[Resource] Campaign Start Checklist

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« on: <12-18-11/2043:51> »
Nakano’s Campaign Kickoff Checklist

Get your players.
•   This one sounds really easy, or really hard depending on how many gamers there are in your area, but its really important where you can to pick the players at your table carefully.  You want to have the right balance in a lot of ways.  The folks you invite to the table need to co-exist peacefully and not ruin the fun for everyone else.
•   Play times need to be decided.  Its all well and good to want to player with your six closest friends, but if the scheduling cannot work, there is no point in going through the work of prepping the campaign.  Be realistic and insist that everyone else is.  If play times don’t work for you or your players, then you are better off knowing sooner rather than later.

Decide the style of the campaign.
•   This is a big one.  Its not just about the mechanics, but they are important.
•   Talk about the flavor of the campaign you are offering.  Is it a gritty street level game where the players have to scrape for everything, a gang based campaign, a corp campaign, a high powered campaign, or something else entirely.  Discuss what you are comfortable running and what they type of game that they would like to play.   
•   Determine character creation mechanics.  Build point vs. Karma gen vs. whatever else you would consider.  Let your players know what type of availability rules you are using if you differ from rules as written, as well let them know exactly how much min-max you allow.  Let them know if you consider any negative qualities to be junk, and any positive qualities to be not acceptable.  If you are up front about this, then you don’t need to worry too much about it once you get to character approval.
•   Discuss any house rules that you are putting into place.  One of the big ones IMO, given the lethality of shadowrun is character creation after a PC death.  Do you allow crossover xp, or not.  If so how much.  Have that in place before you start, not afterwards. 
•   Which books are allowed, which ones are not.  Be clear.  If WAR! Is banned, be straight up about it.  If there are sections of books that are out of bounds so be it.  Just be clear and direct.  And if you change your mind, let ALL the players know ASAP.
•   Let the players know where you see the needed dice pools for areas of focus being.  Mileage will vary here.  In my own campaigns 12 dice is the starting point for focus, and anything over about 16 dice on an average roll is viewed as excessive.  As the campaign progresses this benchmark does climb.
•   Discuss the texture of the campaign.  How gritty would you like your narration to be, and how gritty would your players like it to be.  Are they cool with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as adult entertainment and psychotropic black ice, or not.  Know how far you can push the limits and know how far they will push the limits.  There are topics that not everyone is comfortable with, and as a GM you need to know in advance so as to not hurt/offend/emotionally scar your players.
•   Lay out the ground work for role play vs. roll play.  Have an idea of how much you are going to let the dice rule the campaign.  Or conversely how little.  How much will you let a brilliant plan or a brilliantly played scene impact the session.  If the players work their ass off on an awesome plan, or if your wallflower player role plays their ass off are you going to let that stand, or still resort to dice, or somewhere in the middle with dice pool modifiers.(My personal bias comes through a bit here, apologies.)

Group discussion about party roles.
•   There are lots of opinions about optimal party configuration out their.  Tonnes.  As a general rule I look at the following roles being important: Spellslinger, Face, Hacker, Infiltration, Driver, and a couple of Combat Types.  Characters can and will take on multiple roles, but those are the basics.  In a campaign I am currently in we cover them as follows: Face(Phys Ad Pornomancer), Infiltration Specialist/Hand to Hand/Small Arms, Rigger/Decker, Heavy Fire Support, Spellslinger/Spirit Support/Magical Recon.
•   Try to look after your wallflowers here, and make sure that they select roles that they will enjoy rather then being dropped into whatever is left.  Honestly I find this particular type of discussion to be the one that needs the most GM guidance.  You know your players, and you probably have a decent idea of roles that they like/will gravitate too, so be involved in the discussion rather then running out for (root)beer and pizza.

Character Creation
•   Have a discussion with each of your players about who their character is, not just what, but who.  Try to get a feel for character motivations, and history.  I will often play the 20 questions game that many rpgs include in their character creation section.  It helps me understand character motivation, and helps the players flesh out their characters.
•   Get a (at least brief) background for each character.
•   Work with players on character creation.  Via email, in personal, through text, social media, whatever, but its a lot easier to GM for a character they you know, then one you don’t.
•   Have a look at the finished(pre-approval) sheet.  Make sure all the details are there.  Contacts, gear, spells, specializations knowledge skills, pos and neg qualities.  Everything.  If you have problems with the sheet be honest.  If there are things on the sheet you won’t allow, simply say it.  Make sure the character on the sheet is viable in your world.  If its too min-maxed(aka master of the martial arts, but fails at life) then say so.  If its too flimsy say so.  If there is no damn way a Mr Johnson would ever hire the character then say so.  Be honest.  If the character does not work, then work with the player to help them make it work, or send them back to the drawing board.  Better before the campaign starts, then 2-3 sessions in.
•   Make sure everyone has at least 1 “Get me a job” contact.  Its all well and good to be the world’s greatest detective, but if there is no one to hire you, you can go play Arkham City in your basement while everyone else is playing shadowrun. 
•   Have a discussion with player about the way that the various aspects of the sheet work in your world.  For example if a quality is subjective be clear about how you interpret it. 
•   Discuss who not what the contacts are.  You need to insert these people into your world, so you need to know who they are to do that.  How did the character meet them, what is their relationship like.  Loyalty and Connection help to frame this, but the more info your players give you, the better you can flesh out the contacts.
•   Final character approval.  Pretty much is what it is.
•   Make a list of contacts by player, as well as a list of negative traits.  Keep these handy.  Also its useful to know players perception dice values. 
•   Do the various characters know each other, or not.  Important piece of info to have.  Helps you establish the first run. 

Build/steal/adapt the world
•   Throughout the previous three steps I normally begin plugging in the PCs into my world.  I use Toronto as the setting for my game, and as I get bits and pieces of info from my players about their characters, I begin to weave that into the setting.  For example I have a list of historical campaign contacts who have been part of the campaign for some length of time that players can work with, in addition to creating their own contacts.
•   Plugging the contacts into the setting is really important.  It will help you to tie the characters to the setting.  It also helps to create a million and one plot points down the road.  IE.  Bob the Dwarf bartender works at a bar that is only a couple of blocks away from the local Humanis chapter house.  Lots of plot there if you ever want to go there.  Bob works a generic bar somewhere in the city, not so much.  The more you flesh out the little details, they more you help your players slip into the world.
•   Prep a couple of settings that you think your players will utilize in the early stages of the campaign.  At least one bar.  Beyond that, let what you know about the characters guide you.  By prep a couple of settings, I mean having the following questions answered about the setting.  What is it?  Where is it? What does it look like?  Who hangs out there?  Who works there?  Who lives there?  What is the atmosphere like?  Other questions to consider include: What secrets does the place have?  What secrets to its patrons/inhabitants have?  Who owns it?  Who loves the place?  Who hates it?  Etc...
•   Think about where you view the campaign going, in a general sense.  Some folks will use loose direction, others will have a precise campaign time line, some are somewhere in the middle.  Some run episodic campaigns, where the actual runs are really the only face time for the characters, and downtime is an accounting exercise, and others run a day by day or week by week approach.  Mileage will vary, and it really depends on the type of players you have at your table and their preferences.  But having an overall direction for plot at the start of the campaign is always good, even if it is simply: I am going to run a bunch of canned adventures with the characters.
•    Who are the major players in your world.  Not the movers and shakers of the whole world, but the significant folks that the PCs could meet.  The leader of the gang in the neighborhood they live?  The major arms dealer in their area.  The local triad enforcer.  NPCs who help to create the flavor of the setting.  Think of folks that your could see your PCs interacting with.

Prep the first session.
•   Prepare the run you are going to use first.  Know it well. This run will help set the tone for the whole of the campaign.  The canned shadowrun adventures have a checklist for prepping that is worth checking out.  From A Fist Full of Credsticks(pg 6):
      1)  Read the Adventure
      2)  Assess the Adventure
      3)  Know the Characters
      4)  Take Notes
      5) Don’t Let the Dice Run The Game
      6) Don’t Panic
•   If you are using background music, prep it.  Same thing goes for handouts. 
•   On game day, make sure you have everything you need.  Books, dice, adventure, notes, caffeine, munchies, etc. 
•   Be ready to have fun.  After all, after all this had work you sure as frag have earned it.


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« Reply #1 on: <12-19-11/0047:36> »
An excellent list. Well done.
Greataxe - Apply directly to source of problem, repeat as needed.

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