Here’s another thing I like about White Wolf’s World of Darkness RPGs: The character prelude.
It’s a short scenario the Storyteller runs with each player to develop the back story of his or her character before joining the rest of the group. For Hunter: The Reckoning, it can be a series of vignettes leading up to the character encountering the supernatural and becoming imbued with powers. In Vampire: The Masquerade, it shows how life was before the character became a vampire, and a bit afterwards.
A prelude gives a character additional depth, gets the player to see the character beyond mere stats on paper.
My brother, the guy who introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons used preludes for each of his players. Preludes helped those brand new to the hobby get a taste of the rules without veterans present. I still have some of his notes like this:
Amy: Aspiring thief within the City of Jurne, belongs to an underground clan of thieves of who dabble in the magical arts. Their society, The Conjured Blade is known within the city….One night their home base was located and raided by city officials. You, asleep at the time, were captured but managed to escape. Now you live in hiding within the city…
If I had time, I also ran preludes for my players, and they liked them for the most part. Preludes happened at the beginning of a campaign of whenever a new player joined the group.
I’d also have interludes between major events in the campaign which would cover character downtime and foreshadow future adventures.
Each would mix a bit of roleplaying, some light combat, and problem solving. One player teasingly called them knowledge adventures because I’d reveal a key piece of information for the campaign. But the player had to pay attention.
I’ve been thinking about preludes for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG.
The 0-Level Funnel is a prelude in its own right if you think about it. It shows what each character did before they encountered the fantastic and became heroes. And it never ceases to amaze me how players bond with their 0-level peons.
Perhaps once the 0-level is over, a player can take his or her new 1st level character and do a flashback, or some kind of short solo adventure to foreshadow what comes next.