Paragon tier (and Watchmen) spoiler.
As good a reason as I can think of.
Young'uns these days, always expecting to win!
A lot of credit for the idea has to go to my old DM (now my player Mwuhaha ), who came across DM Samuel's podcast and thought it was a cool way of starting a campaign.
I don't necessarily have a problem with the "in a tavern" tradition, but knowing what I know about how the AP formally starts (hint: the PCs are on duty at a very big event), I wanted to give the group a sense of history. After all, you don't get called for duty at big events if you're the rookies.
As for the questions I asked, I started by asking each player to describe their character and outline the character's public background in under a minute. Each PC also has secrets that the players themselves have made up* and I've told them that I reserve the right to make up secrets that their PCs don't know**, but we only dealt with the public stuff here.
After that, each player had the opportunity to ask the others questions about their character. For example, Tok's player asked Cassi's player whether she was involved in the Fourth Yerasol War, which led to the improv answer that she had served only as a runner, and thus admired Erik for having fought in the Fourth Company's Advance.
Then I went loosely from the list that DM Samuel posted in the thread I linked to earlier. I think I started with question 3, then segued into questions 2 and 5 as a natural flow from the answers given to question 3. As mentioned in his podcast but not the post, there are 2 rules during this Q&A:
- Only one person speaks at a time. There's to be no cutting others off; and
- You can answer a question any way you like, and can involve any other PC, but you can't give an answer that makes another PC look like a buffoon or a d.ck
You'll have some players who don't want to play the game. For example, when I asked Willheim's player DM Samuel's question: "You feel that you owe one member of the party your life. Who is it, and why?" his response was to say that he didn't want to owe someone his life. But even that reluctance was productive, because it lead to the improv answer that Cassi and Erik had been present at Willheim's last death.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the approach worked. I had one player who was very keen to participate, two who were less keen but more than happy to co-operate, and two who seemed a little uncomfortable. But everyone contributed, and the end result is a party that has convincing relationships and a well-understood history before the campaign has ever really started.
Well worth the effort.
* eg. nationalistic Erik is in fact born of Danoran parents, his surname Pride being a simplified version of Prideaux. Thornt was created by a were-tiger that is currently hiding somewhere in Flint. And Cassi was transferred out of the army because she rejected the advances of a superior.
** eg. Erik's wife is expecting a child, and I am seriously contemplating having the fey take the baby in satisfaction of a promise she made to ensure Erik's safe return from the Fourth Yerasol War. I just need to figure out the timing (I may need to compress the time period between adventure 1 and 2) and think about how it will affect the campaign overall.