Monday, January 6, 2014

Make it Count

I'm working on a new campaign, in case you couldn't tell by the villain question from earlier. Anyway, I been trying to determine the best way to help my players make a connection with their characters and that means that I've been looking over the last ten years worth of notes that I've been keeping to see what worked and what was crap. To that end I've found three things that really worked in my previous campaigns and I'm going to be using all three in this one. 

The Three Things that Worked

1.) How do you know everyone else you're adventuring with? While many groups that I've played with over the years tend to never ask this question I've found that finding an answer that matters to your players - he's my brother, or we trained under the same master, or we were childhood friends - tends to have a major impact on them and gets the party gelling fast than almost anything else I've ever done. 

2.) What are your three goals? I picked this one up from the Sons of Kryos podcast years ago, but it was a hell of a great idea. Each player has to come up with three goals for their character; one that can be accomplished in a short amount of time, one that will take some protracted effort, and one that may only be accomplished over the lifetime of the character. Now these can totally change as you play the character but by establishing a goal for your character from the get go you really find its personality developing earlier rather than eight or ten sessions down the line. 

3.) What's your secret reason for adventuring? I absolutely love this one. When my players first start adventuring I have them choose between either a random reason for adventuring or to provide me with a reason. In either case they can choose to keep it a secret or to share it with the group. But suffice it to say we've had blood feuds, space cops, and time travelers crop up over the years. It's always a fun addition to the campaign and it usually gives them something extra to adventure for (and before you ask, no, I never make anyone play anything they don't like).

So what works for your campaigns?


  1. I like the one for the three goals. I may have to steal that.

    DnD doesn't usually include much in the way of character development beforehand. It's absolutely an area that can be expanded upon.

    I usually give tiny amounts of XP to players for answering little backstory bits like that. They can complete them at any time, so players often fill them out at character creation, or when they think of interesting things, or when they need that 20 XP to level.

  2. I like the three goals thing; I'm definitely going to use that in the future. One thing I like to do at the beginning of each session is ask the players questions about their character's past or their motivations or how a recent campaign event impacted them. The goal is to try and get them thinking in character, and sometimes it's a useful way to transition from the pre-game bullshit session into the actual game. I talk a little more about this here:

  3. It's a good collection of ideas. The back story and how the characters are connected works as long as the mortality in the game is not too high. It gets confusing if 2 characters are brothers and one dies. What definitely makes a strong connection at first, will alienate the connection to the next character (even more so if the first connection was well established). But it always depends on how likely it is in your game that those first characters die :) Still, it's a good idea.

    One of the things I often did with some success was giving them a near-death-experience early on. That first time they face a threat, is (if done right) also the first time they really take a look at their character sheet. Maybe like a test drive with a new car it's were they see what they got and how it is supposed to work. If the decisions they have to make are difficult, it often enough results in a bond that helps defining the character/s and his/their position in the group.

    I'd also be interested to hear what other things you tried and the reasons why you decided to let them go ...

    1. Got some for you here


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