Hello students, Crunch here with an article from Faculty Member Ryan Porta.
Fun Suggestions for Introducing the New Party Member
Your gaming group has been together for over a decade. The party was cleaning out caves of kobolds and goblins while you were in grade school. In high school, saving towns and villages from raiding parties of orcs and pesky drow were all the rage. Amazingly, you only fought your first dragon soon after going starting college. But now one of your members is moving away. For the first time in your gaming career, you are short a party member. And I don’t mean halflings.
It was bound to happen to your gaming group at some point. If you make it 10 years without losing a party member—congratulations! Your group is the exception! However, most of us experience the loss of a group member frequently. I have only been tabletop gaming for a little more than 6 years, and have already had half a dozen come and go! You may have never had to deal with a new player and new character making their entrance midway through your campaign, but it can be challenging. Very typically, the characters are in a tavern when the new member walks in, along with some thin justification of why he or she should join the party. Have you ever heard the joke about Joreth the 4th, brother of Joreth the 3rd, brother or Joreth the 2nd, brother of Joreth the Fighter joining the party? It’s not that much of an exaggeration.
But what if your three adventurers are tired of getting drunk in a bar, ready for excitement? What if the party isn’t, to use another classic example, leaving a city, hired by a wealthy merchant to guard his caravan along with a new friend? How do you add the new party member while in the middle of a forest, out on the open road, or deep in a dungeon? I’ve come up with a list of entrances for new characters (and their players) that are fun, help generate a background, and might supply an immediate plot hook or two for the DM.
THAT DARK FOREST
1) Legends abound regarding the great forest to the north. Ghosts and all kinds of undead creatures are said to protect it. No–one really knows. This is where the party comes enters. They go in to explore, maybe because they are interested, or maybe they are hired by a village to clear out the spirits. The party might find that these spirits actually turn out to be the new PC, hiding for some reason. He has been using wind chimes and costumes to scare people away.
2) While wandering through the forest, the party picks up on the dying moans of a trapped creature. The creature turns out to be none other than the new PC, beaten and left for dead. After untying the new player from the sacrificial altar, they learned he trespassed on a burial ground and the wood elves did not approve.
3) The party is tired and finds a nice clearing to camp for the night. Just after midnight, the watch picks up on movement beyond the fire light. A few stealth and investigation checks later, the watch sneaks up on the new player and takes him by surprise! He claims to be the last survivor of a caravan that was attacked. He fought for his life and was barely able to escape. He’d be grateful if you helped him strike a blow against the bandits.
ON THE ROAD TO ADVENTURE
1) Many perils can occur on unpatrolled roads of the kingdom. The simple and most common of which are traps and pitfalls set by daring souls who prey on the dim–witted. Surely a single trickster is no match for a seasoned group of adventurers, who offer to spare the life of the overzealous swindler in exchange for working off his crimes.
2) A lonely horse and saddle are tied up on the side of the road. The horse is in distress, and the many hoof prints tell any player with a successful Animal Handling check that it has been alone for a while. Nearby, tracks lead to an ambush. A wise ranger might notice the ambush, or even come upon the small pile of treasure and the tied up PC the horse belongs to.
3) The party decides to sleep at a popular crossroads. Late in the evening, another group nears the area and does the same. There is a commotion in the middle of the night, yelling that lasts for an hour or two, and a search party that rushes past your campsite. Shortly after, the party begins its travels again. aAyoung stranger emerges from the tree line, asking if he might travel with your party, since you both seem to be going in the same direction.
DEEP IN A DUNGEON
1) The party is slowly making their way through a long and harrowing dungeon crawl. You follow the map until you get to a room marked simple as “Statues”. Inside, you find a large room filled with the most lifelike statues of adventurers you have ever seen. The detail is exquisite and some of the equipment looks usable. A greedy party member might break off a sword, accidently shattering the magical stone encasing the statue’s hand. Moments later, an unfortunate adventurer is sitting on the floor in front of you, dark stone shards littering the ground.
2) You enter a large square room. A clear and obvious summoning circle is drawn on the floor. On the far wall, 3 bodies hang from chains in the wall. As you go around the circle so you don’t disturb it, faint and labored breathing can be heard over your own. Could one of those poor souls be alive?
A TRAVELING CIRCUS
1) There are so many fun games and sights to see at “Snifblim’s Traveling Circus”! Maybe the fighter of the group tests his strength against the circus’ strong “man”, a ferocious dragonborn. The sign next to him says he has never been beaten. And in truth, he hadn’t until you showed up! A few hours later, the dragonborn tracks you down, asking to join your party, as strong adventurers like yourself must see more interesting sights than the circus.
2) Dusk is coming on. Most of the children and woman are leaving. You notice the men and unsavory guests head toward a lighted tent. Upon entering, a ring master is asking for challengers. Over to the side, locked in a cage, an uninterested tiefling sits, head hung in defeat. A drunk man volunteers and the ring master signals to a pair of men near the cage. One unlocks the cage, while the second prods the tiefling into the ring with a spear. He just stands there looking at you, while the drunken man takes weak swings at him. After several moments, he dodges and with a well-placed strike, knocks the drunk senseless. Without celebrating, he walks back to his cage and sits while the ring master collects the bets. As the party turns to leave, each of you hear a plea in your mind, “Help me…”
1) The party is forced to make its way through the busy market place, heading toward the meeting place for one of their contacts. A hard knock from a hooded figure jars you. Dark eyes meet yours, and then the person rushes off, pushing people over. You give chase, knowing you are an entire coin purse lighter. You run through the market, down an alley and into a bar. No–one bothers to look up as you make your way through the bar. In the back, there is a loud group of dwarfs, and the same hooded thief tossing your coins on the table. The one at the head of the table takes a look, snatches it up and drops a single coin at the hooded thief’s feet. The thief hides in the corner as you make your way into the room, looking for your gold. As the inevitable fight breaks out, the thief doesn’t raise a blade against either side. Perhaps there is more to this thief after all?
I SAW IT FIRST
1) There is nothing worse than making that long journey to find treasure and get to it at the same time as another group. But what if it is just one person, trying to do it all himself or herself. After the resulting argument and trap that is eventually set off, the party and single treasure hunter both find themselves trapped in the temple. Working together is the only way out. Will the truce last? Who comes away with the treasure? Maybe the party recognizes the skill and would benefit by adding the talent?
WHO DOESN’T WANT A SQUIRE?
1) Why not have a bit of fun at the festival? There is an open call for participants in a jousting challenge. Your paladin has great experience on horseback; surely he will win. And he does just that, unseating his last opponent with the third lance! Cheers go up, flowers are thrown, and a huge gold trophy is your prize. While gathering your equipment, the knight in the finals comes over. He removes his helmet, revealing an older man, long past his golden years. He explains he is retiring, and his square shall now be yours. He thanks your paladin for looking out for the young man and teaching him right. He leaves the lad standing there, not so much as a hand shake as he walks away. The party is now 1 person larger.
‘TIS OUR DUTY TO SAVE THAT VILLAGE!
1) While heading down from the mountain side, the party can see the smoke coming from several chimneys in the village on the horizon. Hours pass and as the party gets closer, the light from the village becomes brighter and brighter. More smoke fills the sky. Screams can be heard coming from the village when the party is within a few miles. Riding to the rescue of the inhabitants, the PCs are able to drive off most of the pack of raiding goblins. In the morning light, after taking stock of the damage the party finds a few survivors. One is a young woman. Your party is the reason she is alive, but she has no reason to stay now that her family has been slain. She is familiar with the surrounding territory, and can handle a [insert weapon here], that her father taught her to use. She won’t be turned away.
These ideas are just a few of an infinite number of character beginnings. Maybe that new player will have their own idea if none of these fit your campaign. Just make sure you thoroughly discuss their entrance scene with them, and also how they plan to role play that scene. Be prepared if another character isn’t thrilled to have to be splitting gold with a stranger from now on. Whatever you choose, make it fun, exciting, and memorable. Hook that new player, and you won’t have to worry about writing another story for a long time. ‘Cause if you are having fun, you’re doing it right!
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