In many instances, your players may want to make their characters separately (probably because they had some fun idea on their own that they want to play with) and it’s up to you and them to fit the characters together to form the party. Each character may have a wildly different background and set of skills, though there may also be considerable overlap in one or both of those. The challenge is to use common points of interest, motivation, and history to draw the party together while finding ways around clear points of conflict that could drive the party apart.
I will be using an example party to demonstrate. Since this is Star Wars Month, I’ll use Star Wars as the setting.
1) An Imperial defector on the run from their former commander and comrades.
2) A pirate operating in the Outer Rim who pilots their own small craft to raid cargo carriers.
3) A traditional trandoshan bounty hunter devoted to the Scorekeeper (a goddess in trandoshan culture).
4) A diehard member of the Rebellion with a personal vendetta against the Empire.
Obviously, this party has clear points of conflict as well as some places for common ground. One trick for pulling a party together from varied backgrounds is finding ways of matching specific PCs together then finding a way to put the matches together with each other to form the full group. Breaking down the party into pairs and sub-groups makes putting the entire party together much easier and builds personal connections between the characters.
The defector runs into the Rebel while the Rebel is undertaking a mission of some sort for the Rebellion (reconnaissance, supply run, sabotage, whatever). The Rebel does not trust the defector and believes them to be a spy, but the defector wants to join the Rebellion due to having seen the horrors perpetrated by the Empire firsthand (see Finn from the Force Awakens) and wants to make amends. Even then, the Rebel may never be able to forgive the defector for being a part of the Empire in the first place, but the two reach some type of agreement. This may require the defector to pass some “test” and the Rebel to admit that at least this Imperial has changed.
The bounty hunter was tracking the pirate for the bounty on their head and is even successful in locating the pirate while they are resting at a cantina. However, thanks to some negotiation the pirate convinces the bounty hunter to join their currently nonexistent crew instead on the condition that they seek out other bounties so the bounty hunter can continue to receive Jagannath points from the Scorekeeper.
With the party now in two pairs, we pull them together into a more cohesive whole. We have the Rebel and the defector (who is now also a rebel) and the pirate and bounty hunter (who are now both pirates and bounty hunters). Since the Rebellion is known to employ many smugglers and the occasional pirate, perhaps the pirate and bounty hunter are contacted by the Rebellion for a job and bring the Rebel and defector aboard as temporary crew members to oversee the mission. During the course of the mission, the four grow to appreciate each others’ skills and assistance. Maybe the defector saves the bounty hunter from being captured, which would have lost them all favor in the Scorekeeper’s eyes, and the pirate sacrifices potential profit to pull the Rebel to safety after they are wounded.
After the mission, the bounty hunter and pirate agree to join the Rebellion, or at least assist it in exchange for payment and access to some of the Rebellion’s contacts and other resources. Because of the four’s performance in the first mission, their personal debts to each other, and the Rebellion wanting to keep tabs on the pirate and bounty hunter, they all agree to staying together and acting as a special band of privateers and agents for the Rebellion.
And there you go, you have a proper party that has real connections between each member as well as a pre-packaged role within an overarching story. The journey of joining the party together can actually serve as the first one or two sessions, giving you an easy start to your game, or it can serve as a group backstory so you can get right into the main story for your party.