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© 1998-2001 Dru
The characters are related. Maybe they're identical twins, fraternal twins, or regular siblings. Maybe they're in-laws or cousins. Maybe they're married—or divorced. Are they friends or enemies? Do they quarrel with each other but band together when somebody else tries to take sides? If your players are willing to make up shared experiences as they go along, all the better!Friends or rivals.
The characters already know each other. Maybe they grew up next door to each other or in the same village. Maybe they went to the same school, had the same mentor, or belonged to the same guild or military group. Maybe they dated each other. They might have been best friends or rivals. Be cautious about allowing two players to play rivals, however; this only works if they are friendly or respectful rivals (probably of good alignment), each striving to outdo the other but still putting the success of the group first. The rivalry concept can work well, especially if the two characters must finally overcome their rivalry to succeed in a mission or to save each other's lives, but it can also break a team apart if the rivalry grows bitter.Hired as a team.
This is the standard AD&D introduction. The characters are hired by the same person—maybe by somebody who knows each of them separately or maybe by a complete stranger. Maybe the characters all belong to the same guild and are hired by their guildmaster. Maybe they all belong to, or were just drafted into, the military and are put together as a special-ops team. Maybe they gather around the deathbed of somebody they all know separately, and with her last dying breath the NPC asks all of the characters to work together to complete some task. The DM simply hopes that the characters will end up agreeing to stick together as a team after the mission is completed. In the military version of this scenario, the team may be forced to work together until the war is over.Shared mystery.
The characters all hold a piece to a puzzle. Maybe they are all part owners in a mysterious shared inheritance. Maybe they have each been given part of a riddle, matching keys, segments of a magic item, or a section of a map. Maybe they were ordered to go someplace by their mentor "to seek your destiny," and when they arrive, they find each other. The DM sets up some sort of overarching mystery that the characters must work together to solve—possibly over the course of a single adventure, possibly over the course of an entire campaign. New characters can be introduced to this scenario by giving them some new part of the puzzle that will help the established characters.Shared disaster.
The characters all wake up suffering amnesia and find themselves in the same prison camp or cell, or on the slave block together. The characters are sitting in a bar when a fight breaks out between two rival gangs, and each of the gangs assumes that the characters belong to the other one. The characters are all in the wrong place at the wrong time and are accused of some terrible crime. The characters look exactly like an infamous band of highwaymen and, when they find themselves in the same tavern, are suddenly confronted by a squad of city guards hot for their arrest. The characters are all in the same shop when an earthquake hits and topples the building—or a great fire breaks out and begins to ravage the city—or a tsunami hits—or a dragon flies into town and begins munching on the townsfolk. In each case the characters must work together to save themselves or innocent bystanders or to figure out what's going on.The most important thing to remember is that all a DM can do is set the stage; it's up to the players to work together to get the campaign off the ground. However, by giving the players a good idea of what kind of characters will work best in the campaign, encouraging them to develop shared character histories, and putting them in situations that demand their cooperation from the start, the DM can do quite a bit to ease character introductions and interactions from the very first moment of the new campaign.
originally written July 12, 1998