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In the previous adventure, the characters left on bad terms after the Monk betrayed the other two party members by trying to take their captured criminal back to her (equally criminal) monastery instead of to the city guard, and knocking unconscious one of the party members.

However, I think all three characters involved in the story have a great dynamic and I think all of the players would love to play their characters again, but I'm not sure how to go with reconciling this. And in thinking about it, I realise I've no experience with reconciling opposing characters at all, because I'm used to player goals aligning (a sort of expectation in most other RPGs I've played so far)

So what are some good methods to reintroduce a party of characters who are at this point strongly opposed to one another and making them work towards a common goal? Should we jump ahead in time and come up with some backstory for why they hate each other less now? Should we dedicate a large amount of the next session to getting them to agree to work together? Or should I introduce a dire threat that forces them together despite all of their differences and dislike? And how should I introduce it? During the session, or before it starts as the starting point for it?

Just to clear up: the players have no problems with one another, they liked their characters and really enjoyed the story. Just looking for a way to have more stories that doesn't require glossing over the results of the previous session's betrayal.

Also I don't necessarily need advice that's linked directly to this situation, I am more interested in general approaches to reconciling these characters. We are playing Fate, if that matters, but the problem I'm facing isn't about mechanics. If the question needs to be edited further (by removing the example, perhaps?) please let me know.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Be sure to get the players' input on whether they'd like you to take the reigns in the story here, or if they want 100% control, or somewhere in between. Whatever answer you choose, you should make sure your players are cool with the methods. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Dec 28 '15 at 17:10
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This is a great premise for some brilliant character dynamics and interaction and skipping ahead in time might see you lose most of it.

I would either go with

  1. Greater common evil - Needs must, eh?
  2. Forced betrayal, i.e. the monk was forced to act the way she did because she was under greater duress than what the others were aware of.

ANSWER: I would probably go uniting the team by first having them meet at the said monastery, with the betrayed party trying to get back at the monk but ending up helping her fight off her ex-monk buddies to save her aunt/daughter/brother/other organic plot device the other monks are holding captive/planning to sacrifice etc. And onwards to another tale of high adventure. Maybe this kidnapping or sacrifice was just a small part of something bigger?

Acting under duress allows for the monk to plausibly retain her criminal nature without too much of a schism with what has happened before.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for common evil; but talking ooc as well (But that seems to be covered by the players) \$\endgroup\$ – Rob May 19 '15 at 8:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Totally go for common evil. The best campaign I ever ran saw the party split into two distinct, warring factions by the mid point. By making sure they had motivation to keep working together toward a greater goal, we ended up at a spectacular three-way climax to the plot. Inter-character tension is an incredibly powerful narrative tool if handled properly by the GM. \$\endgroup\$ – Bob Tway May 19 '15 at 9:32
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Since the group is small and the players are happy with the IC relationship, do not reconcile the characters. Simply give them reason to be in the same place at the same time and let them oppose each other or form a temporary truce as they please. Perhaps eventually they will genuinely reconcile, but I don't think it's really for the GM to decide that's what the plot of the session is, since if it happens it has to happen in a way that's realistic to each player.

should I introduce a dire threat that forces them together despite all of their differences and dislike

That's reasonable. Or perhaps they all want the same thing and co-operate against other parties to get it, knowing that eventually they'll break truce and compete (e.g. The Maltese Falcon). Or they overtly compete, but politics/diplomacy/law dictates that they be somewhat civilized about it (e.g. The Lion in Winter / Empire).

how should I introduce it? During the session, or before it starts as the starting point for it?

Just for the sake of character POV, I'd always prefer to introduce the news of the threat in session, with the camera rolling, so that players can react in character. I would not say, "between sessions you've all reconciled, forgiven each other for the events of last session, and become great friends again", because even if the players buy into the goal of starting afresh, it won't be very real to them.

In this example the characters presumably will be apart until brought together, so that means two (or three) short introductory scenes before they come back together. If your twisty turny plot requires information to be given secretly to the players then you might want to do those before the session to save session time, otherwise keep it in the open and let the players enjoy the other side's POV even though their characters aren't present. Give each character a reason to be in the place the plot is going to happen, then bring them together. If it's going to take so long to bring them together, that you think it'll be too much time spectating in-session, then certainly handle it outside the session if you can. My limit's about one scene each, two at a push. Unless you're running Ars Magica, you don't want to be switching between threads that stay separate for ages. The point of most RPGs is to cover a group of people who are actually interacting!

If the group was not small (so that managing lots of PCs all running in different directions was logistically difficult), or the players were unhappy (and would prefer to play a united party), then I think some kind of GM relationship counselling might be a good idea, but here it seems more interesting to stick with the source of drama that's working. As in any game, watch for signs of the players becoming unhappy. I'd be especially concerned if the "score" reaches 3-0 to the Monk, there's a risk that the other two don't mind being beaten a couple of times, but won't want to indefinitely play a game in which their role is to lose. Partial victories for both sides are probably more stable, but it depends what the players like about the game.

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I tend to run my Fate games like TV shows. So that's going to heavily inform my answers.

First, I think it's perfectly fine in Fate for characters to not be friends with each other. In a TV show, alliances come and go, and that's just kind of the way it works. I also think it's okay to split the party in Fate, so long as you're conscious about table time and keep "split" scenes going fairly quickly. Fortunately, Fate is a fairly fast system (especially when not using Conflicts), so that's definitely doable. I'd consider simple Overcomes or even Challenges instead of full Conflicts in a lot of cases. Even Conflicts with just one or two participants tend to be pretty quick, though.

That said, how to get the PCs back to working together? The best thing to do is to look at their goals and motivations. PCs working against each other isn't usually because they're on Team Red instead of Team Blue. It's because they want things that aren't compatible with each other. Play that drama out! That stuff can be gold at the table, so long as your players are okay with it! And having some distrust between characters can be perfectly okay, so long as your players agree to it at a player level.

But if you need to get them together again, you need to introduce an aligned goal, one significant enough that it overcomes their inherent distrust of each other at this point. I probably wouldn't go fully heavy-handed with it - introduce some hints of it the next session, while you maybe let them work out some of the fallout from the decision. Then, over the session or two after, you can introduce the new threat, and let the old rivals figure out how to work together to overcome this mutual threat.

The last thing I'll say, and probably the most important, is this - talk to the players involved. Say to them "hey, you guys obviously have reasons to be at each others' throats. I'm okay with letting this play out for now, if you are. If not, let's figure out a way to resolve it 'off-screen'". It's not your sole responsibility to figure everything out - how could it be, when you're only one of the participants, and have an incomplete view (by definition) of what the others want? You need to talk about it openly and honestly and set expectations and, if necessary, limitations. They may decide they want to play it out, but don't want it to get to the point of PC death. Or they could both be okay with the idea of PC death as a result of this! Or, they could decide "hey, we really don't want to do this, let's just say we make up off-screen and move on with things." The resolution doesn't need to be out-of-character, but the agreement of how you're going to resolve it certainly should be.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the last paragraph especially. Some people love playing out this kind of conflict in-character, some people hate it, and the best way to find out which category your players are in is to ask them. \$\endgroup\$ – Errorsatz Jan 31 at 0:27
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When it comes to character motivations, I always leave it to the players to explain it. Take the conversation OOC, and give it to the players straight - "OK, Monk has betrayed the party. Now we're starting a new thread; why are you trusting Monk?"

This accomplishes a couple related goals:

  1. It gives the players agency over their characters, and it gets early buy-in. This is just an advanced version of the "my character wouldn't bite that plot hook" problem - the player knows that this is tonight's adventure, so it's their job to justify why the character is going along with this. Figuring this out in advance lets you tailor the plot hook to fit.

  2. It may set up future plot arcs, depending on what the players come up with. Maybe the Monk is on parole/work release/paying off debt to society. Maybe a higher-up has "arranged" for the three to work together. Maybe the Monk pulls some strings and gets the other two charmed to forget about it.

  3. It's less work for you the GM, which is always a reward in itself. (Plus, they'll likely come up with a way more entertaining explanation, because it's their babies on the line).

Once you know the whats and hows and whys, you can either bring it up in-game, or have a separate "hug it out" session, or just make it a Noodle Incident to be referred to as needed - whatever works best for you and your players.

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This sounds like a great setup for some really enjoyable character relationships and given where you started from it seems like their differences are probably quite reconcileable IC if you give that the opportunity to happen.

It would also give you an option to explore underlying themes of loyalty and the limits of trust and to really develop the characters' relationships in interesting ways through your next season.

From what you have said, the monk took a lawless character back to a lawless setting when two other characters wanted to conclude matters in a more lawful way. One strategy I might use to bring them back together would be for the other characters to be charged with either keeping an eye on the monk, or with discovering what is behind the goings-on at the monastery. This sets up a situation that gives everyone a good reason to be in the same place and to explore both the monks motivations and why the other characters found them problematic. You could also potentially give the monk opportunities to earn the other characters' forgiveness or to alienate them further depending on how they choose to play things.

From there you could decide whether it would be more interesting to explore the monk's background more deeply or to confront the party with another threat that requires them to draw together, depending on how things are going and what you feel will ensure the most fun for everyone at the table.

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An important consideration that can help in a situation like this: the reason does not have to be permanent. It is often difficult to find reasons why wildly disparate party members should join forces semi-permanently, but it is far easier to make temporary alliances that blossom into a re-establishment of the party. This could be done through many avenues, but one way that might be best is the old prison scenario.

Prison Scenario

Maybe the two party members who were left were accused of aiding the prisoner's escape (perhaps through a corrupt aristocrat that could serve as a minor antagonist) and sentenced to prison. Their enemy intends to keep them there, and perhaps the group flashes forward some time, and a mysterious hole opens up in the floor of the pair's prison cell, revealing the traitorous monk. The monk, criminal though he may be, realized that through his actions his friends were convicted, and so vowed to set them free. The party could then spent a session or three embroiled in aristocratic intrigue and combat as the trio works out the unsaid grievances, only to emerge victorious and willing to work together again.

It need not be said that this is only a sample scenario, but the idea of it provides the base model. It 1) brings the party back together through a common enemy, 2) addresses the consequences of the monk's actions, and 3) gives time to air out the relationship so the adventurers can continue once their names are cleared. Altogether, that means the party's actions matter without permanently destroying that friendship.

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