I’ve already talked abouthow a gamemaster can try to “sell” his group on a new campaign, and how players can attempt to aid the success of a new game by how they design their characters. However, not all (or most) campaigns will come out of the gate running on all cylinders, with everyone happy about things are progressing — this is okay; it’s normal. So how do you work around the birthing pains of a new campaign? I like to use movie and television as a framework for this sort of thing, as readers of this site know by now…

The first adventure is a pilot. This is the ultimate sell on the game, much like it is on a television show. You’ve sold the premise to the network (your players, in this case), and now you have to sell it to the audience (in this case…the same people.)  Pilots, let’s be fair, often suck — especially when dealing with large plot arcs. Your best bet is to start small: the pilot is your chance to show off the world you’re playing in, and introduce the characters, and much like a TV pilot these may need some tweaking.

First, maybe the GM had an idea for a galaxy-spanning political space opera for a game (you can tell I’ve been reading through Mindjammer, can’t ya?) and it becomes apparent that your initial set up tended toward a more focused campaign dealing with the corruption of the characters’ home planet or organization…you can still do the former, but turning your attention toward what grabbed the players might require you to do a bit more development of a world or organization than you planned on. Or you were planning on playing in an established universe like Firefly, but the players are more interested in the cyberpunkish core world you presented, rather than playing at space cowboys on the Rim…retool and focus on life in the Alliance, and slowly introduce the down-on-their-heels worlds as a counterpoint.

Second, maybe your Big Bad isn’t that inspiring, or the players disappoint you by blowing the villain that was supposed to be a recurring character into his component DNA… Who was his boss? Create a more compelling bad guy. Don’t be afraid to steal your favorite baddies from movie, Tv, or books and reskin them for your game. (I’ve always been a fan of using Hilly Blue from Trouble in Mind — the character just clicked for me.)

But the big element, third: Characters often change between a pilot and a full launch of a show. That’s because their concept might not have been fully realized, or the character’s stats didn’t quite play out properly, or some aspect of the character just wasn’t clicking. For the first adventure (for us usually two or three sessions), the players are allowed to retool their character stats, etc. to match how they are playing the character. (Here’s a post on “fixing” a campaign that ties into this pilot model for a game start…)