Get Into Gamespace Faster With A Good Session Warm-Up

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1025

Sometimes you have a rough transition between everyone arriving for a game and the game starting. Everyone catching up on news, one player looking everywhere for missing dice, another player bugging you with min/max ploys. It’s raucous.

When you do finally catch everyone’s attention, it still takes awhile for players to ease into character and into the right mindset for good gaming.

If this is your group, try the following ideas to get people into gamespace faster and easier.

Start Time 30 Minutes Before Game Time

Hobos starts at 6:30 p.m. Game starts at 7.

That’s half an hour for people to wander in, set themselves up, and chat.

It’s half an our to burn real-life energy so we become ready for game energy.

I’ve found 15 minutes isn’t enough for this to happen. Maybe your group can do it in that time. But my group needs up to half an hour to purge their day and get their character hats on.

Meantime, this half hour is still productive for me:

  • Put maps and my giant graph paper pads on the table (so players don’t have to pick everything up later to make room for these then).
  • Set my game gear up. I’ve waxed and waned on the gizmos and accoutrements over the years. I’m in a minimal phase right now. I should take a picture during a session sometime to share.
  • Get the background music
  • Review my Loopy Plans.
  • Study up on a foe or two.
  • Answer questions from players.
  • Get info about certain characters, if needed. “What spells did you choose for level-up, wizard?”

If we finished last session mid-battle, we’ll have taken a photo of the battlemat. So I’ll ask a player to set up the battle where we left off.

At some point, chatter will wind down, players are set up with their lucky dice and sheets, and someone will ask if we’re ready to play.

It’s game time.

Session Recap

Ask a player to recap last session. If there’s a session log available to help jog memories, that’s perfect.

After the quick reading of the scroll, you can also chime in with the larger picture:

  • Reminders about unfinished business (open plot hooks).
  • Reminders about current conditions, character states, and urgent matters. “Wizard, you’re still concentrating on that wall of fire. Rogue, you’re paralyzed.”
  • Why the characters are doing this quest or action. That’s a big one. Revisit their motivation.

Ask Warm-Up Questions

Those two steps or phases work great for us. We’re ready to play. And we know what the party is supposed to be doing and why.

Players are ready to roleplay and take actions to kick-off the play.

However, your group might be a bit of a tougher case.

You might need to force everyone’s attention, such as with a clap, or requesting everyone put their phones away.

You might need to do the recap yourself because no one remembers.

And players might take longer than usual to warm up to game mode and get into character.

In this case, go around the table and ask each player a question.

My favourite type of question: “Bob, what does Roghan think the real reason is for the guards hassling you guys at Tenkar’s last session?”

Ask each player what their character thinks about something that happened last session. Be specific.

This triggers memories and gets a player into character faster.

It also shares with everyone character and player viewpoints.

Maybe your players don’t talk game between sessions. Or they get tunnel vision during sessions and only see the play through their own lens.

This question allows a player to share with the party what they think is going on and why. It’s often different than other players’ thoughts, which gets everybody thinking.

Meantime, have your logging app open, ready to take notes. Player impressions are often full of great ideas!

Here’s a thread on Reddit with more ideas for warm-up questions.

And a blog post with ideas for warm-up exercises.

How do you warm players up at session start? Share your method with me here or hit reply.