Pitching Story, Setting, or System
Yesterday was the first meeting of the semester for the Wittenberg Role-playing Guild and we had a fantastic turnout including a lot of new faces! I’m optimistic for this year and I’m glad that we were able to bring in more people to share our love of gaming with!
One of the big things we do at the first meeting is announce the upcoming semester’s role-playing campaigns. Turns out that we’ve got quite a few (as you can see here) and many of them are full, which is very exciting!
I noticed that the GMs pitched their campaigns in different ways. Some emphasized the story, others emphasized the setting and still others emphasized the system. That’s not to say that the other aspects weren’t noted, they just weren’t the focus of the elevator pitch. To better illustrate my point, I’m going to give the gist of three different pitches I heard for campaigns at the meeting.
I’ll be running Necessary Evil, a premade plot-point campaign using the Savage Worlds system. The premise is that the big bad aliens invaded Earth, the superheroes banded together to fight them, and they got massacred. So now it’s up to the supervillains to save the world. The fate of the world lies with the scum of the earth!
This one’s actually my upcoming campaign (and I’m very excited about it). To me, the important thing about the campaign is the story because it’s so unique and it’s what I hope will draw people in. It does use a system that is popular in the Guild right now (and that I like) and I know there are a lot of supers fans out there, but those were my secondary selling points. Still, it seemed to work since I got a full table of gamers that night!
I’m running The One Ring, a new system released by Cubicle 7. It takes place in Middle Earth after the events of The Hobbit. The action will be taking place in the region of northern Mirkwood, the Lonely Mountain, and the eastern slopes of the Misty Mountains that is growing under the influence of “The Shadow.”
You can see from Chris’ description of his game that the big focus is on playing in Middle Earth. Very little is given about the story and the system isn’t that big of a focus either. Perhaps players know what type of stories might come from this if they were familiar with the setting, so advertising the story was unnecessary. And Chris did get a good turnout of players for this (including me!).
I’ll be running a campaign titled Hard Rain using a system called Cold Steel Wardens. If that doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because it isn’t out yet since…I’m writing it! I’ve got about 65,000 words written and I’m looking for players to help alpha test it. This game is about the Iron Age of comics, which you might recognize from works like Watchmen, or Dark Knight Rises where the heroes are flawed individuals with struggles. Also, anybody who attends 2/3rds of the sessions will get their characters as pregens in the hopefully forthcoming finished product!
This is perhaps an atypical system-centered pitch in that Andy (the Platinum Warlock) is asking for testers for his new system. However, the pitch is definitely focused on advertising the system in order to draw players in. No mention is made of the story of this particular campaign and, while the setting may be closely linked to the system, it’s not a strong focus of the pitch. You might see a similar situation if a GM were to advertise that they were running “Dungeons & Dragons” with no mention of a storyline (although a type of setting may be implied).
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the focus of a pitch tends to be whatever aspect of the campaign that the GM is most excited about. For me it was the Necessary Evil storyline, for Chris it was the Middle Earth setting, and for Andy it was the system that he was writing. Each was effective in drawing players and so I would argue that no approach is a “bad” approach.
I would encourage GMs to be aware of what aspect of their campaigns that they are most excited about and pitch their campaigns with that as their focus. It’s my opinion that an excited GM is the most influential aspect of getting the players excited. Sure there are other factors, such as personal tastes, but if you’re not showing your excitement, how are the players going to be excited along with you?