From the Tips for Beginning DMs Dep’t……….
It’s the smallest things that make all the difference. I’m going to suggest one minor alteration to the character sheet that’s going to make your role-playing sessions more realistic, make your job as GM easier, involve the players in the shared world, and give the characters a rationale for all this adventuring, all at the same time.
Impossible, you say?
Right at the top of the sheet, add the line “Member of………………….” with space for the player to fill in the player’s affiliation.
Encourage the player to make up a group or organisation; it could be the Briarton Wizards’ College where the young mage learned his art, the name of a loose band of like-minded adventurers (like the Harpers) or the local Thieve’s Guild – anything that comes from the player’s mind and adds something to the backstory and history of the world. It could be a church, a guild, political party, clan or anything that helps define the character’s role beyond the scope of the adventuring party. While some affiliations might be obvious (Cleric. Church. Duh!), the most interesting ones are those that play against the norm. If the Cleric is a member of the Thieve’s Guild and the Rogue is a lay pastor in the Church of Pelor, fun things can only happen.
Each new organization is a potential plot hook. Put two together and you’ve got a rivalry; three and you’ve a dynamic that’s unique to your world. Perhaps the Ranger’s Green Circle is opposed to the Warlock’s Legion of Gurr while the Fighter’s Ninth Column is considering an allegiance with the Warlord’s Moonstrike Commanders. Encourage the player to flesh the organizations out and they’re effectively doing the work for you. Pick up one of their ideas, weave a scenario round it and the players will feel more closely involved in the adventure. You don’t need to bring an organization into every adventure, but it certainly beats relying on the “man in a tavern” to kick-start a session :D .
Need a carrot? Just give the players a +2 to one skill in return for all their effort and they’ll be eating out of your hands.
Damn, I’m getting hungry with all these food metaphors.
If you want to know more about using affiliations, grab the (sadly under-rated and excellent) d20 Modern where they replace the alignment system completely.
Edit: I was going to leave this until tomorrow, but it gelled so neatly with ChattyDM’s latest post :D