Do your PCs begin their campaign in their first settlement as visitors and wanderers, or as its citizens?

Nickolaidas

Explorer
When you begin a new campaign, do you prefer the PCs to be visitors in their very first settlement, or do you prefer them to have been born and raised there? Are they the wandering heroes who stumbled upon a city and witness its troubles, or are they longtime citizens who finally decide to make a name for themselves in this city/village/kingdom?
 

Draegn

Explorer
Generally I allow the players to choose for themselves. Though the campaign setting influences their choice.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
I've done both, each time to bring a different feel to the game. More often than not however, one or two PCs are from the starting town (for lack of better name), and one or two PCs are from abroad.

Preparing a game for visitor PCs and local PCs require significantly different approach however. Doing both is always a bit of a headache.

'findel
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I’ve done both, but usually I go with visitors, unless I have a compelling reason for them to be local citizens.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
Depends on the game I am setting up.

My current campaign is Paizo's Carrion Crown and I had the player's come up with a backstory relation to the late archaeologist professor Lorrimor Jones and why he would have them as a pallbearer at his funeral. They could start out as residents of the town with his estate or from farther off like the city he was a professor at, or a professional rival of his expeditions from outside of Ustalav. The PCs chose a variety of insider/outsider roles to the starting town.
 

Celebrim

Legend
When you begin a new campaign, do you prefer the PCs to be visitors in their very first settlement, or do you prefer them to have been born and raised there? Are they the wandering heroes who stumbled upon a city and witness its troubles, or are they longtime citizens who finally decide to make a name for themselves in this city/village/kingdom?
In most of my games, that's really up to the player and not me. It is highly useful if one or more members of the party have a natural connection to each other, and so I encourage players to weave their backgrounds together somewhat, but basically any background that fits the setting and ensures the PC has a motive to participate is going to get approved. Generally, when I try to put a constraint on a background, I try to keep it very minimal. For example, I might set a constraint where every player has to explain how they know and are on friendly relations with a particular NPC, but this would never constrain things as tightly as you do here. Occasionally I have run themed campaigns where everyone has to be an elf, or everyone has to be an evil demihuman, but even then you probably could wiggle out of tight constraints on where you were from.

For my ongoing campaign, the following briefly explains the situation of the PC's at beginning of the game:

PC #1: Officially a laybrother in the temple of the goddess of arts and beauty, the PC was actually a member of a heretical order of assassins within that temple tracking down a notorious necromancer.
PC #2: A cleric sent to encourage the worship of the goddess of the sun and tend the neglected shrine of that goddess. He was originally from a distant region where sun goddess worship was more prevalent, but was casually acquainted with PC #1 from their time in school together in a different city.
PC #3: A laybrother of the temple of the god of death and travelers who had been pledged to the temple as a three year old child. He was just returning to the city after two years spent guarding pilgrims on their journeys.
PC #4: A prostitute and member of the inner circle of the Guild of the Painted Lady, the thieves guild that ruled criminal interests in this region.
PC #5: A sailor and sometime pirate who had recently escaped marooning. He was friend and customer of PC #4, as well as a close childhood friend of PC #2.
PC #6: A brutish sailor from a distant barbaric region. He was at the start of the campaign just arriving in the city on shore leave.

So of the six, only three were natives of the city, and only one wasn't newly come to the city since two of the natives had been absent elsewhere for years. The party split somewhat into two groups by interests and motivation, but PC's #2 and #5 bridged the two groups, and they were united initially by the need to just survive.

This would also be a good example of why metagaming isn't always bad. While there was enough going on here to give a color of why this group formed, ultimately there is no reason that this group would have to be together beyond the fact that they are all PC's. Yet, if a player in the group acted as if he didn't realize the other PC's were PC's and so special - something that the player knows that the PC could not possibly know - this would have been bad roleplaying. Instead, the proper thing to do is assume temporarily Author Stance based on the knowledge that if the cooperative game is to continue, the party must form a fast and lasting alliance. To assume Actor Stance here to the extent that you decided your character just wouldn't continue with this group because it wasn't in character, instead of finding some color of character that excused the choice would not be IMO mature RPing. That said, it's up to everyone to cooperate with that and not immediately try to offend the morals and ethics of the rest of the PCs, but instead maturely find some color that lets you both express the character in a way that is true to the character, but which also lets the game continue.

The relationship between Roy and Belkar Bitterleaf in OotS is exemplary in this regard, and should be used as a model for both staying true to a character and yet finding a way to keep the group together.

That may seem a bit of a tangent, but it is I find very central to any discussion of what makes a good background or character.
 

Derren

Adventurer
A interesting followup question would be what effect being born in that village has on the PCs, especially in a feudal society.
 
When you begin a new campaign, do you prefer the PCs to be visitors in their very first settlement, or do you prefer them to have been born and raised there?
I've done both over the years.

The former seems like the standard assumption. It leaves each player free to create his character and give it backstory independent of the others.

I find the latter quite intriguing, but you need to have players into the idea of having history with eachother in the characters' backstories. I like it for starting campaigns with that right kind of player - or for creating pregens for a one-off. Examples from actual game's I've run or played in:

  • PCs were born & raised in the same town, on the fringe of an Empire that feels quite distant, with orcs and elves as neighbors. The town is poor, the climate arid (except for the inexplicably green deep forest where the elves live), the nearest neighbor is a mysterious order of black-robed monks. The culture is heavily influenced by Mystery Cults of various deities, with initiation into a cult marking adulthood, and the PCs all start on the cusp of that, having one last 'grand adventure' out in the woods.
  • Four of the PCs, though from different (social)classes - one daughter of impoverished aristocrat, one the son of a politically ambitious wealthy freeman, one mischievous lower-class halfling boy, and one dignified Eladrin retainer of the wealthy family - are childhood friends (well, the Eladrin is older, more of a mentor, really). The obvious possibility of an alliance between the two families has two of them ready to take up the adventuring life, ironically together, to avoid an arranged marriage (they like eachother, but not /that/ way, ew), the halfling's more than up for it, and the Eladrin goes along in hopes of keeping them alive long enough to come to their senses. (The other two PCs are collected later, both wanderers.)
  • The PCs are all 'characters' from the same town (the ones I remember were a parson, sheriff, and the town's crazy cat lady, actually a sorceress), and have had some dealings with a rich/eccentric old man who lives in a mansion just outside of town. When he goes missing and strange lights and noises come from his house, they investigate.
  • The PCs are (almost) all citizens of Mellorca, a sort of fantasy-Athens in decline, including an aspiring gangster, a foundling raised in the clergy, a noble's illegitimate son consigned to the arena, and (I said almost) a 'sea elf' who just shows up and starts killing people, which jump-starts the party's story. (also had outsiders recruited into the party, later, though)
  • The PCs are all goblins of the same community (The Mighty Green Goblin Gang, yeah, we bad), that has just gone through a major societal shift, they found religion - LG religion. Yeah, it's taking some getting used to. One of the PCs is a Paladin of the new religion (wow, smiting is FUN! - lets go find some more evil-doers!). Three of them are siblings, each of whom claims to be the oldest and therefore in charge of the other two.
 
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Rabbitbait

Explorer
It totally depends on the game. I've had them all start off as strangers forced together in a strange place, I've had them all the same race and related with interlinking backgrounds. Normally the key for me is whether I plan for the game to be tied around a particular location.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
It varies based on the campaign/adventure to be played & the exact characters the players made.
Sometimes one or the other will make the most sense, sometimes a mix.

I guess you'd say that in our new campaign (3rd session tonight 5/23) the characters would all be visitors. They've all come to this inn that hosts an insane Mardi Gras type all night party on the summer equinox.
From there, once they've recovered from the debauchery, they'll be free to form an actual party & follow up on any # of adventure hooks they've learned of.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
"How" the players got here is less important to me than the "why" the players got here.

But since both of these things seem difficult for many players, I now just assign them all to a group, throw them in the government job lines and assign them a quest.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
When you begin a new campaign, do you prefer the PCs to be visitors in their very first settlement, or do you prefer them to have been born and raised there? Are they the wandering heroes who stumbled upon a city and witness its troubles, or are they longtime citizens who finally decide to make a name for themselves in this city/village/kingdom?
I leave it to them. They get told the where early in chargen and have to provide a "how or why are you there at this time" as part of their setup. It can be as simple as "was guarding caravans" or more.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
The start is chosen to complement each campaign, but the most common starting point is as some form of newly arrived visitors. It makes it simpler for both the players and me.
 

aco175

Adventurer
I have done both and find that PCs that are local need to know more information. They should know the NPCs already and I allow them to make up stuff as they go about their day. Some players are good at things like picking flowers to bring to his aunt who raised him when traveling back from the haunted crypt or helping the 'grandmother' neighbor who needs her wagon fixed.

Strangers are fine as some of the campaigns start by saying that they all find themselves along the road to a frontier town looking for adventure, gold, or even having some goals of their own.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Depends on the campaign. My first 5E campaign required the PCs to explore the village to get clues, so the party had to be strangers (otherwise the hometown PCs would likely know most/all the clues). My last campaign the players were from wherever they wanted, so long as they had a reason to be in the town. My next campaign (Saltmarsh) might be a mixed bag, but it will depend on how they set up the 1st adventure (I haven't gotten my copy yet).

The big thing I do whenever starting a new campaign is to tell the PCs they know each other. They're supposed to figure out how and why, but I don't like dealing with the PC introductions in the first session. Not only does it take up a lot of time, but a lot of players don't really get into it, and would rather get on with the action. Sometimes I'll do a hidden game (usually a one-shot) where the party is mysteriously pulled together into a strange situation, and meeting each other is important (I also discourage players from discussing characters until the 1st session starts).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
With most of my recent campaigns, most of the PCs started as locals but it's up to them. The only requirement is that they come up with reasons to join up with the group, it's something we discuss during our session 0. In more than one campaign, we even started the PCs as pre-teen kids growing up together.

PCs introduced later in the campaign can be from any background that makes sense as long as there's a reason to integrate them into the party.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
It's all about what the campaign needs. Visitors is probably easier, especially for the players, but if the game needs some local connects then that's how it is. So I guess unless there's a reason for them to be local then go with visitors.

As for interwoven character background, I can go either way. Sometimes its cool, but sometimes its just extraneous and complicated. Depends on the players. If players want to go that route I usually suggest broad strokes rather than an epic novel worth of story, that way the relationship can develop organically at the table.
 

S'mon

Legend
When you begin a new campaign, do you prefer the PCs to be visitors in their very first settlement, or do you prefer them to have been born and raised there? Are they the wandering heroes who stumbled upon a city and witness its troubles, or are they longtime citizens who finally decide to make a name for themselves in this city/village/kingdom?
Good question! This has major implications for the tone of the campaign.

In my Primeval Thule game the PCs mostly arrived in Quodeth as wanderers looking to make their names, but include some natives. It tends to a Three Musketeers tone at times.

In Princes of the Apocalypse the PCs were sent to Red Larch by their superiors to investigate the goings on.

In Heroes of Modron the PCs serve the king of Modron. This follows from a previous campaign where the PCs started as wanderers and ended up serving the king.

In my Runelords game it is so high level the PCs are from all over but the game start 4 years ago was per Shattered Star 1 with the PCs novice Pathfinders in Magnimar being sent on missions. Now it's an epic struggle to save the world.
 

S'mon

Legend
I did local citizens and nobles in my Nentir Vale game, a mix in my Loudwater game. I am planning to run Red Hand of Doom with the PCs in service to the Lord of Brindol.

In general I find natives works best for limited scope games about protecting the community, and an open start works best for long term games that can go anywhere. The latter - wandering adventurers - tends to bring more energy to the game since the dynamic is less stable. However some kind of safe home base location is very important for long term play. It needs to be reasonably detailed and feel real to the players.
 

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