Tell me if you’ve heard something similar to this before:
“You have been summoned to the Wayward Knave, the seedy tavern on the outskirts of town. You arrive at the establishment and find yourself ushered towards a large table near the back of the lively taproom, meeting several other adventurers who received a similar invitation. You are soon joined by a mysterious figure, shrouded by a dark cloak, hoping to hire you all for a peculiar quest.”
This is seen by most as the stereotypical introduction for your generic Dungeons & Dragons adventure. It even has a page on TV Tropes dedicated to it. The trope is incredibly old, having been the subject of countless jokes and parodies over the years. That being said, the trope keeps coming back due to the fact that it allows you to jump right into the beginning of an adventure with little to no effort from either side of the screen.
Personally, I prefer for my parties to have some awareness of each other before they set forth on their first adventure together. This can be handled in a multitude of ways, but the method that I prefer is loosely based upon Fiasco‘s Set-Up.
The process works like this. During Session Zero, after everyone has created their characters, they will take turns defining the relationships they have with their fellow adventurers. On each turn, a player can perform one of the two following actions:
- Define the basic relationship their character has with the character on either side of them.
- Specify the exact nature of an already defined relationship their character has with another character.
This continues until every character has two specific relationships with two other characters within the party. The relationships can be just about anything the players can possibly imagine. The characters could be siblings, lovers, business associates, or even rivals. The goal is to have a group who has some knowledge of each other, have some reason to band together, and give the GM some possible hooks for future adventures.
You don’t have to be this structured with your approach to creating a party with pre-existing relationships. I just enjoy making a small mini-game out of the process. The biggest piece of advice I can give you about establishing these relationships, whether you use the method detailed above or one your more comfortable with, is to make sure the relationships actually have some meat to them, presenting some interesting elements for future stories in the campaign. Don’t be afraid to toss in a little bit of conflict, whether it be between the two characters, or from how the world reacts to the relationship.
I would also suggest having one shared element between all the characters. This could be something as simple as them all being from the same village, having a common acquaintance, or being present for a strange event. This shared event will most likely be tied to the first adventure of the campaign, giving them a reason to participate that relates to them personally.
How do you like to get your adventuring bands together? Do you like them to have pre-existing relationships, or be strangers? Tell me in the comments below.