Friday Favourite: How To Introduce A New PC

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on July 18, 2014

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From April 28, 2010, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: How To Introduce A New PC.

It happens in almost every game, a PC dies and now you have to figure out how to introduce the new character. Or a new player joins your group and you struggle to explain why they should join the party? There are a many ways to go about answering these questions. From the serious role-playing that this type of event triggers, to the inane and superficial. How you approach this aspect of death and dying in Dungeons & Dragons will come down to the play style of your own group. Different approaches to the game will result in different introductions for new PC.

Poof, Hey Are You The New PC?

The simplest way to introduce a new player is to have their PC appear and join the party as if they’ve always been there. It defies all reasons of logic, it doesn’t require a rewriting of the story, the PC just appears. This is akin to a Wizard arriving, noting the party doesn’t currently have a Wizard in the group and offering their services. The party accepts blindly, after all we just want to play some D&D tonight so why waste time.

The problem with this is it just doesn’t make sense. Yes, from a get the new player involved in the game perspective it’s the way to go, but it cheapens the story. Adding a new player to the game is a great opportunity to increase the level of role-playing that occurs at the table. It also allows the DM to introduce new information to the game.

Granted, if you are playing a hack ‘n slash game of D&D just introduce the new PC. But if you’re game is running at a higher level then this you’ll want to take some extra steps.

Provide A Plausible Backstory

When bringing a new PC into the game take the time to work with the player in devising a backstory that meshes with the campaign. This allows you as the DM to bring new information to the party. It also allows the PC to feel that they are of immediate use to the party and gives them a reason for being there.

If the PC arrives with no backstory and no plausible reason for being present with the party it breaks the immersion of the world.

Get The New Player Involved, Quickly

Nothing is worse than arriving for a session of D&D with a new character and not being able to participate until the last half hour. If a new PC will be entering the game, get that player involved in things quickly. Now, if you are trying to maintain the level of immersion in the game and the PCs are in the middle of a dungeon it might not be very easy to introduce a new PC. In these instances you may choose to break the immersion and just have the PC appear in order to get them involved with things.

There are other ways to do this, such as having the party discover the new PC in prison or perhaps the new player is tracking a common foe of the party. No matter how you choose to introduce the new PC give the player an idea of how long it will take you to introduce their new character to the party. This way you set the expectation and avoid any hard feelings if it does take longer to get things rolling.

What experience do you have with introducing new characters to the game?

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1 Vobekhan July 18, 2014 at 1:53 pm

If I’m introducing a new character in an ongoing campaign then I like to have a good backstory and suitable plot to do so, however with the drop in nature of Encounters (especially in Dead in Thay) its been easier to hand-wave and say another intrepid soul has joined your merry band more often than not.

2 T'zonarin July 21, 2014 at 11:50 pm

I’ve never really had too many problems with this because the players want the inclusion of the new party member in most cases – so they are willing to suspend some of that immersion to incorporate the new PC into the game. As long as the new PC has a more compatible, plausible entry into the story, it’s not that big of a deal.

The hardest one is in a confined dungeon crawl with little access into the world outside. Usually, the “fallen, but alive character, the prisoner, or the last party member in another slain party helps with those.

From “The Gamers”

Magellan: “Hello. I am Magellan, a travelling mage. I notice your group has no wizard.”

Rogar: “You seem trustworthy. Would you like to join us in our noble quest?”

Magellan: “Yes, Yes I would.”

3 Stu July 24, 2014 at 8:12 am

Has anybody ever tried introducing a new PC as an NPC first? What I had in mind is that the new player comes to the table, but before he joins the party they encounter a bar fight, or someone fending off a couple of goblins. The DM role plays this out a bit until the players decide to talk to the NPC. At that point, the new player assumes the role and carries on from there.

Seems like it would create immediate story reason for encountering new PC and have the benefit of not really knowing if this guy is the new PC’s character or just another NPC. You could trick them a little by having the fight be with an NPC, and then the PC’s character comes on the scene at the same time from a different place.

Never done it this way before, but I suppose it could work.

4 Trev April 4, 2016 at 3:00 am

Matt Mercer did it that way in an episode of Critical Role. It workes out awesomely and he was able to surprise the other players with the guest player.

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