A Quick Tip On Session Prep

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0916

I got this tip while reading The Index Card RPG by Rune Hammer Games.

Treat every session like you were prepping for a one-shot.

If you’ve ever run a convention game or organized play type game, you know it’s a bit different than your typical campaign prep mindset.

No one expects to play again after a one-shot. So you try to make a thrilling, event-filled, and complete story arc fit within your limited time.

Level-up your sessions by adopting this approach.

Think of a Session as a Story Arc

Try to run each session as a complete story. That ensures you get a satisfying arc with a strong beginning, a ramp-up in the middle, and an exciting climatic ending.

5 Room Dungeons offer you a fantastic way to structure sessions this way.

You can also keep an eye on the time and make the final encounter before session end a cliffhanger, twist, or cool reveal. Those session finales leave players yearning to play again while also giving them a satisfying sense of story.

Get Players Involved Fast

Convention games need a quick start so players get into play asap and don’t waste time.

In medias res, Roll initiative!, and instant quest kick-offs are great ways to do this.

End your sessions with clear plans to start the next. That lets you scheme how you’ll get your players involved fast next time. Repeat.

Run a Strong Premise

Gray-zone games suck. Those are sessions that meander along with murky plot objectives and no party momentum.

I love villains because they galvanize the herd of cats and get them charging together into the plot.

Making plot objectives and character goals tangible helps too. Put quests on index cards, tents, or Post-Its on the player-side of your screen.

A strong premise also involves a creating lots of curiosity. Make aspects of your plot mysterious with tantalizing rewards just out of reach.

Build Encounters That Showcase PC & Player Abilities

It’s tempting to challenge by targeting the soft spots.

Instead, create openings for players to brandish their strengths and the capabilities of their characters.

If you habitually over-challenge players like I do (“If an encounter doesn’t almost kill’em then it wasn’t dramatic or fun”) change your GMing approach.

I’ve gleaned this from reading and playing Gumshoe games.

Instead of planning for failure, plan for success.

Assume the PCs will win the next encounter. How can you build on that success to make the next situation or encounter really fun? Repeat.