GreenTongue
 member, 816 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Sat 5 Aug 2017
at 14:55
Starting With a Bang!
When you start your game do you have people experience "normal every day life" for a short time or do you immediately add DRAMA and Excitement?

Do the players attend to chores that are soon interrupted by a bandit/goblin attack or do you start with them surrounded by the bandits/goblins and fighting for their lives?

Is the bandit/goblin attack actual or staged by a 3rd Party?
=
pawndream
 member, 169 posts
Sat 5 Aug 2017
at 15:01
Starting With a Bang!
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 1):

I've handled it both ways, but these days I prefer to start a game immediately at the doorstep of action rather than wasting time with the "getting to know you" tavern scene. Sometimes it's fun to start a game with a brief set-up scene followed immediately by "roll for initiative!"

:)
bigbadron
 moderator, 15400 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Sat 5 Aug 2017
at 15:05
Starting With a Bang!
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 1):

Varies from game to game.  Different games benefit from different approaches, just as different films and books do.
nuric
 member, 2941 posts
 Love D&D,superhero games
 Not very computer savvy
Sat 5 Aug 2017
at 22:41
Starting With a Bang!
I definitely try to let the players have some time to develop their characters, posting at least a few times to introduce themselves and their motivations, before getting to the plot.
This can backfire if anyone is impatient, but I think it's good to have a chance to express themselves.

Of course, this depends on the game.  In a game that's more plot centric, it's sometimes good to get right into it, but it's all about the players, too.
willvr
 member, 1080 posts
Sat 5 Aug 2017
at 23:57
Starting With a Bang!
Usually start the action fairly early; but depends on the system. DnD for example, leans more heavily towards 'get into it!' whilst something which encourages character-development more you probably want to have a small amount of 'getting to know you'.
GreyGriffin
 member, 129 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Sun 6 Aug 2017
at 01:30
Starting With a Bang!
I think the intended length of the game matters, too.  The opening scene can really set the pace, and if you start with all the heart-pumping action, it can be difficult to dial it back if you want the players to slow down at any point.

The opening scene should be, I think, around the baseline of your engagement curve, and set the emotional stage for the players to react to.  If you want them to be shocked and awed by escalating action, then you want to start soft, maybe even with a residential or personal prelude.  If you want the game to charge off in high octane style, starting on an action beat can get everyone off to a running start.

Either of these can backfire if your game isn't prepped for it.  Starting too slow and quiet can mean the game takes awhile to ramp up, while starting too intense can heighten everyone's expectations and rush the game.

Rapidly changing gears between action and quiet time can build anxiety (and that can be good, in a horror or stealth/action style game).  Whichever way you start, just make sure you have the appropriate time and space to either change gears, or the right type of content to keep your chosen starting pace on track.
Kessa
 member, 530 posts
 Dark Army:
 Out to Lunch
Sun 6 Aug 2017
at 01:42
Starting With a Bang!
For me, it depends on the level of familiarity of the players with the system and world as well as their levels.

For lower level characters, or system newbies I like to start slower and ease them into the system and setting instead of immediately tossing them into a lot of combat. They are starting somewhere and they might as well have some sense of what that somewhere is.

If it's a more experienced group, or they are comfortable starting at higher levels, I am more likely to start them up with action sooner than later. I can assume a few things, such as their characters/ players have more worldly knowledge and have been around the block. Their backgrounds might already reflect a lot of the elements of a slower start, so it may not be as needed, or helpful

It's not a hard and fast rule, but it's a place to start. I have also thrown system newbies, who were experienced in other systems into combat immediately and had them do fine. So, ultimately, it's just best to tailor it to your situation. I will typically wait until I have a sense of characters and their general backgrounds/ concepts before planning out an opening scene, though the rest of the game is usually pretty thought through already.

In either case, I like the characters to feel some investment in whatever is happening in the game world, so I spend at least a little time somewhere building some attachment to some part of it, whether it's a stray mutt who always wanders by for scraps, a village where a character lives, or just trading barbs with someone who will become a key antagonist later. I feel that the "getting to know you" will either happen or not in the game and that's more up to the characters than it is to me. I can't force them to talk to each other, just strongly suggest it. :)
horus
 member, 209 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sun 6 Aug 2017
at 02:13
Starting With a Bang!
I probably should have done things a bit differently in my first game here, but it was my first game, and I was just getting used to the PbP format, so things dragged a bit.  We live and we learn.

In my other game, the setting is very rich and detailed so there was a bit of introductory matter to play through before getting to that first adventure, but it's in full swing now, my players seem to be enjoying themselves, and that's kinda what I was going for.  I call it a win-win so far.

I constantly struggle with the need to balance the details of the world/setting against keeping the pace at a decent level to provide challenges and enjoyment for my players, so I can really relate to this topic.  Thanks!
engine
 member, 380 posts
Sun 6 Aug 2017
at 04:37
Starting With a Bang!
I don't tend to enjoy "you all meet in a bar" scenes, or anything like that, either as a player or a GM, so I do everything I can to get to the exciting stuff as quickly as possible. I'm not sure I've ever started in the middle of an action situation, but I wouldn't mind doing that.
nuric
 member, 2942 posts
 Love D&D,superhero games
 Not very computer savvy
Sun 6 Aug 2017
at 07:38
Starting With a Bang!
I remember one D&D game where I wanted to avoid the cliché of meeting in a tavern.  I have each of five characters a separate story arc, aimed at getting them up to where the plot would start.

True to the old adage about plots when met by players, all of them proceeded to head in different parts of the game continent, and I couldn't have kept them apart better myself.
They were soon in five different mini adventures that lasted until the end of the game.

Now, I just have them meet in a tavern.
Grimmond
 member, 463 posts
 Antler-care by LIV THATCH
 "RALPH" The Wonder Llama
Sun 6 Aug 2017
at 10:54
Starting With a Bang!
I usually start with mundane daily stuff to give the players a chance to settle in. I also do a decent introduction to set the stage.
Mad Mick
 member, 902 posts
 The end
 is in the beginning
Mon 7 Aug 2017
at 02:02
Starting With a Bang!
It's fine to start with an establishing scene, but it's a good idea to get to the action soon.  Starting in media res works, too, and it can be a good way to get players invested in the game.
GreenTongue
 member, 817 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Mon 7 Aug 2017
at 22:29
Starting With a Bang!
It always seems to be very tricky finding that balance between the "boring every day" and the life and death struggle that draws players in.

Maybe high fantasy games don't need to establish a norm that the adventures can be juxtaposed against. However, I feel that low fantasy needs some kind of backdrop of normalcy.

Of course playing in a well known setting takes those concern away but I think it is important for home brew settings.
=
horus
 member, 211 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Tue 8 Aug 2017
at 03:15
Starting With a Bang!
The idea of doing a backgrounder of some kind is not always a bad one, even in a "familiar" setting (familiarity being a relative thing). Even then, the question of whether to present it as a travelogue, a dry historical text, or to introduce it with a story or an adventure to draw players in (as an example of how play might go) is still a decision the GM might pause to reflect upon before writing.

This message was last edited by the user at 03:32, Tue 08 Aug.

facemaker329
 member, 6952 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 8 Aug 2017
at 05:46
Starting With a Bang!
In reply to nuric (msg # 10):

I was in a game, ages ago, that started with each player having their own mini-adventure...pretty high-tempo, intense stuff (my character was leading a SEAL team that discovered some kind of alien base on Earth, and then proceeded to get chewed up in an attempt to get out and report...my character and two others made it back to the ship they'd launched from and were promptly thrown in the brig as the aliens had already infiltrated our command structure...a few more horrific events, and he was broken out by a resistance faction and smuggled out into backwoods Colorado, which is where everyone else's mini-adventures also ended up.)

It was a good way to get the game started, because it gave everyone just enough of a taste of what the game would be like (none of us had played it before) to build expectation, and it also gave each character a distinct background and the player a little time to settle into the role before everyone was interacting with each other.

Typically, most games I've been in (both IRL and here on RPOL) have started just as the group is being assembled...if there was some presumption of the group having already been together, we worked out details with the GM and each other before the game started, so we didn't need to really spend playing time to establish what 'normal' was.
nuric
 member, 2943 posts
 Love D&D,superhero games
 Not very computer savvy
Tue 8 Aug 2017
at 06:06
Starting With a Bang!
In reply to facemaker329 (msg # 15):

It's funny, but I've been in several games where we spent literally months of real time setting up character stories and inter character connections, sometimes mapping out an entire life story.
Those games fail at a similar rate, if not more often, then games where a bunch of strangers meet in a pub.  :)
facemaker329
 member, 6953 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Tue 8 Aug 2017
at 07:51
Starting With a Bang!
Yeah...I suspect the game could have started any way you care, and it would have worked out well...because that was the kind of chemistry the group had.  And, I think, if you've got the right chemistry, you can start your game any old way you like and it will work.  If you've got the wrong chemistry, it doesn't matter how you start your game, it won't work.

It's those groups somewhere in the middle that get impacted...the ones that COULD have chemistry, if you can keep them together long enough for it to gel...

And knowing how to do that comes down to understanding what everyone's expectations of the game are.  Find out what your players want, going into the game, if they have any strong preferences.  Some are fine with slow, casual beginnings.  Some need action right off the bat.  Some will just roll with whatever comes along.  But if half your players are expecting a rocket-launch start and you roll out a haywagon...odds are good they're going to start looking somewhere else.
nuric
 member, 2944 posts
 Love D&D,superhero games
 Not very computer savvy
Tue 8 Aug 2017
at 08:02
Starting With a Bang!
In reply to facemaker329 (msg # 17):

I definitely agree.  It's all about the players.
truemane
 member, 2096 posts
 Firing magic missles at
 the darkness!
Thu 17 Aug 2017
at 14:22
Starting With a Bang!
I always start the game with something for the players to push against. Whatever that happens to be. So my initial scene might be a combat, or a puzzle, or a wily NPC, or even just a butler who let them in to see the master with muddy boots.

So long as it's something with which they have to directly engage in some way. I find some clear direction at the early stages pays huge dividends later.
GreenTongue
 member, 818 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Thu 17 Aug 2017
at 17:42
Starting With a Bang!
How much do you think establishing "normal" matters?
If you start in a cow town with a gun fight, does that set the tone of gun fights every day or can you be sure that the characters know it was an unusual event?

Sure you can tell them it was a One-Off but will they feel it or expect that type of thing to be "common" since they are adventurers?
=
Gaffer
 member, 1488 posts
 Ocoee FL
 40 yrs of RPGs
Fri 18 Aug 2017
at 13:31
Starting With a Bang!
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 20):

I think you can set the tone indirectly.

Bang! Boom!

Two shots shatter the quiet of the town called Winsome Valley. People dart from doorways along the main street and look out on an appalling scene. Jerry Winder writhes in the dust of the street, clutching at the hole in his belly from which red blood spurts.

Approaching him is a stranger, a tall, lean fellow with a dark and twisted visage, his six-gun still in his hand. He advances to stand over his victim as Jerry kicks out his feet and draws a last rattling breath.

Up and down the street shocked faces stare into the eyes of their fellow townsfolk, appalled that a neighbor's life has been so brutally taken. Somewhere, a woman wails.

OR

Bang! Boom!

The sound of two gunshots in the street hardly stirs a ripple of interest in the noisy, smoky saloon. Dirty Pete saunters over to the doors and peers into the darkness.

"Looks like Jerry Winder has gone to meet his Maker," he says to anyone who might be interested. It's another Saturday night in Hellbender, the roughest town in Idaho.
swordchucks
 member, 1424 posts
Fri 18 Aug 2017
at 14:07
Starting With a Bang!
On RPOL, every time I start a game in a fashion other than in media res I regret it.  Either start the players in the action or immediately push them into the action.

There's nothing worse than pushing and pushing to start a game and then... making it all about two players plotting out their first move while the rest watch.
facemaker329
 member, 6956 posts
 Gaming for over 30
 years, and counting!
Sat 19 Aug 2017
at 21:21
Starting With a Bang!
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 20):

As mentioned, how you describe events can help establish what 'normal' is, for everyone else in your world.  However, unless you told your players that their characters were all normal people, I think it's fair for players to expect more-than-normal events to be a common thing in the game.  That doesn't mean daily gunfights...but that also doesn't mean months of herding cattle with little more excitement than shooting coyotes that get too close to a stray calf, either.  You've got to decide what 'normal' is for adventurers in your game, whether that's being a half-step ahead of Imperial forces trying to quell a new Rebel faction, or weeks of downtime compressed into a few calm scenes between combats, or weeks of running an inn before some troublemaker staggers back in after stirring up the local goblin horde and necessitating taking up arms to go deal with the problem.

Communicating clearly to players what you intend to do with the game will help attract players who are interested in the game you want to run...or, if you have no strong preference in how you run the game, then talking to your players about what they want will help you run the kind of game they want to play.

But starting a game is like starting a novel, play, film, etc...best to get to the inciting incident right away, if not starting with it immediately.  Take too long and your audience (players, in this case) gets bored and checks out, and it's really difficult to win them back after that.