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Character creation in Dungeon World is done cooperatively, and part of the process involves establishing bonds between the different characters. World creation is also heavily driven by the players as the game progresses.

Looking through the rulebook, I am wondering how to handle additions to the party later down the line, after the initial group has been adventuring for a while. How can I ensure they have the same feeling of ownership over the game fiction, and that they have the opportunity to have relationships/bonds with existing characters that make sense and don't break fiction continuity?

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3 Answers 3

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I started 4 different games in the past 5 months and all of them started with a couple of players and then joined by others after a couple of game sessions. The first time we looked at the characters and the bonds and realised this was a simple problem.

First, bonds are optional. Even though I feel the game greatly benefit from them, you don't have to fill the bond with someone's name unless it's relevant. So at first we had a thief join the group and nobody had bonds with her and neither did she. It actually fit the fiction because they never worked together before. But after a dungeon or two they started bonding and then I asked the player if she felt she could fill some bonds with others. Worked like a charm. Of course you can also say that the new character is a friend or an acquaintance of another and they've known each other prior to the quest.

For the fiction continuity, Dungeon World works great because yes even though its better to be part of the process since the very beginning, you always draw maps and leave blanks so there's always more to add anyway. Taking the thief again, we already discovered a guild of thieves in a city and when the new player joined we explained the fiction so far and asked if she'd be interested to be a member (or ex-member) of that guild and she actually went and added that there's a new underdog rival guild.

The feeling of ownership can be achieved by telling them about the fiction so far and ask them to fill blanks whenever they can. Make it obvious that it's not because something is known that there's no twist or hidden facts. The group may have said that the King is the son of a farmer who got chosen by previous ruler to be his heir because of a vision he had but what if the vision was a magic spell performed by his court mage to put his own servant on the throne? There's always, always more to discover. Tell the new player that nothing is carved in stone and everything is changing. As long as you have some sort of contract that one player can not completely destroy another player's stuff without his permission, I think it works great.

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Don't create bonds at character creation

I know the book tells you to do it when you first roll characters, but it feels forced and players are almost always going to use one of the 4 suggested ones and shoe-horn one of the other PCs into it. This leads to a very artificial backstory that's not really fleshed out and the onus is on the PCs now to try to resolve something they can't even explain to both remove the bond and get the XP bonus for doing so.

Bonds should be created as a result of play

Part of the end of session move is resolving and creating new bonds. That's why I simply don't have characters create any bonds for session 1. Maybe the character took more than his fair share of the loot, maybe he leaves someone to die, maybe he saves all the PCs, anything could happen and will tie in better with your story than creating bonds beforehand.

Introduce the character in a situation likely to cause bonds to be formed

That said you as the GM can always engineer the introduction of a character to increase the likelihood of other characters forming bonds. Maybe he's the drunk who started the tavern fight that got the PCs thrown in jail. Maybe he's the traveler that warns the party of impending danger. Whatever you do, be sure to make the introduction of a new character dramatic and relevant. An excellent time to do this is during a carouse.

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I see creating bonds at character creation to be an asset rather than a detriment. It causes the players to think about how their characters interrelate. If they end up deciding they don't know each other beforehand, then having no bonds makes narrative sense. But I wouldn't recommend skipping it entirely. –  neontapir May 15 at 5:43

Adding a new character should be done just like the initial character creation. Ask the players how they know the new character. They'll build the bond from there.

Perhaps the new character is an old friend or enemy, or a relative, or an acquaintance they made while they were imprisoned in the Imperial dungeon a few years before the game started. Maybe the new character has been hired to kill them or recruit them.

The characters have a past that is mostly unwritten. Use new characters as an opportunity to fill in the blanks.

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