[RPG] Making the most of Adventure Bonds


D&D 5e has a new D&D concept called Bonds. Bonds are pieces of your background that tie you to the campaign world. These can either be connections to NPCs, or a homeland, or even a particular weapon or item in the world.

The group I'm currently DMing for, has had characters wandering from the 10 towns in Icewind dale, to Dragonspear castle, to some unnamed forest, all in search for gold and glory, and have now found themselves in the grassy plains near Greenest about to start the Hoard of the Dragon Queen for the Tyranny of Dragons story arc. The characters are level 3 and have been played for about 10 1 hour sessions so far. (One character is preaching the gospel of the divine turnip, one is an ex-slave blacksmith turned monk, and the other is an herbalist looking to heal the world, or "smoke it" trying.)

I'm very excited about the idea that each major module comes with some bonds for players to pick (or roll) to tie characters more closely to the module, making the adventure more personal. However, since we are not starting at level 1, I'm unsure how to add the provided bonds without some cliched 'it was all just a dream', 'hand wave', or 'repressed memory'. I'd like to get advice on what works best in adding background history to characters who are a bit more established than you would otherwise assume.

How can I best introduce these new bonds to the players?

Best Answer

My first response would be to question whether the players know every single thing about their characters, even after the number of sessions that you have played with them. I find it very difficult to believe that there are not gaps in their backgrounds that you can use this as an opportunity to flesh out.

Looking at the list you've provided, it seems clear that these are written to be used by new characters, so my approach would be to adapt/change/use these as inspiration for bonds that do make sense for the characters you have, so that there is something to tie them into the adventure.

Take 4. as an example - surely there is one of your PCs who could have a link to a similar NPC. Similarly for 1 and 5.

I would try to view these bonds not as a limiting straight jacket, but as a tool for increasing the richness of the character backgrounds. Also, if possible then get the players involved in coming up with these bonds. There is a similar mechanic in Dungeon World and Apocalypse World where the GM is specifically encouraged to ask questions to the players to establish these types of bonds.

As for why these things haven't come up so far in the PCs' adventures, there could be any number of reasons , which is exactly why I suggest discussing and coming up with something plausible with the player in question. Maybe the reason a mentor hasn't been in touch is because they've been ill. Maybe he's been resisting contacting the PC for some reason, maybe he doesn't trust the PC for some reason but his hand has been forced etc.

So ask, 'which of you has a link to Greenest? Why?' etc. You will be surprised how creative your players can be, and getting them involved will give them a real buy-in to the story. If you do right, you're also likely to end up with a bunch of character specific plot hooks for future adventures that you can use to make the campaign much more personal to the party.