I am a HUGE proponent of tricks to start an RPG group in alignment. These range from complicated background generation system to "Tell me how the character to the left saved your life" kickoffs, so it's in that context that I'm a HUGE fan of using existing mechanic as support.
The underlying idea is FAR from new. Many an ancient game includes things that mechanically support drawing the group together. But it's an endlessly robust idea to play with.
D&D 2e came REALLY close to supporting this well with Kits - every class had access to a swashbuckler kit, and it was clear it could enable an all swashbuckler game.
In 3e, we leaned into the robust multiclassing, and our absolute best 3e campaign was one premised on "Everyone starts with one level of rogue" (which was great thematically AND mechanically)
4e didn't give a lot of tools in this regard, so that fell to out of game tricks, but 5e's inclusion of Backgrounds gave a new opportunity, and the current fast go to around here is "We all have the same background" and it works GREAT.
Note there are still a TON of other cool ways to draw a party together, including the patrons in Tasha's, and of course more traditional ties (Our ToA group is bound together as the children of the heroes who faced the Tomb the first time) but for me this is the fast & easy one.
One other thing I really like about it is that I *love* backgrounds, but I also feel that they are kind of a weak, pale reflection of what they might be. Mechanically, I really want them to carry more weight.
Unifying a group around a background doesn't quite do that, but it makes sure the background has more *heft* in the story. It provides a robust field for NPCs with implicit character connections, and for things that are important beyond the dungeon.
Again: Plenty of other ways to do this too, but a shared background is just *easy*. AND it's fun - patrons can suffer a bit from having GM fingerprints all over them, but if the group background is picked (and contextualized) by the group, it's *fun* to pick.
Like, explicitly it's sufficiently fun and easy that I'm not even bothering to talk about *how* to go about doing it, because I think that once you buy into the idea, the implementation is almost trivial.

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More from @rdonoghue

2 May
Doing a bit of pen cleanup, and made a weird discovery. I have a ton of pens, including fancy kickarter ones, but none of them have a clicking action that feels as robust as the million year old, super mundane parker jotter.
Do I have a category of pens described as "Too fancy to actually use?" - of course I do.
LOT of kickstarters in that box.
Read 5 tweets
2 May
Gonna branch because this may go for a bit:

First things first, game-icons.net is an impossibly great resource for a huge range of simple, flexible illustrations that can be used for a HOST of things in any game design.
The following sites:
(and many more) are all purpose warehouses for things like fonts and design assets, and they frequently have deals on bundles which will get you a lot of really good stuff on the cheap.
serif.com sells a trio of *amazing* software products which are inexpensive and serve as alternatives to photoshop, illustrator and Indesign. For open source alternatives, check inkscape.org, scribus.net and gimp.org
Read 11 tweets
1 May
I think one of the reasons I’ve always struggled in conversations about the problems with GM secrets is that I genuinely love, but they stab me like unopened gifts. Once I have one, my inner voice is all “OPEN IT OPEN IT”.
Intellectually, I get there are other approaches, including delighting in what players don’t know, but I don’t really *get* those on a guy level.
Gut level, even. Holding onto a secret is hard. I’ll do it for a good reason, but the reason better be worth me not making a PowerPoint presentation with diagrams to unpack it all.
Read 7 tweets
1 May
I had never really thought about it before, but the idea that the rewards end up going to the police is both irksome and utterly unsurprising.
I mean, I know nothing about this specific case, but it has me wondering more about the nature of these rewards, and if "And the prize goes to the police" is an outcome, how much things will bend towards that, to say nothing of "It's not a bribe, it's a reward!"
Gonna need to read up on this some, I think. I wager it's not a terribly transparent process, one with high emotions, loose money and limited accountability, and that sounds like a recipe for a very interesting rock to look under.
Read 4 tweets
1 May
Tomb of Annihilation: Still full of dungeony bullshit. Still a fun time.
Today's monk frustration: Lots of Fear effects hitting the party, and not being the subject of any of them, so I never got to use Stillness of Mind. This is much like the sad feeling any time archers shoot at anyone else but me.
MVP magic item of this adventure is really looking to be our sorcerer's Broom of Flying. But the Druid has a Wand of Wonder now, so it may be a tight race.
Read 5 tweets
30 Apr
Ok, quick technique trick for GMs looking to use a mind map.
This is a very fiddly, inconsistent map, but it is a treasure trove for me as a GM because i follow one simple rule to building it, and that is this:

Nothing comes from nothing. Image
Such a map is very easy to start because the ONLY nodes on it are the PCs. If there is some sort of collective group (such as a Blades in the dark gang) you MIGHT, give it a node too, but that's optional.
From that point on, you use it to capture setting elements but follow one simple rule: You cannot add anything unless you can draw a line to something else.
Read 33 tweets

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