How do we know each other? Why are we adventuring together? These questions come up in all but the most tactic and combat-driven games. Since the issue really revolves around character social integration, I decided to address it here.
I agree with those who say the decision should be left largely up to the players. But I came up with a number of options that could be put before the players while they are all engaged in the process of character creation. They could choose one of these, or come up with something on their own.
· All of the adventurers hail from the same village. Perhaps they are not particularly notable, and their fellow peasants simply select them to help solve a particular problem. Possibly, the adventurers are indentured or enslaved, but are offered freedom in exchange for performing the task at hand. Contrariwise, they may be exceptional youths that come from surrounding villages, and are already looked upon as Folk Heroes (regardless of their actual Background).
· The adventurers are servitors of a local nobleman/woman. They are called upon to make the rounds to collect rents, defuse conflicts, or investigate any strange goings on in the lord’s/lady’s domain.
· The adventurers are gathered together by a contractor who has been hired to populate a new village (or an old village recently ravaged by plague, fire, or raiders) on an estate. They are given favorable (rent-free) terms for a certain period of time. The village becomes their base of operations, though older residents may not initially be happy to see the newcomers.
· The adventurers belong to a troop of wandering performers. Perhaps they are making their annual circuit, or perhaps they are looking for a place where they can winter, or lie low if hunted by authorities. Many villagers will be happy to see them, but expect tensions (or worse) with the local priest. There is no necessary reason for everyone (or even anyone) in the troop to belong to a particular class.
· The PCs are agents of a foreign prince, rival aristocrat, or a group of bandits. They have come to scout out the village, because they intend to take it over.
The party members are:
· Travelers in a merchant caravan
· Pilgrims on route to a holy shrine
· Hunters and trappers sent out by a local potentate to procure game for supper
· Refugees from a natural (or supernatural) disaster
· Captives of nomads or bandits following a slave raid
· Heroes recently awoken in the middle of nowhere from an enchanted sleep
· The characters are travelers who met in a caravan, pilgrimage group, or performance troupe, and have come to the city to seek their fortune, to offer their services to a ruler or potentate, or to gaze upon, buy, (or make off with) some wonder the city has to offer
· They have come from the surrounding countryside to offer their aid to a city in crisis
· They have come from a village or domain to deliver tribute and/or to sell surplus items at a city’s market
· They are clients in a network patronized by a noble oligarch, or an exilarch seeking a way to regain power
· They are in the employ of a foreign potentate who seeks to trade with, spy on, or undermine the local authorities (alternatively, they are foreign clerics, artists and diplomats coming to take up a trade or a position at court in this town)
· They are frequenters of a certain urban tavern, who sell their services to any client willing to match the price
Though I have changed the wording here and there to make these suggestions more generically applicable, they definitely reflect the Lukomorye setting they were written for. If your setting is clockpunky, postapocalyptic, tropical Bronze Age, or something else entirely, you’ll probably want to create your own options. But hopefully, this is at least enough to get your creative juices flowing.