It’s not wrong to start your fantasy adventure with your to-be-heroes in a tavern but it is a cliche. What if you want to do something different?
An accessible and wise approach is to have your players work together to build some reason to care for the other PCs into their own character’s background. ‘Session 0s’ are also a popular way for groups to get established and essential blanks to be filled in.
However, he’s a list of some 15 popular (but not tavern popular) alternatives.
- The characters start up in the lower deck of a ship and don’t know how they got there.
- Start the adventure with the characters as prisoners in the same set of cells.
- As a group of mercenaries.
- As childhood friends living together in a sleepy hamlet when something Strange happens.
- As people from two or three villages who got along well enough traded together and helped one another until, one night, one of the villages is entirely and dramatically destroyed!
- Start the adventure with a group of people, who already know each other a little, travelling together to a nearby town to get work.
- Strangers on a caravan together when all hell breaks loose (either literally or just as a figure of speech!)
- The characters were soldiers together in an army massacred by a relentless foe.
- The characters begin the story at a funeral of an old mutual friend who had been connected to everyone in some particular way. They discover that his death has had severe consequences or implications for everyone.
- Each of the characters begins by separately making their way to a week-long festival where the Kingdoms set aside their differences and celebrate with tournaments, feasts and dances.
- Start the adventure in the middle of a battle during the party’s second or third adventure together. Let the battle play out and encourage the players to fill in the backstory as things develop.
- All the characters receive an invitation to attend a thing/undisclosed event.
- All the characters are part of an Adventuring Guild and have been given this mission.
- Have all the characters die at different times in history, only to reawaken on a hill together many years later and hear a voice in their heads say “I choose you as my champion.”
- The characters are all descendants of passengers from a ship blown wildly off course and through a reef by a tremendous storm. Generations have passed, the village grown and a community formed but no one knows of the state of the world beyond the reef. The adventure begins when a sail appears on the horizon and starts to get closer.
- You’re in a tavern… that’s on fire. Roll for initiative.
Thanks to the unofficial D&D 5e FB group for the ideas.
Creative Commons image credit: Ramiz Morina for ‘Tavern’.