And that beginning is called a Prelude. A Prelude is a flashback of sorts, a glimpse into your character’s past. It may be as simple as a one or two paragraph write-up, or it could be as elaborate as the first session or two of your game! With that in mind, let us dive a little deeper into Preludes and how you can use them to best enhance your game!
Many would be quick to say that Preludes serve to enrich your character’s back-story. While this is not necessarily incorrect, I think that is the least useful way to use a Prelude. So, you ask, what purpose do they then serve? To enrich a character’s personality.
Also, this is a great time to explore your character’s exaltation! Some players choose to write that into their backstory from the get go, which is valid. But others might be interested in actually playing it out and sharing that awesome moment with their circle mates watching.
In a solar game I played with Corey and Jim, fellow hosts of the Deliberative Podcast, we each had our own individual Preludes to start. In them, Corey (as the ST) would pose a scenario to our character, giving us a problem we had to solve. We then role-played out how our character would do that, thus enriching our character’s personality in the process. We also had a baseline going forward of how our Solars would attempt to solve certain situations.
In another Solar game with the same players, we each began in a town on fire. They started out small at first. Each of us was in our own little area. During the course of our trying to deal with the scenario, we stumbled into each other. It was then we saw the true threat: a giant fireball composed of burning insects soaring through the night sky, its destination: our town. It was then we knew that we would either work together and save our town, or fail and watch it burn around us. Not only did this give us each individually a baseline for how our characters act under pressure, but also it drew us closer together as a Circle.
So, I’ve convinced you Preludes should be in your game. So, how do you run them? Do you use dice? Do you eschew them for a more story-driven experience? The answer is: there is no right or wrong. It’s really up to you and the your players. If you think the situation would be better told without dice, then the answer is don’t use dice. If you want them to really test their character, then maybe have them roll some dice.
Also, should Preludes be done one-on-one, or should they be done together as a group. My answer is both. There is merit in having very individualized Preludes, which allow both the ST and player to push the character further than in a group setting. However, group Preludes can help cement the Circle together as a cohesive unit and set the foundations for future drama within the Circle.
At the end of the day, your group has to decide if Preludes are right for them, and whether they should be individual, group, or some mix of the two. Dice? No dice? Your group is unique, and your game is one-of-a-kind. Do what feels right and which makes for a better story and you can’t go wrong!