Explosive Session Starts, Part II: Stakes and Consequences

Last Musings I spoke of explosive sessions starts. After social time, inject energy right away so the session feeds off that the rest of the night.

And, it turns out, the quality of how your session starts depends a lot on how your last session ended. Who knew?

If you can’t end on a cliffhanger, get a decision from your group about what they intend to do next so you can build that encounter and launch explosively with it next session.

To do that, first add cajun-spice using the encounter development ideas list I gave you last email.

Next, turn your exciting encounter development into a What If and add a consequence, stake, or an Or Else


The PCs gain or suffer based on decisions they make or how the encounter turns out.

For example, What if the demon the PCs encounter on the way back to town knows a secret and will only trade for information it can take back to its master for a reward?

However, if the PCs reveal important information and the demon escapes, it means others could suffer.


What’s in it for the players and GM? Why is the encounter fun, interesting, unique, exciting?

What if the PCs encounter a demon on the way back to town who’s captured orc slaves made to fight the party? The druid is afraid of orcs. The half-orc barbarian is related to one of the orcs. Two orcs bear tattoos from a tribe that’s been harassing the party. And they all yell a taunting battle chant you’ve made up between sessions.

Or Else…

This is my favourite pattern. It’s just another form of stake or consequence, but I like its simple structure. An outcome must happen or else something bad will happen.

What if the PCs encounter a demon on the way back to town who’s captured orc slaves made to fight the party? The PCs must stop the demon Or Else…

  • The demon will acquire more orc slaves and build an army
  • The demon’s secret will be used to destroy the PCs’ quest
  • Orc tribes will blame the PCs and declare a Blood Hunt on them

This exercise is all about the Plot foundation in the Encounter Triangle and it’s also part of good combat and combat design.

Hook your players deeper into your game while making your session’s first encounter an explosive one using these techniques and others from my Faster Combat course.

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