My friend Darren is in town this week, and as he doesn’t get many chances to game and loves Star Trek, having him play in our upcoming Saturday night session is a win-win no-brainer.
I’m not an expert at running games that feature a guest star, but I’ve been on both sides of the screen for them and I have learned a few things. Here are the five things I’m keeping in mind:
Make the guest star the STAR
This tip applies equally well to new players joining the group for the long term, and to some extent to shy players: The guest’s session should focus on them. All of the other players get spotlight sessions throughout the campaign, but this episode will be Darren’s chance to shine.
I’m not worried about this in his case, but making someone the star also prevents them from “turtling” and forces them — in a good way — to drive the session.
Ask your guest what they want to see and do
I gave Darren a quick rundown on the basic series premise for our Trek game, as well as the last two episodes, and asked him what if there was anything he’d always wanted to do in a Trek game — play an Andorian, fly a Borg cube, go podracing…wait, that last one doesn’t sound quite right.
Asking your players what they want to see in the game  is always a good idea, and guest players shouldn’t be an exception.
Teach the rules during play
Nothing makes a guest spot sound less fun than saying, “Here, read these four core rulebooks before you play.” I have a great group (including the Stew’s own Don Mappin — one of the designers of the CODA Trek RPG), and we’ll just teach Darren as we go.
Offer a choice between a pregenerated PC and creating a PC
If your guest doesn’t want to create a PC, don’t make them. Instead, ask for some input and give them a kickass pregen to play.
On the flipside, if they’re excited about creating a PC, let them. Restrict choices that would hurt the game, but generally allow whatever sounds like fun. (That’s much easier in a game like Trek, where things tend to “reset” after every session.)
Showcase the game
This is a variation on leading with the cool stuff : If your game is about giant robots, have giant robots in the session, rather than running an adventure set at a cocktail party — even if cocktail party diplomacy is what you had planned, or what best fits the story.
Use a flashback or another technique that allows you to step out of the storyline if you have to, but put whatever makes your game awesome on full display.
I’m sure there are other things I should be keeping in mind, but I don’t have enough experience at this to know what they are — what’s my list missing?