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Introducing New Characters into a Pen and Paper RPG

Some time ago, my character died in one Pathfinder campaign while another campaign had a new player join. I started thinking about new characters and different ways to bring them into the game.

Video games are easy; you’re told the new character has joined the party. Characters in a novel or TV show never complain about new cast members. Pen& Paper (P&P) Gaming, however, is its own thing with its own problems.

For example, location. If the party is in the middle of a dungeon it’s hard to justify a new friendly face showing up. New players might not fit in with the group, which can bleed into the game world. Alternatively, the party may not have a reason to accept new allies. So whose job is it to bring in the new person?

It’s the players’ responsibility. The players are the ones who handle character interactions. No one wants to be railroaded into accepting new allies. I’ve never seen it in game, but I have heard tabletop tales and jokes about new character difficulties. Players had no reason In-Character to accept the new PC, so they didn‘t. How would they know a Goblin PC (New Character, friend) from a Goblin NPC (Monster, enemy)?

It’s the Game Master’s responsibility. Most P&P gamers I know default to this view. Out-of-character the players don’t know a PC from NPCS (Non-Player Characters) so why choose them? The Game Master (GM) can set a reason for the new character to join the group.

It’s both. This has an element of the Golden Mean fallacy but it‘s true. This is where group unity comes into play and is another example of polite metagaming.

Normally the GM should set up a reason the new PC makes sense for the story and situation. It could be a condition of the party’s employer or the new character could have previous history with one of the current characters. In the event the GM cannot figure out a way to bring in the new PC then the players should pick up the slack. Sometimes you just have to make your game avatar say, “Well you seem trustworthy after a five minute conversation in a tavern. Want to join our band for a high risk, high profit adventure?”

Now if the player has his new character say no, then you have problems. But that’s beyond this article’s scope. More to come.