5 Tips for Writing a Tabletop RPG Introduction Speech

At the start of any tabletop RPG, it is often necessary for the Game Master to give an introductory speech. This is of course to introduce the world you created, and the point at which your story begins. The opening speech is your players first introduction to your world, and you should tell them everything they need to know to take over the action and get your story rolling.

For this reason, your introduction speech, is far more important than many realise. Often, as the Game Master, this is your first (and only) chance to really get your players immersed in your world, involved in your story, and actually interested in playing your game to its end.

Over my more than a decade of playing D&D I have heard my share of excellent speeches, and down right terrible ones. So here are five tips for making sure your opening speech dazzles.

1. Start As Close to the Start of your Story as You Can

This quote mirrors Kurt Vonnegut's famous literary advice: "Start as close to the end as possible." Which we will look at later in the up coming article "7 RPG Story Wiritng Tips". But the nature of the advice is the same. You don't want to start your speech too far back in your world's time line. Only Include what information is necessary.

So sure, you may have 10,000 years of history for your world with very detailed happenings, but maybe don't include all of that in your speech. That sort of detail you can write into NPC interactions, etc. For your introduction you want to only cover the events that pertain to the immediate plot your are trying to start.

A wonderful and easily recognizable example of a good opening speech is the one given by Galadriel during the opening of the film adaptation of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Here is it broken down into point form:

-Sauron Creates Ring of Power and takes over the world

-Some resist and defeat the evil in a epic battle

-The Ring of Power is not destroyed, but rather kept, maddening those who keep it.

-The Ring is Lost

-The Ring is found bringing us to present day, and introducing the main characters: Hobbits.

And that is it. Yes it goes back 2000 years, but doesn't cover everything that happens in between, it only follows the Ring. Keep that in mind when writing your speech, and start as close to the start of your story as you can.

2. Organize your Thoughts

Just like the work space of my Instagram friend @Imperial_Dog your speech needs to be just as organized. Whether you want to do a chronological layout like the LOTR speech, or something that follows narrative elements, planning out what you want to say in your speech will help you write it.

So figure out the chunks of the story you wish to convey and organize them into bullet points; just as I did above with the Lord of the Rings speech. You can flesh them out later. Once organized in a logical manner, your speech will flow better and will make it easier for your players to follow and use the information.

3. Keep it Short

Your opening speech should be no more than a page long. Any longer than that and you risk loosing your players interest. The shorter you can make it the better.  Many times I have heard opening speeches that drone on and on, and I have always stopped listening about halfway through.

Like the opening scrawl in Star Wars, a small amount of information is easier to understand and digest. Anything else can be relayed in game or via player primers if you wish. So keep it short and sweet, and remember the players are here to control their characters not listen to you blab.

4. Tone it Down

There is a concept that comes up around the JADE table a lot in regards to RPG writing, that we call the "Epic Bicycle Pump". This is our figurative name for a trap that a lot of writers (not just the RPG one's) fall into, and it is essentially when a writer tries too hard to make something cool. Or as we like to put it, inflating your story with the Epic Bicycle Pump.

Now this advice will depend on the nature of your group, but we find here at JADE that the more realistic your story is, the more people become engaged with it. There are three major mistakes I often see in this regard.

A) Ridiculously Long Time Lines
Perhaps you have 10,000 years of history. But keep in mind human history only goes back with any reliability what... 5000 years? And that is being really generous. Perhaps shrink your time line to 2000yrs, or 1000yrs. It of course all depends on the nature of your world and story but a shorter time frame is more believable and accessible.

B) Absurdly Large Battles
While a rip roaring good battle can add the excitement your opening speech needs, be mindful of how large the battle is. I have heard people claim battles with millions of participants change their world's history.  Now, again I guess a battle that large is possible. However, remember that most medieval battles had hundreds, not thousands of participants, and even the famous Battle of Thermopylae from antiquity, was is believed to have been fought between 7000 Greeks against around 100,000 Persians. Certainly not the millions depicted in film. So try to keep your battle down to more realistic numbers, it will still be epic, just more believable.

C) Gruesome Massacres
Unless you are writing some seriously Dark Gothic/Fantasy Fiction (like Warhammer 40k or something that horrific) then tone down the gore. Massacres, cities being sacked, murder, etc are all fantastic events to drive a story forward, but these atrocities are just that... Atrocious. Adding in countless details to make the event seem more horrible usually ends up with the event sounding silly, or so vulgar that it seems unreal. Adding in a bit of the macabre is of course a good way to set the tone for your game, just watch how much, and how graphic you are being.

So tone your opening speech down a little. Its awesomeness will not suffer for it.

5. Edit It

Now I am guilty of not doing this myself, but let's be honest... First drafts are usually terrible. They need constant changing and editing, and the same will go for your opening speech. Any typos you miss will ruin your flow when you are reading, and make sure that you actually read it aloud before presenting it to your group. Keep in mind you will be sharing this with others, and you should at least know what it sounds like when read aloud. This practice will also help you edit it. Often what you wrote down is not actually what you wanted to say, and hearing it spoken may help your recognise that.

I know this is a simple and fairly obvious tip, but I can't stress it enough. Write it down. Put it aside and edit it a day or two later: your speech will be much better.

Hopefully those 5 tips will help you get your open speech under control, and will let your players follow along with ease. Of course the nature of your gaming group and your story will determine which tips will best help you... But don't be lazy: edit your work.

Written by: Andrew Gregory
5 Tips for Writing a Tabletop RPG Introduction Speech 5 Tips for Writing a Tabletop RPG Introduction Speech Reviewed by JADE Gaming on 1/12/2016 01:35:00 pm Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Actually, it’s more like an action flick with some comedy thrown in and maybe a small dash of romance. d&d miniatures