Getting Things Started

So, you’ve gotten a group of players together to play an Episode of S4E, you’ve helped guide them through character creation, and you’re prepared to GM the game. How do you get things off to a good and interesting start?

In television and film, there’s a common technique called a “cold open” which is used to great effect to involve the audience immediately and concisely set up the plot. Chances are good that you’ve seen this effect yourself as it’s used extensively in the original Friendship is Magic cartoon series: the episode begins, some initial plot hook, punchline, or inciting incident gets your attention, and then the opening credits roll. In literary terms, this is sometimes called a “hook.” Whatever term is used, there’s a simple idea behind it--get the attention and interest of the audience and get them emotionally invested so they’ll stay with the show/film/book to its conclusion.

Ideally, the opening moments of your Episode should achieve a similar effect. Consider the type of Episode you’re running and try to construct an opening that establishes the style and atmosphere you want for the rest of the game. If your Episode is comedic, open with a funny situation and end your opening with a punchline or silly outcome. If your Episode is dramatic, mysterious, or scary, consider opening by setting up the mystery or ending the opening with a cliffhanger. There are many techniques for establishing an Episode, and every GM and group of players develops their own style, but for new GMs (or those who are new to S4E, at least), the original cartoon series can serve as a helpful guide.