I’ve been playing with a new campaign lately that’s different than anything I’ve ever run before. The difference is something worthy of some new terminology. While I understand the term “outsiders” has a specific meaning in Dungeons and Dragons, I want to use it to describe a specific brand of PC party. In a campaign where the party members are “outsiders,” they come into a new place where events are afoot that they choose to get involved in. An outsider campaign involves assorted characters who come from somewhere else and, upon seeing the status quo in their new locale, decide to take action to change things. This may involve an “insider” NPC dissatisfied with the status quo approaching the outsiders to request their help. Because the outsiders have little incentive not to shake things up in the setting, it is easy to incentivize them enough to get involved. Most campaigns I can think of take this form. It is convenient because the PCs can be anyone with any background, lending freedom to character creation, and it makes hooking players into the campaign simpler.
“Insiders,” on the other hand, live every day in the locale where the events of the campaign are taking place. Most NPCs are insiders, but I am hoping to make an interesting and unique campaign by making the PCs insiders. In this case, the PCs have a strong incentive structure in place, most likely to let things be and maintain the status quo. The hook, however, is even easier. The campaign simply begins with an event that changes the status quo in such a way that the PCs can’t resist getting involved. In my case, the players are going to be part of a gnomish noble family in a metropolis where all is not well. Suspicion on the part of the emperor is leading to political arrests on a daily basis and the campaign will begin with the imperial police knocking on the players’ door. I’m running it as a one shot (at a surprise birthday party) and this approach helps because I can make the characters ahead of time, the players can have all of their connections in the city already established, and they can have a base of operations or two in the area.
Have you ever played or run a campaign for insider characters? Can you think of any more pros and cons to this approach? Let us know in the comments below.