Friday, September 9, 2011

What’s it All About - Part 2

OK - so building on the last blog - how do you get your players passionate about their characters? I think you need to make them “cool” or at least quirky. So how?
Don’t give them a massively powerful magic item! Do give them a quirky magic item. What do I mean? Give them a new item with some history - either a historic relic, or owned by some historic guy, or maybe possessing the soul of some historic guy? Standard stuff from out of the book is easy, but if you can put something together that is going to be more fun, then you’ll hook them. I think items that either don’t always work right, or give incredible bonuses, but only in very restricted settings are great for this. Maybe I’ve always had masochists for players, but they love when an item produces the wrong effect at the wrong time. You’re the GM - play it up and make it funny! Plus - when it does work correctly in a tight spot - the tension the player feels when he’s figuring out what is going to happen really adds to whole game. Be warned - If you introduce five really cool items into a campaign, chances are that the party will sell two or three of them. Before they get into the fun of the item, it may seem like a nuisance, but once they “own” it, they’ll come around fast.
Have you put them up against memorable enemies? Just as the characters have to be interesting, so do the enemies. Not to be too much of an advertisement, but if you need memorable enemies - check out our Baker’s Dozen Villains supplement for some decent ideas. Or Baker’s Dozen Tribes for groups of cool enemies.
OK - so what else? Last week we said that the characters needed backgrounds. Use them! If the character is a veteran of some war, have the next mission giver be a veteran of that war, maybe even an old buddy. Or make the bad guy a rival who is an alumni from the same magic university. Have the victim be a priest from their hometown. If the backgrounds and histories of the characters are only sitting on the page and don’t come into the campaign, then they’re really not achieving their full potential. First, this makes the campaign come alive, in that the player can start to feel that things matter and the world grows. Second, by using their history, you are building their history. It doesn’t have to be every time, but every once in a while, it can really help. Make sure you rotate between the various characters too. If Johnny’s history keeps getting built up but no one else’s does, then it’s going to annoy the other players.
The last thing is to take this sense of building history and run with it. Whether it is the pre-generated history of the characters or what happened in their first couple of missions, build on previous campaign issues. If the characters go from one mission to another without any ties, they are going to start to see everything as separate, even if they use the same character. That’s not building a history for that character and not building the passion for that character within your players.

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