caliban1227writes "What do you feel is the best catalyst for the creative process in a new gaming group?"
I play a lot of con games which is kind of like starting a whole lot of new gaming groups all the time. So, I use several approaches.
1. Share out the burden of creativity: Don't let anyone sit back and watch. If everyone helps make the situation and the setting, then no one is allowed to say that they just aren't interested in anything going on. Ask one player to name an npc, ask another player what that npc's best trait is, ask another what their worst one is, figure out how these traits motivate the npc in relation to the characters, play.
Example: D&D4E generic points of light setting. A wayside tavern the party has entered looking for food and drink only to find the tavernkeeper and his family freshly killed and their killers sitting at the long table.
GM: (setting miniatures out on the grid) "Steve, this cult leader, what's his deal? Why does he kill people like this?"
Steve: "He's a sick fuck and he thinks that his goddess will reward him for all the souls he sends her."
GM "Ok, Sara, what's his biggest flaw?"
Sara: "Other than he's a murderous sociopath? Uh, he's really sensetive about how he sounds because of his broken teeth."
GM: "Broken teeth? You just want me to sound funny."
Sara: "Yes I do, mushmouth."
GM: "Hey, Robin, Who broke this guy's teeth?"
Robin: "I did, and I'm about to finish the job by breaking his neck."
GM: "Oh, it is on. Prepare to be marked. (adopts mushmouth for npc dialog) Brushers, kill shat shunuvabitch for our goddesh!"
2. Create characters as a group: Sit down together and plan out who the characters are, what they're relationships to each other are, and why they'd have connecting stories. Even if someone wants to be the new guy/outsider/lone wolf type then everyone can brainstorm ideas about why this outsider type would end up with everyone else.
Example: Grey Ranks
John: "I think Pavel is from a much poorer family that the rest of your characters."
Liam: "So how come he hangs tight with us?"
Skull: "Radek and Pavel were altar boys together."
John: "Yeah, I like that."
3. Use some simple warm up excercises: As a GM I have a small toolbox of things to get people ready to play and ready to contribute. For silly games I tend to use an old silly improv game called bounce-pass where you makes a silly noise and pass it to someone by miming passing a ball and that person repeats your silly noise, then passes a new one to someone else. For more serious games I do a few rounds of word association with the players answering as their characters. The one I use the most for games of any tone is something John Harper taught me. I ask leading question in a pretty rapid fire manner.
Example: Spirit of the (Last) Century
Me: Pointing at Filbert. "Who's the leader of this group?"
Filbert: "I am."
Me: Turns to Geronimo. "Who's the real leader of this group?"
Geronimo: "I am."
Me: turns to Lord Pennythorn. "What's with those two?"
Lord Pennythorn: "Filbert knows what he's doing on the ship, but Geronimo knows how to lead in a fight. I, personally, find their bickering quite annoying."
So what does this do? It gets everyone at the table considering how the characters react to each other,but it also breaks the stupid taboo of "you can't say anything about my character. I'm the only one who gets to say anything about my character." Which brings us to...
4. Consider yes: Look, if something comes up that you don't like, then say so, but consider it first. Last night Mickey ascribed to my character in the Marvel Supers game we were playing that he was an amazingly bad judge of female companionship. It wasn't what i'd thought about the character before, and in fact I hadn't thought about how the character dealt with his love life at all. So I considered for a moment, and decided to roll with it. Now I have a nifty thing about my character that might make for some fun scenes.
Consider yes means getting over that knee jerk impulse to balk at anyone else describing your character. Think about what they've just suggested. Is it interesting? Are they doing it so there will be some tension and conflict? is it entertaining? Consider it. Which brings us to...
5. Be sure everyone is on the same page first: Is everybody here to play? Is everybody here to play the same game? Do you want to play a game about vampire politics and intrigues and stab each other in the back? Does the GM want to throw outside monsters at you like it's a fanged version of Supernatural? Does someone else want to try to hold on to their mortal relationships while tragically doomed to alienate or destroy all they love? Ok, you guys better talk to each other on the double, because otherwise some feeling are definitely in the field of fire. All of these different agendas can be spliced together to make a game that everyone can have fun with, but not if no one talks to each other about it, and they just pursue their agendas at the expense of everyone else's.
You can play with all those things in the same game. Watch, it's easy. The monsters of the week are being sent by other vampire factions to destabilize the PC's cabal. This wouldn't concern the heartbroken new vampire if it didn't constantly put his mortal loved ones in the line of fire. What makes that especially tragic is that he has to become a monster to save them, thus scaring them and straining the relationships. Maybe if he just helped the other faction andbetrayed the group, the other faction would quit threatening his loved ones with the monster of the week.
Now, which is easier, a GM trying to move all of the wheels in place so that all of that works, no feelings are hurt because of "your backstabbing bleeding into my tragedy, and where do all these monsters keep coming from, anyway?" or everyone having a nice little chat, and making suggestions about how each other's plotlines could dovetail together to make something really interesting, or at least mostly interesting to everyone all the time.
Ok, I'm tapped. Discuss amongst yourselves.