You put a whole lot of preparation into the first game. Built the skeleton of a campaign world and some NPC’s, possibly even a few adventures planned. But how do you hook the players? How are you going to get them keen for this game, then the next, and the one after that!
Let me give you a hint. Watch a James Bond movie. Not the whole thing if you are time poor, just the bit before the starting credits. What does every Bond movie have in common to get the viewer into the main movie? Action. Hook them with a good level of heart pounding action.
Don’t plan this action out too much, just some combatants thrown together that might give a bit of a hint of what is to come. Once you have that and a setting (the players find themselves at a dungeon entrance as a swarm of skeletons start toward them from the adjoining cemetery) ask the players why they are there? Give them a bit of power to work out how they find themselves here.
In this initial moment the players will come up with some hook plots that you can use and they will also build a past. A past that gels their characters together. The pressure will be on too. They will want to get into the battle and so the plot will come out nice and naturally. The cohesiveness of the group will build from this point.
The job of the GM at this point is to encourage them to come up with this story and the greatest encouragement is to ask them questions and show some interest in the story they are building. When they tell you a Demon Lord ordered them to the dungeon ask them what the Demon Lord’s name is and why they sent them? What can be found there? As they start talking about how they all got together make sure everyone gets involved. If you have two players building something without starring others turn the focus of the story to them. Ask the other players how they enter the story and encourage them to take it over.
And that’s it! Call Action! Get into the fight. Ask them why they are there and take lots of notes about what the players come up with. You can use this to flavor your main plot or use their material to build some interesting side-plots in the campaign. Just make sure you use it and start as soon as you can because the players will lap up their involvement in the stories that sprout from their imaginations. If they do not get hooked in a campaign they helped shape then they never will! Keep rolling!
Mark Knights is 40 year old guy living in a small rural town called Elliott in Tasmania, Australia. I have been role playing since I was 11 years old playing the original versions of Dungeons and Dragons, MERP, Elric, Dragon Warriors and the like amongst other genre games. I played D&D 2nd Edition through the 90′s but I ran Earthdawn for my fantasy setting and loved it as a GM. When 3rd Edition came out for D&D I tried it but found it too heavy on rules. I ignored the 3.5 edition of DnD in favour of Earthdawn (big mistake) as I thought it was just a money spinner. When 4th Edition DnD came on my players and I gave it a red hot go but hated what it had dumbed the game down to be. On a trip to Melbourne to buy some 4E stuff from a hobby store an old mate of mine pointed me at Pathfinder and in a Fantasy setting I have never looked back.