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Linking PCs Together

Zaleramancer

Social Justice Warlock
Validated User
Almost every Pbta I’ve played has included some form of starting relationship or connection portion of character creation.

This is usually framed by a series of questions to answer, or a series of statements with blanks to fill in.

For example, the Dwarf playbook from fellowship has:

I owe ___ a life debt.
I would rather die at ____’s side than anywhere else in the world.
____ is a friend to all dwarves.
____ is my rival, and I theirs.

The idea being, of course, that you try to establish connections by filling those in.

This provides a nice starting point for more interpersonal relationships in a relatively unabtruse way. Because playbooks in pbta are usually about a specific archetype of story, they shape the relationships to provide a gentle push in that direction, as well.

Outside of that, I usually support asking for players to state why their characters are invested in this situation, and how they know the other characters. I also support getting players involved in worldbuilding as a method of increasing player investment in the world. If you allow the elf player to dictate some of the facts about elfdom, then it offers additional chances for players to feel like the world is a part of them.
 

Victim

Registered User
Validated User
. This was back when we didn’t have a session zero and made the PCs at home
What's the difference? IME, anytime we try to do any kind of group character creation, someone shows up with essentially a character made at home anyway.
 

Hammel

Registered User
Validated User
What's the difference? IME, anytime we try to do any kind of group character creation, someone shows up with essentially a character made at home anyway.
I've encountered that online, too. I write in the game description the only things I'm asking for at the time and a nearly complete character gets created beforehand. I can work with it, but I guess some people really get involved with character creation and prefer to have most/everything about the character created beforehand.
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
I'm more a carrot than a stick kind of person when it comes to encouraging links. Players who have something in common get more personalized story seeds and potential connections thrown at them. You both served in the same army unit? That doubles the odds of me dropping in a helpful fixer NPC who was formerly a quartermaster for that unit. You have an extensive family? Turns out when you make your Streetwise check there might be a colorful cousin who drops by and gives you the information. You're a loner with no family and no motivation? You can tag along, but unless you start forging connections, the other players are going to get more access to personalized content.

But part of this is player selection. I don't tend to have players who think of "go help an NPC" as me "taking hostages" as a GM. They're more the sort of people who appreciate personalized story hooks, and who like making connections because that's how you increase your influence and care more about the world. In many cases, they'll jump eagerly at a "help the NPC" story hook because they like the NPC as a recurring guest character. Some people are happier with prewritten adventures and default PC motivations, but the sort of people I play with react better to bespoke scenarios.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures assumes the characters all grew up in the same village. During character generation they will have trained with some NPCs, which the players get to name, and possibly spent time with others. Each character also has a significant event happen to them during which another PC was present, they are also the present PC for another Player's significant event. This gives a group of characters who all at least know some of the NPCs in the home village and have met at least two other characters in the group. They don't have to like each other, the current state of relationship is not dictated, but they have met and know each other at least slightly.

I like it better than a group of random strangers coming together.

In the days when "character" in the sense of role playing a character with a background and depth was not really a thing with us people would frequently role up characters at home and the group wouldn't really worry about why they were together or who everybody was. We just rolled with it that this was the "party" because RPGs have a party.

These days it really depends on the starting circumstances of the campaign. Sometimes it makes sense that a group of strangers have come together in a common cause, other times there need to be connections between characters from the start. I have started campaigns where the connection is as tenuous as "you are all part of the crew of the same ship" or "you are part of the princesses entourage."

I think the important thing is making sure that all the players are on board that their characters have to work together or the game simply won't work. I have seen many campaigns fail due to one faction of players plotting against the rest of the group or too many lone wolves insisting on going off on their own.
 

Quantum Bob

Fear and Loathing
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Almost every Pbta I’ve played has included some form of starting relationship or connection portion of character creation.

This is usually framed by a series of questions to answer, or a series of statements with blanks to fill in.

For example, the Dwarf playbook from fellowship has:

I owe ___ a life debt.
I would rather die at ____’s side than anywhere else in the world.
____ is a friend to all dwarves.
____ is my rival, and I theirs.

The idea being, of course, that you try to establish connections by filling those in.

This provides a nice starting point for more interpersonal relationships in a relatively unabtruse way. Because playbooks in pbta are usually about a specific archetype of story, they shape the relationships to provide a gentle push in that direction, as well.
Okay, but could players like me opt out of this?
 

Dagor

Registered User
Validated User
Okay, but could players like me opt out of this?
I suppose that if you absolutely insisted, you could. Of course, depending on the exact game in question that may also mean giving up any mechanical advantages such relationships would have provided -- in Dungeon World, for example, refusing to deal with "bonds" would cut you off from one source of XP and leave your base roll to help or hinder anyone (using the relevant move) at a fixed +0.
 

Quantum Bob

Fear and Loathing
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I suppose that if you absolutely insisted, you could. Of course, depending on the exact game in question that may also mean giving up any mechanical advantages such relationships would have provided -- in Dungeon World, for example, refusing to deal with "bonds" would cut you off from one source of XP and leave your base roll to help or hinder anyone (using the relevant move) at a fixed +0.
Yeah, this is just the n+1th reason for me to never touch anything powered by the apocalypse.
 

jacobkosh

Registered User
Validated User
Okay, but could players like me opt out of this?
I guess I'm still kind of confused about all this. So like, I get, in principle, the idea that a character's NPC associates can be "used against them." But what's wrong with having some kind of connection to another PC - someone that the GM isn't going to be, you know, taking hostage every session? Like, what kind of things would you be worried will happen if you answered a question like "I'd rather fight with ____ at my side than anyone else"?
 
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Octopus Prime

Retired User
I'm a big fan of having a "group identity" that's either part of the concept of the campaign or part of the character creation process, depending on whether the narrative is more player-led or GM-led. In my Monster of the Week game the core concept had the players taking on the role of the Soviet Union's paranormal secret police; in my last Silk, Steam, and Steel game, they decided during character creation to play as a traveling circus in western China. From within those frameworks, they were able to build character links and such.
 
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