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Made in us
Monster-Slaying Daemonhunter




How do you gather your adventurers in your campaigns?

"You all find yourselves in a Tavern..."
"You awake to find yourselves in a dungeon...."
"You are all hired Mercenaries on a wagon train heading towards a castle in the far off north..."

What plot hook do you all use to gather your party at the start of a campaign?

I recently used a "failure" start that someone suggested to me, and I really enjoyed how it made the players more invested in trying harder.

They had all awoken in a the care of a local town healer, as they had all seemingly been in a party together, but had been badly defeated by an evil wizard, that had taken their memories and belongings." All they had was the scars and the bruises of the battle, but no memories of why they were there or what their motivation was.

What are your favorite starting points for new adventures?

Looking for good inspiration for my new campaign I am starting with my friends next weekend. I plan to run sort of an home brew offshoot of Tomb of Annihilation, but not actually the Tomb. Kinda shake out the people who think they can Meta game.

Thanks!
   
Made in us
Regular Dakkanaut




All six of you are in a line on a large gallows with nooses around your neck and bags over yours heads. You hear the words "do it" from the officer who led the lot of you up there in chains then you fall, hear your neck snap with a brief stab of intense pain and consciousness slips away.

Some indeterminate time later you awake, fuzzy headed and confused, the others are likewise all laying on a large stone floor with magical symbols scrawled all around you and the feeling of recent strong magic use in the air. Miraculously you are alive, necks unbroken, but there is some sort of metal collar around your neck. You look around and see a dais with a large heavily bearded man in elaborate robes observing you and the others as you awake; once all are aware of him he gives a truly evil smile and says "you are all mine now....."







   
Made in us
Longtime Dakkanaut




Central California

Caveat:
My group tends to play a more heroic style (meaning the players are more interested in being the "good" guys and saving the world rather than Killing and stealing for experience.) We generally have the players belong to an organization of Hero's for Hire, or working for a deposed princess, or the like.

My favorite is the Losing cause. Backgrounds for each character that explain why they were in a losing cause and find themselves in a slave wagon/ship/cave whatever of the despicable bad guys.

Keeping the hobby side alive!

I never forget the Dakka unit scale is binary: Units are either OP or Garbage. 
   
Made in us
Monster-Slaying Daemonhunter




petrov27 wrote:
All six of you are in a line on a large gallows with nooses around your neck and bags over yours heads. You hear the words "do it" from the officer who led the lot of you up there in chains then you fall, hear your neck snap with a brief stab of intense pain and consciousness slips away.

Some indeterminate time later you awake, fuzzy headed and confused, the others are likewise all laying on a large stone floor with magical symbols scrawled all around you and the feeling of recent strong magic use in the air. Miraculously you are alive, necks unbroken, but there is some sort of metal collar around your neck. You look around and see a dais with a large heavily bearded man in elaborate robes observing you and the others as you awake; once all are aware of him he gives a truly evil smile and says "you are all mine now....."

This is awesome, thank you! It never occured to me to have the "Helgen" opening....







   
Made in us
Battlefield Tourist




MN

I do like starting "In Media Res" as that tends to focus the mind very quickly.

The exact nature of the "In Media Res" depends a lot on the character backgrounds.

Do you like Free Wargames?
http://bloodandspectacles.blogspot.com/ 
   
Made in ca
Junior Officer with Laspistol





London, Ontario

In general, I have the heroes "answer the call" and meeting at the quest giver. Whether they know each other or not from the past, that's up to them and I generally don't care.

I almost always have a campaign start at the quest giver to provide an immediate "Here's where you start." point.

It might have a multi-point option... if they meet in a city with a few local problems, I let them pick which way they want to go and then modify the encounters to their level.

I started one campaign with the adventurers all waking up at the same inn... during a goblin raid on the town. So they all get up, rush downstairs, fight the gobbos in the saloon, band together, and then help the townspeople from there. (No Mages, didn't need to worry about memorizing spells. ). That lead to immediate recognition by the townspeople as "heroes" and the go-to group for adventury problems, like rescuing the Mayor's (Significant Person) abducted during the raid. It was a heroic monster-slaying campaign, not heavy on plot but worked *perfectly* as the start for that campaign. Got right into the monster bashing, as a wealthy Silver mining town it was always easy and "in universe" to have appropriate financial rewards for gear leveling, even if slaying monsters without a reason to have treasure. For that style of game, it was just perfect.
   
Made in de
Terrifying Doombull






Nuremberg

These days I'm quite happy to have everyone start in a tavern broke and looking for something to do. I generally have a few ne're do wells who've been delving in the nearby ruins or barrows or dungeons gloating over some obvious bit of loot and living it up to act as a nudge to go get your own treasure, some conversation bemoaning the trouble the delvers are stirring up to encourage the more heroic types to go looking for that trouble, and maybe some merchants complaining about trouble on the road from some slightly further away threat they can go explore.

I might also have wanted posters, a member of a political faction and their entourage passing through (my favourite is a hellknight from my evil empire with a hellhound).

Throw it all out, let the players pick what they want to do and file secondary objectives away for later.

I've done hot starts and memory loss starts and "you wake up in a dungeon" starts before too. But the tavern is a classic for a reason!

   
Made in us
Regular Dakkanaut




Yeah it really helps I find to give the players an immediate reason beyond applying for a job or an "adventurers wanted" post in the town square on why they are doing that together or will be working together. Maybe they are brothers/sisters (thinking like movie Tombstone with the Earps all going together to make their fortune,) all belong to some faction, maybe they were all in the army together and saw some sh!t etc.

I still recall running a game set in the US Wild West around the joining of the Eastern and Western railways, the lead in was all of the characters had applied for well paying jobs at one of the largest ranches in the area. They all got the jobs - there were many applicants aside from the characters so there were "trials" of skill they had to go through to be chosen - that actually went very well. Of course after that two of the players decided despite being hired together they had no reason to really "bond" with the other four, despite putting them through some action where they had to help each other.

To their credit, some of that was because they had made detailed backgrounds for their characters, but this led to one of them being more affluent, "from back east" and not wanting to bond with the more typical "salt of the earth" cowboy types. This was a huge pain to get them working as a team. For games I ran after that one I have always tried to give some more concrete reason up front that they work/travel/party together because of X.

This message was edited 6 times. Last update was at 2021/02/12 16:15:06


 
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut





There is the old Ulysses 31 opening for adventure on the high seas / in space - the players start out triumphantly defeating an evil cult (or being saved from said cult) only for -

"Mortals, you defy the Gods? I sentence you to travel among unknown stars. Until you find the Kingdom of Hades, your bodies will stay as lifeless as stone."

Crew / friends / family turned to stone, save those (players) involved in the opening encounter.

---------------------------

My first DM was always fond of the 'washed up together after a magical storm'.
It's a variation on the broader theme of having all players heading to the same event when something happens to throw them together.

For some plots it's enough to have just one player invested in its completion if the others are invested in them, or someone with them.
   
Made in us
Exalted Beastlord




FezzikDaBullgryn wrote:
petrov27 wrote:
All six of you are in a line on a large gallows with nooses around your neck and bags over yours heads. You hear the words "do it" from the officer who led the lot of you up there in chains then you fall, hear your neck snap with a brief stab of intense pain and consciousness slips away.

Some indeterminate time later you awake, fuzzy headed and confused, the others are likewise all laying on a large stone floor with magical symbols scrawled all around you and the feeling of recent strong magic use in the air. Miraculously you are alive, necks unbroken, but there is some sort of metal collar around your neck. You look around and see a dais with a large heavily bearded man in elaborate robes observing you and the others as you awake; once all are aware of him he gives a truly evil smile and says "you are all mine now....."


This is awesome, thank you! It never occured to me to have the "Helgen" opening....

It's the Raymond E Feist start.
It also, in my experience, leads to revenge plans and ignoring the plot. Half the party will not let go of the idea that the 'bearded man' is the real actual Big Bad, and most of the rest don't care. They just don't want their characters treated like crap.


----
I tend to prefer the simple job start, having the players coming up with their own motivations and pursing them or not as they prefer. Starting characters don't need epic starts. Their lack of ability to be epic is a disheartening disconnect when it's tried.

I'm allergic to the 'and YOU unleashed the ancient evil,' simply for being on the receiving end so many times,

And amnesia starts just get audible sighs of disgust from me. That's a sad, bad fiction trope with no basis in reality. Like most mental conditions, games and media do a crap job of portraying it.

Though time travel shenanigans are worse, just for bogging down in rules of time travel and trying to avoid the railroad.


----
I will say my experience is colored a lot by a lot of new groups as I travelled and relocated a lot. There is a big difference with a steady 10 year group when you know their preferences and level of buy in.

This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2021/02/12 16:46:39


Efficiency is the highest virtue. 
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut





Voss wrote:
Though time travel shenanigans are worse, just for bogging down in rules of time travel and trying to avoid the railroad.
I got a time travel plot working once (and so far just the once).

The players started in the present doing usual adventuring and the world had a number of 'potentials' scattered around such as a ancient magically formed crater. The time travel aspect of the plot saw the players briefly thrown back in time to events surrounding the fall of the old empire. During that time there were things the players could do that would tie into the 'potentials' (i.e. being involved in the crash of the magisters flying palace) which they would associate with the crater from the future, but at the same time if they missed any cues it didn't matter - the crater was just a crater.

It gave the illusion of predestination.

And then the third act centered around the magisters who had waited out the fall frozen in time reappearing in the 'present' world with the players able to retrace their steps from the second act (knowing where a particular item was hidden or lost in the past for example).
   
Made in us
Monster-Slaying Daemonhunter




I guess I am just sick of Taverns, Meetings on the road, and all the other basic tropes of starting adventures.

On the other hand I am tired of working my but off to create a plot hook and having them spend the first 2 sessions forming a blood fued with the drunk in the bar who said something to the fighter, while the BBEG tortures kittens and strangles puppies.

I want to give the players complete agency, but I also don't want to work hard creating something that they ignore 90% of the time.

I want to do something that snap focuses them onto a specific idea, purpose, or reason for even sticking around. Which is why I like the idea of ToA, it pulls the TICKING CLOCK hook. Bam, day one, you all are in a town on a dock, and you feel slightly ill. From day 1 forward everyone in the group loses 1 HP, and if anyone reaches zero, you die and wake up as a thrall of the lich, perma death. At level 1 this is somewhat harsh though, so I plan on "Cursing" them around the middle of the first day.
   
Made in us
Battlefield Tourist




MN

My approach to this is simple..... set a scene and then let it play out. No need to plan anything.

One of my most successful recent games started like this....

"As you and your friends were cutting across the mall of the University to your night classes something glinted in the artificial light of a lamp post. You notice a fashionable, black, heeled women's shoe, Nearby, a pale foot leads up to an exposed ankle and then into the bushes along your route.

What do you want to do?"

No matter what happens, things can happen from here..... they can ignore it, they can investigate. Either way, the hook is set. I literally had nothing else and it ended up being a nice 3 hour session of mystery, mayhem, and monsters.

Another example I have used....

"You all step out of the club. It is deep into the night, and as you were closing the place down the streets are sparsely populated. Headlights flash across your small group and throw you in stark relief. The next moment is the squeal of brakes, and the sickening shriek of metal rending. Your pulse suddenly races and you instinctively react. It takes a few moments for you to realize that you are unhurt.

As you look around, a large black sedan has crashed into the wall of the club near you. The front end is completely wrecked and the glass shattered. The driver's side door is open and a man slumps across the wheel. The interior of the car is splashed with blood. You can smell gas.

What do you do?"

Again, no matter what happens from here.... the game will go forward. If they investigate, what do they find? If they flee, what happens next? Just let it evolve.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/02/12 18:26:55


Do you like Free Wargames?
http://bloodandspectacles.blogspot.com/ 
   
Made in us
Dominating Dominatrix






I do a cold open mid adventure.

What I like to do is tell the players they got a map/whatever for a old bandit hide out/whatever and they have been searching for the entrance for x amount of time and you think you are close.

Start them off a day or 2 travel from a town/city where the real game can begin but in the middle of doing something that will give them a bit of action and some loot to start so that they appear in the world already with a purpose and already encouraged to head into town when they are done to sell off their loot.

Think of the opening to the first episode of Firefly. They are already there scavenging the derelict ship. Great!

A cold open has a lot of advantages. Including giving every person at the table a purpose and avoiding all the weird awkward having the players meet each other even though they all already know they are the party. It's great.


These are my opinions. This is how I feel. Others may feel differently. This needs to be stated for some reason.
 
   
Made in de
Pyromaniac Hellhound Pilot






One opening I really liked was when we started a new campaign (other RPG, but similar medieval fantasy setting) with 2 older characters who knew each other and 3 new ones. The DM had taken the time to talk to us about our characters beforehand and directly write some interaction by mail. Which led to one of the old and one of the new characters having a very personal bond to her Character, a cleric. Said cleric had gone missing, so both of them - separately and not knowing of each other - had started looking. He brought his old mate along (the other older character) mine was a highborn knight and had met another highborn he seemed trustworthy enough to help him. Both pairs soon realized none of them would break their friend free and so started of as unlikely allies to break him free.

~5750 build and painted 
   
Made in us
Member of the Ethereal Council




USA

The favorite one I ever attempted (I need to work on my delivery) was;

"You are all on a boat."

I let them interact with each other and the boat for a bit, or until they're clearly ready to move on.

"The boat is sinking."

Time to see how they avoid going down with the ship and surviving being adrift at sea!

"There's a ship on the horizon heading toward an island."

They pick how to handle that, the ship is basically going to the island but how the players show interest and look at things I use as a guide for what comes next.

"The ship is manned by a crew of goblins and none of them seem to have any idea what they're doing!"

Que my pitch for a Ghosts of Saltmarsh/sea exploration campaign, where the party gets a ship, a crew, and should have all those things ready to go or in hand within a session or two

   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut






One which I am currently working out the building blocks of is more of an "and then suddenly" sort of twist than the definitive start...

Opening: The players have been contracted by an artificer to recover a black diamond from a nearby dungeon. This is a moderately quick dungeon crawl and shouldn't take too long, just long enough to get the players invested.

They return to the artificer and the artificer offers to bestow on them a great gift in return for their services. He puts them all in a room and informs them through the window that he's going to make them effectively immortal - if they should ever die, they will instead appear in this room, exactly as they are now.

There's a blinding flash of white light, and as it fades the walls of the room have become shabby and worn; the door is crooked, the window cracked. The door opens and you see the artificer, bent and ancient over a cane. He looks at the party and says with surprise "All of you? How did you all get killed at once? That's why the diamonds cracked! Well I hope you're happy - that was your last chance!

The party then discovers that it's been about a hundred years, a great evil has befallen the land and they have been fighting it. The BBEG knows them intimately, having fought them many times now, but they don't know him - they were killed, and appeared as they were at the start - with no memories.

The players end up having to navigate a world where they're well known but that they do not know, with a BBEG who keeps hinting at knowing them better than they do, and everything that they saw in the brief run-up to the event is now changed - camps turned to towns, towns turned to cities, cities to rubble, and evil holding sway in the world. Perhaps one of the players was a traitor in their "past life", and the BBEG greets them as a friend. There's a lot for them to take in!

12,300 points of Orks
9th W/D/L with Orks, 4/0/2
I am Thoruk, the Barbarian, Slayer of Ducks, and This is my blog!

I'm Selling Infinity, 40k, dystopian wars, UK based!

I also make designs for t-shirts and mugs and such on Redbubble! 
   
Made in us
Combat Jumping Ragik






Beyond the Beltway

"You found a map to a treasure/dungeon/forgotten land/etc. What do you do?"

It's opened ended. Use the map, seek someone to buy the map, do something else..whatevs. The PCs are adventurers, treasure hunters. They are not *heroes* at all. That idea needs to die in a blast furnace. They may eventually become heroes, but they do not start that way.


 
   
Made in de
Terrifying Doombull






Nuremberg

Treasure map is a good one! I also agree that describing the players as heroes skews things a certain way. I prefer to just refer to them as players, as it helps reinforce that we are playing a game together and keep some of the more selfish impulses in check by remembering that it's about having a good time together.


   
Made in us
Regular Dakkanaut






I have done "you're all commoners in a tavern" and then have the city invaded and they have to stick together and run or be slaughtered.

Sometimes I'll do some one on one situations that start someone anywhere in their back story and push them to a nexus where they run into everyone else. Could be they answer recruitment by an official, run into each other at a tomb, perhaps they have all been party of a spy network and their handler brings them together for something, etc.

People who want to play evil parties, I like to get them in a position where they either start with or come under domination by a crime lord or other big bad that can threaten their lives or something important to them if they don't serve him (until their strong enough to overthrow him). e.g. they start a standard murder hobo session in a town, and the town crime boss reigns them in and focuses them

If the composition is right they might all start as part of an army or a militia summoned to service.




   
Made in gb
Mysterious Techpriest






my current campain started with one of the pc's having a fever-dream nightmare where the faces of the people in it matched the rest of the party and i made him literally run into one of the other players as they were at work.
the remaining player was 'just passing through this town' but i gave the pc at work a 'sweep and clear' task they would need to hire some hirelings for a decent wage due to lack of available manpower in the town.

Yes, they ended up meeting at the bar.


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-px27tzAtVwZpZ4ljopV2w "ashtrays and teacups do not count as cover"
"jack of all trades, master of none; certainly better than a master of one"
The Ordo Reductor - the guy's who make wonderful things like the Landraider Achillies, but can't use them in battle..  
   
 
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