Why is Your Party Together?

A necessary question for nearly any group

By MARK WILSON

In my first campaign as DM, I didn’t have a Session #0. The campaign was great, we all had a lot of fun, and it had a satisfying conclusion. But not having that Session #0 was a mistake. One of the biggest reasons for this is because it didn’t allow the party to determine why they were all together.

By contrast, in my first (full) campaign as a player, we all ended up playing a group of siblings. From there, we built a shared backstory that resulted in several meaningful character traits and story beats. The links between us in a roleplaying sense were hard to overstate. And we knew exactly why we were together. It was a very different experience.

I don’t think you need to have something as tightly-knit as the latter example there. But the question is worth exploring and answering before you begin a campaign, because it will deepen the experience for everyone at the table.

How To Determine This – Player Version

The first big answer is simply to ask it explicitly in Session #0. “Hey everyone, so why are we traveling or adventuring together?” That’s all it takes, then let the discussion roll.

The second way is more personal. You as a player have a responsibility to make your character work well in a group setting. Maybe you aren’t all siblings, but why would your character specifically want to travel with a group of fellow adventurers? There are a thousand possible answers to that question, and all are valid. The only wrong answer is to have no answer at all.

“There are a thousand possible answers to that question, and all are valid. The only wrong answer is to have no answer at all.”

How To Assist With This – DM Version

The first bit of advice for DMs is the same: prompt your players to answer this question by asking them. This will in turn give you more to work with as a DM.

The second way is to allow “space” in the game – especially early on – for the characters to get to know each other. Or rather, to let the players get to know each other as their characters. Even with a strong shared backstory, this can take time, and many groups don’t “find their stride” until several sessions in.

I think this is a big reason many campaigns have traditionally started in a tavern. It’s harder to get to know one another in the middle of a harrowing combat than it is over a mug of ale. A bar or tavern isn’t the only place you can do this, but the principle holds that you want to have some downtime that rewards character interactions that help strengthen the bonds between players.

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