I believe that it is fairly important to rehearse what one is going to do on that first session, even it if it is only in one’s mind.
I do want to DM in a more spontaneous way, but especially for that first session, I think it important to plan out, in a general way, what you will say and be doing. I have had plenty of first sessions that were disastrous because I was so unorganized.
I do intend to roll up characters with players before the first session. I’ll take their raw rolls and translate them into character sheets. Using note cards for sheets has some nostalgic value, but I think I will stick to a regular, uncluttered sheet, perhaps along the lines of the S&W Complete sheet.
I’ll give a short, one or two line background for each of the players, which will be on a note card. There will also be three rumors note cards, one keyed to a location in the starting hex, and another two keyed to locations in the surrounding six hexes.
I’ll prepare the one page background mentioned in an earlier post, and begin the session by showing the players a map of the Wilderlands, just as a way of showing the scale of the place.
Then, I’ll show the exploded Wilderlands hex map, which contains the village of Brushwood and the surrounding area.
Finally, I’ll show the map of the village, and name a few of the prominent NPCs.
Then, I’ll ask, what do you do? If they need a little more guidance, I’ll suggest they use their money to buy equipment and supplies. They can pick up more rumors from the various NPCs they speak to, but eventually they will need to choose a rumor to follow up on. I may decide to have various NPCs offer work, usually of the “take this here” variety.
Most of the rumors will be keyed to adventure sites in the current or surrounding hexes. That leads us to the maps.
I’ll be using the Judges’ Guild Campaign Hexagon System, which allows us to drill down from a five mile per hex continental map to 0.2 mile per hex map. You can get a blank copy of these maps at http://www.judgesguild.org/downloads/Blank%20Hex%20Sheets.pdf
I’ll explain that the players may travel wherever they wish. And further, that they can choose to travel through a hex, or search the hex, or explore it.
As they travel, their rate will be determined by how much they can travel in a day, and the sort of terrain they will be travelling through.
If they choose to explore the hex it will take more time. I’ll let them look at an exploded version of the hex map, on a 0.2 mile per hex scale. They can then use this map (a unmarked copy I will give them) to point to a particular hex and say “we take a closer look at that”. I’ll also use this scale of map for any long range chase or wilderness battles.
Or they can simply say, “we search for X”, where X is a rumor, directions or a treasure map, assuming they have one of those sorts of resources, and don’t want to fool with the 0.2 mile per hex scale map.
After a certain amount of time, I’ll roll for random encounters, and let them travel as they wish. When they arrive at a ‘dungeon’ or other adventure area, we’ll switch to a more collapsed time keeping, and from then on it will look much like any other campaign.
And this is the way I envision it going.