Before starting a new campaign, the GM should go through a series of questions to build what is known as a group Template. This helps ensure that the campaign is setting itself up for success and avoiding common pitfalls that lead to failed games. Below are ten questions to help you develop an effective group template with an eye for the history and traits the individual characters will have in common. This questionnaire is a good starting point, but it is neither comprehensive nor always necessary, so answer as few or as many questions as you like.
Make sure your characters are unified enough to participate in the Game Master's main plot, but don't feel this means your characters all need to be carbon copies of each other or in perfect agreement on all issues. Diversity and conflict can make games interesting, provided they don't rage out of control and grind the game to a halt or leave other players sidelined for long periods of time.
The Group Worksheet is a meta-game tool to represent the state of the party and can be thought of as a character sheet for the party. It is meant to be scaling depending on the details of the campaign being run but should always focus on the organizational unit that the characters are most involved with. It can represent just the players, a farm, an organized group, or even something as big as a town if your player characters are town officials.
The worksheet is created using a standard deck of playing cards. Sort the deck by suit and remove jokers, face cards, and aces. This leaves a range of two through ten. Draw four cards and either place them on the Group Worksheet as drawn or debate where each number would make sense based on the game as defined. Once the placement is finalized replace each card with the same number from the designated suit on the Group Worksheet. Discuss what this means for the group and provide examples for why the numbers are what they are represented as.
Opportunity represents the opportunity your group has available. A high number might represent knowledge of resources, a valuable contact that provides hot tips, or arable land for farming.
People represents the health, loyalty, and strength of NPCs that are part of your group. A low number might mean that you have no NPCs that are loyal to you. A high number might represent many NPCs as manpower or a few well skilled NPCs that are extremely loyal to the party.
Resources represent your assets on hand. Vehicles, money, supplies, and weapons are obvious examples of resources. Less obvious examples could be a well stocked library, a hidden base of operations, or claims on land. This is anything that can be exploited to turn opportunities into reality.
Image is how others perceive the party as well as how they see themselves. A high image score can lead to NPCs being willing to do things for the party, trust them with missions, or be unwilling to challenge them. A high image represents a belief that a party is capable and should at least be respected if not liked. A low image tends to cause a perception of incompetence and dislike.
After every arc the Group Worksheet the group worksheet can be impacted by stressor and wealth phases. This represents either the impact of that arc on the group or additional strains that have occurred.
To start the stressor phase the GM will draw one card. This will be from the remainder of the deck including aces, face cards and jokers. This represents a stress on the group. The suit determines what aspect of the group is being stressed. A Spade will stress Opportunity, Club will stress people, Diamond will stress resources, and a Heart would stress image. The GM determines the nature of this stress and describes it to the party.
The party will then choose how they are going to address this stress. If they are confident in the trait they could decide to just go strait to the roll off. If however they are not confident in the results they can choose to use another trait to assist. The players must describe how that trait is being used to assist. Any additional trait that is brought in will automatically be lowered by a value of 2 regardless of whether the defense is successful or not.
Once the GM has defined the stress and the players have defined their defense it is time to roll 2d6 modified by the card values to determine the results. If the stressor roll is larger than the defender the card value of the defender is lowered by the difference. A trait cannot be lowered below one.
After the stressor is resolved the wealth phase begins. To start the wealth phase add the value of the groups highest card to their lowest card. This is how many coins the group gets. This is a meta currency that can be used in a variety of ways.