“…That’s how it always begins. Very small.”
— Egg Shen, Big Trouble in Little China
In the beginning. Once upon a time. It was a dark and storm night. Beginnings are powerful things, full of potential and promise. This is a beginning as well, of a new outlet for me to talk about gaming. This is a good thing, because my coworkers’ eyes glaze over more and more frequently. My goal is weekly output, but we’ll see. if things go as I hope, that will snowball into bi-weekly and three times, etc. There are lots of things to talk about, from D&D to Star Trek Adventures to Dresden Files Accelerated to home brewing your own setting. I have Opinions. They’re mine, and if we disagree, I’m open to having my mind changed. No promises, but one of the beliefs I hold is: There is No Wrong Way, Just What is Fun for You. We’ll circle back around to that another time. Because today is about beginning.
“At dawn… we plan.”
— Grog, Vox Machina
I’m a fan of Critical Role. I recommend it to everyone, because aside from being entertaining, it’s an excellent classroom in being a good GM and an excellent player. It’s a show on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch channel of a weekly D&D game run by and including voice actors and friends. After two years on stream, and two years before that at home, Matthew Mercer is bringing the campaign, and the story of Vox Machina to an end. The community of fans of the show–thousands of people around the world–have been as inconsolable as the internet can make a person that this beloved thing is coming to an end. There is cathartic art, there are tearful goodbyes. But, buried under all that, is what interests me: the new campaign. All new characters, a new story, a new beginning. I’m excited to see who the players bring to the table. Where they go in the world. And that’s part of the excitement of beginnings, that everything is new again. Getting to know a new character, see new places meet new monsters, kill them and take their stuff.
“You are, without a doubt, the worst pirate I ever heard of.”
— Commodore Norrington, Pirates of the Caribbean
Closer to home, a few friends and I started hanging out together again, and I offered to run a game. We’ve played together in the past and had a great time, so in true Blues Brothers tradition we are getting the band back together. When I start a new game, I think about what is going to be interesting to me. Don’t try to run a game your players are interested in, but you are not. It’s doomed out of the gate. If you lack interest, prepping for the game becomes even more like work, and you’re doing it because you have to, and your players will key off that vibe. No. Run something you can be a fan of. I’ve been thinking about home brews and creating my own world, but I am also a fan of Eberron, so I offered both to the players.
They chose Eberron, almost unanimously. Not for any hate of a home brew, but I think we’ve all been feeling a little nostalgic for the setting. One of my most fun games with this group was an Eberron game, so going back to it seemed fitting. Just as important as being a fan of your game is making sure your players are fans as well. We set up a Google Drive folder shared to everyone, so that I could communicate setting and character info.
Eberron calls itself a kitchen sink setting, in that anything fits there, or can. This makes it a big world, with lots of different campaign styles that could work. I pitched five story ideas, ranging from pirates of the Lhazaar Principalities, to Xendrik tomb raiding, to Shadowrun style wars between the Dragonmarked houses in Sharn. I asked everyone to rank the five in the order they’d prefer to play them, and tabulated the results. Pirates got the most votes, followed very closely by tomb raiding, so that’s what i’m focused on preparing, knowing that going in, I’ve got something everyone is going to be interested in. It was also valuable learning what no one was interested in. If you do this sort of survey, keep the individual results! If someone has an outlier favorite, that can be a spotlight adventure for them down the road, or you can work around elements someone particularly disliked.
Surveys and questions like this are just one way of doing a very important thing: talking to your players. Have a conversation before character generation even starts about what kind of stories you’re interested in telling together. Because if you’re all excited about it, a new beginning can be the start of something amazing.