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DM Dispatches # 3 – “Hookin’ Up”

Written by Darkwarren - Published on March 5, 2013

ID-100138788DM 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?

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Written by Darkwarren

Matt W., aka Darkwarren, has been roleplaying ever since his older brother introduced him to the red box set when he was 7 years old. Since then he has game-mastered SSDC’s Battleords of the Twenty-third Century, WEG’s Shadowrun and Star Wars, and of course Dungeons & Dragons in a variety of forms. At thirty-four years old he takes turns on both sides of the screen with the group that he helped found in 2000 when 3.0 hit the stands and has met every week fairly regularly ever since. Currently they have been running a variety of the Paizo Adventure Path scenarios, so that’s his wheelhouse. He was almost famous when two of his adventures were green-lighted for possible publication right before Paizo relinquished the rights to publish Dungeon magazine.

Matt also has years if experience in improvisational comedy, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is currently working and studying to attain a master’s degree in theology, to enhance his career as a religious studies teacher. Lastly, his greatest passion is his family, especially the three sons and dog that he shares with his wife in upstate New York.

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One Response to “DM Dispatches # 3 – “Hookin’ Up””
  1. MythicParty says:

    I think finding a balance is key to believability- not all of the party should be Lone Wolves, but everyone shouldn’t come from same the town either. Basically a little variety is key for realism.

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