Well, we’re a bit late, but this year we’re going to do it! We’re gonna do the RPG a Day challenge! And here we are on day 1, with the topic of “Beginning”. I mean, it makes sense, the beginning topic is about the beginning. So let’s just jump right into a discussion about the first session of your campaign, and talk about stakes.
After session 0, the first full session should have extremely low stakes. In this case, stakes are the amount of investment that your players, and their characters, have in the world around them. How much are they compelled by the world around them? In the beginning, hardly at all. While they may say that they care about some aspect, they won’t be able to truly feel it without time to bond with the setting and other characters. This is what I mean by stakes. Characters and players at this point are unlikely to gamble with their character’s well-being because they are not invested in another aspect enough at this point.
An important distinction, however, is that stakes do not necessarily equal tone. You can still have a dark and gritty setting without everyone’s lives being on the line. I like session 1’s to give my players a chance to bond and become comfortable with the world around them.
So for the first session, just remember to lower the stakes. Oh, come on. You can do better than that! There you go.