Dungeons & Dragons Online

Session 0+ or Barhopping in Baldur’s Gate

Content of the article: "Session 0+ or Barhopping in Baldur’s Gate"

Thought I would share this experiment I tried that worked really well.

So I have been GMing for 18 years or so, and one of the things that always makes me grind my teeth is what I call the "New Party Side Eye." This happens, usually in session 1, when all the players characters are coming together for the first time, being thrown into these pretty extraordinary or stressful situations and the players start saying things like "Oh my character wouldn't trust the other characters so I'm going to do (insert lone wolf action that often leaves other party members haning)"

Now, there are a few ways to deal with this:

  • You can just ignore it, solider through. It almost always disappears by session 2.

  • Integrated Backstories: Have a phase during character creation where each PC describes their relation to one other PC, be they friends or family or bitter rivals.

  • Strong common cause: You can place the PCs as part of a larger organization (a knighthood or guild), or give them some other strong common cause.

I have tried all of these approaches over the years, and I feel like the integrated backstories works the best and most consistently. But I was still missing something, there was still a bit of unease over those first few sessions. Enter, the Baldur's Gate Barhop.

The premise is simple, the PCs all happen to be staying at the same tavern for a few days at least. Not knowing anyone else in town, or only having connections to one other person (integrated backstory), the group forms a small drinking clique in the tavern during their stay. Have a friendly NPC join the group, in my case a young merchant's son with a penchant for gambling and drinking. After everyone has created their character, and while their backstories are still fresh in their mind, set the scene at the tavern, explain the premise and introduce the NPC. The NPC comes in bored, with a thick purse of gold, and wants to go barhopping. This is a low risk activity for the PCs, and they're not paying anyway. Then just get up to some wacky high-jinks!

Read:  Applying status effects on key NPC attacks?

Here is what we got up to:

  • Drinking Contest: Gets everyone nice and drunk.

  • Bar fight (Classic)

  • Stole a carriage and dumped it in the river.

The players have a blast, you get out all those first session jitters out, and the party starts the bonding process of coming up with interparty memes and jokes. I did this all at the end of Session 0 with the players, it took maybe an hour. Just play it really loose, no need to get particularly rulesy here. Also, you now have a friendly NPC that the players have a nice connection to and you can use later. My group is five sessions in to the game and they still refer back to their night of barhopping.

Obviously this is going to work for some party/story types better than others, but it's a great way to enliven the whole "you start in a tavern" beginning (which is a great place to start, don't hate on it).

Source: reddit.com

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