Storymastery: Don’t Make This Mistake with Your Reveals

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1028

Reveal something at the wrong time and it could backfire.

But have a little patience, and your grand effects will dazzle.

I was on an adventure consulting call last week with Adventure Building Workshop member Michael, and something we discussed was the timing of a prophecy in his campaign.

In my experience, introduce a prophecy too soon and the PCs won’t care much. It might even come off as a GM trick.

But introduce a prophecy too late, and it’s like a spanner tossed into your campaign engine. Nasty sparks fly. Terrible noises make you flinch. Cogs and springs make ranged attacks.

The best timing to introduce a prophecy is after the PCs have engaged with your milieu and care about it.

They’ve made a few friends and a few enemies. They have a rough mental map of the land. And they care about your setting.

Then, when you introduce a great danger through a prophecy, the stakes will matter.

Your players will want to save the people from a horrible destiny.

A premature reveal means the characters and players have not formed enough emotional connection, so they won’t care as much about what will happen if the doom comes about. Or if they do care, it will be more in the meta sense. “We’re playing this game, so we have to care. So let’s do this.”

Many GMs make the mistake of starting their campaigns with a prophecy. If it’s not introduced in the first encounter, it’s introduced in the first adventure.

Way too soon.

Let those recurring NPCs emerge. Let those early victories and defeats start to form a narrative. Let the PCs build up some presence in the realm.

And most importantly….

Let the players bond with their characters.

Once you’ve given the requisite time for player and character to form that all-important connection, you can reveal your prophecy.

Because now your players will care.

They’ll care about the land. The people in it. And the characters destined to confront the greatest dangers as foretold.

Get this timing right to set the stage for your best campaign ever.