Last Sunday, our campaign wrapped up it's first arc. Syrinx, my gorgon martial artist, still has a petrified hand. And it's starting to creep up her arm. The bastard responsible is now dead, several times over. Our client is now safe and sound, and ready to pay up. Things are as well as can be, all things considered. Now our GM is ready to put this campaign on hiatus long enough for him to write up the next leg of our journey.
In case you haven't guessed it by now, our Sunday group operates on a round robin kind of system. Each of us takes turns running a short story arc and then hands control over to someone else. This allows us to try out different genres or different game systems. It'll likely be a while before I end up running again, but the idea of a new beginning to a campaign does get my gears turning on how I would handle the situation.
You All Meet in a Tavern
The classic dungeon crawler D&D style opener. The PCs are in a tavern/pub and are approached by a mysterious figure with a job offer. A fantasy cliche to be sure, but why not go with a classic? It's common enough because it works. It's simple. It's gives a good location for random people to meet and look for work in a low tech setting. It's populated, and can lead to all kinds of hijinks. While it may be stale and trite, it is easy enough to go with the expected route or deviate and put your own unique twist on it.
Basically, this means you start in the middle of the action. You could put your players in the middle of a fight or other sequence of events and either explain how they got there as the story moves on, or flash back to an earlier point and have them make their own way to this point. This method needs to handled carefully, or you run the risk of players feeling railroaded to get back to this point or feeling bereft of player agency for starting in a situation they most likely would have avoided. Use with discretion.
Jail Birding It
Better known to some as the Elder Scrolls opening, the players start out in a prison cell or other form of confinement and make their daring escape to find out why. Could be used to great effect if you have players willing to go along with it. If not, unless you provide a good enough reason for the PCs to remain together after they've attained freedom they may just scatter like leaves. Risky, but a good way for players to make their own way in the world if you want them to start with nothing.
Survivor, the Home Game
Basically similar in function to the prison opener. Everyone starts with little to no gear, having survived a shipwreck, plane crash, giant octopus or some other disaster movie fodder. Works well for cinematic exploration or Lost World types of games. I could see a Call of Cthulu game where investigators all survive some run-in with some big thing that wrecked their cruise. Again the trick is keeping your ducks in a row.
Feng Shui Noodle Shop
The players are given a location and a scene and they tell the GM why they are there. Doesn't matter how ludicrous it may be, as long as it gives the players context to what's going on. This allows players to have a modicum of control on the scene at hand. It also catches some people off guard, forcing them to think fast. Excellent exercise in improvisation.
These are just a few ideas I've considered while prepping for the next time I get to run. They're a few ideas that lead to other ideas, that's all. Most, if not all of these are extrapolated on in various DMGs. Sometimes you want to go with the expectation, and other times you want to go against the grain. There's really no right or wrong way, just varying degrees of resonance with your group. Figure out what seems interesting and spin it your own way.
So how about you vets out there? Have any interesting ways of starting a campaign? A session? Do you still use the basic tavern opening after all these years? Feel free to comment below.
And remember folks, Stay Classy!