Explosive Session Starts, Part I: The Cajun Spice List
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0737
Last session started with a whimper and suffered for it. A sudden boost of adrenaline gets everyone focus and into character almost instantly. However, we joked, gossiped, and rambled our way into the session launch and it was awful.
It’s harder to build up session energy slowly after a slow beginning than it is to create big energy at the start. It’s like waking up from a deep sleep. You’re groggy for awhile, perhaps hours it seems.
But create an explosive start, and you can surf that energy wave for a long time, getting your players tuned in and participating. You feed off that wave too. Your enthusiasm and passion for the game infects the table, which gives you energy back in return. Thus, the great energy cycle persists.
The best method I’ve found to launch explosively is to end sessions on cliffhangers. End right at the moment of a critical roll or result. Hopefully the event has all players on the edge of their seats.
“Will the wizard make his saving throw?” is a cliffhanger, but it might not leave all players hanging. However, “Will the wizard’s fireball destroy the bad guy and save everyone’s buttocks?” does hang the whole party and set you up for instant energy next session start.
If no cliffhanger, then use your time between sessions to figure out how you can trigger an exciting encounter immediately. Best case, take an existing planned encounter and ensure it has spice.
Get Their Next Action
At end of session, ask the party what their next action will be. Where are they going? Who will they talk to next? What will they do next?
Once decided, lock that in and prep that encounter to begin next session.
Add Cajun Spice
The tough part is over now. You’ve got clear direction to plan a session-start with. Perfect! All you need to do now is add some cajun seasoning to ensure a hot start next time.
Make one or more of the following happen to cajun-spice your encounter:
- What surprising NPC could enter the scene?
- What natural event could trigger?
- Who or what could the villain send to confront the PCs?
- Could reinforcements for the foes arrive?
- What political event could happen?
- What religious event might occur?
- Could an item malfunction?
- Could random NPCs suddenly get into danger?
This ends part I. Next time, I’ll dig into new steps to build explosive session launches.