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Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #3: Meet Markets

Written by MythicParty - Published on March 6, 2013

Image courtesy of pixbox77 FreeDigitalPhotos.net‘Tales From the Other Side of the Screen’ is a weekly response to Darkwarren’s DM Dispatches column, providing a Player perspective to our DM’s view. “So you’re all in this tavern, drinking and stuff and umm, this strange merchant comes up to you….”  the DM intones, as the Player’s eyes collectively glaze over.  Look, its not always easy bringing a party together.  Darkwarren’s idea to have us player’s suggest the connections we had to each other through the town was a good starting point for establishing our shared commonality.  But he’s right, we didn’t all use it or probably use it as deeply as he had been hoping we’d do.  However considering our last campaign, Kingmaker (think Old School Keep of the Borderlands) had a completely homogeneous party of Dwarves, some of whom were even related, the Meet Up then was a lot more obvious.

For me I had thought of a backstory that would have made me come from out of town, partially to keep with the whole wandering Monk motiff & partly because I didn’t think EVERYONE should start off in the same town.  Just didn’t seem realistic to me.  So after coming up with the broad outline, I asked if Darkwarren could fill in the details- names, places, & most importantly the reason my Monk was ‘on the run’ for his life.  He gave some ideas, I suggested some changes, he responded with other possibilities & then my character evolved out of that back-and-forth process.  We also set up some ‘secrets’ in that there are aspects to the character which may or may not be later revealed, depending upon how things progress both story-wise as well as through roleplaying with the rest of the party.

So how can you bring all the PCs into a single unit & then have that introduction be believable enough for them to stick with each other?  Well here are a few ‘hooks’ that I’ve seen other DMs use to help get all those different ‘fish’ to land into the same boat:

  1. The Job Tree- i.e. have one set place where notices for hirelings are put.  Sort of an employment office for adventurers.  Natural magnet.
  2. All in the Family- i.e. the entire party is related, whether by blood, marriage, or through bond.
  3. The C-Team- i.e. the party is the fantasy version of a special forces group, whether officially sanctioned, officially coerced, or forced into hiding
  4. Offer You Can’t Refuse- i.e. the players are all in the debt of an organized crime organization, & while crime pays the debt is never paid off.
  5.  Jail Break- i.e. the group is in prison or held in slavery when the opportunity to escape presents itself.  On the run & with scarce resources they must work together in order to survive
  6. Cube Us- i.e. the PCs all wake up in a strange place with no memories of how they got there or even who they are.  The names & background get filled in as the campaign progresses.
  7. Dream Machine- i.e. whether divine or for another reason, everyone receives the same omen, image, dream quest, etc.  It points them in a common direction & the symbols from the dream provide clues for who they should work with & what they should do.

What do YOU think?  Do any of these hooks work for you?  Was Darkwarren’s ‘make a connection to the town’ technique something you’ve tried or should he have done in a different direction?


Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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4 Responses to “Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #3: Meet Markets”
  1. Darkwarren says:

    One of the most interesting hooks I ever read about was a DM that got the party together by having them be individuals teleported to a dragon’s cave because the dragon happened to draw a particular card from its deck of many things.

    This would be a creative hybrid of the Cube and Offer You Can’t Refuse.

  2. Chris says:

    I have used multiple things to draw PCs together:

    Abducted to compete in overlords games, the first game they fought and ended up losing and the overlord took a player and killed them, in truth they ran into the player later that had been moved to another team. They worked well together after first attempt at dungeon. Came to find out the deaths inside the dungeon were real but the outside was not. They also discovered that a treasure did await those that conquered the dungeon but the overlord was using multiple groups as entertainment to find the grand treasure for him.

    The PCs are known as the healed due to getting sick and getting better whereas others die. They are picked to find cure.

    Abducted as 0 levels PCs into a mining prison camp, as they solve problems they get their first class. They did not like this as much due to not being happy about class.

    Series of flashbacks over their childhoods creating interactions between players. Shared back story between PCs and with the land. They knew of the riseup of the rogues, the accidental meeting with a prince, the temple scandal, the prince’s coronation, and the king the PCs knew dies. I think overall this was best one i did but very hard.

  3. Jeff says:

    One campaign, I had the players write their story and had them come to a bar. I gave them all letters that told them what they saw from their point of view. Then some in distressed entered asking for help (a woman I believe). One of the players was a Paladin, so he stood up first and asked of the other patrons of the bar who would help. And that is how it began.

  4. Kate says:

    Although I’ve been playing D&D for a couple years now, I just stared DMing a campaign I created last week. So we’ve only done one session, but I used “The Job Tree” as a way to bring the players together. There is a guild located in (what became) their starting town that they all want to become a part of, so it worked out really well. Each player’s desire to join it was so strong that they chose individually to go to the same place, which I loved since the characters’ desires were being acted upon instead of just players’ outside game knowledge.

    I’ve played in a campaign where the Cube Us method was used, but characterization was never achieved as much as I would have liked that way. Dream machine is another method I’ve experienced, which I really liked, however my fellow players in that campaign were reluctant to share their visions or even roleplay.

    Personally, I think that The Job Tree and Offer You Can’t Refuse are the strongest ways to tie PCs together. Especially if they are newer players or weaker at roleplaying.

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