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What should make up a pitch about a new game to a prospective group of players? What does a good RPG pitch entail? What should go into the case for why a game should be played (and why that GM is the right GM to run it)?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

I'll assume you mean a verbal pitch, like you're sitting with your friends at a burger place and want to sell them on your new game idea.

This is sales, right? Not because you want to sell them a bill of goods, but because you have something that you think is valuable and that they will want.

  1. Believe in your idea. Don't waste your friends' time with something you're not excited about.

  2. Show your enthusiasm. Don't fake it, because nothing is worse than fake enthusiasm. Be honest, and show how much this game idea excites you. Use exciting verbs!

  3. Get to the point. This isn't a cold call. Your friends are going to listen to you because they're your friends, but don't lose them in the first seven seconds. Plan what you're going to say. Figure out how to distill this entire game into twelve words. That's the pitch. The rest is discussion. But have a mental list of bullet points of cool stuff for that discussion.

  4. Ask them to play. Everyone always forgets this part of sales: the call to action. Close your pitch by making it clear what you want them to do next.

Here's how I pitch my D&D 4E setting, Caldera:

Cyberpunk-infused D&D, in a giant Rome-like city overflowing with mutating magic!

And discussion points:

This is a world of new magic. When people gather together, it creates magical energy that flows through the streets and seeps into the earth below the city. They mine arcanite from the ground and smelt it into residuum to make magic items.

The city is a giant dungeon environment. It's stacked in eight layers, with buildings on top of other buildings. The streets are often dangerous, especially in the lower levels. But it's a dungeon where people live.

Most of the weird races and classes in D&D are magical mutations. There's a custom race, Gargoyle, that lets you play a neighborhood statue who has come to life.

And so on.

And after discussing it with them--when the discussion is starting to slow down--I close with, "I'm looking for players. Would you be interested in giving it a try?"

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Underline point 3. KIS = KEEP IT SHORT –  Ry St Sep 23 '10 at 15:11
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Well, I'm sold! The idea of a city that "distills" magic sounds a little like Walter Jon William's Metropolitan - and is an urban fantasy concept I find fascinating. –  gomad Jul 19 '11 at 15:12
    
obsidianportal.com/campaign/saberpunk =D –  Adam Dray Jul 20 '11 at 2:53
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A pitch should not be used to decide whether this is the right game to play or whether this is the right GM to run it. What a pitch should accomplish is to pique the interest of the prospective players—if they're interested in the pitch, then that's the time to look at more detailed questions.

A pitch should be no more than about a few dozen words and three or four sentences at most. It should briefly describe the game's central appeal—the core theme, quest, sandbox setting, or conflict—as well as anything necessary to meaningfully frame that central element. It shouldn't belabour new race or class options unless they're central to the game's core appeal.

Importantly, it should take a few seconds for players to read or under a minute to speak: long enough to paint an evocative image, and short enough to put no demands on the players' patience so they can focus on its coolness (or lack thereof).

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@Graham: Re-reading it, you're right. The Q implies that "game" means "trad campaign" and the answer reflects that… I've edited slightly—does that make it a bit less restrictive? –  SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '10 at 15:30
    
Well...actually...I replied to the wrong answer. My comment was intended for Jeff's answer, above. I've deleted my comment now. Whoops. –  Graham Nov 1 '10 at 16:41
    
@Graham And yet, to me, it was a spot-on and useful comment. That's hilarious. :) –  SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '10 at 17:53
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A pitch, like any social presentation, should be short, sweet, concise AND INFORMATIVE. Don't put a word limit like some kind of wanna be elevator pitch or twitter slogan because of that last thing. Don't leave important information out because otherwise you are really doing harm (deceit or the more benign, wishful editing is not a good way to start a group endeavour).

As for if the gm is the right gm for the job or not, I really think the gm is better judge for that than anything. I always really felt the benefit of the pitch is that it rather actively avoided meetings and committees and dockets of activities to determine the proper state of affairs and instead just relied on gumption and person interest to get the job done.

Things I like to put in my Pitch:

  • Genre: This is a short cut to filling in a lot of the colour of the game.
  • System: This is a short cut to filling in a lot of the mechanics of the game.
  • Time: When I'm available to run the damn thing
  • What I would like to see.

Example, here's a pitch I'm thinking about putting on the internets for an internet game:

  • Genre: Superheroes
  • System: My own, based on the pool.
  • Time: Yada Yada Yada
  • What I want to see with this? Parole Villains doing community service hours as heroes.

As always have more information available, some people may like details of what the system is exactly or Whether I mean DC Supes or Marvel Supes or what I mean by community service.

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Not going to lie, but Parole Villains doing community service has to be the best idea. Thanks for suggesting background flavor for my next MnM game. –  Bigeshu Aug 16 '12 at 15:26
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Maybe try to have a nice tagline (is this what it is called?) in the first email or some other kind of message you send them. For example look at Eclipse Phase:

Your body is a shell. Change it.
Death is a disease. Cure it.
Extinction is approaching. Fight it.

I make a campaign sheet for my players. The idea is described in Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads!!! for Cyberpunk 2020. I made quite a few for World of Darkness campaigns, and I start each of them with a premise - just like one you can find on the back of book or a movie. This way players quickly get what a game is about and what climate they can expect. I would post one, but all of them are in my native language.

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The most critical information to interest prospective players in a new game, or new campaign, is less what the rule system is or what the world is like, and more who the players will be—what roles they'll take—and what they'll be striving to do.

Background information that puts those things in perspective is important, but subservient to the answers of how and why a player will be badass when he sits at your gaming table.

For example…

You're ninja warriors. You fight Nazis. It's the modern day, but with magic.

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I like this, although I do think it underemphasises the setting. For example, I'm excited about Will Hindmarch's Fiasco playset, not because of who I get to play, but because it's Elizabethan England. That's a sandbox I want to play in. –  Graham Nov 1 '10 at 16:41
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If you have already created the game or are using a pre-made module and you have planned who you are going to ask ahead of time, then literature can work really well particularly if you are not good at the sales pitch voice.

This last June I ran an Introduction to Changeling: The Lost and I gave my players this invitation. It was part of an email with the rest of the campaign details if they were interested.

A DND game was this Obsidian Portal page. It was formatted in the ebil of .pub so it was printed as a high gloss booklet with the last page containing building changes and house rules, the vampire game much the same with city statistics, etc.

If not the point is put together a booklet/ pamphlet/ picture of some kind that would would be psyched to get or would intrigue you and then give to your players to ask questions about. It works for me...

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The file:/// links won't work because those are to files on your own machine that can't be reached from the Internet by other people. Links to the matching Obsidian Portal pages would do instead. (For formatting links in an attractive way like this there is an editing guide here. That's also linked from the sidebar when you're writing answers/questions.) –  SevenSidedDie Nov 12 '10 at 20:40
    
Thanks for the help and apologies, had a complete brain lapse... –  thefemmedm Nov 13 '10 at 8:27
    
No worries. A new site always has a learning curve. :) –  SevenSidedDie Nov 13 '10 at 19:59
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The pitch needs to be different if you are presenting to friends, potential players, writers, artists, publishers and bank managers. But the main advice I can give you is be to the point and grab their attention.

The Dresden RPG does not need a snappy pitch. If you're looking at it, chances are you know the books.

Eclipse Phase does need a snappy pitch since few know of it even if they many know what transhumanism is.

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"You play as X characters trying to do Y things in a Z world!"

"You play as heroes trying to topple a corrupt empire in an post apocalyptic fantasy world!"

"You play as spies trying to escape Nazi Secret police in WW2"

"You play as anime Ninja Scroll type heroes struggling in a sci-fi warring states Japan."

"In this game you have to X (choices) and get (points/reward) for doing Y"

"In this game you have to constantly bargain with evil and your character gets more powerful when you decisively choose one way or the other."

"In this game you have to use your powers tactically as a team and get more powers when you defeat monsters."

"In this game you tell good stories and get rewarded by the group when your roleplaying is fun and entertaining."

Obviously, you can go into details from there, but these are the two things to cover that sell a game. I usually like to pitch how long of a game I'm expecting as well - "This is going to be probably 3-4 sessions." etc.

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With most people I know, there is exactly one thing necessary to do a perfect pitch, and that is saying:

I will take over DM duty

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