Starting a brand new story can be daunting if you don’t know where to begin. If you don’t have a story to start, you may want to review The Story chapter for how to obtain one. You will also need some players. If you don’t yet have players lined up, then consider who among friends and family might be interested. Seek out role-playing or gaming clubs or conventions to meet people that might be interested or investigate online RPG communities. Generally speaking, it’s easier to find players than it is to find Narrators.
Once you have players and a story, you should – before the first session – tell each of them the genre of the story/setting and request that they think of a protagonist. It is important that they know the genre so they can think of a fitting character – or at least know what they are getting into. For example, the player who creates a purely social character might feel useless in a combat-heavy story about giant spiders (though, it can be rewarding to make a character who is not necessarily best fitted to tackle the task at hand). Unless “not knowing the genre” is a major part of the story or a feature requested by your players, you should inform them of the genre ahead of time.
Before the first session, the players don’t have to have everything fully developed for their protagonist but they should at least have a two-word, “personality + noun” concept. Something like: “petty pirate”, “adventurous actress”, or “money-minded mayor” (alliteration not required). Some players will come up with ideas on the spot and you may even find yourself negotiating with them about how their detailed idea can exist within the setting. Other players may need some coaching in order to come up with protagonist ideas. They may need to know more details like the goal of the story or the scope of the setting. It’s okay to divulge this information to them. You may want to point them to typical characters in other works of fiction that might serve as inspiration.
At this point, you should schedule a special kind of session. This very first session won’t involve playing the story. Instead, this will be used to talk over the story as a group and create characters. This session is known as Act 0. It will be run and prepared for differently than the other types of sessions.
Starting Out: Suggested Order of Events
- Exploratory Phase
- Narrator looks for a Story
- Narrator looks for Players
- Preparation Phase
- Narrator tells Players the genre of the story and setting
- Narrator requests Players to think of character ideas
- Narrator prepares for Act 0
- Schedule session
- Prepare agenda
- Prepare discussion notes
- Narrator hosts Act 0 (may require more than one session
- Narrator prepares for Act 1
- Narrator hosts Act 1; Session 1
- Narrator prepares for the next Act
- Narrator hosts the next Act
(Repeat steps 7 and 8 as needed until the story ends.)