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Choose your own adventure

Trollbabe and the forthcoming Stranger Things both direct the players to begin by picking a spot on the map and saying what their character is doing there. The gamemaster then proceeds either to improvise off the player's beginning statement, or to present an adventure hook he's prepared, seeing whether he can catch the player's interest.

But why go through the guesswork? You could save a step by simply presenting the players with a few hooks to choose from, and then placing the characters on the map depending on which hook they choose. At worst, if they're not interested in any of the hooks you present, you're just back to the normal starting situation of the players offering ideas for what they're up to. At best, you and the players immediately share an understanding of what kind of game you're both interested in playing.

For that matter, you could even make this the very first step of starting a new campaign in any game - even before anyone begins to make up a character. That way you're also sure you won't get stuck with a bunch of characters (and by extension players) who have neither a connection to nor any interest in the scenario you were going to run.

A game like Talislanta seems particularly well-suited for this method - not only does the game come with a list of 48 different adventure seeds (already conveniently divided up amongst the various major regions of the continent), it's also got a wildly diverse set of countries and cultures to choose from if you need to go the improvisation route - just have the players pick a spot on the map, or pick an archetype's picture and say "I want to meet that guy". But this should work with most games, really.

I'm sure many GMs throughout the history of gaming have used the method of presenting adventure hooks to the players; it's not a new idea. The main points here are that it can be combined with the "put your character on the map" method; it lets the players tell you what they want to do, instead of dictating to them what they can do; and if you do it even before making characters, it helps you avoid the problem of inappropriate character choices.

I like the sound of this. You could do it with three steps.

Step 1: Choose a map tile.
Step 2: Choose an adventure hook (from three options).
Step 3: The GM makes his own notes, tying the hook to the map tile chosen, modifying details as necessary. This part is not collaborative. It's a GM task. The player will discover details of the situation during play (like sins in a town in Dogs).

The trick is presenting the hooks in a way that doesn't pre-load the player with too much detail about the situation. You want to avoid that "play before you play" issue.

The cool part is what Phil said already: The player makes a choice and says "This is the aadventure I'm going to have today." They're already hooked into the situation, as a player, and don't have to be cajoled. I like that.

Your idea of starting every campaign this way is very good. I have my players play a bidding game to establish the plot, tone, style, setting (like map placement), scope etc. everytime i start a campaign now.

As for Stranger Things, a great idea to give the hooks before the map placement. Thanks Phil

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