Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Pitch

A few years back, one of my players said he wanted to start running a campaign.  But he found the entire prospect daunting.  He was grinding his gears, doing hours of "work," trying to build a whole campaign from scratch...all before he ever talked to his potential players. 

Here's what I told himPlease, for the love of god, don't do that.  You always, always, always start with "the Pitch."

* * *
Accept that the campaign you are thinking about running right now, that special little snowflake in your heart, as dear as your first-born child, might actually be some turd muffin that no one is interested in playing.  So, for the love of god, before you spend 40+ hours detailing the marriage rituals of the Humbark elf clan, yeah, you'd better actually talk to your potential players and find out what they want to play. 

It's easy.  Just come up with 3 (or more) campaign ideas.  Nothing fancy.  Just a game system, a tone, and a "high concept."  Just like an elevator pitch - thirty seconds or less.  Make sure they are all very different from each other.  The point here is not just to get your players to "pre-approve" your campaign.  You want to give them a meaningful choice about what they want to play.

Here's an example of a "winning pitch" I threw out a few years ago...

The Silver Blades of Eleint 

Batman meets the Forgotten Realms.  The PCs are wealthy young nobles in a corrupt and decaying Waterdeep where crime, cultists, and depraved wizards run rampant.  Concealed by magical masks and armed with their own skills and blades, they foil conspiracies and evil plots, calling themselves after the long-ago Silver Blades of Elient, heroes who toppled an ancient cabal of evil wizards who seized control of Waterdeep after the death of the Blackstaff.

  
Why pitch?  Why not just start dumping hours and hours of your precious free time into the exact game you want to run?  I used to do that.  I'd spend hours on a fancy campaign handout, with pictures, and maps, and whatnot.  Because I was an idiot.  And so, to this day, I still have this 20+ page Eberron handout for a campaign no one wanted to play, for a game system that I don't enjoy anymore.  There is no point doing work on an idea if no one wants to play it.  And, if your players (like mine) hear a concept they *do* like, chances are they will find some way to improve it.

So, yeah, start doing that.