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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?

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

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