There’s a certain thrill that comes with going into a game cold. You don’t know jack about the campaign theme. You have no clue what your buddies rolled up. And if you’re very, very lucky, you might just wind up in the all barbarian party. As our own Barbarian is discovering today, however, the risks sometimes outweigh the rewards.

It’s a big fat feels-bad when your PC finds themselves in the wrong campaign. You were promised action, but there’s been nothing but talky scenes for the past four sessions. You wanted mystery and investigation, but it’s all been tommy guns and tentacles so far. Maybe you thought you were getting brooding personal horror in that Vampire game, but you wound up with Monster Squad instead.

I’ll admit that playing against type can be fun. You might bring a ninja to a pirate campaign for the lols, or toss a grimdark Ravenloft refugee into a cute talking animals game. But that’s playing with tone rather than campaign style. And if you happen to be a musclebound rage machine stuck in perpetual intrigue, you’re going to have a bad time. Same deal with fast-talking con artists in a wilderness game; an arcanist tromping through the Mana Wastes; or even something as classic as a paladin in a heist campaign. Deciding to challenge yourselves knowingly is one thing. Bringing a paladin’s code to a sneak attack fight in another.

There are two schools of thought that can help here. The first lays the responsibility on the GM. In this scenario, the “wrong campaign” problem can be avoided with the help of Session Zero. The goal is to clearly articulate the kind of story you want to tell: These skills will be useful. Here are the enemies you’re likely to fight. X, Y, and Z classes are a good fit because reasons. Paizo is usually very good about this info in their Adventure Path Player’s Guides, and it can be worth your while to download one of two of these freebies to see what kinds of details get included. Of course, there is a downside to this approach. PCs are encouraged to fit a preexisting mold, and that can feel stifling for some players.

That brings us to the second school of thought. If you want to preserve a sense of total character-building freedom, that can still work. It just takes its own brand of preparation. Once the band of disparate randos have coalesced into a party, GMs can use that information as a springboard for campaign tweaks. It’s all about gathering up the characters sheets, searching for common themes, and creating scenarios tailored to the group. In other words, the world can change to accommodate the PCs. In that sense, this method arises from player rather than GM input, and is more suited to homebrew than adventure paths.

And so, as we turn to our question of the day, I can only hope that Barbarian picks up a few ranks in Diplomacy. It looks like she’ll need ’em. What about the rest of you though? Have you ever brought a really cool character to the game, only to find out that it was a terrible fit for the campaign? How did you adapt? Tells us your tale down in the comments!


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