Hyborean Adventuring Parties?


I've always had a problem with this as a GM.

How do I get this group of people together without logically without ruining the players’ suspension of disbelief?

"You all meet in an inn" just doesn't cut it after about age 13.

In media res works sometimes, especially for new or pregen adventures, but for regular PCs, it takes a lot of control out of their hands and tends to annoy them. It certainly won't work for an ongoing campaign. If I were a player, I wouldn't like it either.

Given the insular world of Hyperborea, how do you get diverse groups of PCs together? The books aren’t much help there. Conan usually goes it alone or groups up with a comrade or three out of necessity, but quickly leaves after the mission has been accomplished. Any suggestions?
I've been wondering about this in the Hyborian Age as well.
Due to the nature of the source material, I'm hesitant to allow a party over three.

A few ideas I've thought of to start a campaign with a mixed group are:

a) Slaves sold into the pits, taken to a foreign country, then the pits get shut down (or massacred) and the characters are left to carve out a living in their new home.

b) Rogues attracted to the same mark, like the way they work together, and form a small 'guild'.

c) Last surviving crewmen of a recently sunken pirateship who are looking to start up/join a new band

d) All else fails, #$%& it. They meet in a tavern...
This is a problem for many games now that the proverbial inn has been used and over used.

Here is how my first game session started in the new Conan Campaign

Dramatis Personalis

Char 1 - Female - Turanian Noble - Husband slain, Slave of Bad Guy.

Char 2 - Male - Cimmerian Barbarian
Char 3 - Male - Bossonian Soldier

Char 4 - Male - Stygian Scholar
Char 5 - Male - Zamoran Thief

Char 2 & 3 meet on a battle field as mercenaries (done off camera) in gunderland. They are on different sides of a melee that ends with the explosion of a 'wizard'. The explosion really takes the fight out of everyone (since most were killed) and each character (2&3) makes their way to an inn where they end up fighting off the locals in a brawl. They become friends and go adventureing....to find themselves in Shadizar.

Char 4 & 5 meet in a business deal (off camera) where the Scholar hires the thief to act as guide and protection while the Scholar searches for arcane knowledge and lotus leaves. The thief needs cash as he has an addiciton that must be paid for ('rented' women).

Char's 2,3,4 &5 are each in a market in Shadizar (not the maul) when a brawl begins with the tipping of a merchant's stall. The PC's aren't to blame (initially) but become involved. Char 1 is introduced as the palinquin carrying her and the Bad Guy is overturned.

Circumstances - influenced a bit by off camera positioning, bring the PC's together. Once the brawl finishes, the 'Bad Guy' brings them more formally together by inviting them into his home for a meal (since they helped him and Char 1). Things progress from there....
1 The characters are hired by an NPC who knows of their various strengths (and weaknesses) to perform a task or tasks. This could be a government figure, sorcerer, cleric, etc.

2 Let the players decide. Tell them to get off their asses, quit whining and tell you why they are all working together.

3 Let them start out in prison, in a slave caravan or in the middle of a pictish invasion. Nothing can motivate people to work together like the threat of imminent death.

4 The characters were all screwed over by one particular NPC, in different ways, in different times, all in the past. Maybe the NPC killed one PC's father, stole another's inheritance, framed a third for crimes she didn't commit and sold the last into slavery. They all have the goal of obtaining enough skills and power to get revenge.

5 Let the characters start out as a unit of irregular operatives. In a military campaign they would be special forces or reconnaissance troops. They could be special operatives of the King, a sorcerer's new "acquisition squad" or the night watch of the city guard.

Hope that helps.
They meet in a tavern?

The characters are all in a tavern drinking when:

A press gang shows up. They've all just joined the army/navy.

They wake up in a slave caravan.

They wake up in jail.

They wake up naked, in the woods, at least one hundred miles from civilization.

They wake up in a mausoleum. (let that one mess with their heads...)

They wake up and find everyone else in the tavern dead. The city watch starts beating on the door...

Even the old "meet in a tavern" opening can still be twisted around a bit.
Coming up with a reason that different character types are together is one of the biggest problems that any GM has to face.
When I started my group the characters were; A Zingara pirate, Zamorian theif, Vanir barbarian, and a Stygian noble.
Since my first session was to have them shipwrecked on the Pictish coast, I needed a concept that would allow all of them to be on the same ship.
What I came up with was this; the story started with all players on a Zingaran trading vessel coming back from Vanaheim. The barbarian was on board to ensure that he could get the best prices for his family's stock of ivory, taken from walrus tusks. The pirate was there as a sailor. His regular pirating on hold because his captain was laying low, and the character needed to earn a living. The Stygian was following the trade route to figure a way to avoid paying the taxes. He was trying to figure a way to smuggle the ivory into Stygia by cutting out the middlemen. The Zamorian was a slave on the ship. He was one of the rowing slaves.
The ship ran a ground during a storm. The player characters were the only ones to survive. Since they were in the middle of hostile lands, they needed to work together to stay alive.

If one of your players is running a magic user, you may want to have your first session dealing with that character trying to hire the others. He needs them to help find an ancient ruin that contains the materials he needs for a spell, or he belives that the ruins may contain writtings about forgotten spells.
Thoth-Amuk said:
I've always had a problem with this as a GM.
How do I get this group of people together without logically without ruining the players’ suspension of disbelief? "You all meet in an inn" just doesn't cut it after about age 13.

We have a rule at our table that works really well: PLAYERS POLICE THEIR OWN. That has two meanings:

1. PLAYERS figure out HOW their characters met and WHY they get along
2. Players who aretroublesome are policed by OTHER players, not by the DM



2 Let the players decide. Tell them to get off their asses, quit whining and tell you why they are all working together.

That's a good idea.

Character development is the primary goal in this game, so it makes sense to have the players come up with a good back story. From there I can pick out details that can link the players together and provide hooks for future adventures.

I’ve seen a few character generation questionnaires online and in other RPGs, but they seem a little over-the-top. They have about 100 questions like, “What’s your favorite color and why?” While answering that type of question might provide some insight into that player’s character, I really don’t want to force them to write a 10,000 word essay.

I’ve come up with a short list of questions that I’ll have them answer before they start the character generation process.

What do you look like?

Where are you from?

What’s you family like?

What do you like doing the most?

What really makes you angry?

What’s your best skill?

Who is your best friend?

What have you done in the last year?

I’m also working on a trait list the players can roll on or pick from to flesh out their character’s personality. I’m still in the prep phase, so I’ve got some time to fine tune.

Does anyone use a similar process?
There are notionally 10 people in my game group. Of which, around 5-6 show up at any one session. I'm never sure who is going to show, and who is not until the very last minute most times, sometimes it's only "ex post facto" that I know someone indeed isn't coming.

So, in addition to making every adventure wrap up in a single session, I've started every single Conan game "in medias res". Usually at the start or even right in the middle of a fight. I tell them what the fight's about once its over. There are usually 3-4 months of game time between sessions, and most times the sessions take place hundreds of miles apart.

In the past I've considered RPG campaigns as "sui generis". i.e., I don't think of them like novels or movies. But, I HAVE treated the Conan campaign as a series of short stories. I've tried to keep that as the primary vision.

I'd add another paragraph, but can't think of any more gratutitous Latin phrases. Ave et Vale.
I used to GM a team of 5-7 friends who attended faithfully most of the times.

My introduction to our GURPS Conan adventures (well, nobody is perfect, you know :wink: ) used to be different for two or three sub-groups of them (one player, two, or even three of them) which wer then joined at some moment of the first session, so some room was left for different goals in the game (around 4-5 sessions) and even a little treachery and skullduggery between players (which always spices up a bit the game... and even that creates less bad feelings than playing 'Machiavelli', 'Kremlin' or 'Golpe' - 'Junta' by other name).

And I used the short-questions/system too. And a picture of the character was mandatory.
As a player, I make it a point to leave a good reason available to know the other PC's and maybe even have a rivalry with someone (Legolas and Gimli style. It's cliche but it's fun). Once the other players realize how cool it is to design a group together, tightly knit or just a "rogue's alliance" of rivals, everyone gets into it. I DO tend to let the other guys have the "upper hand" in a rivalry designed in the setup, just because it's fun to come from behind.
As a GM, if the PC's want to do "plot lite" characters, I start them off in a fight with a local gang or a certain noble's guards, or a troop of bandits at the watering hole or a tribe of chakans chasing them through the forest/jungle/hills, etc.
"Plot Lite" has a lot of advantage in that you can explain afterwards or just let the players make it up on the fly. I also do tend to recommend that they have an idea or everyone take a particular skill (Profession: Sailor seems to work VERY well) or say that they are all members of a particular mercenary company, raiding band, pirate ship, caravan's guards, and the like or else I just take away their gear and sacrifice them to the local huge animated object then watch the fate points burn off in a huge glow of power as they escape, slay and recover a few bits of gear.

Anyhoo, Later!