View Full Version : Dipping your player's toes for Session 1 - Start of scenario suggestion

2013-11-21, 06:56 PM
Hi there.

This idea comes from something that is always risky when one designs a story for a game is that he risks missing what his players like to do; or expect to do. Especially when the game system you are introducing is more about the WORLD than the ACTIONS.

for example: I have found this system named Qin: The Warring States meant to play Wuxia-themed during the period of the Warring Kingdoms. The system seems relatively light in term of rules and flexibility; while there is a certain focus about martial components, the rules seems to leave plenty of room for stealthy or even smarty characters (beware the Bureaucrat!!!). Hence if I introduce the system to a group of friends, some may expect some sort of High Chinese Politics game while others might want to have some cheesy Kung-fu action.*

(* yes, I know the classic Kung Fu as we know only happened later in the history of China, as weapons were restricted by the Imperial authority and unarmed combat traditions developped, but really, who cares about anachronistic elements when KUNG FU is concerned? We'll find ways to make it work in-story)

Usually, I would gather around my players and ask them the style of game they want to play out; and I will shape my story around that. However, it's been my experience that... well, players don't know what they genuinely want. Especially in a relatively unknown and, let's admit, alien environment such as Ancient China. Maybe I have a player who actually know about the time period, but then he'll dominate the game.

So, instead of doing this:

1- Discussion of what we want
2- Character design
3- Start the game

I thought we could instead do something as:

1- Player have to close their eyes and think of an archetype.

You want to be a Princess? An old Taoist Master? An outlaw? A bounty Hunter? a Bureaucrat?

I give them plenty of ideas, and make certain they understand I will accept any character concept they put on the table; as long as they are willing to be a little flexible regarding making it fit in the story. (A Princess could be a runaway lady akin to Jen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crouching_Tiger,_Hidden_Dragon), or maybe she is currently en route to get married (which will never happen :smallwink: ).

HOWEVER, I do not ask them to tell me their Archetype. They just need to "play it out" for the little scenario that will start the game.

2- The Scenario

This part of the "introductory game" is meant to present a feeling of the setting. Few dices will be rolled; the point is to establish how characters will react to the situation, what sort of attitude they adopt.

If something "difficult" that would usually require a dice roll happens, I'll simply ask the player : "are you good at it?". Ex: I attack the guard! Is this legal? I forge documentation! I charm the Captain! I sneak out!

The point is to see what sort of abilities the players want to show, and get a feel of how the players want to play this game: what is their initial outlook to struggles. Players should be made away they cannot "lose" against their wish during that "introduction" session. For example, if they are captured by the guards, it's only because they willingly surrendered (thus demonstrating a respect of the authorities, and their character design will respect that!).

Now; a player might make up something on the fly. "I have travel documents in my pocket", "I know kung fu", "I have enough money to bribe the official" "I am the one the guards a looking for" "That guy is my old friend".

I take note of it all and, again, make it fit in the story. The point is to flesh out the character as they want to be played, and get an idea of the group.

(NOTE: I will give my idea of the scenario in a following post).

3- Character design

After an hour or two of gameplay, everybody has a better idea of the setting's theme. I have (and other players have, as well, I hope) taken notes on everything that has happened to we have an idea. Ex:

"Okay, you managed to stave off the soldiers by showing some travel documents, and then used a legal loophole to protect the rest of the group. You have money on you; how about being a Wandering Bureaucrat, or one of the group's hired secretary, or a low-level ambassador for one of the Kingdom?"

Players may come up with their own fleshed-out concept as well. We can take out elements we didn't liked from the initial scenario ("I don't want to know kung-fu after all"). And we design characters for each players based on what they played; trying to make everybody fit together as a group; maybe combining their backstories as possible. If there is a black sheep (Okay.. you have the Noble, his Bureaucrat, his bodyguard, his spiritual advisor and... an outlaw?), you find a way to integrate him within the group with the story.

What do you think of this idea? "Dipping the toe" of players?

2013-11-21, 07:04 PM
The idea of scenario for a Wuxia game set during the Warring States period is pretty simple, yet can yield so much possibilities:

The characters start the game in an inn in the territory of Han, near the Qin border. I will need to set the atmosphere and the theme of the period, and explain (roughly) the political situation between these two nations.

Suddenly, the inn's door open and a group of Qin soldiers enter the inn; declaring they will need to check the passports of everybody here, because they are on the lookout for a dangerous criminal. A few of the inn's patrons get up to show their papers immediately and leave, because they suspect there might be trouble. However, many others are outraged at the audacity of these Qin soldiers who violated the border. Trouble may be afoot...

A group of 4 soldiers and their officer go from table to tables, asking papers to each patron sitting there. The PC's table will be the last they will reach. What do they do?

Now, as it's basically a Shroedinger's Plot; any number of things are possible: the guards could be fake, they could be looking for one of the PC, they could be bounty-hunters trying to find a deserter, or they need to arrest a bandit sympathiser who keep raiding on the side of the Qin border.

Who is in the right, who is in the wrong? It will depend on the player's reaction and attitude. Maybe they will cooperate, maybe they will fight.

If the players agree to start to fight, the table just before the players' actually attack the guards first, giving them a chance to just run away, or fight back, or maybe help out the guards?