March 1, 2021

So It’s Time To Run Your First Tabletop RPG Session…

Planning your campaign’s first session brings some pressure along for the ride. You want all the players to really enjoy the story. And perhaps most of all, you want everyone to be excited about playing the next session.

So today’s worldbuilding advice aims to help GMs outline their goals for their campaign’s first session so that they – and everyone at the table – can get the most out of the experience!

What Do You Want Out of the Experience?

I’ve found it helpful to be in tune with what you, as the GM, are looking for during this particular campaign. Especially before your first session, the vast majority of the onus is on you to set the backbone of the story. You’re designing a canvas on which the players can be creative with their characters, ideas, actions, and words.

In order for that system to work effectively, I’ve found that it’s crucial that you’re able to answer the simple question: “what’s this all for?” Obviously there are many potential answers. But the important thing is that you’re in tune with your answer. And you can use that perspective to help empower you throughout your worldbuilding process. “I’m creating this campaign because…” can be a permanently “stickied” mantra on your notes.

So as you’re planning your campaign’s first session, you have this automatic wind in your sails, guiding you where it may. And in that first meeting, your players will be able to pick up on whatever it is that’s driving you. In my experience, carrying that common thread throughout the campaign does wonders for your own perspective, continuity, and desire to keep things fresh and exciting.

What Do You Want the Players to Get Out of the Experience?

Equally as important in setting your goals is deciding what it is you want the players to get out of the story. Is it just a chill, fun escape from the real world? An uber-serious epic campaign of cosmic proportions? What about individually – what are you hoping draws-in, interests, and fulfills each player?

Because every table and every story is different, there’s no one right set of answers to these questions. My advice though, especially when you’re planning your first session, is to invest the time in discovering the answers to these questions. Oftentimes, they’ll serve as signposts in your decision-making processes later-on.

Let’s say you had a new player at the table who you really just wanted to show a good time. Nothing too ridiculous or complex – you just want to lay the foundation of what playing stories is all about. In this case, you might not go too far down the rabbit hole in the first session. You’d want to keep it simple and straightforward – but ensure you had a few hooks to reel-in their interest as the story progresses.

Likewise, if you had a table of experienced players who really wanted to dig into a truly epic tale, you wouldn’t give them a purely vanilla first session either. You’d layer-in some intricate, detailed worldbuilding that really meshed with their fully fleshed out character backgrounds. You’d hit them in the face with pacing and drive home the plot.

Either way – or anywhere in-between – taking the time to really outline what both you and the players each want to get of the first session – and story as a whole – is going to serve you so, so well in the long run. So invest in that thinking before your first session. You – and the players! – won’t regret it!