and it is a terrible way to start a role-playing campaign. Of course, all of the players want to quickly form a party and get to adventuring, but tavern meet-ups are trite. The point of a campaign is to create and share an interesting story. Just dropping in a group of PCs in a room and saying “your are now an adventuring party” is dull.
To avoid this in my new Alpha Omega campaign, I came up with a unique “party meet-up” encounter. The story opens with the PCs languishing in the small town of “Hell, Yes!” in the wilds outside Vancouver. A desolate, corrupt village with little activity save for the occasional trader, trapper or felon seeking a hideout. The only people in the town are either hiding from something or too poor to leave.
The PCs first encounter each other as they board the “Disharmony,” a small transport aircraft that runs a monthly route between the smaller free cities and towns. Much humor and fun came from the vehicle’s terrible state of repair and subsequent bumpy ride. The passenger list includes the PCs and 15 other trappers, smugglers and other human vermin. One hour into the trip, a flare detonates directly in the plane’s path. A quick survey reveals a crashed transport in the forest below, boxes of cargo splayed across the crash site’s burned ground.
It takes all of 30 seconds for everyone to see the potential profit in an ad hoc salvage operation. Weapons readied (the wilds in Alpha Omega are very dangerous), the passengers disembark and head towards the cargo, but there are some survivors in dire need of rescue. A small (blonde and cute, of course) child survived the crash and now struggles with a carnivorous plant near the crash site. Within the crashed vehicle itself, electrical cables arc and leap in the cargo bay, threatening to electrocute other survivors.
The PCs, being heroic (not too heroic mind you, Alpha Omega is a morally grey game. They still planned on getting the cargo after the rescue as a “reward.”) The party of five split into two teams with two taking on the killer cabbage and three going for the survivors in the plane. The other would-be salvagers ignored the innocent victims and hauled their booty away.
With a combination of spell-casting, small arms and brute mêlée force, the killer plant fell relatively quickly and the little blonde girl lived to annoy another day. Simultaneously, some clever casting temporarily disabled the electrical wires and allowed PCs to save some survivors. The charismatic talker PC even got some of the cold-blooded salvagers to help with an impassioned speech about their humanity.
Then all the survivors started clapping, seemingly ignoring their wounds and not looking injured at all. Perplexed, the party readied for another attack.
A large, well-armed dirigible arrived, depositing a cadre of élite security forces. Their large weapons and poor disposition quickly secured the party and the heartless salvagers. Then, emerging from the dirigible is the reason for the encounter. Ezekiel Greely-Smythe, host of “Villains or Valor,” the most popular reality show in the Vancouver region. Each week, he secretly tests the moral character of average people, rewarding the heroic and humiliating the villainous.
Happily the PCs looked great on camera, leaping through electrical cables and fighting killer carrots in defense of the innocent (the crash survivors were robots). They are duly rewarded, while the salvagers received a fate worse than death; they looked bad on television. Their greed and callousness forever linked to their faces and names on the Internet.
The encounter ran very well and I plan on using Ezekiel as an ongoing NPC, both because a TV show host is great humor fodder and I always enjoy injecting some criticism of the modern media in to my games. He also is a great exposition character when I need him to drop by the campaign and explain something.
As you can see, with a little planning, the initial “meet-up” encounter can actually be fun and drive future plot development without seeming hackneyed and tired. Get your PCs out of the tavern and into some adventures!
Trask, The Last Tyromancer