John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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The "Oh Sh!t" Intro [gaming]

In my Richmond gaming days of yore, I developed a reputation for my adventure intros, which are little narrative blurbs usually 2-10 pages long, handed out at the beginning of the game session, featuring scenes with NPC developments, background information, and setup for the upcoming session's expected action. I'm not sure exactly where I picked up the habit. I remember reading about "recap sheets" in RPG books for years, and WEG's original Star Wars Roleplaying Game had "scripts" that you'd handout at the beginning of the session to "prime the pump" so to speak and help emphasize the cinematic nature of the game.

The original SWRPG also impressed a concept on me which has stuck with me ever since, of starting a game session in medias res. Instead of mucking around in the mission briefing room or gathering at the tavern (depending on the campaign), you take all of that stuff as read and instead throw the players head-first into an existing situation that demands their immediate attention. It's fairly standard game design philosophy now -- but in 1987, beginning the game session with "Roll for initiative!" (or its equivalent) was revolutionary.

So I combined these two concepts, the recap/session opener handout and starting in medias res, and from them was born what laurie_robey called the "Oh Sh!t" intro. This is a game intro text that doesn't just throw them into the thick of things, but sends them out of the frying pan and into the fire. The pirates attack! A monster bursts out of the ground! The dark wizard and his army teleport into the castle! etc.

I think the most extreme "Oh Sh!t" intro I ever presented my poor players with had the Richmond group's ship's hull breached by TIE fighter blasts, leaving them plummeting powerless towards the planet surface below, with their beloved NPC team member (and laurie_robey's love interest) having been sucked out the hole without a parachute. [1] Although the time my NoVA Star Hero group had to defuse a bomb that would destabilize the moon and send it spiraling into the Earth was quite the nail-biter too IIRC. (Mind you, both of those incidents were pretty late in their respective campaigns. I don't throw that kind of crazy stuff at low-level characters, a} to avoid campaign power inflation, and b} 'cause they just can't handle it.)

Every gamemaster has their signature shticks, I suppose, and the "Oh Sh!t" intro is one of mine. :)

Speaking of which, jamesbarrett, laurie_robey, hantamouse, and sirfox ... there's a new intro at the bottom of my Star Wars Campaign Page, just for you. ;)

-The Gneech

[1] There are times when a range of "Line of Sight" is a wonderful thing. laurie_robey: "Can I see Derek?" the_gneech: "Yes, he's that rapidly-dwindling green dot." laurie_robey: "Telekinesis! Telekinesis!" Meanwhile, satyrblade managed to bring that creaky old YT-1300 down in a maneuver that made Anakin's landing of the Invisible Hand look positively sloppy. It was impressive.
Tags: gaming, star wars
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