It's looking more and more like my A Rasp Of Sand game is going to come to an end in the next couple of weeks so I've been trying to get things together for the follow-up game. I do not like using lore dumps or giving reading homework for games, much preferring to have players learn about (or create!) the world through play. I use this "Five Things" technique to help hit the right balance. I picked it up from someone way back on google wave and I've found it very useful.
It's simple enough: you need to write exactly five interesting pieces of information. If you have too many things you want to say then it forces you to whittle down to only what is essential for the topic. If you can't come up with five things then maybe the topic needs some work to make it pop more for the players. Here's what I wrote up and sent to my potential players to pique their interest in the game.
- You have been decanted from cryosleep aboard a massive space station orbiting a blue planet by an entity calling itself H3LENE, or the Human Habitation Host, Limited Emulation Neural Entity.
- H3LENE has informed you that the station's orbit is decaying. They need your assistance to retrieve whatever is necessary from the planet to maintain the station's orbit.
- There are thousands of cryopods still sealed and frozen in the main body of the station. If you are not successful they will all die.
- The original mission of the station you are on, the STS Fulton, was to ferry humanity from a dying Earth using an experimental space folding drive. The Fulton was stocked with enough people and supplies to create a thriving colony on a new twin to Earth.
- It is unclear what happened to the original mission crew or how much time has passed.
Hopefully it worked! In my last campaign I used Five Things at different world levels to highlight important things that the characters would know, taking it a step further than just the campaign ad. Start off with Five Things about the game / world overview, then give a Five Things for major political entities and so on as needed. You could do historical events too depending on how complex they are, or just put them under some other topic's Five Things.
It's not a world-shattering technique, just one that helps me focus on doing only exactly the amount of prep work that I need and nothing more. Everything else can be invented or decided along the way.
One of these days I need to write an actual review of A Rasp Of Sand but the short take is that we've been having a lot of fun and it's real good.