There was a post by Martin Ralya over on Gnome Stew that caught my attention and spawned this post: How do you pitch your hot new game to your players? Maybe you bought a new game and the rules set is way-cool, or the setting is fascinating, or it was fun when you were at a playtest…either way, you want to run the game and need to get the rest of the group on board. Here are a few dos and don’ts that should help:
1) DO know your player’s interests and craft not just the pitch, but the campaign, toward their strengths and interests. Example: my latest Battlestar Galactica game starts before the Cylon attack to try and create a strong, vibrant world the characters will miss when it’s taken away…but also because I know one player loves high-level politics and espionage settings, and the other conspiracy mystery games. So now our BSG game is more Cold War spyhunting spy-fi than military-based post-apocalyptic survival. It’s still the same universe, it’s still got the same elements, but the flavor has been tweaked to their tastes.
2) DO make sure the game is something you’re interested in running long-term, even if it’s a one-shot or mini-campaign. This is because you never know if the game will hit big and you’ll be playing it six years later (like my Star Trek campaign from the early oughties), or if the short plot will get stretched for a month or two due to absences, etc. You have to love it as much as they do, or it';; die on the vine.
3) DO wait to pitch the new hotness until you’ve had a chance to let your thinking on it percolate. Maybe you come out of the gate strong, but you had no major story arc, or nothing beyond the first plot. Or worse, the first session. This has been the case with me and Jovian Chronicles –a wonderful setting that I just cannot seem to figure out what I would do in that particular sandbox. Another hard one is Serenity/Firefly — great flavor, and I can come up with a few scenarios, but no big plot to tie it all together. Sure I could just do an episodic game, or let the players sandbox around, but I’ve found the latter usually bogs down into bar fights and patter in many games.
4) DON’T overdo your world prep. There’s nothing more offputting than to have to read through the 80 pages of history, social surveys, and other elements for a setting. You’re not Tolkein, and I don’t want to read the bloody Silmarillion just to play a game. My world prep for Battlestar Galactica could be summed up in about a page. This is partly due to the nature of licensed properties; the world is mostly created for you. But just like the Colonies were this hazily defined thing for BSG because ultimately the story took place on a spaceship looking for Earth, you want just enough depth to have consistency, but not so much you cannot make stuff up on the fly. Which brings me to an other important bit once you’ve got the game going —
5) DO let the players help create the world. MAybe someone tosses off a quip about the assassination of King Whatizname 30 years ago — you didn’t have an assassinated King Whatsiname, but now there’s some set dressing and a possible plot line to work with. Worldbuilding, just like the playing of the story, should be collaborative, no matter how narrative your style (as mine is.)
6) DO play on the game being a one-shot or mini-campaign. Think movie, rather than series or series of books. Get into the characters and plot fast, and get out just as quick. That way, if it’s not got legs, you can have fun with what you have and move on.
7) Lastly, DO ask your players what they prefer to play. If it’s something that interests you at all, be enthusiastic and give the audience what they want.