“You had me at hello…”

Hello all! Since I’m part of the new team of contributors around here, I thought my first post should be about something related to the idea of “new” and I settled upon this: Introducing new characters to an ongoing campaign.

Recently I had a new player join my five person group the session after two characters had died in combat. Suddenly I found myself having to introduce three new characters into a six character campaign. That’s 50% newness for the math-phobic out there! Some may look at this as a challenge; I saw it as an opportunity…

The two players who already were playing the campaign, after deciding not to magically resurrect their characters (which would have been no easy feat!) set about creating their characters. Having played the campaign for over six months now they knew its tone and feel in a way that no amount of pre-campaign discussion can set up. Sometimes you just need to try something out to really wrap your head around it. So they had the advantage of creating new characters that fit not only with the dynamics of the group, but where the campaign is headed.

The new players presented a very different challenge. Although I’ve known him for many years he had never played with our group. The campaign I’m running, while relatively new (only six months) takes place on a world we’ve been playing on for seventeen years, and some players have been there for most of that time, so I wanted to ease him into the game without overloading him with information.

I sat down with him and talked about the campaign, introduced some concepts and gave him some very short hand-outs and then the other players helped him develop his concept and create the character. It worked great because it fostered a sense of camaraderie between the players and the new player has a support system in place to help ease him into the game.

That took care of creating new characters, but what about introducing them to the ongoing plot? As much as I love the movie The Gamers I wanted to avoid the “You seem trustworthy!” line and just have the new characters integrate with the group without rhyme or reason. I had the advantage of introducing the three new characters together, alternating between short vignettes; some focusing on the three older characters already in the game and some on the new characters until they met about halfway through the session.

Since the characters were created FOR the campaign inserting motivations and plot hooks into the game was easy. I was sad to see some of the dead characters go away, I had some plotlines and ideas for them but just like in real life, in games you have to adapt. Some ideas I’ll recycle or change to other characters, others will simply fade away. I am happy to inform you that the new characters have been with the group now for four sessions and I must admit that despite my trepidation, I like the composition of the group now much more than I did before. So I guess the old adage is true, change IS good!

Now I’d like to know, how do you handle new characters in your games?

PS – Before I go, I would like to thank Stargazer for the opportunity to participate in this wonderful blog he’s put together. He and my good friend Daniel have dragged me kicking and screaming into the blogosphere. Thank you!