That night brought together all those comrades of the Guards of M. Dessessart and the company of Musketeers of M. de Treville who had been accustomed to associate together. They were parting to meet again when it pleased God, and if it pleased God. That night, then, was somewhat riotous, as may be imagined. In such cases extreme preoccupation is only to be combated by extreme carelessness.
— The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Gutenberg Edition
One thing that’s common in the superhero genre but far less so in fantasy role-playing is the concept of pre-arranged meeting places. Partly that’s down to comicbook artist laziness (the positive kind!) – once they’ve drawn the top of the Gotham City police HQ and the Bat Signal, That Watertower, or the Daily Planet rooftop it’s a reference resource for all future panels where Jim Gordon has to meet Batman, or whatever.
But there’s more to it than that; it gives the stories a sense of the familiar, and grounds the heroes into their surroundings so that they become a part of the city they’re vowed to protect; that scene is them, captured as a landscape. The Police HQ rooftop is urban gothic, the home of the bright light that cuts through the darkness whereas the Daily Planet’s roof is usually seen in bright daylight with it’s familiar golden globe emblem. Each meeting place embodies all that there is about Batman and Superman, respectively.
Outside the genre, the Three Musketeers and d’Artagnan usually met at the Barracks of M. de Treville or in Athos’ lodgings. Each meeting place serves a purpose with the Barracks showing their military standing and Athos’ lodging suited for their more questionable ventures. Where they met set the tone.
There’s something similar in Fantasy literature, though the meeting places tend to be more mobile – it’s more a case of the type of place, rather than a fixed point. In the Riftwar (and following) novels by Raymond E Feist the more roguish heroes (Jimmy and Dash from the later books, for example) arranged to meet in sewers, in old blasted farmhouses or similar shady places. The where reflected their character.
There’s advantages to using meeting places in your 4e D&D game. Firstly, they can help give your adventures a sense of passing time. Secondly, they’re a method of allowing the adventurers to split up without splitting up. Lastly, the tone of the place sets the tone for the adventuring group.
For example, if the adventure is an urban murder mystery, the Rogue could head out to make enquiries with the Thieve’s Guild (a Streetwise check), the Wizard could scry with his Crystal Ball back in his Tower (Arcana), the Fighter bully some dockside workers for information (Intimidate) and the Cleric review augurs from the Stars (Religion) in the Temple. That’s a Skill Challenge (love those!) where the adventurers have split up, done their thing then returned to the meeting place to reveal their findings. Perhaps half a day has passed, each adventurer has had a little solo me-space (albeit for only one dice roll in this case) and each one (if they made the roll) done something to contribute to the adventure. All without a single combat roll. The meeting place brings them all back together.
It’s no fun if they always meet up at the local tavern. Give your players a meeting place that fits the tone you want to set in the campaign. If it’s a dark, gritty setting give them a hideout in the sewers; if they’re enlisted in the army they could usually meet up in the barracks, or on the training grounds. In one of my campaigns the players always met at Falgor’s Corner, a nondescript alleyway they nicknamed because it’s the place where one of the original characters died fighting were-rats.
As the characters advance in level, have their meeting place change to reflect their altered status. When they reach 9th level and have friends and allies at Court, if wouldn’t do for them to hang around the dockside like the did as lowly 1st levellers!
If your adventuring party is more of a wandering troupe who pass from town to village with each adventure, encourage them to find one spot that would make a good meeting place for the duration of their stay. Perhaps that open grove they cleared of Kobolds is an ideal campsite for their forays into the Tomb of the Broken King, or they’ve discovered a safe room behind a Secret Door that’s a pre-arranged meeting place if they’re separated. Either way, a meeting spot gives the adventurers a place on the map that they’ve claimed as their own, albeit temporarily.
The ideal meeting place should be somewhere that’s easily defensible, reasonably secure and easilly accessible by all of the party. There’s no point agreeing a meeting place on the Island in the Bay, for example, if the players would struggle to get there under their own steam. That’s a good location at higher levels though when the players have access to flight and/or teleportation.
Here’s a handful of example places your adventurers could use as meeting places. I’m sure you can think of more.
- Behind the Old Glassworks
- Under the King’s Bedchamber
- In the Secret Garden
- In the Ranger’s woodstore
- On the corner of 5th and 9th
- At the Cookhouse
- On the steps of the Raven Queen’s Temple
- Beneath the old clock
- Underneath the Arches
- In the abandonned were-rat’s hidey hole
- At the Guildhouse
- On the Courthouse rooftop
- In a portable hole
- On the Ethereal Plane
- In the secret room behind the Cardinal’s wine cellar
- On the Island in the Bay of Lost Souls
- By the Statue of Moradin
- In the Fighter’s lodgings
- By Felgor’s grave
- On the training ground
- In the druid’s circle
- At the blasted farmhouse
- In the moathouse
- Behind the Old Dock
- In the old wrecker’s cave
Now it’s your turn. Let’s see if we can make this list up to 100, eh?
Don’t forget that the Caption Contest is still ongoing. I’ll keep it open until 10pm Sunday UK time, and announce the winner on Monday. Get captioning!