Skip to main content

How to Introduce a New Party Member



In the nasty sewers conquered by the Ratskin wererat gang, the group frees a kobold warlock from his shackles. Desperate for revenge against the lycanthropic thieves’ guild and their wizard master, he joins the party. With powers derived from his fiendish patron, he freezes and pierces the thieves’ defenses and immediately proves his worth. In the trials to come, he'll surely do so again and again, until he meets his fatal end in the dungeon of Underkeep.

Far from her woodland, a water nymph tries to communicate to two creatures locked in conversation inside a hill fortress. Her fey patron sent her to this tropical archipelago to find them and she didn’t plan on letting a stone wall or window interrupt her quest. She sends in her watery pseudodragon familiar to get the minotaur and lizardfolk’s attention so she can unite with them as soon as possible.

As the party recovers from their spit with a giant roper, they hear wet footsteps coming from the passage to the south. To their surprise, in comes a triton who’s been tracking them and seeks their sahuagin prisoner’s death. If they fancy him, he’ll help the party delve further into the cove; if they don’t, there might be trouble.

Most campaigns gain new characters (and even new players) throughout their lifetime. Whether it’s near the beginning, in the middle of a fiery arc, or near the end, new characters appear and must be introduced. Sometimes, introducing them can be difficult. Lots comes into play. Are they a dead party member’s replacement? Are they simply a new addition? Where is the party currently? Does it make sense to introduce them immediately? Do you care? These are a few of the questions you need to ask yourself; and as always, how you introduce a new PC depends on the group. Some people will care greatly about how a new party member joins the party, keen on having it make sense in the context of the story. Others will want the newbie to walk out of a portal and appear alongside the group as if they’ve always been there.

I’ve had to introduce plenty of new characters into my campaigns either because a new person joined the group mid-campaign or someone’s character met a terrible end the session before.

Based on my experience, I’ve split the ways to introduce a party member into three categories: in medias res, at the proper time, and as fast as possible. Let’s delve into each of these and learn about the best ways to introduce a new party member.

In Medias Res

When you’re introducing a character in medias res, you’re introducing them at the next logical step in the very session their player has them ready. This means you’ll have to work some magic to insert them into the story in a sound way. Work with the player to make this happen. Overall, this is the best way to introduce a new character. It keeps the story intact, lets the new player or the old player’s new character quickly join in on the action again, and only requires a bit of coordination and suspension of disbelief from the rest of the group.

For example, in one of my first campaigns, my brother’s character, a bumbling half-orc bard fell to his death in a violent fight with a halfling wererat rogue. The session he died during ended in the wererat gang’s hideout — a sewer of course. In between sessions, I talked to him; he wanted to play a kobold warlock. In an attempt to introduce him quickly and intelligently, I asked him if he’d be okay starting a prisoner of this gang, kept in their sewer prison. He agreed and came up with a reason why he was there. Fast forward to the next session: the party pressed onward and eventually ran into his new character and he joined the party with ease. As a plus, it made sense!

So this gist is: talk to the player, connect their new character to the story in some way, and introduce them as quickly as possible. It doesn't need to make 100% sense, just get it to 40-50% and throw them in!

At the Proper Time

If you’re willing to wait for the perfect moment to introduce a new party member, you’re following the “at the proper time” approach. Sadly, it might take longer to let a new member join this way, but it might be the right method if your group is super into immersive gameplay. In my view, this is the worst way to introduce a new member, especially if it’s a completely new player. Get people into the game, don’t stall and respect the story, giving it precedence over the fun of the new player unless you see it as a necessary evil.

Despite my trepidations, I’ve done this a time or two. In a campaign I’m currently running, one of my player’s characters was killed in a deadly battle between the party and a ravenous black half-dragon and his shadow wyvern mount. We decided to wait until the best moment to introduce her character, about an hour and a half into the session. She truly loved this character and didn’t want her to just stumble upon the party; instead, she was searching for them, knew they’d be in a certain place at a certain time, and methodically, logically found them. It wasn’t chance. It wasn’t convoluted. There was no disbelief that needed suspending. She joined the party as a new member at the proper time.

As Fast as Possible

Some folks don’t care about immersion or story sensibility and love the “as fast as possible” tactic. This means as soon as the session starts, the party gains a new member no matter the circumstance the group is in. I’ve seen groups where the new member simply fades into the group, teleports in via an extra dimensional portal, or just charges into the session-starting battle. It works, just not for all groups. Some people don’t care how their new friend joins in, they just want them there; they’re able to conjure up how and why they’re there on the spot.

I’ve utilized this approach quite a few times because I’m usually a fan of launching my new players into the campaign as quickly as possible but as a general rule, I’d stray away from it. Using “in media res” is a better approach in almost every scenario. Put a bit of thought into the new character’s arrival and drop them into your story. It’s almost always better than a portal cutting through existence and delivering the party a bold fighter or sassy ranger.

In Summary

When you’re trying to introduce a new party member to the group, there are a few ways to do it:
  1. Thrust them into the action in a plausible way.
  2. Allow them to meet the group during downtime or at a proper story moment.
  3. Drop them into the opening/next encounter.
That’s it for this week, folks. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends, post it on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit, and comment below.

Until next time, farewell!

Follow RJD20 on TwitterYouTube, and Facebook for more RPG content.

Comments

Most Popular Articles of the Week

D&D Players and DMs, Be Thankful

It’s Wednesday night. The party are faced with a decision: continue toward the lair of one of their vile foes through cramped kobold tunnels, try to enter through a broken lightning rail, or turn back and face the enemies behind them. If they choose correctly, they’ll reach their destination before the mysterious Vaxilidan can complete the domination of those they hold dear. If they choose incorrectly, their loved ones will become horrific husks twisted by aberrant minds and incurable darkness. Of course, they choose the quickest and safest path: through the kobold tunnels! In single file, they crawl and slip their way down the wet passages until they arrive at a hole that leads into an ancient and flooded crypt. Dragon murals line the walls, kobold packs float in the murky water, and the cracks in the ground remind the party of a defeated foe. Their path forward muddied, they decide to delve into the crypt and a wild night of roleplaying and mad speculation ensues: kobold sarcasm and

How to Begin a D&D Campaign

The world is created, the characters are made, and the starting location is set, but how do you begin a Dungeons & Dragons campaign? There are many lines to check off on your list. Is the starting point created? Are all the session zeros finished? Is the initial plot formulated? Is the opening scene ready to go? As I prepare for the start of my next D&D campaign, Caught in Galen, I’m going to help you or anyone else out there itching to begin a campaign correctly complete their pre-campaign checklist. The D&D Campaign’s Starting Point Where will the campaign begin? This is a key question you should know before your players begin to make their characters that I dedicated an entire article to awhile back. Will the party explore the titanic ruins of a dragon empire on a jungle continent? Will they delve into the depths of the Subterrane in chase of a rogue celestial? Will they begin caught in a giant city of an inherently magical population? Know this before anything e

How to Play an Archfey in D&D

Archfey are part of the god-like trio: archfiends, archfey, and great old ones. Each member of this class is unique, from Mephistopheles the Lord of No Mercy and Orcus the Prince of Undeath, to Hyrsam the Prince of Fools to Dendar the Night Serpent. Distinct from even these unique examples, archfey live on the Plane of Faerie, or the Feywild, where they play court and war amongst each other in a land of impossible flora and fauna. Most of the time, they won’t appear directly in your campaign. They’ll be faraway actors, pulling the strings in the background as your party traverses the world. However, what if you would like an archfey or three to become major players? What if you’d like to use Oberon the Green Lord as a villain? Maybe Titania the Summer Queen as an ally? How about your warlock forms a pact with Hyrsam the Prince of Fools? Well, you’ll need to know how to play one. Outlined below are how I see archfey in my world, Eldar. They might be different in your setting

My Take on Matthew Colville’s 5E Action Oriented Monsters

Soaring into a manifest zone on their airship, the Misty Tide, the party erupts into a pocket of the Elemental Plane of Fire high above a sea of bubbling lava. Surrounding them are hissing fire newts mounted upon burning birds, prepared to hijack the airship and release the fire elementals powering it. The airship’s captain screams, “Hold out! We’ll escape ‘ere in a minute, I’ll get us through!” In response, the fiery raiders attack, lead by a striking fire newt warlock. The combat begins, and she thrusts her molten scimitar into the broiling air. The blade soars between each party member, scorching them with ease before reforming in her hands. Later in the combat, she deftly descends atop her burning bird below the airship, narrowly avoiding a blast of eldritch energy. In the struggle’s final moments, she dismounts from her tiny phoenix in a whirl, leaping thirty feet to gouge one of the party members with her scimitar and deal tremendous damage. Ultimately, she fails; the rest of