Setting the Scene in Urban Fantasy Roleplaying Games
One of the most important aspects of any successful roleplaying game session is one that is unfortunately overlooked all too often. That aspect is knowing how to set the scene properly. Good thing that setting the scene in an urban fantasy roleplaying game isn’t all that difficult, and really doesn’t take much effort on your part…at least, it doesn’t as long as you keep these suggestions in mind that is.
Know Your Group
While there are many things that you can do to help set the scene in an urban fantasy game, arguably one of the most important things that you should first do is know your group. After all, you could have the best campaign in the world, the most interesting story arch, and the most tempting prizes to be won…but if your group doesn’t enjoy themselves then it’s all for naught. One of the best ways that any game master can get to know their group is to conduct a bit of an interview with them. This allows you to get to know the members, and their characters, what they envision as their background and motivations, and help you tailor your stories to match the inevitable quirks that each person ha, and even turn those quirks into additional story hooks later on.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting some inspiration from as many sources as possible in order to improve your gaming session. One of the best ways that you can do that is to read some stories or watch movies or television that can provide ideas. Some of the best movies that you could use to get ideas from can be found in our article Top Five Urban Fantasy Movies – 2016. As you watch any of these movies, pay particular attention to the pacing of the story, how each of the elements that make up the adventure build up on one another, and make the overall experience stronger. Emulate this as you are planning out your next encounter.
Preparation is Key
While improvisation is always fun, don’t overlook the power of preparation. Think about your story arch and then write it out, preferably as an outline. As you are doing this you will want to keep in mind what you liked, and disliked, in similar movies, television shows, and books that you have read or watched recently. Take your time as you do this, and try to come up with as complete of a story as possible. When you have finished, set it aside for at least a day before you pick it back up. This time, as you look through the outline and notes you have created, approach it as a member your group. What would they do, and how would they react to each of the elements presented? Don’t forget to do this for each of the members in your group, and make notes allowing you to account for each. Re-write your encounter with this in mind and you are almost ready.
Just because you are playing a roleplaying game doesn’t mean that you can’t use props. The game master for one of the best gaming groups that I have ever belonged to used to actually put together a “news report” that he would present to us throughout the gaming session. This report was made to look like a newspaper, and would include random stories for what has happening in the world we were playing in. What was best (at least for us players) was that invariably our exploits from the previous gaming session were located somewhere on the “front page.” You don’t necessarily need to go to such lengths, but taking the time to prepare some sort of a prop or two will definitely help set the scene properly, and increase the fun for everyone involved.
Set the Mood
Don’t overlook the power of music to help set the mood. Television shows and movies all use music to help set the mood for what is happening, and oftentimes authors will include a playlist of the music that helped set the mood for them while they were writing their stories. There are a number of ways that you can do this, some of which require more thought and effort than others. Perhaps the easiest way is to use the soundtrack to your favorite television show or movie that is in line with what the group will encounter for the evening. IF you are willing to spend a little more effort, you can always put your own playlist together and thus make it truly personalized for your session.
So, while these are definitely some methods that you can use to help set the scene in urban fantasy roleplaying games they are just that…some of the methods. This list is by no means the only things that you can do, rather it is only the start. Truly the best way to set the scene for your next roleplaying game session is by using your imagination. You (and to a lesser extent your group) are the only ones that will be playing. What works for one group may not work for another, just be sure to have fun.