Tuesday, October 08, 2013

30 Days of GameMastering--Day 7!

It's Day 7 of Lindevi's 30 Days of GameMastering challenge--let's do it!

How do you prep for the start of a campaign?

As I've said in the past, I've been lucky to have a solid group of core players on Friday nights who are always willing to try out new systems and settings. We have pretty diverse tastes in aesthetics and mechanics, so we're always on the hunt for something new to scratch lots of various gaming itches.

When pitching a new campaign to my home group--and especially to any players that I pull from Wittenberg or elsewhere--I always make sure to have a solid "elevator pitch" to sell the idea of the campaign.  A solid elevator pitch has to be concise, enthralling, and able to hook a would-be player in just a few sentences.  If you can't describe your campaign world in three sentences or less, it's probably too complex or convoluted to hook your players.  As a GM, this also provides you broad generalizations that you can later refine through play.

Consider the following for an All For One: Regime Diabolique Game:
Dashing swordsmen and handsome rogues raise their swords in service to King Louis XIV.  However, the Sun King's reign leaves great shadows in his wake:  secret societies, ancient evils, and the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu have pushed France to the edge of darkness.  Draw your sword, salute the King, and swashbuckle your way through this mysticized version of the Enlightenment!
In the first sentence, you already know what you'll be doing in the campaign.  In the second, you learn not only about several of the major players, but you also learn about the adversaries you'll often be facing.  In the third, you're exhorted to action--join the game, and you too can be part of it.  All that in just 3 sentences!

After I've got a full table, I try to put together a basic outline for plot points that I'd like to hit.  When using a pre-made campaign, this is often already done for you, but it's especially important in terms of pacing and session prep.  If you know that there's a large dungeon crawl coming up in two sessions that will take up three sessions on its own, you can devote more time to preparing for that, specifically.  Having a campaign outline directs your own session-level prep, setting you up to be more capable on a week-to-week basis.

Great villains make for greater heroes!
Lastly, I try to come up with some great antagonists.  Every great story needs a fantastic villain to drive the conflict and campaigns are no exception.  When you're first starting your campaign, come up with 2-3 well-developed, rounded villains with deep motivations.  Make sure they provide diverse threats to the PCs:  if a crime boss in a superheroes game has no overt powers, ensure that he can threaten the heroes in other ways:  through their assets, through their identities, or even through sheer numbers.  Even better, if you can, tailor your villains to your PCs--provide opportunities for interaction, perhaps even making a villain into a foil of the PC.  That provides opportunity for great drama at the table for sessions to come!

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