New to Sly Flourish? Start Here or subscribe to the newsletter.

Calm Pre-Game Nerves with Session-Focused Character Hooks

by Mike on 19 June 2023

Sometimes, right before a game, I get the pre-game nervousness. Am I really ready? I've done my eight steps. I've got my maps. I've got my minis. I've got my strong start and my secrets and clues. But I'm still nervous. What else do I need? What am I missing?

We can calm these pre-game nerves by remembering what our players want out of the game: to watch their characters do awesome things.

Focus on the Characters

Anytime we're worried about our game or spending time we don't have on stuff we're not sure we're going to use, we can always go back to step 1 and focus on the characters. What's going on with the characters? Who are they? What do they want? What makes them look cool? What abilities do they like to use? What places do they want to visit?

What hooks can we drop into our next session to draw in each character?

Write One Session Hook Per Character

A character hook might be a magic item befitting a character. It might be a secret tied to their background. It might be reintroducing an NPC a character is particularly fond of. It might be including a statue of a deity recognized by a character. It might be a circumstance in a combat encounter particularly suited to a character's abilities. This session-based character hook is a way to draw characters (and players) deeper into the game.

When we're feeling that pre-game nervousness, write down one of these character-focused hooks for each character, each intended to occur or be revealed in the next session.

Real-World Examples

Here are six examples from my Empire of the Ghouls game:

Next time you feel nervous before your game, write down a hook for each character to draw your players into the story you share.

What are your characters' hooks?

More Sly Flourish Stuff

This week I posted a couple of YouTube videos on Mass Effect Style Preludes and Wars in 5e D&D Game and Scarlet Citadel Session 27 – Lazy GM Prep.

Last Week's Lazy RPG Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

Patreon Questions and Answers

Also on the Talk Show, I answer questions from Sly Flourish Patreons. Here are last week's questions and answers:

RPG Tips

Each week I think about what I learned in my last RPG session and write them up as D&D tips. Here are this week's tips:

Related Articles

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Subscribe to the weekly Sly Flourish newsletter and receive a free adventure generator PDF!

More from Sly Flourish

Sly Flourish's Books

Share this article by copying this link: https://slyflourish.com/calming_character_hooks.html

Have a question or want to contact me? Check out Sly Flourish's Frequently Asked Questions.

This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license. It allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, for noncommercial purposes only by including the following statement in the new work:

This work includes material taken from SlyFlourish.com by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

This site uses affiliate links to Amazon and DriveThruRPG. Thanks for your support!