We Meet In A Tavern No More

The way I have players roll up characters has changed over the years.

When I run a fantasy role-playing game it is intended to be cooperative. I have played those games in the past where everyone rolls up their own unique character and we randomly meet in a tavern. Inevitably someone comes in dark and brooding, the lone wolf who does not get along with the rest of the party. There is the player who goes charging on their own apart from the party because they claim that is what the character would do. So, I do not start a campaign like that anymore. Part of the process of character creation is creating a party. I ask two things of the players as they sit at the table and roll up characters.

Task 1: Create a Group

We do not have players roll up their characters at home on their own. In the first session I give them the task of rolling up a party together. If they want things like back story, this is the time. Tell me why you are traveling together. The players know each other and knowing what the campaign ahead of us is I tell them that they will be working with a group. If the character they imagine can not work with the group that the others are rolling up that is fine, that character goes off on their own, now roll up the one that works with and is part of this adventuring party.

I have told players in the past they all must come from the same small village, and they need to tell me about their relationships with each other. Those who wanted to create someone that might not fit with the idea came up with reasons and how they knew the others and how their relationships began. No more meeting in a Tavern, I just jump into a place that I want the adventures to begin. We have begun on the battlefield of war in full action as their side lost the battle fleeing to survive as first level characters. I have begun on the journey traveling the road with some fun encounters I thought would be a good start, or even at the entrance of a dungeon or the foot of a castle they need to raid. Jump into the game with a party that already is established.

Task 2: Create an Objective

My campaigns are intended to be a sandbox, and this means that the players are free to explore in the manner they wish. Like real life, adventure won’t necessarily seek you out, you must go out and find it. But why? What is your objective? The players get a large say in what sort of campaign we will be playing. As a part of character creation, they are tasked with letting me know why they are adventuring and what the team objective or goal is. These characters are working together for a reason, what is that?

In my current campaign the players decided they want to be political revolutionaries who travel disguised as a traveling circus. This is perfect. They do not start with a full circus at their disposal, but the first adventure opened approaching a small town they had heard has a man who sells rides and other equipment for traveling carnivals and circuses. They met the cost of starting up. They have begun an objective which we are now propelling the campaign and story further with.

The group can decide they just want to be mercenaries paid to carry out whatever task at hand, they can decide they wish to be thieves and brigands. They can decide they want to be heroes who are out to save the day with a specific goal or objective. All of this is part of the power and influence the players have over the campaign, as it is a cooperative game, and the Dungeon Master is there to play the world in reaction to them. If I run a module like Grimmsgate, I can take any of these ideas and place their goal and objective in the town of Grimmsgate as the players approach, they can focus on their objective as we unfold the adventure and story.

Why I do this

This accomplishes a few things. It frees our time to begin the many adventures we have ahead of us and we don’t waste valuable game time trying to convince the players to go on an adventure. We don’t have players deviating from the goals and objectives because they had to give those to me, I’m just following their lead with the campaign. The players get their first taste of working together and getting to know one another in the process of rolling up characters and we are two steps ahead that way. The players should have discussed their characters with the others as they asked one another how they know each other to be a part of this party. The players have hopefully found a common drive they can work together to reach a shared goal through this. This leans into the communal cooperative nature of the game I wish to run.