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Getting Out of the Tavern

December 3, 2012
Tips & Tricks

Tips & Tricks

I’ve been really busy of late trying to run two different campaigns: one is the Dresden Files RPG and the other is the Pathfinder RPG. These are two very different systems that are completely new to me, so it’s quite a challenge. This is coupled by the fact that I’ve been developing my own campaign setting and will be creating my own adventure paths for the players. So, a lot of work for me but I hope a lot of fun for my players.

One of the things I love about the Dresden Files RPG is the character background process. It is just a brilliant way to develop a party background with real adventure hooks and emotional ties. So I decided to try a little hybridization with my Pathfinder campaign and had my PCs go through a slightly modified character background process that included the Dresden rules. I wanted to get out of the “you all meet at the local tavern” rut, plus I wanted to establish real ties between the characters–especially as they are playing characters that can best be described as “morally flexible”. I’ve found that these parties are harder to gel and can fall into a inter-party squabbling a lot easier than those that are more heroic.

Here is the process I used:

Character Idea

  • Pick a Race
  • Pick a Class
  • Pick an Alignment
  • Name your character

Character Background

1. Where did you come from?

  • What nation is your character from? What region? What culture?
  • What were his family’s circumstances like? (Rich? Poor? Scholarly? Isolated? Religious?)
  • What’s your character’s relationship with his family?
  • How big is the family?
  • How was your character educated?
  • What were your character’s friends like? Did your character get into much trouble?

2. What shaped you?

  • This is the “middle-history”, a seminal event in your young life that helped define who you are as a person. It probably highlights your alignment, bringing it into sharp relief where you had to make a choice. Describe that situation. What lessons were learned? Did someone in particular influence your choice? How?

3. Your First Adventure

  • Remember—you’re young and only 1st level, so this isn’t going to be epic. Maybe you and some friends explored some local caves and crossed paths with a goblin. Maybe some raiders came to your village and you and a few others managed to protect the children.
  • Describe it in just a few sentences. The details will be filled in later.

4. Who’s Path Have You Crossed?

  • Now you’ll take your First Adventure and pass it to the next person, who will add themselves as a supporting player to your adventure. Maybe they came with you to the goblin cave? Maybe they are the child you saved from raiders?
  • Everyone will get a turn to add themselves to each adventure. This helps ensure that you have a common history to pull from.

5. Roll Up Your Character

The process seemed to work rather well–in fact, the part that most people got the most hung-up on was coming up with character names. I also think it got all of the players to think about their characters as characters as opposed to completely focusing on min-maxing (though there was a bit of that as well). We’ll see if the party gels but at least now, before we even set foot in a dungeon, there is a common history with the characters and a reason for them know each other other than they all frequent the same drinking hole.

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