How To Bring A Diverse Party Of PCs Together?
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0952
D&D and other games create a tossed salad of characters. And the character creation process often neglects a party formation step.
Here are a few good ways to get the party together and staying that way.
(Even if you don’t need to bring disparate PCs together, what about using these party origin stories for NPC rival groups?)
They’re On A Team
Simplest: They share an employer, mentor, faction membership.
Give them a credo, agenda, or governance.
My favourite is Ars Magica. Each player has an epic wizard and one season, in turn, to accomplish a quest employing shared minions to level up their spellbook, laboratory, covenant, familiar or simulacrum, or other gain.
Also build into the team structure a graceful way of offering new adventure hooks.
Ask The Players To Decide
Also simple though you might need to roll with unexpected ideas. Or maybe that’s the goal — give you inspiration plus player buy-in.
Ask players to think up connections before the game. Then open the table up for sharing and consensus.
Log all good ideas — even ones the players don’t pick — for possible re-use.
Fun twist: a group of NPC rivals has a party bond or backstory your players came up with but rejected. Make it work great for the NPCs.
Bonded By A Unifying Event
AD&D module N4: Treasure Hunt begins with the characters as galley slaves. Their ship sinks, leaving the group stranded on an island and cooperating for survival.
I ran one of my longest-running and best campaigns ever on this premise. The characters were prisoners when humanoids attacked and killed their captors. After figuring out how to escape their shackles, the party roamed Greyhawk for three years, getting caught up in crazy politics and quests.
Open your campaign with an incredible shared experience that leaves the PCs with a clear goal they can achieve if they band together.
Spin Backstory Connections
Ask for a 1-3 paragraph backstory for each PC. Ask for baked-in hooks like enemies, faction connections, family cahoots, or whatever you like.
Let players know you’ll be making tweaks with their approval.
Lay out all the backstories in front of you and start making connections. Tie people, places, and things together. Turn connections into a plot that will bring and tie characters together.
Forged By A Mystery
You can decide later. Just create a situation that provides clear character connection and an inciting incident to propel PCs forward together.
One time I had characters all start out in ye old tavern. They each had a magic gold ring “heirloom” from an ancestor. As one PC spotted another with an identical ring, all players started making their perception checks.
After that it was a tense backroom meeting trying to figure out why everyone had the same ring, what the rings’ powers might be, why their families lied to them, and what it all meant.
Later on I decided a villain set this up for an evil plan to recruit a group of unwitting pawns. However, those pawns would need a little seasoning first. (I recommend a little garlic and pepper.)
Forged By Villainy
Nothing brings a group together better than a big bad guy who’s already victimized each PC in some way.
Perhaps the PCs know each other already. Or maybe not. But villainous plans give disparate PCs a reason to band together with a cause.
Combo a villain bond with any of the party approaches above for some layered plotting.
It’s tough bringing the party together in a believable way if your game system lets players build characters of all types.
You could hand wave it. But that’s not satisfying for deeper story type campaigns. Though I had success one time just jumping into the game and figuring it out later.
What ways have you brought a strange mix of characters together?