“You had me at hello…”

Hello all! Since I’m part of the new team of contributors around here, I thought my first post should be about something related to the idea of “new” and I settled upon this: Introducing new characters to an ongoing campaign.

Recently I had a new player join my five person group the session after two characters had died in combat. Suddenly I found myself having to introduce three new characters into a six character campaign. That’s 50% newness for the math-phobic out there! Some may look at this as a challenge; I saw it as an opportunity…

The two players who already were playing the campaign, after deciding not to magically resurrect their characters (which would have been no easy feat!) set about creating their characters. Having played the campaign for over six months now they knew its tone and feel in a way that no amount of pre-campaign discussion can set up. Sometimes you just need to try something out to really wrap your head around it. So they had the advantage of creating new characters that fit not only with the dynamics of the group, but where the campaign is headed.

The new players presented a very different challenge. Although I’ve known him for many years he had never played with our group. The campaign I’m running, while relatively new (only six months) takes place on a world we’ve been playing on for seventeen years, and some players have been there for most of that time, so I wanted to ease him into the game without overloading him with information.

I sat down with him and talked about the campaign, introduced some concepts and gave him some very short hand-outs and then the other players helped him develop his concept and create the character. It worked great because it fostered a sense of camaraderie between the players and the new player has a support system in place to help ease him into the game.

That took care of creating new characters, but what about introducing them to the ongoing plot? As much as I love the movie The Gamers I wanted to avoid the “You seem trustworthy!” line and just have the new characters integrate with the group without rhyme or reason. I had the advantage of introducing the three new characters together, alternating between short vignettes; some focusing on the three older characters already in the game and some on the new characters until they met about halfway through the session.

Since the characters were created FOR the campaign inserting motivations and plot hooks into the game was easy. I was sad to see some of the dead characters go away, I had some plotlines and ideas for them but just like in real life, in games you have to adapt. Some ideas I’ll recycle or change to other characters, others will simply fade away. I am happy to inform you that the new characters have been with the group now for four sessions and I must admit that despite my trepidation, I like the composition of the group now much more than I did before. So I guess the old adage is true, change IS good!

Now I’d like to know, how do you handle new characters in your games?

PS – Before I go, I would like to thank Stargazer for the opportunity to participate in this wonderful blog he’s put together. He and my good friend Daniel have dragged me kicking and screaming into the blogosphere. Thank you!

5 thoughts on ““You had me at hello…””

  1. I introduced my new character by letting all of the other players roll player-controlled NPCs. They've been adventuring in an area and hearing more and more about a very influential NPC in the area, so I'm giving them all a chance to play characters who work for that NPC.

    The adventure is centered around the new player's character – a rogue – and teaching him the 4th Edition mechanics. But it's also designed to give the other players a hand in shaping the story. By the end of the adventure, he'll likely have a clear reason to seek out the other party, and the other players will know he's coming (even if their characters don't) so there should be less of the "can we trust him" stuff right up front.
    .-= JR´s last blog ..Wererats? There rats! =-.

  2. JR, thanks for the comment. The idea of having the players control some NPCs sounds like a GREAT idea. I may just try that next time I have to introduce a new character. Thanks for the feedback!!!

  3. It's a tricky area – nothing quite like this one:

    DM: "You meet that fellow on the road."

    Player 1: "Hello there!"

    Player 2: "We are adventurers on our way to fame and riches. Care to tag along?"

    Player 1: "Yeah, why not."

    😉

    Slightly related to the question of introducing new characters:

    I really enjoyed using character pools.

    The idea is, that the GM creates a bunch of PCs complete with stats, background (which explains how they are realted) and personality/roleplaying guidline. In each adventure the players chose one of these.

    This kind of pool works best of course, if the PCs are associated with some organisation (like the rebels in Star Wars for example) but can be worked into any kind of setting. I really enjoyed it – as a player and GM.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys…

    Sven I’ve never tried the character pool option except the variation that existed in the Dark Suns campaign, but the campaign never lasted long enough for the concept to come into effect.

    I once introduced a new character to an ongoing Star Frontiers campaign, he had some knowledge that might have “endeared” him to the rest of the adventurers but he somehow played it all wrong and the party killed him by the end of the adventure. The spaced him! I had to tell him, let’s roll up another character.

    Daniel, thanks!

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