Let's take a random, straightforward Call of Cthulhu scenario, where someone, Miss Jane Doe, hires you (the party) to find their brother who has been missing for 3 months. (Another fine example would be the scenario from the quick start guide, “The Haunting”, where you are hired by someone to investigate if a house is haunted or not.)

Now let's take 4 players, who just rolled characters that are from totally different walks of life (for example, one is a doctor, another is a college professor, the third is a criminal, and the fourth is a dilettante).

It is hard enough for me (and maybe it's just me) to find a reason for one of the above mentioned characters to take on this assignment, and it is even harder to put them all together, to start investigating as a team.

Basically, my question is, are there any surefire ways to bring together characters that are playing for the first time, that seem natural, so they can work, act and play as a team?

Of course I could use the old trope that character A knows character B ’cause they are drinking buddies, and B knows C because something else, but for me, these don't look like a good enough reason to investigate a disappearance or a haunted house together.


They all have a stake in it

In your example of a missing brother, the easiest way to get everybody to work together in the assignment is to make sure they're all invested in finding that brother. The criminal wants to find him because he's still owed a lot of money, the teacher wants to find him because they've been best friends for years, the doctor fancies Jane Doe and wants to win her respect by finding her brother, etc.

The best way, in any roleplaying game regardless of what game it is, to get a party to work together is to make certain they all have a stake in seeing the mission succeed. They don't have to know each other before the mission, they just need to at least somewhat trust each other.

So ask your players to come up with a reason why they'd be interested in the mission, or help them come up with a reason. It doesn't have to be a rock-solid reason, as long as the entire table has fun and doesn't find the reason to be completely immersion-breaking, everything will be fine.

It's my go-to strategy for DMing games these days. I've used it in all kinds of games, from Warhammer RPG to D&D to Star Wars to Cthulhu; it seems to work in basically all of them, especially if the PCs come up with the reason themselves and feel invested. In my last campaign the party had to rescue a village. I know that without investment, they'd simply ignore the village and find something safer to do, so I had them all come up with friends and family that live in the village. They've been more than eager to risk life and limb to save those people.


Make your players share some of this burden.

  1. Tell them during character creation that you would like them to make background and histories that include connections to each other. It is not necessary in my experience that all N characters know all N-1 other characters. But you do want to have a path (so to speak) from any character to any other character. These don't necessarily have to be deep connections, where all links are deep friendships or close professional bonds. Some of then can be, but they need not all be. It's enough in my experience for a few of the links to be strong as a seed or a kernel.

  2. Tell them during character creation a little bit, subject to your comfort level, what the first adventure is about and how it is going to be framed. Often, this makes people nervous about spoiling the adventure, but my experience is that it does not. Think of it as part of setting the scene, the genre expectations, etc. You're not usually spoiled for a murder mystery movie by knowing that it's a murder mystery movie. In a game, you're not much spoiled by being told that it's an investigation story and that you should make characters of the sort who are hired, consulted, begged or threatened to take on this kind of task.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ While these are good ideas, have you tried using them, or seen them used? How have they worked, in your experience? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Aug 27 '19 at 23:42
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I use them all the time. That's what "in my experience," means. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Aug 28 '19 at 6:36

When the players' characters are from different walks of life, instead of making connections between them, I make connections of them with the "hirer" (or any other quest giver). From their backgrounds, some connections are easy to make; for instance, it's easy to picture why the quest giver would contact a private investigator or someone with a occultist background if the campaign is about investigating a haunted house.

But sometimes it's not obvious, if the player character is an actor for instance. In such cases, I ask the player:

How would your character (be part of this/ know that guy/ be interested in this/ etc.)?

With this, you and the players can work together to come up with a reason for how their characters end up there. In one run of The Haunting, one of my players was playing an actress, and her reason to be with the party investigating the haunted house was because her next role would be in a horror movie. It might be a silly reason for this, but as long as the player and you are ok with this, then it shall work.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .