Wes Baker

#RPGaDAY2020 Day 1: Beginning

August 1st, 2020

Every year for the past seven years, David Chapman has run something called RPGaDAY. It’s a series of prompts about RPGs for an entire month with the goal being to drive some discussion around them. I had a blast with it last year and I’m hoping to be as consistent this year with it.

Beginning a Campaign

My favorite and least favorite part of an RPG campaign is the beginning. I love all of the potential there, the new adventures, the new characters, and seeing where things go. I find low-level play more interesting as a player and a GM. Once you get to those rarified high levels you typically have all of the tools to get past everything, but at low levels you must be creative to get what you want.

However, beginnings often mean the most preparation as you don’t know what the players will pursue. Are they going to head down the river into the jungle, or are they going to set sail and check the coasts? Which guide will they pick, what threads will the pursue? I want to portray something that’s somewhat realistic and I don’t want to force their hand, but I also don’t want to prepare for everything they could do. Often, the solution is to over-prepare, but only by a little bit: maybe consider three of the most likely options and prepare those and hope they pick that. If they don’t, then you’ll be improvising for that session, but then you’ll have a better idea of where they’re going next.

Beginning the Hobby

I also want to cover just beginning to play games in the hobby that is RPGs. As a hobby, Roleplaying Games can be incredibly rich. You can delve deep into a dungeon playing Dungeons & Dragons (what most people think of when they hear RPGs) or they could be playing as bears stealing honey in Honey Heist. There are RPGs about Spanish-language soap operas, being dragons, kids investigating weird things in town, and much more. In essence, if there’s some world you want to play in, someone else likely already thought of it and made it, and if not, there are many systems that would easily work with what you want.

My advice to new players is to jump in and try things out, but don’t worry about system mastery for right now. Most GMs/Judges/MCs/Referees are all-to-happy to help out with rules and your character–I personally love having new players in my games. Don’t stop with one system simply because it’s what you learned first and learning it was hard, with every subsequent system it’ll almost certainly get faster (though there are some exceptions there with games that have more rules and subsystems).