Currently I’m planning for a Fate Core Tribe 8 game. As usual, all of the players are new to Tribe 8. On top of that, Fate Core is a little bit different than what they are used to system-wise. After some pondering, I’ve decided to fall back on a tried and true technique for getting the players invested and their characters involved: start the campaign in media res. I’ve used it a number of times to help jumpstart a campaign, especially in games where the setting is detailed or the system is new. My first Tribe 8 game used in media res with a very similar scenario to the game I’m planning. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to make this work.
1. Have Them All In The Same Situation
It might sound great to try to entangle a bunch of vastly different character backgrounds and have them all coincidentally meet up at a specific place and time, but it often feels contrived and sometimes doesn’t work out. It’s better if the scenario starts with them all in the same place, at the same time, doing the same thing. The PCs can be on the same train, running from the same death machine, all imprisoned in the same cell, etc.
2. Start Them Out Doing Something, Or About To Do Something
Start the PCS off in the middle of the action. Sitting on the same train isn’t in media res unless the PCs are about to do something, like take the train over. It could be in the middle of a fight, running down the street, about to choose which wire to cut to defuse the bomb, just after a major faux pas in front of the Prince. The situation doesn’t need to be dangerous, but it should be dynamic.
3. Don’t Sweat the Details
4. Be Flexible
In an in media res scenario, the players shouldn’t have to pixelbitch to find the only secret door standing between them and an orc horde. A lot of good in media res scenarios revolve around having to make a choice, and there should be not only more than one path – those paths should be simple and obvious. This goes for choices the players have made regarding their characters. If the campaign is opening in media res, it’s a good opportunity for the players to stretch their character’s muscles and figure out if the character suits them. Allow for the player to make modifications to their character based on the session experience. This can be easier with some systems than others. The first session of my Tribe 8 game is going to be both the campaign intro and character creation rolled up into one, but Fate Core implicitly supports “fill in the blank” character creation during play.
5. Give The PCs a Chance
6. A Helping Hand Is Sometimes Needed
This applies more to when the player characters are trapped behind enemy lines, escaped from a chain gang, shipwrecked, etc. Having a GMPC of some sort who can provide assistance – whether it be information, supplies, shelter, etc – may help out if the players need a little push in the right direction. This GMPC should be a transition to engaging the scenario in more depth and should never overshadow the PCs. Instead of the GMPC jumping in to fight off a pack of wolves, the PCs should encounter the character after they’ve done it themselves.