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November 26, 2005, 4:19 pm

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Ria Hawk

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Character Weaving

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Do you understand Six Degrees of Seperation?

When you read a story or see a movie, how often are the characters just there, with no attachment or place in the world or the other characters in the setting?

The answer you are looking for is basically “NEVER”.

Writers know that audiences won’t believe characters that are just “plopped” into the world.  Things and people need to come from some where and have a reason to do the things they do.  (Even amnesiacs soon find a place in the world, being the exceptions to the general rule). 

Most players are reasonably good about creating a character conception and history, no matter how lame.  It is easier to play a character when you have a strong background behind it and most players like making play and roleplay easier, so they make characters with a strong conception and history.  Yet often these stories do not have any attachment to the world around them. 

It is always best to make a character part of the game world, weaving them into the tapestry of the background story. Players should talk with the GM about elements in the game world that the character could have a connection to: recent history, NPCs, organizations, other characters, or even just random things. Form a connection to these things and the character is connected to the world. This helps better define the character and gives the player/ character more options in play.

Now, when you read a story or see a movie, how often do a group of four to six total strangers, with little to no knowledge of each other, get thrusted together to do something and work together well if they had all been part of a well oiled machine? 

The answer you are looking for is basically “NEVER”.

So why do we accept this in games?  They are supposed to be inspired by literature and action/adventure movies.  Even video games have a back story explaining why the various characters are working together.  No matter how flimsy, there is always a back story to make sense of things.

Not so with game characters.  In most cases, they are thrusted by fates into a group of complete strangers to face life and death risks.  You would hate this in a movie, why accept it in a game?

So where is your group’s backstory?

Some players will say, “Well, they are PCs”, so they will interact with characters that normally they would of ignored or run away from.  The PC halo is a hackneyed game concept that says, if it is PC you are supposed to embrace other PCs, no matter how weird, lame, or dangerous, the character is.  (The concept of halo came from the little bright ring that surrounded characters you were specifically using in early computer RPGs, much like the green polyhedron in a sims game or the gold circle at the feet of a character in most modern games). 

Players really want stories, though they will often settle for less.  However, if they want a story that includes their characters, they should work with the GM to make it happen. 

First and foremost, they need to have a “Group”.  To make a group, there needs to be some kind of relationship between the members.  The Character must be weaved together, not only weaved into the tapestry of the world, but into the tapestry of the group. 

Now for players: to help the campaign story along, work with the other players when you create your characters. Find a connection, something in the characters’ mutual past that links the characters together. When did they first meet? Did they work together? Did they grow or attend school/ training academy together? Do they have a mutual friend? Was one character the best friend of another’s older sibling? Did they meet once at a party? The more connections and history a character has with the other characters, the easier it will be to play with those characters. Your character will have a reason to work with the other character, rather than the lame.. “well he is a PC”.

The GM should always be involved in character creation.  Not only will they supply information about the world, but they are a source of ideas about characters as well.  They can make sure each character has a protected nitch and that ever character will have something to do in the campaign. 

One other thing they can do is run mini-weaving scenes: Players play out or narrate scenes between their characters at sometimes in their histories. This gives them a chance to practice their characters and develop a mutual history.

The various weaving process gives the troop reasons to be together, some depth to their relationships, and the chance for the group to work out who does what, in addition to adding depth to the character’s history and the GM’s world. The GM should work with the players to see how the characters are woven together.



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Comments ( 10 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Ylorea
November 26, 2005, 16:20
0xp
Let me first put forward that for many parts I do agree with moonhunter that very often players just tag along with each other because they happen to be PC's.

On the other hand, I have to say that seeing the processes going on in the game I happen to DM, there is more to this.

Two of my players know each other of old, they are friends from way back. One is a barbarian, the other a "borrowing person". When they wanted to set out to go goblin hunting, a cleric joined them. The barbarian went down quickly and was healed by the cleric. No wonder that the Barbarian did like the Cleric after that.
The cleric had little reason to trust the barbarian, until the barbarian bashed down some goblins that nearly killed the cleric.

Oke, the thief and cleric have little reason to trust each other, but they still have the linking pin of the barbarian. At any rate, the barbarian and thief like each other very much, so the thief will without a doubt trust the cleric, after saving her friend the barbarian.

In short: often eppic things happen when player characters meet. These things would in real life often be the reason for life long friendship and trust beyond the grave.

The only point is: often there is little reason to team up in the first place, but once the first hurldes have been taken, there often is little reason not to trust the rest, at least during battle.
MoonHunter
November 26, 2005, 16:20
0xp
In the best possible world, players will work together to make the group cohesive.

Unfortunately, we do not live in the best possible world.

Your players understand. They need to have that motivative connection between the characters. They have made the decisions and responses to create that connection in play.

Most players don't. This causes friction in the game and struggles that take away the game.

Players should plan the connection between the characters (even if that connection is an advisarial ones (like Spock and Bones in Star Trek or Dr.Who and Tristan (early on)) or will occur after the campaign starts. It is easier to set up pre-game connections for most players, so that is why I usually recommend that troupes set those up.

Of course relationships change over time and in dramatic and stressful situations. These connections are not 'LOCKED IN STONE", but serve as the foundation for the relationship between the characters.
Strolen
November 26, 2005, 16:21
0xp
Some of my more memorable games are ones where each of us had to come up with a feasible back story and combine it with the others. We were mostly beginners at that time so we didn't do anything elaborate, we all grew up together of course and have known each other for a long time. A couple went off on little adventures but by the time our game started all the historys had us back at town. (Dragonlance type idea, we weren't horrible original but it was fun)

Through these stories people had pet mice, stories of horribly embarassing encounters and such. The funniest part was that we actually had our PCs parents involved in it and one player's mom even bailed us out of jail when we just started out and were low on funds. So then we owed her for the bail and from then on we always put aside some of our treasure for a 'parent fund' that would go back to them.

Point is, the backstory is fun especially if intertwined. Because we all had something invested in our history it became a central point of the entire game and led to many comical and character building points.

"What would your mom say if she knew you were stealing?"
"I'm telling your pa and he is going to whip you." etc.
Voted RuthieA
November 26, 2005, 16:44
0xp
Very good, although sometimes people do just meet (I'm going to start out a game I'm working on with characters meeting at a pizza place (which is being attacked by the bad guys...but anyway). The characters definitely should have something that links them together or at least a reason to trust each other.
Voted Zylithan
November 29, 2005, 10:07
1xp
I always make characters work on the back story and make sure there is strong interconnection (whether they know it or not) in campaigns. The artificiality of how most parties meet up is annoying. Also, just because someone saves your life, does not mean you will keep hanging out with them... etc.

I am including below, what is, in my opinion, an excellent piece on this topic, with credit to the author (not me). I hope it's okay that I'm doing this.. it's taken from the web at http://www.maranci.net/barwars.htm

If this is the wrong place to put this, please don't flame, just let me know and I can move it :)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Getting It Together:
The Cure For The Bar Wars Blues

by Peter Maranci

With a twist and a shove, the mighty Lock of Eternity broke open and the massive double doors of rune-worked Adamantium opened silently inward. The Intrepid Adventurers stood on the threshold of the Last Room of the deepest level of the Ultimate Dungeon. Who knew what perils lay within? Holding their collective breath, they peered through the great portal. A vast panoply spread before them, a mighty treasure trove brimming over with gold, gems, and magic. Only one thing in the vast hall failed to gleam: a small, underdeveloped orc sat on a small wooden chair just past the doorway. On its tusked snout a small pair of glasses were perched; a pipe dangled from its jaws. Lying open in its claws was a small book of peculiar appearance, entitled Seeing the Planes on 5,000 Gold Pieces Per Day.

One of the most frequently-neglected elements of many role playing campaigns is also one of the most important: the beginning. It seems strange that such a major part of the gaming experience should be treated as lightly as it often is. There was a saying that was old even back in the much-beloved Middle Ages: "As the twig bends, so grows the tree". If the beginning of a game is unbelieveable or poorly constructed, isn't it harder to have the rest of the campaign make sense?

With a roar of mingled greed and bloodlust, Grush Foesquisher raised his mighty 3-handed sword on high to run the small humanoid through. Sperlin the Mystic prepared to blast the area surrounding the orc with flames, while Torquemada the Extremely Holy Man chanted a blessing upon the forthcoming slaughter. As always, Fuzzy Fingers the Halfling Kleptomaniac hid in the shadows, eagerly anticipating his chance to relieve the corpse-to-be of its worldly possessions. Suddenly, the corpse-ah, that is, orc-looked up. "Excuse me," he said clearly, in a calm and reasonable tone. The group was taken aback. "I must say, you certainly seem like a highly diverse group. Would you mind telling me how you happened to form this little association?" There was an awkward silence. Finally the mage spoke. "Well - we were all in this bar, see..."

While most role-playing game worlds and character personalizations have steadily gained in complexity over the years, adventuring groups are still often formed by fiat - "Ok, you're all a group now" -or by the old we-all-met-in-a-bar-and-decided-to-spend-the-rest-of-our-lives-together-for-no- reason-whatsoever formula. While these methods are serviceable, they are not realistic, and thus detract from the role-playing experience. After all, very few people in the real world form long-term relationships with casual strangers in public bars; in fact, those who do so usually come to a tragic end, and are featured in a Movie of the Week.

"That's very interesting," the orc said politely, "but I was wondering, um, well...".

"Out with it!" roared Grush, waving his mighty blade so belligerently that he fanned the Wizard's hat right off his head.

"Quiet, Grush," said Sperlin. He was intrigued. This creature was quite different from the others, and the aged mage had never before had a chance to demonstrate his superior vocabulary and wit before. It was a pity they'd have to kill it.

This is getting wierd, the halfling thought.

The beginning of a campaign offers the gamemaster a powerful tool to set the shape of the campaign for years to come, an opportunity well worth taking advantage of. What gamemaster can afford to neglect the structure of his or her campaign? A group of active player characters can challenge even the most creative gamemaster to maintain control - it seems reasonable that the gamemaster so structure the game as to encourage them to make his job easier.

"Let me get this straight," said the orc unbelievingly, "You have nothing in common. None of you work in the same profession. You each worship a different god, and you only met each other a few years ago... yet now you spend all of your time together, and trust each other with your lives every day? Why?"

"Yeah, why?" Grush demanded belligerently, his meaty brow furrowed in confusion.

"Good question," murmured the halfling from the shadows.

Perplexed by this attack from an unexpected source, Sperlin gnawed his beard nervously. Then his face brightened. "Say' we all drink the same brand of ale!"

"Art thou kidding me?" the cleric said, frowning.

Why do characters adventure together, trusting each other with life, limb, and perhaps even with the welfare of their souls? More often then not, player characters are of widely differing backgrounds with little in common. Does it seem reasonable that a highly literate member of the magic-using intelligentsia should choose as his constant companions a crude barbarian with terrible manners, a small shifty-eyed being known to be untrustworthy around valuables, or an obsessed man of the cloth who continually spouts obscure religious dogma? These guys may not even be of the same species - so what are they going to talk about after dinner?

It is an unavoidable fact that player characters (and, unfortunately, players) don't always get along. In even the most harmonious groups there are bound to be moments of friction; and when the immediate goals of the warrior and wizard clash, or when the halfling forgets to return the lovely diamond bracelet he "found" in the Halls of the friendly Dwarven King, intra-party squabbling is the lamentable result. In such a situation, a player might be hard put to explain why his or her character would continue to travel with people whose actions are so (to him) immoral, dangerous, or just plain stupid. It's unlikely that many real-world gamers would continue to associate with people who behaved that way in a non-game setting. In a group where trust is lost between players, of course, play should probably not continue (with certain exceptions, most notably Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia). In less extreme circumstances, however, it can often be helpful if the player characters have stronger bonds than mere casual drinking companionship to bind them together. These bonds can be formed through specialized starting scenarios: rather than simply having the beginning characters simply start play as a working group, the first adventure can be the means by which they find each other - the reason for all the adventures that are to come.

"Look," Sperlin said, "I still have the first bottle of beer we ever shared!"

"Gee - that's nice." Grush looked at the bottle with barely controlled thirst.

"Strong drink is the Evil One's cleaning liquid," said the priest reprovingly.

"Only one bottle?" cried the halfling.

"Are you the local branch of Ale-aholics Anonymous?" asked the orc.

A starting scenario, then, should serve two basic functions: First, it should provide a reasonable cause for different and individualistic player characters to form (and maintain) a working group, giving a greater feeling of realism, coherency, and reasonableness. Secondly, it should give the campaign shape by setting the basic atmosphere of the game from the first session, and perhaps by supplying continuing threads of plot that may surface and re-surface over the course of a long campaign.

For the sake of convenience, starting scenarios may be divided into four basic patterns. These are:

1.

A common background. The characters know each other before play begins. They don't have to like each other, but it would help.
2.

A mutual acquaintence. Someone somehow brings the group together, either intentionally or not. They could be a friend, enemy, or business person.
3.

A shared oddity. An unusual quality that the characters possess in common brings them naturally together.
4.

Sheer happenstance. An Act of God, natural disaster, or other bizarre and random event forces the characters to stick together - at least for a while,

Often more then one theme is used in a single campaign, and in many cases the categories overlap. The following list is by no means complete; it is intended only as an example of some basic starting scenarios. The gamemaster should change, combine, add to, and otherwise customize the examples to fit his or her world. In almost every case, the scenario described may be used in any campaign background with only minor alterations.

1) The Old Home Town One way to establish a reasonable link between characters at the beginning of a game is to simply have them all come from the same town or village. As playmates since infancy, they would share common memories of childhood, and would know one another's quirks and foibles from experience ("Sure, Fuzzy's weird, but remember how he bit the schoolteacher who was hitting squint-eyed Janet?"). The home town could serve as a natural focus for the campaign, providing rest, community contacts, and a greater sense of identity to the characters. A threat to the home town would be a natural way for the characters to begin their adventuring lives, and if the party becomes well-known and powerful ("the Protectors of Greentree Village"), foes might threaten the village simply for fame or revenge. A drawback to this particular beginning scenario is that characters from the same village might well be rather restricted in type. In sharing the same culture and general background, the group would lose the ethnic/racial/social diversity that can make the gaming experience a three-dimensional one. This drawback may be circumvented, of course; it is possible, for example, that some childhood friends moved away from the village at a young age (or were kidnapped, or lost), and were taken to a far-off city (or desert, or forest, or planetoid). Only recently have they found their way back to the town and friends they remember from so long ago! There is, finally, one other advantage to the home town start: barring tragedies, you can always go home again.

2) The Party That Slays Together... One could go the Home Town route one better for togetherness: all the characters are part of the same family. The possibilities are endless - aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, mothers fathers, sons, daughters - even in-laws. After all, if you can't trust your own flesh and blood, who can you trust? An adventuring family would soon acquire a reputation for oddness ("those crazy Stonebenders!"), and might well be the source of some local legends. Generations of adventurers bringing home treasure would give the family great wealth that might well lead to political and economic prominence. Older characters might "retire" to run the family holdings and businesses, adding a political element to the campaign. The family could offer great support to its active members, including free training, funding, and perhaps even a little "special" help, in the form of unusual items of salvage from previous expeditions. Feuds, friendships, debts and obligations: all would take on a multi-generational quality. If, on the other hand, the gamemaster would prefer not to have to deal with a large family, the characters could be orphaned siblings, or even identical quintuplets! Many of the drawbacks of the Home Town scenario apply to the Family option as well. Furthermore, one should keep in mind that most homicides take place between members of the same family ("Mom always liked you best!" (thwack)).

3) The Enemy of My Enemy... Is My Friend! An excellent reason for a group to form is for mutual protection and revenge. Even if the player characters have never met each other before, when they discover that they share a common enemy, it is likely that they will find it desirable to stick together for mutual protection. One might have the characters try to discover why some powerful figure has taken a dislike to them, for example. The Enemy, of course, should be powerful, enigmatic, and patient; he/she/it/they might make some plot against the characters, suffer a defeat (or perhaps win a non-total victory), and not return for months, thus providing a continuing challenge over the years. The Enemy should be carefully created by the gamemaster, of course. Why does he/she/it/they hate the player characters? What is his standing in the community, and how will he prefer to attack? Is his area of power physical, religious, political, social, criminal, etc.? A party used to fighting fierce fanged creatures deep underground would find themselves at quite a disadvantage against a cunning noble with the ear of the King. In any case, the Enemy should not be easily or quickly defeated. The Common Enemy theme is a powerful one, and is an element in several later examples. Here is a simple one: The characters are approached and hired as agents/ couriers/travel agents for a powerful and mysterious figure. They are told that the mission will be short, and not too dangerous. The pay is high enough to be irresistible, but not so high as to arouse suspicion. What the characters do not know is that they are being sent into a trap - that they are mere decoys for another group. They are meant to die, but they survive (it would be ridiculous to kill player characters before play begins - kill some NPCs to impress them). Now the party knows that their former employer is involved in an illegal activity, and furthermore they have strong reasons to desire revenge. Realizing this, it is only natural for the employer to try and eliminate the group as a threat - permanently. If the party ever does manage to destroy the Enemy, perhaps he has relatives, or superiors in a secret society that wishes to take over the world...

4) A Friend In Need Another classic theme useful to create a sense of group identity among the player characters is that of the common friend. After all, one of the more common ways that real-world people meet each other is through mutual acquaintances. As with the common enemy, the common friend is a theme capable of a number of different uses and permutations; a basic example follows. Each of the player characters-to-be knows a particular individual by one means or another. To some, he/she may be an old friend of the family. To others, he/she is perhaps a business contact, or a trainer, or a religious official, or a fence. Eventually, in the time-honored tradition of friends everywhere, the friend decides to perform a little matchmaking. Perhaps he has word of some profitable task that his various friends might be interested in performing, and would like to have his friends owe him a favor. Perhaps he himself is in need of a bodyguard for some reason, and wants to pass a few coins on to the player characters at the same time. In any case, he gets the party together as a working group for the first time. Taken by itself, this beginning is rather dull. It gets the job done and introduces a major NPC, but does not establish an interesting plot line to be carried on throughout the campaign. On the other hand, this scenario does offer a reasonable way for characters of greatly differing backgrounds to meet and work together; the only requirement is that the characters have to know the NPC friend and be in the general area at the start of the campaign. Of course, some player characters may refuse the initial offer; in that case, it is up to the gamemaster to entice, persuade, or otherwise trick them into joining the campaign. Note that there is no need for the characters to know each other before the friend puts them together. Nor need the individual be a friend; he may simply be someone who needs a service, and hires the adventurers individually, then forms them into a group.

5) Resting In Peace? The characters have reason to mourn, for they have received word that an old and valued friend has died after a sudden illness. They are invited to attend the funeral; after the ceremony, the will shall be read. The deceased was rather wealthy, and without any close relatives; it is likely that he has left, at the least, some memento of past good times - though hopefully the characters will not be motivated by greed (solely). In any case, all come to the funeral. Some player characters may meet at the funeral for the first time, while others may have been introduced previously. Upon arriving at the house, they are met by the Executor of the estate - a stranger who claims to have been an old friend of the deceased (though the deceased had never mentioned him). Accommodations are available at the local Inn. At the ceremony, the casket is kept closed. Before the coffin can be lowered into the grave, however, there is a disturbance in the crowd - a veiled young women apparently suffers a nervous break down, screaming "He isn't dead - he's not in there!". Lunging forward, she opens the coffin lid part-way before anyone can stop her. Though the lid is slammed down almost immediately by the Executor, the player characters are in such a position as to have seen the contents - and they have seen enough to know, or at least suspect, that the body inside is not that of their old friend. The sobbing, hysterical girl is quickly taken away by two large men in formal wear, at the signal of the Executor. Covering the sounds of the girl's cries as she is born away by the thugs, he smoothly asks that the guests forgive the girl, who was "...overcome by the loss we all share. Let us not spoil the dignity of this, our friend's final farewell!". At the will reading the next day, the player characters are shocked to hear that they have inherited the equivalent of $20 in cash. This cannot help but raise their suspicions - their old friend had always loved to personalize his gifts, sometimes spending days to choose the perfect birthday present. The bulk of the estate, including the house, has been left to a stranger "...for his many kindnesses and that he may continue his Good Works." Who knows what mystery lies beneath these strange happenings! Is the friend really dead? If so, where is the body? Perhaps he has been kidnapped by some cult of undead, or is faking his death for business reasons. Who was that girl, and where is she now? How did she know the truth about the coffin? The Executor may have powerful influence in the city government - he will not look kindly on threats or unproved slander. Can it be that there is something of value hidden in the old friend's house - is he being tortured, the house being searched? The possibilities are limitless, and any player character worth his salt should find the urge to snoop irresistible.

6) A House Divided (Joint Custody) The characters are confused, for each has recently received a strange communication. The Lord Banifir Mufti has recently passed away, and has bequeathed an unnamed "object of value" to each of the characters. They are requested to journey to a nearby city to receive their inheritance. A sum of money has been included with the message, sufficient to cover all traveling expenses. A special coach has been chartered to bring the inheritors to the Lord's manor. Only one thing is wrong. The characters have never met Lord Mufti - in fact, they've never even heard of him, though they can discover through inquiry that he is a reclusive and eccentric noble/philanthropist. Still, the possibility of wealth should prove hard to turn down. Upon arriving at Mufti Manor, the characters are lavishly received. The Executor (a respected professional shyster) hands each player character a small, oddly-shaped metal plate. Each is a part of a single inscribed document: put together, they form the deed to a large estate in an interesting (gamemaster-selected) area, including tower, manor house, and perhaps, servants. The will stipulates that the deed-pieces are not transferable; upon the owner's death, they revert to the group possession of all surviving members. The deed has legal force only when completely assembled. Unfortunately, one inheritor is still missing. His piece is held by the Executor, who does not know what has happened to the last inheritor, but will not release any information about that individual. The will stipulates that each inheritor has another twenty-four hours to pick up his/her bequest. The next morning the Executor announces that the inheritor (a cloaked man who bore the letter of invitation as proof of identity) picked up the deed-piece during the night, and left again without comment. Shortly thereafter, an assassination attempt is made upon the characters...

7) Innocent Bystanders To make use of this beginning, it is helpful if the game world possess some kind of group transportation (coach, subway, or jet) which the characters would use. In an Act of God (?), there is a terrible accident, and the characters are stranded together, far from the beaten path. The character must work together to make their way back to civilization. Though a form of transportation works best for this scenario, any apparently random, isolating accident works quite well - particularly if there is some question as to whether it is really an accident. The dislocation may take place through the actions of a god, or may be the result of some arcane experiment with ancient knowledge. It may even be so mundane an event as a shipwreck. Perhaps the characters are actually transported to a different world entirely! In any case, the new location should be dangerous, and the characters should realize that there is some way back home, giving them an inducement to stay together. Once the characters have been working as a group for a while, it should be only natural for them to continue - if they work well together, that is.

8) When Gods Play Chess Through some strange means (magical or scientific) the characters have each been implanted with an uncontrollable impulse to return to a certain desolate spot at a precise time (after all of them have reached adulthood). Upon reaching that spot at midnight, they are surprised to see all the other player characters, arriving simultaneously - and still more surprised by a flash of bright light that scorches each of them without burning. At that moment they discover that they are in mental contact with each other - they can hear each other's thoughts! Though they have never met before, they quickly find that their parents (of those that knew their parents) did. The characters are all the products of a strange experiment by some unknown god/alien/scientist/whatever. In addition to being mindlinked, they may discover that they experience crippling pain when separated by a certain distance; they may also find that they are exceedingly valued, for one result of the experiment is that their bodies are endowed with a powerful virtue. In a magic-based world, any body part from a player character serves as a triple strength material component for purposes of enchantment: for example, a player character's eye, when used to make a crystal ball, would make one three times as powerful/effective as a normal crystal ball, etc. Enchanters would, of course, be extremely interested in this information... and in the characters. In a science-based world, the character's blood has the power to make those into whom it is transfused 2-12 years younger. Inducement indeed to stick together, and keep moving!

9) The Inn of All Worlds For those who absolutely must have a bar...there is The Inn of All Worlds. Many legends tell of it, in many places: it is said that the Inn moves about through all of existence, never staying in any one place for more than one night. According to legend, it is possible to meet anyone or anything there, from all of time and space. There even the most bitter enemies meet and drink, for the Rule of Peace may not be broken, even by Gods and Demonlords. The Inn is difficult to find, but some mortals do seek it out. It is whispered that if one desires, one may there go through a small black door which will lead to great power - or to death. That door may lead to any world, place, or time, and companions, equipment, and basic skills are all provided. The cost, however, is high: to enter, you must give to the dreaded doorkeeper everything you have - and sometimes even that is not enough.

10) Bread Upon the Waters A group of merchant investors contacts the players. They wish to reap some of the great dividends available to a freelance salvage/protection/investigation group; therefore, they are offering to bankroll the formation of a new corporation by the characters. They will provide limited funds and equipment, and in exchange the characters will return 50% of all their earnings. A contract should be drawn up, and carefully enforced. Occassional duty guarding caravans might be required, and some special missions might be offered at bonus rates. Of course, should the merchants fall out among themselves, the characters could find themselves in the middle of a very nasty trade war...and if mere possession of the contract gives the holder authority over the adventurers, a merry chase might be led by thieves. Consult local laws for further details.

11) Squeeze Play Each of the characters has a strangely-shaped birthmark in the middle of his forehead. Though they may not know each other to begin with, others may point out the strange similarity of the marks. What do they mean? The mystery of the marks would be a good first investigation-adventure - and as always, if the group works well together they should stay together. As for the marks, perhaps a race of ancient beings has encoded ancient powerful secrets in the genetic codes of the characters' ancestors for record-keeping purposes. Who might be interested in that information? On the other hand, perhaps the marks were actually caused by an unusual pair of birthing-forceps (forceps sometimes do cause birthmarks on the head - Gorbachov is an obvious example). How long will it take the characters to discover that they were all delivered by the same travelling doctor? What is that doctor doing now?

12) The Company For whatever appropriate reason (boredom, escape, apathy, what have you), each character has been sent by a relative or teacher to apprentice themselves to a prestigious adventuring Company in a far-off land. Each has a letter of introduction, for their sponsors each know a member of the band personally, and have done them favors in the past. Upon arriving, the players are quickly accepted and sworn in as apprentices in the Company; for some reason, there seem to be no old apprentices at present. The characters are instructed to care for the house and lands, and to perform basic apprentice-type tasks. The Company members seem to be good people, and treat the player characters well. After a few weeks, however, they depart to complete a small salvaging operation, leaving the characters behind. Though the round trip was supposed to take only a few days, after more then a week there is still no sign of the Company. The characters' natural concern should become still greater when they discover that tax time is fast approaching, and that heavy taxes are due on the Company House. Unfortunately, as apprentices the player characters were never told how to enter the Company treasury.... Furthermore, they may later discover that the old apprentices were dismissed for commiting evil and immoral acts. Now the old apprentices view the house and possessions of the Company as theirs - and in their eyes the player characters are unwelcome interlopers. The desire of the old apprentices to re-posses the house is understandable, for the value of the Company name and reputation alone is great. Combined with the other assets of the Company (library, treasury, house, and much more), the worth is incalculable. However, in addition to facing the hostile and unethical old apprentices (who now call themselves by the Company name), the player characters may well have to deal with all the old business of the Company, including debts, contracts, protection, etc. With all that to deal with, how can the party possibly find the time to look for the old Company members, or improve their own abilities to a point where they can take the old members' places without looking ridiculous?

"Enough!" Grush roared, finally. "Time to squash!"

"Very well," Sperlin said testily, "there's no need to scream my ears off!"

"Yea, verily, smite the unholy dog!" chanted the priest antiphonally, lighting a stick of Pre-sacrificial incense.

"Ummm... I think maybe I should be going..." the halfling muttered from the gloaming.

"What?!" the orc said, in seeming surprise, "You're going to hurt me? You can't do that!"

"Oh yeah? Why not, smart guy?" asked Sperlin, smirking.

"Well, for one thing, all my friends would be terribly upset," the orc said, and pushed aside the Curtain of Illusion that had hidden the true contents of the room. Waiting behind were the brothers, sisters, cousins and assorted other relatives of every monster that the party had ever killed. Each wore a hideous grin. "I met them at The Inn of All Worlds, and they couldn't get along without me. Hey, what's the matter - did you think that you were the only guys in the world who ever went to a bar?"
Voted Ria Hawk
June 12, 2006, 18:35
0xp
Why haven't I voted on this one before? I know I've read it. Anyway, something that every GM needs to have. I have played games where the players went to the trouble of working out why they were together, and games where not so much. The first is definitely more fun.
Ancient Gamer
June 13, 2006, 12:49
0xp
This goes to you and all those others who just knows they've read something before:
You read it in the forums, before the voting came about!

Nuff Said!
MoonHunter
March 28, 2007, 0:29
0xp
I forgot about this one. I remembered writing it, but I could not find it for a while. Here it is. Thank you Ria for HoHing it.
manfred
March 28, 2007, 4:59
0xp
(Didn't read it, or maybe before, just a quick comment: ) This could be easily turned into a scroll.
Voted Longspeak
April 17, 2014, 11:25
0xp
I just had a prospective player for my game explain to me how my method of thinking about the *person* and how he fits into the world is silly and a waste of time. He just wanted to talk about his *power*

I had a current player wonder why I wouldn't just drop a new player character into a scene.

I wish I'd seen this sooner. I'd have linked them to it.

I think, for many players, the first play session marks the "beginning" for the character. What came before doesn't matter, doesn't bear thinking about beyond how it relates to the abilities or motivation of the character. But how we got here helps us understand how we'll get *there*.

Excellent thoughts, well expressed.


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       By: Ria Hawk

Rivers and other natural boundaries are used as political boundaries as well.

Ideas  ( System ) | October 24, 2002 | View | UpVote 0xp


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