Ask The GM: New Friends, Old Gamers

By John Serpico on


Max asks – I’m running a short adventure for some friends, some of whom know each other well and some who haven’t met each other. All of them are experienced role players. How do I minimize awkwardness and maximize fun?

Building rapport among gamers that haven’t yet gamed together is an important part of any extended campaign of short adventure. All your gamers don’t necessarily have to be best friends, but they should be enthusiastic to play and willing to have their characters work together towards mutual goals. So you’re going to want to invest some time and effort in helping them towards teamwork and trust.

Mercifully, developing camaraderie among players is easier to do that you might think. I recommend a two-pronged approach – connect the players and connect the characters. Allow me to explain:

Connect the Players

It’s important to remember that anyone showing up to a gaming session wants to have fun playing and enjoy the company. Which means that, so long as you create a nice gaming environment, the angels of our better nature should bubble to the surface. For a short campaign or single session, I would recommend having folks bring lunch and show up thirty minutes prior to the start of the game to chat a bit, get to know each other, and share a meal. For a longer campaign, getting folks together for a character generation session and an hourlong “test out the equipment” mini mission also tends to yield big teamwork dividends.

On top of those organic get-people-together-and-have-them-eat-food approaches, laying out the house rules you’re enforcing and campaign themes you’re going for will help those players stay on the same page throughout the session or sessions. Some players are sticklers for the rules as written, staying in character all the time or trying to avoid too much planning. Especially with experienced gamers, they have personal preferences that you need to weigh in on and provide some guidance for. So weigh in on those things right away to preemptively manage expectations and let your players know what, ideally, you want the campaign’s culture to be.

Connect the Characters

I’ve always been amazed at how easily a party’s backstory can unite the characters (and, by extension, the players). If you make the characters an extended family, or the survivors of an alien attack on a far flung colony, or members of the same mercenary company, the players will feel connected. With a line as simple as “[Character 1] and [Character 2], you both graduated the war college together and decided your first hire in your monster hunting company would be a talented tracker you both knew from your village, [Character 3].” That line during the introduction of the characters will start training the teamwork muscles necessary for success. In essence, your players don’t need to know each other so long as their characters do. The power of collective storytelling will keep those players cultivating their character’s friendships… even if those friendships were given to them by the GM.

Build some bridges between the players and build some bridges between the characters and human nature will hopefully do the rest!

Happy GMing!

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