On the one hand, it's important to encourage players to bring concepts and characters who take an active part in the story as it unfolds. But rather than slapping someone's hand for playing the game in a way that makes more work for you, do what your old teacher did when you were back in grade school... partner up your players.
|Yes, Sharon, the barbarian is your partner now. Work together to figure out how your stories intertwine.|
Tie Characters To The Each Other To Get Them Involved
A post that came across my feed explained this strategy pretty well, so I'll paraphrase what I saw. Every PC should have their own story about who they are, and how they came to be what they are now. I'd go so far as to say that it should play into their Small Legend, which is a slightly fancier term for their reputation, and what people know about them. The second thing you ask them to do, though, is to work with at least one other player at the table, and to write a second backstory for how they got involved with one another.
|We were at a party, and an old woman rolled some bones. Rest is history, as they say.|
Well, did she take a shine to Correlon the half-elf bard who promised to chronicle her adventures, and who often needs her to drag him out of trouble? Perhaps her life was saved by the sun cleric Mithravas, and now she owes the dark-skinned woman a life debt. She could have even been deep in the woods, far away from any other soul, and met the druid Kalpharas as he changed his skin. Now she fights at his side, a warrior for the balance, adding her fierce fury to a cause she believes in.
Any of those reasons are perfectly fine, and there are hundreds of other possibilities. The point is that by using this second branch of story to tie the character to someone else at the table the risk of Kaylaka feeling alienated or ignored is minimized. She has someone drawing her deeper into the group, and giving her a foot in the door for roleplay. Even if she stays on the fringes of the party, she's still a part of said party because of the relationship with that other character.
Ideally she'll find something to bond with the rest of the party over as time goes on. She slays a demon alongside the paladin, becoming sword siblings, as her culture calls it. She learns to trust the wizard's spells, as they make her stronger, tougher, and more able to fight. She laughs at the rogue's practical jokes, and slowly begins to understand that as she might hunt in the forest, so he can hunt in the stone lands of the cities. But even if Kaylaka doesn't find that common ground with the rest of the party, as long as she has her ally, her fate is still intertwined with what's going on with everyone else.
It's like how Han brought Chewbacca into his nonsense, or how Holmes often embroiled Watson in his cases. The character had a viable skill set, and was a valued addition to the adventure... but it was their connection to a friend that got them out the door.
Just One Strategy of Many
This is in no way a requirement, nor should it be taken as something your game must do. Some players are perfectly capable of flinging their characters into the mix and finding reasons to get involved. Others may be perfectly comfortable with a role on the periphery, slowly getting into the RP and action as things progress. This strategy works best for players who built themselves a strong, silent character, and who have sort of painted themselves into a corner since they forgot this is a group-oriented activity.
Chuck them a line if that's the case. However, try to make sure it happens in your Session 0 if possible, or when a new character is being introduced after the game has started. Because this strategy really works best as a lead-in tactic, rather than after a bunch of story has been established.
As a final note, it is often helpful to have lists of organizations that characters could have met through, or which they still remain a part of. I've written the following supplements which may be of interest to players and DMs alike who are looking for a shared background between two PCs.
- 100 Knightly Orders: From noble guardians of pilgrims, to brutal armored crusaders, anyone who has held a position of note, or served among these orders will forge bonds with companions that may outlast even their membership in the brotherhood of arms. For those who fought for coin, 100 Random Mercenary Companies provides additional options that could be right up your alley.
- 100 Fantasy Guilds: Whether you were monster hunters, tax collectors, drovers, or "transporters," there's a guild that provides you safety and security. A good place to meet companions you then decided to go out into the wider world alongside.
- 100 Secret Societies: Whether they seek to hold onto power, find ancient items, or even to spy on those who would do their homeland hard, fantasy settings are rife with secret societies. And agents in the field could always use a little backup. For those who want a more religious affiliation, you may also want to take a look at 100 Cults to Encounter!
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That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday!
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