Should inclusion in an adventuring party be automatic? We always assume that when a player is present at the gaming table his character will be welcomed into the current adventuring party. The problem is that you can end up with some characters that just don’t really fit in. This might be because they’re a non-traditional race, different alignment, opposing religious beliefs, or some other off-the-wall and completely unexpected reason. The point is that players shouldn’t assume that whatever character they choose to create will automatically be awarded membership in an existing adventuring party.
In order to weed out potential bad seeds, the party should conduct interviews of all potential candidates and choose the ones they want to let into the group. It’s not typically how things are done in D&D, but maybe it’s something we should begin doing on a regular basis.
Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. Should the party have a chance to interview prospective new members? We find out as today “I” is for Interview.
In the 1999 movie Mystery Men starting Ben Stiller a group of rag-tag, second rate super heroes hold interviews for new members of their team. It’s a pretty funny scene in an underrated movie with a spectacular cast. The scene shows hero after hero (and I use the term hero loosely in this context) interviewing for a spot among the Mystery Men. Although these interviews in the move are brief in order to maximize the humour, it’s still a good rendition of what I’m talking about here.
All right, state your name and power.
I am the Waffler. With my griddle of justice, I bash the enemy in the head, or, I burn them like so. (He presses the iron to his face with a gruesome hissing noise.)
Oh, don’t do that.
I also have my Truth Syrup, which is low fat. And I’ve been working on a theme song. Kinda like: “Waffle Man!! Oh! I am the Waffler! Golden crispy! Bad guys are history, yow!” And I’m running. Just think about it. Do you have a health plan? Maybe dental? Eye?
If the group decides that they want to go through an interview process before bringing on a new party member, there are a few things the existing party members need to decide on. Someone needs to be the ultimate authority when it comes to decision making. If the party has a leader (not necessarily a leader role, just the guy in charge), then he should have the deciding vote for purposes of breaking a tie. If the group trusts the leader’s judgment then they can defer to his wisdom and let him make the call on his own. However, that doesn’t give the rest of the guys much to do when the interviews are taking place. I’d suggest letting all remaining members of the party sit in on interviews.
Once you know who’s interviewing how will you score the applicants? Do you just vote for the one you like best? Do you rank them for most to lease favourite? Do you score them on a scale from 1 to 10? Do any of the interviewers have the ability to straight out veto an applicant’s membership request? Will there be a secret ballot or will all scoring be done in the open? Any of these ideas will work, but I think that they should all be accompanied by an in-character discussion of what everyone likes and dislike about the interviewee before any voting or scoring happens.
Next comes the actual interviews. This is when the player hoping to bring in a new character wears many hats and plays many roles. The interviews should be conducted before the player actually makes any new characters. I can’t emphasize this enough. You don’t want the player to waste time making a character that gets vetoed in under a minute. The player then becomes each of his new PCs and one by one sells himself to the party.
“I’d be a great addition to your party because I’m a selfless healer. Have you accepted the warm love of Pelor into your heart?”
“I may be Drow, but that’s a plus when you’re the scout running ahead of the party searching for traps.”
“Me smash club good on Goblins. Goblins smell funny. Are those cookies?”
“My extensive knowledge of the arcane arts makes me the perfect addition to any team. I’m an efficiency expert so I’m sure after a few weeks I’ll find many ways to make things easier for everyone in this party. You’ll wonder how you survived without me.”
“Honestly, I’m just in it for the money. Promise me a fair share and I’ll give you my best. Screw me over and I’ll cut off your fingers while you’re sleeping.”
You get the idea. Encourage role-playing between all the interviewers and each different applicant (all run by the same player). The party members conducting the interviews should ask questions of the applicants that they feel are relevant. Have fun with it. It’s unlikely you’ll find a perfect fit so try to be accommodating. After all the player who needs to build a new character likely has a limited number of good ideas in mind. I’d say 3-5 is probably the right number to sort through. Since some of the character concepts might still be rough, offer suggestions through the role-playing.
“So you’re good at melee combat. That’s great. I assume you learned from a master. Did he teach you anything besides combat? History or Religion maybe?”
You can also help the player develop a back-story during the interview by asking simple questions.
“How old were you when you first heard the calling of Pelor? How did you friends, the ones who didn’t hear the calling, treat you when you left for seminary? Are you still friends with any of them or is that all behind you now?”
Eventually the party will land on one of the PCs they’re interviewing and decide he’s the best fit, all things considered. Once you’ve made this decision the player can take that concept away and start building the PCs for the next adventure.
In order to keep things fair once you start interviewing to fill the openings in the party you should keep doing it. This should eventually let all the players in your group go through this exercise on both sides of the table. Remember that one day you’ll be the guy trying to join the party so don’t worry about finding the perfect new member, just the one that’s the most interesting and will fill the party’s needs.
The next time your character is killed or leaves the party would you be willing to go through an interview process before making a new character? Do you think this exercise would be helpful or just a waste of time? Do you think having the interview would help you flesh out the character or just reinforce the ideas you’ve already got? On the other side of the table would you feel comfortable interviewing to fill a vacancy or should we just let whatever PC is brought to the table join the group? Has anyone ever done this in game? How did it work out?