I don’t know about you other DMs, but opening a session with, “I’m gonna try something different this time around,” is absolutely HORRIFYING.
Recently I was inspired (or haunted) to try a variation of the individual sessions that I’d heard on the Adventure Zone. When AZ did that type of thing, however, they just separately recorded segments with each individual…I was going to do it with everyone sitting around a table watching the adventurer and me.
Additionally, the sibling of a party member was in town, someone who hadn’t played D&D in years and was hoping to get into our game. How in the crap was I supposed to juggle these two challenges?
First, let’s talk about putting a new player into the campaign.
There’s the temptation to just write the character in as a one-off, a bartender or something that runs in to help, or even just have them be a prisoner in a compound that my party was being led to. I didn’t want to take an easy route (because I’m a masochist, you see), so I wanted to integrate him into a character that was already around: the group’s riding dog Shadow.
I wrote a backstory for the dog, having his current dog form be a result of being narrowly escaping death as a half-orc. Shadow would be reverted back into his half-orc form by an impatient tiefling sorceress, and I kept this as a surprise from my players – The brother who was playing as Shadow sat quietly at the table until the transformation happened, and it was a blast to see everyone’s reaction to this.
As for the individual aspects, I had each member of the party cooperate with a tiefling council in a trial. These were trials I had to create and execute, and the party member was the only one playing.
One by one, the players took part. Tuuli was first, playing a war game where she controlled a side of dragonborn soldiers in a civil war. She controlled her army by dictating their moves and rolling for success. Next was Shadow, who had to try to clean not just his soul, but the soul of Tuuli and successfully replace them in a set amount of rolls. Then came Anderon, who had to battle a cloud of darkness as an incorporeal spirit, and last was Penelo, who battled a huge tiefling warrior in a battle of strength.
Each test was to force the player to try things they hadn’t tried before: Tuuli was thrust into a leadership roll, and only lost her battle due to some pretty unlucky rolls. Shadow was forced to think of another while trying to defend himself (he choose to clean Tuuli’s soul and spent some precious rolls reintegrating their souls, saving them from instant death). Anderon was the most impressive, as he had to confront the innate magic within that scared him, and he ended up taking the darkness within him in an incredible scene that I didn’t anticipate. Penelo’s trial was intense and fun – she had been pulling for the trial of Heart, but instead got strength, forcing the rogue assassin to fight in the open.
It was thrilling and, best of all, everyone was highly engaged; each member thrived with an audience, and every member observing was rooting for their party member to succeed. I was relieved that this gamble paid off, and just as ecstatic that turning Shadow into a playable character worked well.
I have to figure that as a DM – let alone a brand new DM – trying something new is always frightening, but the taste of a well-played campaign puts to bed any doubts or fears that were harbored.
Kemp, a full time freaking lawyer, has somehow found time to scribe not just several Star Wars novels (in itself an expansive universe with deep lore), but to church out some of the best DnD-related books on the market. Kemp manages to conjure tales that examine the dark parts of realms in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, crafting characters whose journeys resonate deep within the readers, and oftentimes fueling DMs' imaginations.