What’s your promise to your players?

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Instant Campaign Builder Part VIII: The First Scene

This article is part of the Instant Campaign Builder Project.

The first scene

This is the first impression the players will get. Blow your players minds and they’ll be much more involved in their characters and your campaign. That should make your game easier to prepare – which is the whole point of the Instant Campaign Builder.

So after you have a campaign outline and scenes planned out, go back to the very first scene and make sure it is laden with uber-awesomeness.

Setting the tone

The first scene sets the tone for the whole campaign so you want to make sure it matches your vision of the campaign. Ideally it would also match your players’ expectations for the upcoming campaign.

Setting the mood

What is the campaign mood? Humorous? Dark? Theatrical? Setting the mood right – dim lighting, Barry White? – in the first game might save you a lot of work. The players will assume the world’s atmosphere and hasn’t changed if you forget to mention mood details for a scene or two.

Make a promise

You could call this subtle foreshadowing. The promise lets the players know where the campaign is going and even what the main campaign goal is. This is done through the events of the first scene. It’s not an actual spoken promise.

For example, if I started a campaign in which the characters’ hometown is in a war-torn kingdom I could make this promise: “The good folks of the kingdom will live in peace again and the PCs will play a big part in ending the war.”

I’d probably get the promise across by bringing an army scouting party led by a high-ranking army officer to the character’s hometown, and have the PCs defeat – maybe by some stroke of luck or genius – the officer and the scout party. That will set the tone for a campaign in which you can vanquish your enemy and win the war (defeat of the scout party) and in which the PCs play an important part (they already kicked some high-ranking ass).

Get a spark

If you feel your first scene isn’t up to par, you can check out Roleplaying Tips’ Story Sparks #1 and Story Sparks #2.

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