The British Navy used to use press gangs whenever they needed sailors and would send groups of men ashore who would kidnap merchant sailors, and almost anybody else unlucky or drunk enough to not get away, and force them to serve aboard the ships.
The players don't have to be sailors but they could be pressed into service. The navy often brings the marines to do land based war, who is to say the players aren't pressed into the attack of some fort where they can make themselves heros, officially thanked and released and their story told to the king so there will be a reason behind them being asked to try another task.
Will give them a unique relationship with the king as well.
"Let me get this straight. You kidnap us, force us to overthrow Baron VonHogulst, who, by the way, was a vampire, and now you want us to help you again? You are going to have to make it worth it!"
Or they could escape and ditch their captors when put off at their mission destination and make them fugitives in the land. Either way they now have a common thread and a colorful history in a land.
All have injuries from an adventure (all ended up helping a town from some marauding __________) and go to the temple to get healed. There they meet each other as the recover and trade stories and end up deciding to fight with each other to continue to clean up the surrounding country side. Once that is done.....
The all have a minor magical item that has somehow been manipulating each of them to meet at a certain place. They all are drawn to the town where the temple (or whatever) is that created the item. Through coincidence they keep running into each other to the point where the wonder if the other isn't following them. Being who they are the confrontation comes about, discussion, perhaps a fight, and maybe the finally realize what was going on and join to figure out the rest of the story. Go to Comment
All were sleeping in the same forest around the same few days. This forest (cough...Mirkwood...cough) has some giant spiders that has caught each of the PCs and one of them wakes up groggily and is able to release himself from the spider cocoon and sees that there are many others around him. The spider had a lucky few days and most everybody is kept alive to be eaten later. There are probably a couple that he opens that are dead but all the PCs made it. Go to Comment
I suppose another standard one is the shipwreck, when they are all shipwrecked together.
A variation on this would be a Shakespearian Tempest-like shipwreck, where the ship splits in two: half the characters end up on one side of an island and develop their relationships there, the other half meet at the other end of the island. After they have each developed into small pseudogroups they can be amalgamated and continue adventuring.
A land-based alternative...They are travelling with a caravan between two cities (maybe they are refugees, maybe they are traders) when the caravan is attacked. They are the sole survivors and must find their way through the wilderness where they have been left...
Thanks go to Manfred for reminding me about this thread.
The characters are servants working in the lightless kitchens of the Castle, lorded over by a tyrannical Chef called Filmor Mawthse. Sent into the cellars on various errands they discover a crevice in a pile of rubble by a collapsing wall. It seems to lead to a larger space behind. When Mawthse comes searching for them to find why they've been so long, he gets angry and beats one of them. Assuming the PCs don't just stand there and let him do it there'll be a little altercation. In this scuffle, Mawthse is killed: either purposefully with some cutlery or accidentally by slipping on the wet floor and cracking his head open. Fearing suspicion, the PCs will probably flee into the caverns through the crevice.
Some of the players are protesters at a demonstration against the City's Tyrant Lord. The Tyrant's troops (including a couple of PCs) are trying to hold the crowd back. It's a grisly scene. One PC is an assassin and shoots the Tyrant with a concealed crossbow.
Only the PCs nearby see what has happened, everyone else is too busy fighting or watching the Tyrant keel over and die. The protester PCs run off, the guard PCs will presumably pursue. Get them down a back alley, let the protesters beat up the guards and tie them up and make the offer: join us or die.
Apart from giving the assassin instructions beforehand, it's not possible to guarantee the outcome, but it's possible to push them in the right direction. It'd be interesting to see how the players react to such an odd situation. I find players tend to group together even if they start off enemies, so it'll probably end up coalescing into a party sooner or later. This would work best run as a game without a fixed plot but a very detailed setting and see how things progress before fixing on plots in the second and subsequent sessions.
The PCs are out of work and poor. Suddenly a new job opportunity opens up: a Steel Road is being constructed through the mountains to the dwarf mines and the consortium of mine owners need navvies to work for them. They apply and are accepted. A month later, during work on a high bridge over a narrow gully there's a terrible accident and the PCs plunge many fathoms through the air to find themselves in a mountain crevasse. Everyone thinks they're dead and the only way out is through a dangerous cave system which leads to the equally dangerous mountain slopes.
This one's best started a month into the job. You tell them what's happened in the meantime and start play the night before the accident. Go to Comment
The characters meet at a loanshark. All are either personally deep in debts, or have someone very close that is. The moneylender warns them all to pay... but is in a good mood today. Given the large sums that no one of them has, he proposes them something. It can be a simple go-to-dangerous-location-and-find-that-fabled-treasure or something more in his own interest. Eitherway, if they succeed, but can't pay off all their debts, he may want to use them for shadier purposes (collecting other debts would come to mind first).
For various reasons, all characters seek enlightment or atonement for their deeds, and visit a mystic or a holy place. There they get a quest to solve, etc, etc, etc.
A renown cook completes a list of various rare and rumoured ingredients, and sends his assistant to get them. Some items on the list are from far away, some are parts of dangerous monsters, others may be poisonous, some are considered holy to the natives, some may not even exist! Of course there must come along some guard, a few helpers, and perhaps a spy for another cook. Would make a strange but culinary campaign.
All characters are invited or somehow convinced to come to a certain place. Seeking a job, wanting to buy something rare (possibly illegal), being promised money, etc. When they get into an abandoned house, almost exactly at the same time, confusion starts. Who are these people, are they interested in the same thing as I am? After a few moments the entire house starts to collapse. They should survive, and evidence will be found someone 'helped' to arrange the collapse. Why, and what do they have in common? Sort of a murder mystery, where all the PC's should be the dead...
Starting in prison, an old prisoner gives everyone a few clues to a place with a great treasure. They can't find it without helping one another, of course.
They meet in the tavern (surprising?). BUT, just yesterday an old crone foretold to every one their future, about meeting stranger(s), braving great dangers, but finding luck and wealth in the end, blahblahblah... Make it as stereotypical as possible, try to convince the 'seer' is a fake. But today, you sit with some strangers around a table, and they look exactly as foretold! Go to Comment
Quoting AG:Why don't we play together?:
"The PCs are drifting around and suddenly they meet each other. "Hey lets team up and battle evil!". The fantasy standard "meet in a tavern" might be a variation of this. Problem: It's just plain dumb. Players might sabotage such introductions and find something else to do.
Exception: If the players take their time to talk to each other, develop friendships and explore common interests this hook might be reasonable. It depends on the players and the circumstances their GM creates for them."
I think I have a variant that is not so plain dumb... hopefully.
"Callast stopped by the notice board again. It was still there, the ink fading slowly, but it still called for noble heroes to help, and still promised a fitting reward. But no adventurers have been around lately, and the townsfolk seemed too conservative. Callast felt his fingers itching. He might as well as try it himself... but he is no group, and has no friends that would join him. But there must be others like him!"
The players simply recruit themselves. One or more of them issue a call for anyone wishing to become an adventurer, to form a group to be exact.
And they may still meet in a tavern the first time. ;)
- They know they are beginners, bloody beginners.
- The guy(s) issuing the call have a leading position initially. It can of course change over time, but is a good thing for the first few disputes, and worthy if some player(s) are more experienced. Provokes initial getting-known roleplaying too.
- It can actually offer the party some leverage. If there is a public need, they might be borrowed equipment, demand some training from local militia, etc. The employer may also help with funding (seeing there is no one else for the job).
- If they team up for some some clear purpose, they have less space for sabotaging it.
- It's not the tavern thing anymore. They have to have some life they leave behind, when they _decide_ for adventuring.
Well, I hope it's different enough... if it works with music bands (sometimes), it should work with adventurers, too! Go to Comment
Some characters start with a background directly from the street, so why not the whole group?
All PCs are effectively homeless. Some may have a provisory home, but no one has a stable background or job. They may be beggars, thiefs, minor handymen, living of the refuse of others, or find other ways to survive.
This could be a different kind of adventuring: seen from the bottom, the splendid city may show its true dirty face, with the ever-present corruption, and most people turning a blind eye to you. The characters may very well distrust each other, but know the others are needed, and how bad it is to be alone. Maybe they want to become honest citizens in the end, or just wish to climb up the social ladder, no matter how.
- A benefactor of them has died, and left some property in his/her last will. It may have the usual plot hooks attached (is cursed/monster infested/disputed/...) or may be a plot hook itself (the usual mystical amulet/parchment/map with strange writings). Other heirs may cause problems, too.
- A benefactor of them has been murdered, but the corrupt police/militia/court sentences someone from the street instead of the real guy. They start to investigate on their own... murder mystery.
- The street people start to vanish because of something dark (a cult/necromancer/cannibals/manhunters/...). Of course, nobody cares, but the PCs want to, or need to.
- They form a street gang, but the local crime scene is too hostile. Instead of petty theft they have to survive.
- Being what they are, (socially) invisible, they overhear a critical information that could be worth a lot of money. Of course, those that can pay may prefer to silence them.
- Being what they are, (socially) invisible, they overhear a critical information important for the city/barony/kingdom, that could earn them status. Nobody trusts them of course.
- They all start to exhibit the signs of a certain disease not uncommon on the street; while initially harmless, if uncured it is terminal within a year... so they need the expensive or rare cure.
Problem: potential for playing 'evil for evil's sake' or 'chaotic' characters that do whatever suits them at the moment. Requires a clear motivation and background for each PC. They also may need a reason to stay together, once successful. May be a short campaign with a nitty-gritty feeling, or a success story how a few nobodies achieved greatness. Or a fine start to a 'Poverty Campaign'. Go to Comment
Know the movie? I am sure you know. What better a reason for a few teenagers to team up, when they have done something bad, but managed to keep it secret from everyone... except for the killer that knows, and wants to make them pay now.
In the Ancient Gamer categorisation they may be "Old Mates", but this is really "Forced cooperation".
- it is almost mandatory for some PCs to die
- is only the initial starter, the group may split once the problem is dealt with
- probably best for short campaigns OR as a world-introduction adventure (perhaps for mystery/intrigue and similar campaigns? Or even horror?). Or as an introduction to roleplaying.
- the players may not like to be forced. On the other hand, especially if they are fans of this kind of movies, they may have great fun with the crime and the punishment.
Alternative: I know what you did a century ago.
More fantasy-ish, but certainly not bound to it: the character's parents (grandparents, ...) have done something bad, and the children have to pay. Or they have done it themselves in their former lives.
The problem is now to identify the problem itself. What happened then? And why did the revenge thing start now?
We were in a bar, and went into the haunted house...
(I apologize for heaping the cliches here, but can't help it. :) )
The PCs awake in an unknown place underground with a massive headache, actually, everything hurts them. They need to piece together the foggy memories of yesterday, until they get this story:
It was a great evening, with rivers of ale flowing, and lesser amounts of most any type of alcohol to it. At some point, drunken enthusiasm and an idea of an unknown source has led these ordinary, decent citizens into the local haunted house, to defeat dem monsters and find the treasure. Now, anyone (sober) more than ten years old knows there is nothing spooky in that house. Still they went in, and after some bumbling around started digging in the cellar... which collapsed. It is a miracle they are still alive.
Finding a few traces (and bodies), they will learn of a great evil, that was sealed away here by some real heroes centuries ago. It seems the place is getting unstable, and the evil may be still around... they better get out. Go to Comment
A terrible villain, maddened arch-wizard, or an alien invader has tried to do what these people usually do - and failed. Before the plans could be really unwound, they were taken out by some random heroes, lab accident, betrayed by disloyal flunkies, or even defeated on the field of battle. Whatever, the end of his story is the beginning of yours.
The PCs are members of a completely different species (orcs, trolls, demons, aliens, ...), transmuted/genetically altered/whatever to resemble the typical species of this world. Some of them might have been volunteers, but after the horrors of transformation none of them roots for the villain (they might even had a role in his downfall). Some of them may have been sold out or duped by their families or clans, been criminals or just picked up by random. Now they are seen as monsters by anyone that knew them. So where do they go? Try their luck with the people they look to fit in. Maybe they were released by the original heroes as captives and feel impressed and/or duty-bound.
- they will have some some serious misinformation about this world, generating fun for the GM and players
- on the other hand, they might have useful, exotic skills and abilities (and some quirks... they are experiments after all)
- they better keep their exact origin a secret
- their conditioning is not complete, but they may discover to have some odd compulsions :)
The problematic part is to not let them devolve into sociopaths, that have no connection to the society around them. It may provide for a fun entry into a new world.
The Manchurian Candidates
The PCs were captured by the bad guys or the opposing side in a war and brainwashed. They were freed or could escape before it was completed, but find themselves without memories in a war-torn land. They need to find out who they were and fight off the compulsions the other side has already implanted in them... they would be also of great interest to their own side, so they need to be careful. Could make for some intense roleplaying. Go to Comment
The PCs are the followers, apprentices or employers of true, authentic heroes (the players can design the larger-than-life heroes for fun). Riding out to yet another noble quest, the powerful group is hopelessly overwhelmed, falls to a truly lethal trap, or is burned to a crisp by a dragon, whatever suits best. And who stays behind? Yes, their unqualified underlings - and their only option is to run. They need to find a way out, while the old way is sealed, fight through or trick the lesser servants of the main bad guy, hold on to anything left from their masters, survive and get back to civilization. Not that they would be much appreciated, but at least they will be alive... and may already have a mission for life. Insert any latent disagreements and the usual trouble that comes with inheriting someone's position, and fighting to be recognized as such in the first place. Go to Comment
For reasons unknown, there are suddenly several assassination attempts on different people. They are complete strangers, have no knowledge of each other, and may even live in different cities. Why is this? Are the attempts related? Who wants them dead? What are they going to do about it? Go to Comment