Gaming My Way

10 Apr

Getting the Game Started

So, you have a group together, and you’re ready to bust out the dice, make some characters, and go on an epic quest to save the world. There’s only one problem.

You’re the GM, and you have no plot, no story hooks, not even a starter quest given by an npc in a tavern. What to do for quick world creation?

First off, don’t panic. It’s ok for the first session to go a little slow. It’s cool and probably more enjoyable if it picks up quick, but sometimes it takes time to get everyone on the same page anyway. Sometimes, the first chapter of a book really does just introduce everyone and show a few of their quirks, and it can be the same with an intro session for gaming as well.

Next up, if you don’t have time, it’s entirely possible to just whip together a quick one or two floor, very not convoluted dungeon and throw in some goblins, kobolds, orcs, or whatever may be appropriate for a party of their power level to be fighting. By the time they get together, get out of the tavern (if they even do), and get to the end of the dungeon, you very well may have finished your alloted time frame. If not, never fear, for in town roleplay (and perhaps a tragedy in town to boot) can add in some nice filler.

But you don’t want all your games to run like this, so here’s where some of the good stuff comes in.

If you read a lot of fantasy, you could homebrew a world based on your favorite series, or even one that has your interest for the time being. This has the added benefit that you get loads of inspiration from the series as you read it.

Alternatively, use the world in the series you’re reading as the campaign setting. Just make sure your players know you’ll be taking liberties, since you most likely will be unless you’re an expert on the series. And even if you are, tossing players into the mix tends to cause your carefully planned plotlines to descend into chaos. Unless you railroad them or are, in fact, a master manipulator.

If you like to write, use one of your own stories as the basis for the world. It’ll be original, and it might just give you ideas on how to expand your work, make it better, or just finish it in the first place. Having a bunch of players react can give you some excellent ideas for new characters or situations you wouldn’t come up with on your own. Once you have more material for your story, you can funnel it back into the world, and so they feed off each other. You could also just use the introduction of a story as the background, then just let the players play out what happens, with ideas of where different actions could lead.

Next up, while this may not be universally true, I currently have a group who likes a sandbox game of D&D. So, as long as I have the beginning to a bunch of plots planned, I can let them wander until they trigger a thread, then flesh it out as we go. I have an idea of some things they hope to accomplish as a player, a character, or both, and use those sometimes to help flesh out the plot. Your players will like having the chance to meet another goal of theirs. Other times, plot just comes out of me roleplaying with the players. Usually, it’s some of each, with a little bit of planning elsewhere. This does require that you be willing and able to come up with things on the fly, but it’s a lot less preparation beforehand for things that may not come to pass.

You could also use an old campaign world ready for it’s next chapter. These work amazingly well, since you have your world premade and legends created by the last group of players. Not only that, but players familiar with the world will likely be able to get back into it much more easily. If the party was destroyed in the last campaign, a continuance is easy to come up with, as the last villain is still in power and still needs to be stopped. If they were victorious, then it’s time to come up with a new crisis that needs to be dealt with. Hopefully you have plenty of villains or natural disasters to go around.

If you need an excuse to put the PCs together at the beginning and they didn’t work it out on their own, then start them out as part of a military order or, for a more peaceful campaign, perhaps a monastery or church order. If those don’t work, I’m sure there’s something similar that you can use, such as the classic tavern. Using the military or a monastic order allows you to give them their first quest as a mission assigned by their order. Perhaps the plot balloons from there, or maybe the first mission or two just helps establish the group before the meat of the plot comes in.

And remember, no matter what you do, you always have room to flesh the world out later to make the game more enjoyable for everyone. So even if the first session isn’t as good as you hope, it can always get better. Even then, it may be just what everyone hopes for.

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