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How to start a first Session?

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  • How to start a first Session?

    So, I'm going to be GMing the first session of a M&M game, and I've got a setting set up, and a few potential plot threads that I intend to dangle to the party. My main issue is that I'm not sure how I want to start off the session. My only prior experience running a supers game was with a shared origin, which had a clear and obvious starting point, being the origin story. However, the current campaign I will be running is a lot more open in terms of character backstory and such. I'm not sure I want to do the M&M equivalent of "You all meet in a Tavern" of "A bank is being robbed, and you show up on the scene" but I can't think of too many other options that get me to the place of the heroes reasonably trusting one another and getting the choice of having the team be sponsored by one of the supporting characters I've planned out.

    My main three ideas for first plot threads that I'm thinking of are: 1) borrowing some of the Raven's Rogues gallery from various Freedom city books (because, I'm of the camp of beg-borrow-and-steel as a GM) and have a Poe-themed set of enemies, borrowing also a bit from stuff like Batman #1, 2) a gang arises, that has mystic powers. Named "The Kings" hinted (as a red herring) to be a possible offshoot of the "Latin Kings", sharing the name and color association of them, but notably they didn't seem to have a particular racial identity. Instead, as is learned later, their name is short for "The Kings in Yellow", who attempt to call forth Hastur, and 3) A spree of bank robberies occurs, at seemingly the times where security is at it's weakest (One bank has the security systems undergoing regular maintenance, another occurs when the bank is transferring a large amount of money, and thus it's robbed before it gets to the armored car). Later it's revealed to be someone gone back to the past to try to stop a dark future from occurring, using various future databases to ensure he can complete his plans.

    Granted, if need be, I could just do the "Mole-men from the underground attack the surface. Go." route, since I think most of these players are new to M&M and supers gaming, but I'd like to not have to rely on that. So what have other people found to be successful for first-session stuff? Preferably one which works well for newer players.

  • #2
    Re: How to start a first Session?

    I am in a similar boat! I'm starting my new campaign on Sunday, and I'm a little nervous about pacing and designing encounters that will make the game session memorable.

    If you have newer players, one more structured approach is to hold their hand more in terms of plot during the first session - simply dictate that they happen to be in nearby proximity at the time of a significant event, and they all respond to it. There are plenty of movies and books that use this strategy of basically saying "Hey, there isn't really an easy way to get past this part without a lot of extra exposition, so just take it at face value."

    If you're stuck, try thinking about the characters' motivations and predict how they might act in a certain situation, then put them all in (or near) an event that would pull for a predictable response. For example, if your heroes have secret identities, have them all conveniently at a public event or location (e.g., concert, movie, the mall) and have something happen that would pull for them to "suit up" and get involved. You can decide as the GM that they happen to be the only super heroes at the scene, allowing them to have an instant connection.

    I have also seen a neat approach of using "prequel" individual sessions with new players (30-ish minutes long) to help them learn the rules, get comfortable with their character's mechanics, and go through a smaller scale conflict/combat, and end it with bringing everyone together. That way everyone will at least be guaranteed to start with some kind of shared motivation or experience. Just some ideas.
    Elliot McGuire/Levitron - Super Framily Apprenticeship Plan (IC)
    John Olson/Spark - Superhuman Defense Organization - America (IC)


    • #3
      Re: How to start a first Session?

      For a first session meant to bring the characters together, you can always work with the players. Presumably, you already spoke with them about it being a team type game so there are no obvious loners. It helps if everyone is on the same page about teaming up in some form so the GM doesn't have to force everyone together. As for first sessions with people new to the system, I would suggest an adventure that lets them get a feel for their characters.

      Using the time traveling bank robber could be a fun twist on the worn cliche of stopping a bank robbery. Maybe he has futuristic weapons and a hired crew that is robbing a bank in the center of the city. Coincidentally, all the PCs happen to be around it for whatever reasons the players come up with. Once the players stop the heist, he takes off and can be pursued or escape to rob another day. Seeing all of this, the wealthy sponsor offers the PC's some reward unique to each one for apprehending the robber. For reward, the players can come up with it to add some RP flair. Following clues and such they find his lair, capture him, and collect their rewards. Said wealthy sponsor offers to sponsor them as a team for the greater good, money, etc whatever works for the players.

      This works out because some PC's maybe more investigative inclined, others may be fighters, and still others scout types. It also affords them a chance to feel out their characters depending on how you want the lair finding to happen. I don't know your player, but it can be tweaked to what best suits what they and you want to play with more RP or mechanics. With the above, it helps if the gmPCs have personality that comes through in their action and speech to make it fun. Bland robbers makes the scenario pretty boring.
      [url=]My characters past and present[/url]


      • #4
        Re: How to start a first Session?

        My suggestion would be go in Medias Res, which is Latin for "in the midst of things." Don't start with the slow burn & the "this is how we all got together" scene, instead start them off in them middle of the fight that got them together in the first place, you can even use the villain monologuing to fill in the players to why they are working together in the "I should have known that I would draw the attention of costumed heroes as I robbed the cities tech firms of high tech equipment, but how did you figure out where I was going to strike next" variety.

        This should be pretty easy if you already have your paradigm established, if you are finding it hard chances are good your paradigm is weaker than you think it is. An by paradigm, I mean what do you want your groups inevitable status quo to be for the rest of the game.

        That's one of the big differences between D&D an M&M. D&D always has the same built in paradigm, of "adventurers kill things, take their stuff, rinse, repeat." M&M doesn't have that, so its up to the GM to establish the paradigm he wants & the first session is where you start to lay that down.

        In in Medias Res can be used to skip much of the talky establishment parts & get straight to the action.

        The other way to do it is what I call the Earths Mightiest Prologue (based on Season 1 of Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes cartoon), in which prior to the games start you run players through little one off combat session in which 1 or 2 players at a time get to team up by accident to fight different personal villains (you can even get the players to create these villains themselves, before mixing them up so no player fights his own created enemy). So lets say you have 4 PC's, you run 4 pre game encounters with player 1 +2, Player 2 + 3, Player 3 + 4 & finally Player 4 + 1.

        Some people call this the Sprit of the Century method as its similar to two of the steps in SotC's RPG character creation method.

        The idea is that it familiarises the players with each other, removing the need for the classic

        GM: "you all meet at a bar, you've never meet each other before"
        Player 1: "You look trust worthy, lets all become bosom buddies & fight evil together"
        GM: [facepalm]

        Plus it better emulates the comic book genre in practice since its rare that heroes in a contemporary team will meet over a single event & then decide to form a team. More often its one or two people who have noticed an issue & decide to build a team from pre-existing solo characters that other members have worked with before, or trust.

        I hope that helps you out a little.
        “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”

        -Doctor Who


        • #5
          Re: How to start a first Session?

          One method I've used that I think worked fairly well for a more street level game, which this seems to be, was to have the city's Batman analogue disappear, and have the Oracle analogue contact all the rookie heroes and have them take over protecting the city and investigate what happened to the missing vigilante.
          Punching For Justice


          • #6
            Re: How to start a first Session?

            This all boils down to exactly what kind of team is your team going to be? Are they an Avengers expy? Birds of Prey? Heroes for Hire? What milieu are they in?

            Maybe the easiest way to start them off is to run their second adventure, with you (the GM) alluding to the crisis that initially brought them together.

            Maybe the team is sort of like a sports team and they had to "try out", which could give them instant enemies in the guise of characters who "didn't make the cut".

            Or, this could be their profession and they hired an agent to get them employment. This would make them mercenaries with a conscience, a fairly common literary trope, but one infrequently covered in comics (Heroes for Hire being the most famous example).

            Maybe they share a common bond if not a common origin, such as being "sleeper agents" from the future placed here to work against a particular looming cataclysm, after which they're free to determine their own path. This could mean they feel compelled to work together despite any personal feelings on the matter and the secret of their mission (which they are only subconsciously aware of) could become their first overarching meta-plot arc.

            One thing that may affect how you want to handle getting the band together is how common are super-types of either stripe in your world?

            Even in the open origin, big sandbox type of game, there are a lot of options that can work and each option lends the team a specific thematic flavor.


            • #7
              Re: How to start a first Session?

              Best response to a question like this that I've ever scene is reminiscent of saint_matthews response. In that apparently the player was in a game where the origin was flash backed, or fast forwarded. Essentially, as explained in the post they said that the GM gave them all PL12 versions of their characters, started them in the middle of a battle with a Doctor Doom level villain and as one of the players placed himself in the line of fire for a civilian the GM then flash backed to when the team formed while facing the same villain at the initial PL 10 level.

              So you have teasered them with a confrontation while playing their more experienced versions of their heroes, and their biggest rival, and then allowing them to create that rival through means as explained by saint_matthew by starting things both in the middle, and maybe at the end. Plus there will be points in the 'future' scene where you can drop plot hooks your teasers to upcoming plots, important NPC's etc etc.

              I forget who posted it, but it stuck with me as far as a cool way of starting a scenario. Definitely alot of work though.


              • #8
                Re: How to start a first Session?

                Praetorian Guard,

                I did a similar start to my very first superhero campaign a couple of decades ago - it started with a narrative in which an alien Queen walked beside a mysterious stranger on an alien planet on the eve of a great war that would decide the future of the Multiverse and they talked about how it all began so long ago with the formation of the champions of Nightwatch (I had a chamber of 30 metre high statues of the player characters looking down on them as they talked) and how no-one would have guessed when they first started it would have led to this...

                Then flashback to present day and a riot in London and the Anti-Mutant League attacking a Meta-Pride rally with the players in the crowd. Lots of children needing to be saved and to add to the tension I had a small multiversal incursion by raiders led by a grown up son of one of the player characters use the riot to mount an inter-dimensional recce... (It was the 80's, my first attempt at running superheroes and it was the beginning of a three year long campaign)

                I also had two players who had equipment-based powers who wouldn't normally have their equipment with them so I introduced them early to a holographic AI called EvE who warned them that the riot and raider attack would take place and told them where and when to meet.

                Players loved it - the idea that they would become legendary, the jump straight into a battle, the "son" recognising his hated father, the public acknowledgement afterwards for stopping the riot (even if no-one realised there was also an incursion) and the players just threw themselves in against a common enemy.

                Another start I've used before is all the players being woken from some sort of cryogenic chambers in the midst of a major battle/rescue. Afterwards they discover everyone present recognises them as a team but they don't know each other at all - then, slowly they realise that they are not on their Earth(s) anymore but on a parallel world and they've somehow replaced their duplicates from this world. This approach allows for the characters to not be aware beforehand of any changes to the world I wanted to introduce..


                • #9
                  Re: How to start a first Session?

                  I have to echo what Saint Matthew said. Figure out what your paradigm is, and start in medias res with the paradigm established.

                  My campaign that I've been running since 1987 (across multiple game systems) started with the words "you've been together for five years".