How To Get Players Pumped After A Break From Gaming

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1017

RPT GM Samuel Dil Curd asks:

What’s a fun and exciting way to step back into an ongoing story after a hiatus?

We’re all familiar with life getting in the way, and after three months not playing D&D it looks like we might be able to arrange meeting up regularly again.

But how do I recap what’s happened before with the players and get everyone pumped to jump back in once more?

I know I could read through the notes and ask them what they remember and such, but perhaps there’s a better way that other people use.

Hey Samuel. Here are some thoughts.

Refresh Your Plot

Before your session, ensure you have your campaign design fresh in your brain’s RAM.

I recently resumed my Murder Hobo’s campaign after an 18 month hiatus. To get my head back in the game I opened up a fresh doc and rewrote the current plot from scratch.

I referenced my Campaign Logger notes and the log my player keeps. And while catching up on history, I rewrote some of my old plans as I had new ideas.

This proved a valuable exercise for me as it caught me up on what happened, what I needed to prep, and what I was aiming for with Season III.

Bullet List Recap

Take as much time as you need at the beginning of the session to go over what’s transpired so far in your campaign.

Players might remember things different. So you can either correct your notes or help players remember the facts better.

Everyone at the table now operates with the same information. This is important for player decision-making and game consistency.

You don’t need to write a story. A few some bullet points will do.

Encourage players to fill in any gaps.

Share Highlights

After your recap, ask everyone to share a favourite character moment.

You asked about how to re-engage your players. This will help.

As they remember cool events, funny moments, and crazy situations, everyone’s enthusiasm will ramp up as they relive the best times.

This also gives you great feedback on what players want more of in upcoming sessions. Log notes here.

Pose Dramatic Questions

Remind players what’s at stake.

Change their thinking from “Cool, we’re playing again,” to “Holy cow, what are we going to do about Zorgon waking that dragon up and blaming us for it!”

You can ask these questions before the game by email, texts, and social.

Surprise Players

If you have time and interest, offer players a nice surprise at the beginning of the first session.

For Murder Hobos, I reintroduced a beloved NPC in the first encounter…dead. And about to be eaten by demons.

That got everyone at the table engaged. They waded in to whack the demons. And they had a puzzle to solve right away: how to restore their friend back to life.

Other surprise ideas might be:

  • Character illustrations
  • Cards crafted for key magic items, animal companions, familiars
  • A special food dish or snack
  • A new d20 for each player (with promises there’s no GM curse on it)
  • Something in the world celebrating the PCs (a statue of the party, holiday named after them, big feast toasting — and roasting — them).

Start With A Bang

Within minutes of resuming my campaign I demanded an initiative roll.

Gar, the beloved NPC, was imminent demon dinner. An elf maiden’s life hung in the balance. And Orcus was about to have his final laugh.

That got me and all the players excited and pumped to be gaming again.

Countdown To Next Session

Here’s a cool tip from RPT GM Zeke:

I usually send our D&D group-chat daily countdown images in the four days prior to the upcoming session to get the players excited and anticipating what is to come.

For example, last week I sent images of a dark forest cemetery, a humanoid hunter riding a giant chameleon, an ashen zombie, and an enormous crab on the shore of a dark lake.

These were individual hints for some of the places the party’s caravan was going to pass through and some of the plot hooks to fun side quests they could find there.

It’s also a fun way to prime my imagination as well as that of my players.

Does anyone else have any ideas for Samuel?

If so, join in the discussion.