an assassin who attempts to kill your patron. A little digging on the boat can reveal that someone does not want this expedition to succeed, and that your patron might be hiding something.
Ahead of time: build the boat, outline the expedition, build NPCs, build the organization/faction that wants your patron dead, work up clues about the real purpose of the expedition, and design several encounters on the boat.
The nicest thing about how the characters meet is that it sets the tone and hints at the themes and plot of the campaign.
As a lifelong student of history who has recently started learning about the Eastern Roman Empire, there is one section of that history that leapt out at me as a possible starting/ongoing story for your players. The Themes, and each player character is a member of a Theme army. Maybe they're part of a specialist group within their army. Maybe they happen to be part of the same unit during a barbarian raid. Maybe they are fleeing a lost battle and just happen to encounter each other, each working together and trusting the others because they share a uniform.
It's a campaign I've wanted to try out for a long time - your players are part of one of the border Themes for an empire facing centuries of slow collapse due to burgeoning bureaucracy, internal squabbling, and external threats. Your job is to try to hold the line against roving barbarians and enemy empires. Maybe, if you're lucky, you can find a good time to strike a solid counter-punch to knock your adversaries off-balance for a while. If you're really lucky, maybe you can take an enemy leader hostage to force their followers to fall back, or just kill one of their top men to demoralize them enough to shove back for a time. If you push them back enough, then it becomes time to protect workers while they build up new fortifications. Or it could just be that you're just buying time as your empire collapses around you. There are any number of ways this can shake out.
I completely missed this DM-Nastics when it first came around. So let me pitch in now.
I ran this One Shot for my guinea pig group I called the Tower of the --------- (Forgotten). The basic premise was that the players would create their characters and personalities, but their backstories were completely blank. They would awaken at the end of a very deep and dangerous dungeon, grasping the treasure they came for. However, they would have no recollection of who they were or their passed selves, but they retained all of their skills and abilities. I gave them a couple of random trinkets, and a useful but unexplained magical item based on how they built their character. They then had to work backwards through a somewhat cleared (though still dangerous) dungeon, where there would find further defining clues about themselves. Including a couple of fallen teammates, one of which I had barely clinging to life to answer a few questions before he passed on. The game actually went really well and everyone had fun. Based of their trinkets, magical items, and their interpretations of their characters as the game went on, I ended the One Shot by revealing their "true backstories". Which to my surprise, everyone was actually kinda excited to learn who they actually were. Great times where had.
This was the opening scene to that game. The party lifts the large leather bound, backpack sized book off the pedestal together. Finally after.....hours.....days.... months? Aaah whatever, what matters is that you and your friends uuuuuuh allies? Yeah allies, that makes sense, have finally retrieved this.......book! Of course it is a book, you are holding one, it only makes sense. You finally retrieved it and.....and......and.........you can't remember anything else. Where are you? Why did you want to get this book?......who were you! You realize, with a start, you can't remember anything! That is when you notice that the people in the room with you have pieces of paper pinned to their clothing. So do you. (the papers have each players name and field of specialization on it, as well as the words "Get Straight Out" written on it.) There are at least a dozen empty potion bottles that litter the room all of which look freshly drained. There is a single set of double doors that lead out of this room and there is a barricade bar locking it shut.
Old topic, but there is one that works for a campaign that I want to run when the setting in my blog has a lot more to it:
Slowly, you awaken. You cannot yet open your eyes, but you hear groaning, both of men and women as well as wood. You can feel warm bodies pressing against you on all sides, and the floor beneath you seems to shift and rock. Finally, you gather the strength to pry open your eyelids. Dark walls surround you, and you catch the scent of seawater. A look above you shows a grate with men and women running to and fro, shouting orders.
A look around you reveals that you and dozens more and packed together in the dark hold. Your mouth feels dry, and there's a bitter taste in your mouth. Your last memory is a strange tasting drink with your usual diner. From above, you can make out a voice shouting about a PNR and to get to the circle. A moment later there's a loud sound like a mix of a whump and whoosh. After that, the sounds of feet stop, and the rest of the people in the hold begin to wake up.
The PCs are new colonists for a continent without a name, from which there's no leaving. The majority of the colonists are criminals, others simply have enemies in high places. Either way, they start out with no weapons, no armor, and no intel. The first part of the campaign is pure survival, then goes from there as they find out that they aren't the first wave of colonists. So they have to deal with the established colonists, and the continent holds ancient secrets that some may try to unearth.