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Do you prefer your character to be connected or unconnected to the adventure hook?

Doug McCrae

Legend
An example of the former would be taking vengeance on the murderer of your PC's parents. An example of the latter would be a bounty hunter PC choosing to track down the same murderer but lacking any personal connection, at least initially.

The former makes for a more emotionally engaging story. The latter potentially gives the players more freedom, assuming it's a sandbox containing many possible adventures.
 

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ruemere

Explorer
Note that creating relatives only for them to be killed may be quite unkind to emotionally invested player. Even an adventure prologue (ie. an initial setup) could be nasty (especially if it hits vulnerable members of the family).

The recommendation would be to hold an auction of sorts, during which you put a few plot hooks on the table, including the nasty options, and just ask if someone would like to play an avenger.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
I'm happy to be connected to the adventure hook if it's something that grows naturally out of the character and their background. A fair few published CoC scenarios start with a distant relative who's never ben mentioned before, and that feels clumsy the second time in an ongoing campaign, even if it is faithful to the source material.

On the whole, I prefer adventure hooks that appeal to the characters' motives, rather than being nailed onto their backgrounds. Curiosity is a powerful motive, as are duty, money, fame, and the desire to make the world a better place.
 

nevin

Explorer
Depends on the Adventure Hook and the DM. Some DM's use Adventure hooks like Freight trains and you don't really get any choices.

IN general I'd rather have a plot hook that engages me. What I do find is most GM's, including me sometimes, make a plot hook expecting a certain kind of reaction and sometimes send their game careening off in an unexpected direction. Make sure you understand your players and thier player concepts really well before you bait that hook. You might end up with a White whale dragging your whole game in a strange new direction if you don't.
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
I prefer a mix within the group. A few connected by familial ties, magic items, ancestry, etc. but all the rest unconnected.

On a personal preference, if I am a player, I prefer to not be connected as I like to watch the reactions of other players as the character arc becomes clear. As a GM, I prefer one or two players to have character arcs. Too many arcs means not enough time spent developing one person's story. And watered down stories are always just meh.
 



Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The recommendation would be to hold an auction of sorts, during which you put a few plot hooks on the table, including the nasty options, and just ask if someone would like to play an avenger.
Better, in my experience, is to have your players note on their backstories that which the GM is allowed to mess with, and that which the GM is not, and have a discussion with the group over what is acceptable for those things the GM may mess with.
 

Nobby-W

Far more clumsy and random than a blaster
If you're trying to do a setting where characters' connections are significant then the former is good, as it emphasises the connections. I've done games of this sort, and often make up character backgrounds with a few of this type of connection; more often than not, the DMs really appreciate it.

If you're doing a setting where your players are a party of murder hobos then it's a bit harder to do this in a sensible way. However, your players have to be at least willing to pick up on the hints about an adventure in the offing.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
An example of the former would be taking vengeance on the murderer of your PC's parents. An example of the latter would be a bounty hunter PC choosing to track down the same murderer but lacking any personal connection, at least initially.

The former makes for a more emotionally engaging story. The latter potentially gives the players more freedom, assuming it's a sandbox containing many possible adventures.
Neither is exactly ideal, not being an American, probably makes a difference here. Ideally, it would be someone bringing someone to justice in an official capacity. How much would I like to play that? I don't know, in a jingoistic pro-police capacity, no, probably not.

That is the issue with connecting to the story, usually if a player calls it out, it can be ok, except if it comes with a prewritten story line then it's just a burden, esp if it means trying to figure out through 20 questions what the GM has already planned for the PC to do.
 

Saelorn

Hero
In my experience, there's no way to do it without it being actually contrived. You can try to make it seem less contrived, but the actual reason why X random NPC is coincidentally my brother is because the world reconfigured itself to provide motivation for me, and that can't possibly be satisfying. It's just a reminder of how fake the world is.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
... and that can't possibly be satisfying.
Do remember that, to this day, the soap opera is among the most popular of TV genres. The level of coincidence and contrivance is high, but huge numbers of people do not find that a barrier to their suspension of disbelief. For loads of people, such stuff is just fine, and in fact even part of the point!

So, maybe that can't possibly be satisfying for you. But is a really common and sought after trope of fiction, in general.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Do remember that, to this day, the soap opera is among the most popular of TV genres. The level of coincidence and contrivance is high, but huge numbers of people do not find that a barrier to their suspension of disbelief. For loads of people, such stuff is just fine, and in fact even part of the point!

So, maybe that can't possibly be satisfying for you. But is a really common and sought after trope of fiction, in general.
Which highlights the difference between a soap opera and an RPG. A soap opera is purely fiction for the purpose of telling a story, where an RPG primarily presents a believable world that we can interact with as though it was real.

Unless you want to claim that an RPG is actually an exercise in collective storytelling, and we aren't actually supposed to pretend that we are our characters; but history has shown that such is not a productive line of discussion.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Which highlights the difference between a soap opera and an RPG. A soap opera is purely fiction for the purpose of telling a story, where an RPG primarily presents a believable world that we can interact with as though it was real.

Unless you want to claim that an RPG is actually an exercise in collective storytelling, and we aren't actually supposed to pretend that we are our characters; but history has shown that such is not a productive line of discussion.
I think the issue is holding that rpg worlds are believable only if every event that transpires in them be the most probabilistic possible.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Depends on the game I'm running.
If it's a pre-published adventure, doesn't matter. They are jumping on the train and going where it takes them.

If it's something I created, and I created it in collaboration with the players - then I'd want all PCs to be tied to something in the setting; and then I'd build stories out of those ties.

If it's something I created, and didn't build in collab with the players - then it depends on whether I'm going to create emergent story - in which case yes. If I've already got an idea of a story, then I don't really care.

As a player, I don't like to write backstory - I want to find out about my character as we play. I've never been in a D&D game where that mattered much - but again it's because they have mostly been pre-written adventures. Choo-choo, wooo wooo!!!
 

I design my character's backstory and family, usually in cooperation with the DM. I like to be invested in the setting, and I always have plot hooks hanging off my character for the DM to use. Often nothing comes from them, but sometimes they inspire the DM for an adventure, while once it helped to define the entire campaign. Those are a lot of fun, especially if the group is stagnant (I used to game with players who cared about nothing but combat, loot, and XP).

As a DM, I encourage players to do the same, and try to work those items in when I can. My current group has a lot of different motivations, and I've implemented concepts from them as much as possible. A smuggler is coming to the realization that his boss may be a traitor to his home town. An ex-slave from a jungle colony has just found the name and location of his original trapper, who also knows the location of his closest friend (also a captured slave). An aasimar has run in with her ex-lover who corrupted her, betrayed her, and helped in the murder of her parents, but who apparently really loves her, despite obviously holding quite a few dark secrets. These are just the current ongoing plots based on character backstories.
 

aco175

Hero
If it is a long adventure the DM creates or one of the books like Tome of Annihilation, then I will create a PC with a connection. It gives me a hook that is always going to be in play and the DM has it easier.

If the campaign is just a series of AL modules or episodic adventures, then I do not need a strong tie. There is a lot of jumble and not much that is cohesive, so I'll make a few things the DM can use later if he wants. I like when the DM gives an adventure or two to each player's story.
 

Saelorn

Hero
I think the issue is holding that rpg worlds are believable only if every event that transpires in them be the most probabilistic possible.
I would prefer to phrase it as the reverse: An RPG world is not believable if the most probable explanation for any event is that the GM contrived it to make a plot point.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I would prefer to phrase it as the reverse: An RPG world is not believable if the most probable explanation for any event is that the GM contrived it to make a plot point.
But... that rules out the premises of most every adventure.
 

Saelorn

Hero
But... that rules out the premises of most every adventure.
It doesn't do anything to rule out the premise of "There are goblins in a nearby cave"; or any other adventure along that line. The most probable explanation for that event is simply that there are a lot of caves full of goblins.

It also doesn't rule out most adventure premises that don't involve the PCs specifically. If someone's brother was kidnapped by ninjas, and the PCs are the only ones nearby who are capable of dealing with it, then that isn't particularly unlikely; while ninja kidnappings aren't exactly common, there are a lot of potential targets for them in the world, and the PCs are often the most capable people in any region they travel. If the ranger's brother is kidnapped by ninjas, then the most likely explanation is that the GM is messing with you.
 
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