Over the past few years, it’s become clear to me that I suck at pitching games to my players.
That realization goes hand in hand with another: I’ve muddled my way through this key aspect of being a GM for 20-plus years without ever really knowing what I was doing.
Sometimes I pitch a game and it gets traction right away, and we play it and it’s fun, and unicorns are fucking while an angelic choir sings in the background, but I have no real idea why.
The Rule 34 of GMing
Now, I’m not expecting that to happen every time. And lord knows it doesn’t; I pitch plenty of games that get zero traction, and plenty that get traction but fall apart in actual play. I don’t think there’s a magic ticket to The Land Where Every Game I Pitch Gets Traction And Is Awesome.
What I would like, though, is a better idea of how to pitch games well. I want to at least move the needle — and I bet I’m not the only GM in this situation. (That’s like the Rule 34 of GMing: If you’re having a GMing problem, you’re not the only who’s ever had it.)
I recognize that there are almost certainly other factors at work here. For example, right now I want to run old-school D&D, a hex crawl game with true player agency, and I know that’s not what my group wants to play because I’ve asked. So mismatched current interests are a factor, and one that no pitch method can really overcome. (And that’s okay — different strokes, and all that.)
There are other factors along those same lines, too: GMing track record; similarity to the last game we played; personal issues with theme or premise; etc. Some of them are easy to understand and account for, and others aren’t. For the most part, let’s look at pitching games without worrying too much about these.
My biggest mistake is that I rely on my enthusiasm to carry the day, and that doesn’t always work. It’s the only tool in my shed, though, so I keep coming back to it. (And more often than not it does work on me as a player, which is probably why.) In other words, that is one empty fucking shed.
Setting aside other factors that don’t have anything (or at least much) to do with the actual pitch, then, what’s the best way to pitch a game to your group?
What’s worked for you?
Why does it work?
(And if by chance you do have a magic ticket to the land of unicorns love, please share it!)