DM Dispatches # 3 – “Hookin’ Up”
DM Dispatches is a weekly column that shares stories and reflections from Darkwarren’s experience dungeon mastering his weekly group’s Rise of the Runelords campaign that started in January 2013. The intention is that other DM’s and players can learn from his experiences as well as enter into discussion and add their two coppers as well. To remind our regular readers (and introduce any new readers), the party for our Rise of the Runelords campaign consists of:
• Zindelo Paci Occam: human – Varisian (think Gypsy) male tattooed sorcerer with a penchant for evocation. Possible “Face” of the party.
• Marta Tog: half-orc female cleric of Irori with a love of knowledge, books, and all things ancient
• Darwidian: half-elf rogue who prefers ranged combat and scouting (and gambling)
• Gregor: human – Kellid (think Celt) male fighter/brawler missing one hand and a scizore on his stump
• Raziel Kane: aasimar – plumekith (think part garuda, an Indian bird angel) musketeer
• Lem Lotuseater: Halfling male monk (this is Mythic Party’s character)
This is the group that steps up to defend the town of Sandpoint during a goblin raid. But how did they come to really know and travel with each other?
The published adventure tells DM’s that the party will be spending most of their time in and around the town of Sandpoint. I invited the players to create their characters with some connection to Sandpoint: the deeper, the better. I also encouraged them to talk to each other and try and connect their PC’s to other PC’s.
We use Obsidian Portal for a lot of our gaming. This allows us to share all sorts of information and ideas: maps, character portraits, information regarding our weekly dinners, and most importantly: roleplaying. Even before we sat around the table and played the first goblin raid with all the mini’s and battle mat, I could have their characters interact with each other and the campaign world. Obsidian Portal is a great resource available to DM’s and I invite you to check it out if you have not already.
But even with this opportunity to roleplay and connect ahead of time I did not get that many PC’s connected to each other. The reality is that so many of us gamers are steeped in the archetypal “lone adventurer” story that of the six PC’s, only two players actively engaged in making sure their characters knew each other and had established relationships with NPC’s in the town before the adventure began. Another two had an impersonal connection in that they came in to town protecting the same merchant. The last two literally came in as loners and strangers with very little in terms of personal connection to the other PC’s or NPC’s.
I could have put my foot down and demanded that they change their characters’ histories. But, seeing as though I’m trying to accept more from my players than reject it was easy enough to get the PC’s involved. I compromised. I talked to some of the players who were playing loners and asked them to be relatively flexible with certain aspects of their PC’s history so that I could create connections between PC’s and NPC’s. I just did not necessarily tell them what that was. If the player did not exactly know things that were going on behind the scenes then the PC would certainly have no idea.
Raziel, the celestial-touched musketeer, started receiving dreams regarding another planar-touched NPC. Lem, the Halfling monk, actually interacted with one of the other PC’s before, it’s just that neither of the characters really know that… yet.
These secret connections add to the drama of the campaign in a variety of ways. The first example allows me to build tension that leads up to an important confrontation. The second allows me to drop an unexpected bomb when I feel it will drive the story forward.
I have always found that when you collaborate with a player’s creativity with regards to their character and their PC’s history it drives the roleplaying to new heights. What are other ways you collaborate with players and delve into their PC’s histories?