Somebody Give Me a Reason: Kicking Off Your Agents of Oblivion Campaign
We had somebody asking how to kick off their campaign the other day. I thought maybe I could pitch in and help. Right? But I’m still playing catch up from the Alien Invasion which happened in Memphis and, besides, I’m just one guy.
Let’s crowdsource this. How have you kicked off your campaigns? What is the makeup of your group? Please. Get detailed. Let’s help a new director out!
Unless we’re swept up by another invasion over the weekend, I’ll throw in my two cents between now and midnight Monday. If you impress me mightily with your response, there might be some sort of prize in it for you. [1. If you’re the best of the best.]
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!
Know what your group wants. MIB? X-files? Cthulhu vs. Oblivion? What horrors are they facing? you need an idea of where you are going once the characters hit the table. Speaking of which..
Create characters together in a room. Get everyone talking about the characters and the group before picking up the books. Everyone should have a good idea on what they want before they crack open the book.
Once everyone has a good idea, start with Archetypes, and tweak those rather than starting from scratch. Use the default (or very slightly modded) load outs. Save the Defined Interests and Languages for later.
Start with an adventure that is a good introduction to the rule set
* Plan to do a few things to highlight to the AoO universe – Use Demolitions, hacking, modified rounds, SUD’s, you get the idea…
* If they are new to SW in general, keep it simple to the core rules – save a chase for the second adventure. If they AREN’T new to SW, try something you haven’t tried – like a chase or an Interlude.
I always kick off campaigns with a less is more concept. I agree it is nice to get everyone together to form a decently balanced team that can cover all the bases. But I would like to talk about how to get the campaign story rolling.
WIth something like AoO I would be inclined to make the first game be about being unprepared for the world in which the new agents have been thrust in to. Like a cop on his first day on the job, I imagine, it would think no amount of training can prepare you for what you are going to see.
Also, if you have big bad guys hold them back as much as possible. Think about stories like the X-Files or Lost. You got hints of the crazy crap happening around the characters, but it was just simply a tease for what was to come and it made the audience want more! If you have aliens in your game, then just hint at the spaceship. Maybe a character get’s a glimpse of a little gray man.
I like building the mystery at the beginning because it drives the players natural curiosity and gives them a sense of what you will be doing in later games. But it also gives them a reason to feel like they don’t know what is going on other than they are just being introduced to this setting and possibly the rules. So if mistakes are made, it makes sense because they are all greenhorn agents thrown into the deep end of the crazy pool.
First I’d pull my Dresden Files RPG off the shelf, rip out the city creation section and tweak it to be a global threats creation section. I’d bring that to my players and make up the locations and faces you’ll be dealing with. Second, grab a copy of Apocalypse world and run through the first session section of that game which will give all your characters dramatic ties to one another and some interesting internal conflicts between players.
Third, buy a copy of Hamlets hit points by Robin Laws and learn about pacing.
Fourth, get a copy of Eureka and pick one of their plots in the modern section.
At this point you’ll never have to write a scenario, just use a plot from eureka, grab some faces and things important to the characters from your global threats pages, use the AW sheet to create internal tension, and with the knowledge in Hamlets hit points you’ll be an expert at pacing. Everything is front loaded and you just do mad lib styled plots and react to the players desires and hit them where they care about stuff.
Of course I’m just kidding. I would suggest what James Schrecengost suggested. Have your first session be a sit down about what kind of game you and your players are expecting. AoO is a good start for expectations but you can narrow it down from there. Figure out what your campaign glue is, is the organization enough or do the players want or need more, what’s the thing binding the characters together and how close do you want them bound. I like to find out what kind of themes the players are interested in and I’d express what kind of themes your interested in. Find common ground and then talk about some specifics if you want, is the antagonist for the first arc known, do the players want to know a little about what’s coming. Maybe even let them contribute some idea’s. When I do and they show up in games my players are more invested in the fiction because they had a hand in creating it. At that point roll up some characters and find out what each player thinks is important about their characters so you can highlight it in the fiction of the game. At this point you should have a lot of idea’s bouncing around in your head to find a suitable starting point, if not ask your players some more questions about what they want to see in the game, once you hear a few that interest you go with them and then give them what they want but not the way they expect it.
I hope that helps.
It’s all about the flashback for me. Drop new agents straight into the action with a set of characters you’ve created. Start on the Cargo Plane/zodiac/buffed out surveillance van with the briefest of briefings and then throw them out the back/beach the craft/throw open the side door. Everyone is familiar with the pre-credit sequence so use the trope to show them what the game can be. They can take extreme risks and throw Hail Mary passes because they get that they’re only playing these characters for one session.
Then they can go away, think about what they enjoyed and come back ready to continue the story with the agent they want to play.
Beyond the excellent suggestions already provided, I suggest a proactive organization that reaches out the PCs. Better yet, these recruiting agents reach out at the same time the other side decides to do a preemptive strike.
It’s easier to join a group when they seem to be your only option for survival.