The one thing I realized when I ran my first session of the Exalted: Dawn of Sorrows campaign was that I usually have some very awkward first sessions unless I’m somehow very much in tune with the game. That said, while the first session isn’t always fantastic, it’s always a means for me to establish a few things in my mind.
In many ways, I take the first session to truly acquaint myself with the Player Characters. Reading a character sheet up and down for weeks is one thing, actually running for them and seeing their personalities and motivations in play is an entirely different kettle of fish.
That said, I don’t think I’ve run a game where the first session was spectacular… My Teen Champions HERO game was well into the awkward territory, and even my Mage: the Awakening game started off with me pawing in the dark. The only game where the first session started off really well was the Deadlands Reloaded! game I ran a while back, and that was probably due to sheer luck more than anything else.
To make the most of my first sessions, I try to profile the players and their characters as best as I’m able:
- How proactive / reactive is this character? – Will I have to work hard to mine his motivations? Or will he go off on a drop of a hat and forge his own way?
- What kind of fun is the player going for? - Is he looking for an epic tale, or is he looking to have a few laughs and call it a night?
- Will my initial plot hooks actually bait them? – This is a good question since sometimes players will ignore plot hooks, even when it seems like common sense for them to go for it based on character sheet alone.
- Which tone works best? – I have an idea of the narrative tone to use, but when it comes to a spread of characters with very different backgrounds, I have to cater to each of them, shifting the tone slightly for each.
- Should I revise my Campaign Expectations? – This is probably the most common. After finally seeing characters hit their stride, I tend to revise my campaign expectations. I don’t want to force people to a given way of playing, especially since it’s all in my head.
With that in mind, I’ve been working on trying to make sure I get Exalted to work right. It might not be as drop-dead serious as most people expect, but I’ll see if I can still keep to my original objectives.