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I started running a game, and then a friend of mine expressed interest in playing, so I invited him to join us. He created a character and came along to the next session. As the rest of the party was currently on a quest, it felt awkward to just drop him in and have him join the quest.

I created a side-quest that would require the party to utilise his contacts, but afterwards, they felt that there was no logical reason for his character to continue tagging along, so they left him behind.

There have been further coincidental meet-ups and attempts by me to add him to the party, but either he felt his character wouldn't want to join in on what the party was doing, or the party felt suspicious of his behaviour and didn't want him to join.

It's getting to the point where it's almost ridiculous, "Oh, it's you again! Fancy seeing you here."

(This is my first game, so any advice would be really helpful!)

  • Was it wrong of me not to force them to take him when he first started?
  • What are some techniques to use for future new players, and to use when existing players die and start over?

In this particular situation, the new character is a noble, and I get the impression that because the other characters often resort to violence/illegal activity to complete missions, his character doesn't want to be associated with people like that.

From the rest of the party's perspective, I guess his refusal to allow them to use such methods makes him a bit of a hindrance, so they can't see any reason why they would accept him as part of the group as all he seems to do is make things harder for them.

It's not that they don't get along outside the game, because they do.

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Welcome to the site, mate. Good question. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Sep 18 '11 at 18:54
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"You look trustworthy! Join us!" "All right!" –  BBlake Sep 20 '11 at 1:13
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Drop the new character onto the party from 100 feet up. Once they heal him, he'll be obliged to tag along and help them out –  briddums Sep 20 '11 at 1:16
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Just remember that a new player is a person (most likely a friend), and a game is just a game. The Storyline or 'proper roleplaying' can take a back seat as far i'm concerned. I introduce new players as soon as I can, and the other players should do what they can to help the process, "You seem trustworthy" etc. –  Macona Sep 22 '11 at 11:08
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@user2474 you actually answered the question in the question. If a new player is saying "not what the character would do" and is trying to get a party who uses those tactics to accept him, there is no mutuality of concern. Tell him to try again, this time by figuring out what the party wants, first. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Sep 25 '11 at 0:34

7 Answers 7

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Great questions, and welcome to the site!

No, it wasn't wrong of you to not force the party to take him, but it did make things a bit harder for you. Without more information on what exactly is going on in your campaign, it's hard to say how exactly you should fold this new guy into the group, but I'll give you a few ideas. You're going to need a few things:

  • Get the party to need the new guy.
  • Get the new guy to need the party.

Let's imagine the party is off searching for the lost Book of Dragon Stuff, while the new character is back in Bigold City doing something boring -- let's say he's practicing law, but he wishes he were a wealthy merchant instead.

(At this point we've established the party's goal, the new guy's goal, and what everyone is doing.)

The new guy, as a lawyer, knows the local magistrate, who turns out to be a collector of bits of Dragon Stuff, and would love to have a chance to read the Book.

Meanwhile, the party finds out that some Dragon Stuff artifact that they want got taken to Bigold City. The party heads to town and runs into the new guy. The new guy introduces them to the magistrate.

The magistrate tells the party that the item they're looking for was owned by some nobleman who died, and they won't be able to get a look at it until his sons are done arguing over the will. If only we had someone who knew about inheritance law to sort things out!

Now the party needs the new guy to help them out, the new guy has a chance to join in with the party on their quest, and everyone involved would benefit from making friends with the magistrate, which could be done by finding the Book and letting him study it.

Give us some more information about what's going on in your game, and I'm sure people here will be able to give you more pertinent suggestions.

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In the first meeting between the new player and the rest of the party, they were all locked in a city. It took the new player's contacts, and the party's skills to resolve the problem, and re-open the city. So they were united in that common goal to begin with, but then felt there was no reason for the new character to follow along afterwards. I'll edit the original question to hopefully explain why. –  user2474 Sep 19 '11 at 6:58
    
All good answers, but this was the one that I ended up trying, so I've decided to pick this one. I came up with another situation where they needed his contacts, and although I'm a bit concerned that he'll just become the "contacts guy", at least he's part of the party now, and it will be easier for him to build trust with everyone else. –  user2474 Oct 12 '11 at 8:39

I've bumped into this problem before and here's how I handle it: Let the players know that this new player wants to join and ask them to let their characters be a little open about accepting his help. Talk to the new player and let him know what the party is like. Let him know that if he intends to play, he will need to find a way to join the party.

Ultimately, roleplaying is a joint story-telling session, where everyone pitches in to make the story fun. We add rules and fun stuff like minis to spice it up, but in the end, it's team story-telling time.

If the party is unwilling to let the new PC join, you need to speak with everyone (party and new guy together) to find out what needs to change.

If the new guy is unwilling to find a reason for his PC to join the party, tell him to make a new one! The old PC, who really only wants to be with the party every once in a while, can become an NPC contact.

Remember that it is not all up to you to make this work. It'll be more fun and fulfilling for your party this way too.

A lot of the above posts say something similar and I think you've got a lot of good solid advice. Now you just need to level it at your party and see how they take it.

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The way I do this is to ask everyone in meta game to come up with in-game reasons why a new character would be added. It is simple, makes sure that everyone is happy out and in game, and it side steps all "Trust No One" issues that most characters have once in the middle of a nefarious plot.

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From what you describe, I assume the game you're running is a "serious" drama/sim type game, where people don't like doing something just for metagame reasons. "Well, we know he's a new PC, so we should just accept him as a brother." Some people run games like that, that's fine, but I don't prefer that style and it sounds like that's not your game style either, so let's talk how to make it work within a "game fiction first" framework. In that framework, there is never any "force them" to do anything, so you're right to not have done so.

You have two ways to rectify the problem - in game and careful metagame.

In game, you can generate opportunities for these people to meet in a way that they would then naturally ally with each other. I don't know what your campaign is about, but maybe they are threatened by the same force, or have some common cause. But make it all believable within the game. The party/new PCs are both balking because they can't figure out a way to join up that, when viewed from the characters' perspective or from an outside story perspective, makes sense.

With careful metagaming, you need to help the guy craft his new character's background to align well with the party. You can also consider talking frankly outside the game as to what the missing components of trust are, and then using that to feed into your in game approach above. It's fine to run full sim in game, but everyone (player and GM) has to understand that they need to construct their characters/plots/etc. to bring everyone together.

We had a problem like this in a serious game I was in. We were all undercover wizard killers, facing a widespread demonic conspiracy, and we had to maintain strict secrecy. So we get this new gnome character in who is just acting like a total insane spaz all the time. Like to the point that he wouldn't/couldn't answer a normal question. We kept him outside the secret for a little while, just interacting with him via our cover identities, hoping that maybe the crazy thing was just an act and we could find an angle where anyone could take a chance on trusting him. We were feeling the metagame pressure to try to include him somehow, but couldn't find a way to justify it in game. Eventually he happened into our secret when we got attacked. Afterwards we had to have a serious talk with him about our mission, and he would just respond "Wheee, turnips!" We explained very carefully to him that he had two choices - make enough sense that we felt we could trust him and join up, or we would sew him into a weighted sack and throw him into the river, because those were the only options that would allow us to survive. He shaped up. If he hadn't, I trust his next character would have aligned better with the campaign and our group.

For people who are trying to play an immersive game, "forcing them" to take a character basically destroys the value of the game for them. There need to be in game reasons. Now, they shouldn't be complete drama queens about it - "we kinda like him and he seems reliable and he has skills that could help us" is more than enough reason, if they are looking for more then they are being a bit unreasonable. Though heck, you can come through with a vision from someone's deity or something about "his destiny lies with you..." From the player's end, he needs a reason to throw in with them too, and no massive dealbreakers regarding the ability to trust them. This does require some coordinated design on your part (and the characters' part) up front.

If the party dynamic means that they would never trust anyone new they found, or that they would never be trusted by anyone, then that's a bad initial party dynamic - same thing with a new PC. "We are all distrustful loners" won't work well for that, unless you have an in game construct to force it (they all work for the government and are given orders; they are all captured and put on the same slave barge, etc.). And if it comes down to it, as GM you (probably, assuming a trad game) control the weather and NPCs and gods and whatever, you can force them into a potentially bonding situation together if you really have to.

Heck, here's another example. We had a guy join one game of ours. We were a Serenity type group of independent spacers in port. He showed up for a job interview. (We knew there were new PCs to take on, and we could always use more help, so we accommodated the metagame need for new character intake by putting up a job posting.) This guy shows up, and he won't answer any question we have. What do you do? "Things." What skills do you have? "Good ones." What value can you add to our crew? "I take care of problems." What kind of problems? "Big ones." We ended up dis-inviting that player to our game, as his play style was just a poor match for ours. He wasn't a new player to our group either, but his similarly disruptive shenanigans in the past had really diminished the enjoyment of our campaigns for everyone else involved. This was the last straw.

Some groups just get together to hang out, and don't really sweat the logical details of the game fiction. In that case, they'd just welcome him in and set off to kill some orcs. But some games are allergic to "silly" happenings, and in that case you have to find a way via design and the other "knobs" of game fiction to get them together.

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At this point you really need to step outside of the game and talk to your players, not to their characters. It is simply not reasonable for your group to completely reject the new character's presence and force the new player to get on the bus back home after wasting his Friday night. There are many character issues that can be discussed and handled in-game while you are playing, but this is a question of the new player being allowed to play at all!

As Canageek suggests, it sounds like your players are deliberately refusing to let the new player join in, and that is a situation that cannot be solved with any in-game measures. You need to be clear with them that you are all here to have fun, that you as a GM have put a lot of preparation into the really cool adventure that you are playing tonight, and that the new player has chosen to pass up all the other fun stuff that people do on Friday nights simply because he thinks it would be a blast to roleplay with you.

If you suspect that your players have a problem with the new player personally, ask your players what the deal is (preferably when the new player isn't present, as Canageek suggests). Fixing a bad group dynamic between the players is very difficult—just as difficult as fixing a bad group dynamic between any group of people. If you feel that you have the confidence and authority needed to solve the problem, it might be worth a try, but it's still not guaranteed to work; RPGs can become very difficult to play if the players are not already friends.

If the problem seems to be with the new character itself, ask your players what they dislike about the character. If their grievances are small and the new player is on board with it, simply make a few adjustments to the new character and continue with the game.

If the players are having major issues with the new character, plainly ask them to suspend their disbelief for a while. Explain that you have a whole slew of really exciting adventures planned that will be a lot more fun to play through than spending entire sessions discussing details about why some character doesn't fit into the other players' idea of credibility. This is your first game as a GM (and possibly their first game as players) and it's not the time and place to craft an award-winning screenplay. This time around, it's enough to learn the game, become familiar with the campaign setting, and have some fun.

To summarize: You need to remind your players that this is a game and that you are all people. When the needs of some thought-up character take priority over the desire of you and your players to have fun, things have gone wrong. Resolve any issues outside of the game, get your new player's character into the adventuring party, and start actually playing the game.

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I think you need to sit down and talk with your players about why they are not letting him join the group: It sounds very much like they are being deliberately obtuse, which is often a sign of something else. It could be they don't like the player, or feel his character is a good fit for the party. I'd do this when the new guy isn't around, in case it is something personal about the player. If it is just a character issue, that can probably be resolved by some small alterations to it that both groups agree on.

Secondly (Assuming by "there was logical reason for his character to continue tagging along" you mean "there was not a logical reason") why wasn't there? Was his character not a good fit? Did he not have things to contribute? I'd have a look at his character, and at the party, and suggest alterations to the character so that the party wants him to join. If he has useful skills to the party then I would think they would try and get him to 'keep tagging along'

On how to get new players to join the party: I find you want to get new players into the game as fast as possible: No one likes sitting around with nothing to do. I usually try to give them specific reasons to join the party. They can be specific: 'We are seeking revenge on the same person: Why don't we join forces?" or more general: "I've just been exposed to the Mythos and can't rest quietly while such abominations walk the earth: May I assist you?"

You could even ask a player in your group to offer up a hook to pull the new character in with- I've had lots of 'Sure, I know a guy' moments, which helps. A former colleague, employee, relative of a group member has a skill they need, or needs a job or so on can greatly smooth over the reason for the person joining the group.

Building on this, I often find the best way to get a new character into the group is to ask the existing players to look over his character and suggest ways he can join. This lets them have a bit of control, and encourages cooperation. As a bonus it also saves you work.

I do have a question for you: Have you had this character approach the group and ask to join? Say, he got burned by someone else, and he found them trustworthy when working with them or something like that. Give him a reason to seek out the group and specifically ask to join them. That removes any uncertainty about his intentions and adds a logical reason in one stroke.

I think as long as you ensure there are no real-world issues, you shouldn't have much trouble finding a compromise between your players and the new player. Once you have that down it shouldn't be too much trouble finding a reason for him to join the group.

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Yes, I did mean no logical reason, thanks. :) Outside the game, everybody gets along fine, so I don't think it's because they don't like the person behind the character. I have suggested his character should approach the group and ask to join, but he replied that it is not something that his character would do, and I really don't want to tell him how to play his character. –  user2474 Sep 19 '11 at 7:05
    
I think you should add to your question the comment that the players get along fine outside the game, so that other users understand the social situation a bit more as well. –  Jakob Sep 19 '11 at 8:47
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I'd also suggest a pleasant-yet-firm conversation with the new player about how "not something his character would do" is not a good excuse. He's there to play with an established group, so he needs to make a character that would work with that group. –  sprenge777 Sep 19 '11 at 17:53

New characters must be woven into the backstory of the plot or other characters.

Trust is a function of time. Expecting characters to trust without historical basis is silly and leads to moments like these.

Apocalypse world has a method of integrating new characters by establishing a history between them and other characters. Assuming you're not using group character creation, asking the character and one or two of the existing characters to generate a joint backstory should solve the trust issues.

Beyond that, you could ask them, out of character, to find ways to trust this character. Offer to set up situations that they require to build trust. Intercharacter trust is something that cannot be imposed on characters. However, if you work with your players, and your players abide by Wheaton's Law, there should be few problems.

Another problem is far more fundamental. Do the other players want to play with this player? Character problems are an excellent excuse, but you must offer the group veto power (in private, and secretly by individual) over their presence. This may be what your group is trying to express by the IC problems, and it should be dealt with out of game.

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It's funny that you would link to that video to prove your point, because the video also points out the extreme silliness of random chance allowing a much less competent character to succeed while a trained character fails. I very rarely hear gamers decry d20 skill checks, though, or refusing to play because of them, so I would not use "silliness" as the main criteria for judging something in the game. We are, after all, silly enough just sitting around a table pretending to be wizards with pointy hats. ;) –  Jakob Sep 18 '11 at 20:52
    
I was going to write an answer, but this says what I wanted to. Our group has done this many times - very poorly at first. It is very hard to force group cohesion. @user2474: You have some good roleplayers - they stuck to their characters rather than taking the cleared path. Friendships (in and out of game) take time. As Brian has suggested, writing the back story adds that time - and writing it together gives the players some out of game time, too. –  user1637 Sep 19 '11 at 16:44

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