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1/09/2020 3:05 pm  #1


Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

Prompted by a recent Frank Mentzer Facebook post, I’m thinking about relationships amongst pre-generated PCs in a convention setting. WG6 Isle of the Ape was noteworthy for its time for including background notes on the pre-gens describing their relationships with their fellow adventurers. I’m toying with the same idea for my upcoming Lost Treasure of Atlantis™ games at TotalCon 34 and Gary Con XII, but I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I think it’s a great way to simulate a party of characters who have worked together before and likewise to stimulate a group of strangers who haven’t. On the other hand, I worry that a mid-level AS&SH­™ character already has more than enough information for a player to digest in the first 15 minutes of a game, without worrying about interpersonal relationships too. What do you all think? Yea or nay?


How useful are pre-gen backgrounds in a convention game?











 

1/09/2020 4:15 pm  #2


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

David, Check in with Zeb Cook.

He's got this nailed with his Return to Isle of Dread con game!


 
 

1/09/2020 7:37 pm  #3


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

I think it would depends on the game or scenario you're running.  Sometimes there is an overall background to the party that can set baseline relationships among party members.  I also like to give a one or two sentence background to pregen characters which sometimes contains an interparty relationship or two - anymore info and I think it's hard to expect anyone to read it.  Sometimes the players run with this background (which is often pretty entertaining to me at least!) and sometimes they don't.   I don't really mind either way as long as they have fun in the game.

 

1/09/2020 7:45 pm  #4


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

I like it and generally do it for any parties I create.  They don't always all know each other, but there will be connections to tie them together.  And you can always go with the "Black Company" intro.  They're all members of some broader mercenary group or adventuring company, perhaps with chapter houses scattered around the campaign world.  [Wasn't this the concept behind Pathfinder?]
I sometimes do this just to have stables of reserve PCs in the case of deaths or player no-shows.


"Could you fancy me as a pirate bold?  Or a longship Viking warrior with the old gods on his side?  Well, I'm an inshore man and I'm nobody's hero.  But I'll make you tight for a windy night and a dark ride."--Jethro Tull
 

1/09/2020 8:31 pm  #5


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

As a referee, I usually say, "You've been adventuring together for at least a while, so you know each others' strengths and tactics. Anything else is up to you."

As a player, I'm not a fan of any pregen backgrounds that may dictate how we have to run the PCs or manufactures drama ("You never leave X's side because you're in love" or "You hate helping X because you think he's been secretly hoarding treasure."). Feels a bit too scripted for me. Plus, I'd rather focus on exploring something cool than dealing with someone that may view the "relationship" background as a cue to indulge amature thespianism (you know the type). Without seeing the backgrouds, it's hard to say, I guess.


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

1/09/2020 9:18 pm  #6


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

My sense is that pre-gen backgrounds were very (i.e., too!) popular in the later 1980s and throughout the 1990s, especially in RPGA tourneys, but even outside of the RPGA too.  I don't mind some personality quirks being hinted at based on the stats, equipment choices, PC portrait, etc., but I don't want anyone dictating to me that I need to play a love-lorn spurned paramour of the 18 Cha MU (or whatever).  I want to play the game, and bring my own take on characters to the table, and make the PC mine during the game as we play.  The rest is window dressing I don't want or need.

Allan.

 

1/10/2020 5:51 am  #7


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

If I were playing in such a game I'd ignore anything but the class, level, attributes and abilities: I'm there to play a PC, not act out some author's script. If I can't fill in the blanks with my own imagination why am I there? So, as long as you'd be okay with folks having the freedom to ignore the backgrounds, go for it. I still voted "Terrible Idea" though. No offense meant. https://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cool.png


"Rhialto said sternly: 'Sarsem, your conduct has been less than wise. Need I remind you of this?'
'You need say nothing! In sheer disgust, discharge me from my indenture! The humiliation will be an overwhelming punishment.'
'We are not so cruel,' said Ildefonse."
Jack Vance, Rhialto the Marvellous
 

1/10/2020 6:03 am  #8


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

The best background info I ever gave a group with their pregens consisted of a few lines.  Here is an example:
Former Hedge Priest of the Blood Moon Heretics, now a Brother of the Light, a Cult of Law
What he is good at: Smiting chaos and evil
What he is bad at: remembering what a prick he was
What he knows: he was once a bad man

Each PC had about that much information.  The players picked it up, ran with it, and it was easily one of the best D&D sessions I've ever been part of.

 

1/10/2020 7:53 am  #9


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

francisca wrote:

The best background info I ever gave a group with their pregens consisted of a few lines.  Here is an example:
Former Hedge Priest of the Blood Moon Heretics, now a Brother of the Light, a Cult of Law
What he is good at: Smiting chaos and evil
What he is bad at: remembering what a prick he was
What he knows: he was once a bad man

Each PC had about that much information.  The players picked it up, ran with it, and it was easily one of the best D&D sessions I've ever been part of.

 
While I didn't play that particular PC, that was indeed an amazing session.

Justicars of the world, Unite!


What? Me worry?
 

1/10/2020 5:10 pm  #10


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

I use a couple of lines of background that may give some insight as to how the group gets along. The players are free to ignore it if they wish as none of the background is needed for the adventure.


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

1/26/2020 12:38 am  #11


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

I've never done it, and probably would pass on running something that dictated me doing so. I find most of my convention players are either playing Hyperborea for the first time, or have played with me before, but haven't done so since my game at the previous convention. Meaning they are focused on either trying to learn the game on the fly, or trying to recall the game while not dying. 
Because of this, I want them to focus on learning how to enjoy the game, rather than their characters backstory. 
Plus, frankly, I already take enough time explaining the system/setting/mechanics as it is, and devoting more time to explain character backstory isn't something I'm interested in. Not to mention putting further strain on a voice that's probably already hoarse as it is, in an environment that is likely loud
Frank is coming from the standpoint of where he's always running a game in board room, or room with maybe 1-2 more tables and can talk at a normal conversational level. There's zero issues with players hearing him, not to mention the luxury of not having to explain how the game works to a considerable amount of the table. 

 

1/26/2020 9:52 am  #12


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

Ar'Pharazon wrote:

I've never done it, and probably would pass on running something that dictated me doing so. I find most of my convention players are either playing Hyperborea for the first time, or have played with me before, but haven't done so since my game at the previous convention. Meaning they are focused on either trying to learn the game on the fly, or trying to recall the game while not dying. 
Because of this, I want them to focus on learning how to enjoy the game, rather than their characters backstory. 
Plus, frankly, I already take enough time explaining the system/setting/mechanics as it is, and devoting more time to explain character backstory isn't something I'm interested in. Not to mention putting further strain on a voice that's probably already hoarse as it is, in an environment that is likely loud
Frank is coming from the standpoint of where he's always running a game in board room, or room with maybe 1-2 more tables and can talk at a normal conversational level. There's zero issues with players hearing him, not to mention the luxury of not having to explain how the game works to a considerable amount of the table. 

Also a reason I dont put alignment on pregens. Too stifling.


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

1/26/2020 3:50 pm  #13


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

mabon5127 wrote:

Also a reason I dont put alignment on pregens. Too stifling.

At the end of the day, we have a short window of a few hours to sink the hook of AS&SH into a con players mouth, run and complete a somewhat decent adventure, and make sure the players are having a fun time (or at least glad they chose to spend their time playing with you).
Focusing on anything else than these 3 is folly. Too many GM's lose sight of the fact a player is at your table at their leisure, not the GM's. 

Last edited by Ar'Pharazon (1/26/2020 3:50 pm)

 

1/26/2020 6:01 pm  #14


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

We're referees, not puppeteers.


"Rhialto said sternly: 'Sarsem, your conduct has been less than wise. Need I remind you of this?'
'You need say nothing! In sheer disgust, discharge me from my indenture! The humiliation will be an overwhelming punishment.'
'We are not so cruel,' said Ildefonse."
Jack Vance, Rhialto the Marvellous
 

1/29/2020 8:56 am  #15


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

lige wrote:

I think it would depends on the game or scenario you're running.  Sometimes there is an overall background to the party that can set baseline relationships among party members.  I also like to give a one or two sentence background to pregen characters which sometimes contains an interparty relationship or two - anymore info and I think it's hard to expect anyone to read it.  Sometimes the players run with this background (which is often pretty entertaining to me at least!) and sometimes they don't.   I don't really mind either way as long as they have fun in the game.

Yuh. It's all very much dependent on the type of scenario. Like Mabon's Knives in the Dark had a few light connections among PCs and with NPCs, and it was immediately immersive into the Khromarium of the adventure. Since I'm not as interesting as Mabon, most of the scenarios I run at cons are basically, "Well, you made it this far together, and the treasure is in ... THERE."

But maybe one day I'll do something a little less seat of the pants!

At any rate, there are shades of gray.

 

1/29/2020 9:34 am  #16


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

Lige had an event last year at Gary Con were there was some prior relationships amongst the players and the setting.

That was handled as backstory and the premise for why we were there. It really didn't influence how we as a group interacted. At least I didn't take it as such. It might have also been because we were vicious raiders that basically razed the town many years ago.

No honor among razers so to speak.


What? Me worry?
 

1/29/2020 11:22 am  #17


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

gizmomathboy wrote:

Lige had an event last year at Gary Con were there was some prior relationships amongst the players and the setting.

That was handled as backstory and the premise for why we were there. It really didn't influence how we as a group interacted. At least I didn't take it as such. It might have also been because we were vicious raiders that basically razed the town many years ago.

No honor among razers so to speak.

We played in that one, too! Yes, no hesitation before sacrificing literally any of my companions. It would be one hard bastard of a backstory that could make me less of double-crossing ass, though!
 

 

1/29/2020 11:51 am  #18


Re: Pre-gen Relationships for Convention Games

Handy Haversack wrote:

lige wrote:

I think it would depends on the game or scenario you're running.  Sometimes there is an overall background to the party that can set baseline relationships among party members.  I also like to give a one or two sentence background to pregen characters which sometimes contains an interparty relationship or two - anymore info and I think it's hard to expect anyone to read it.  Sometimes the players run with this background (which is often pretty entertaining to me at least!) and sometimes they don't.   I don't really mind either way as long as they have fun in the game.

Yuh. It's all very much dependent on the type of scenario. Like Mabon's Knives in the Dark had a few light connections among PCs and with NPCs, and it was immediately immersive into the Khromarium of the adventure. Since I'm not as interesting as Mabon, most of the scenarios I run at cons are basically, "Well, you made it this far together, and the treasure is in ... THERE."

But maybe one day I'll do something a little less seat of the pants!

At any rate, there are shades of gray.

Thanks Handy! You are very kind. That adventure was lots of fun. I need to re-visit the format.
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

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