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My players and I are currently playing a "pre-game" for a whole campaign I have written. I want the players to be aware of the "how did it get to be this way", so I make them play two games 4000 and 2000 years before the campaign settings.

We have already played the first game, which went quite fine, but I had to somehow iron rough edges because the characters don't fit well into the epoch. Typically, I replaced on the fly "flamethrower training" with "archery", and "advanced computing" with "hieroglyphic writing". I plan to change them back to the proper skills in the main campaign.

I have also made some adjustements to the world politics (based on my desired state), with the following issues: I don't want to kill the characters, which requires a little artifacting (super-being froze them for 2000 years, fitted well in the game).

Therefore, my first two games are NOT played with the normal rules of the game, nor with the same background, nor with the same "characters" since I will massively overhaul them based on player experiences and decisions

Whatever their choices, they always arrive to the same macro-ending, but garner different experiences and items on the way, all of which impact the next games.

In order to keep the sense of "driving the story" active with the players, they can pretty much do anything, alienate anyone they want, get anything they wish (and can reasonably get). An example: They actually have gotten themselves a nice 40-guard escort with a (little?) scheming and manipulating that I was not quite ready for... which rendered my little bandit fight scene somehow easier for them. I kept it in however, since I reasoned it was a strict consequence of their behavior.

Do you have advice on how to make the continuity effect work out?

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Let your players run amok. Now, look at your notes and what they have done and ask yourself: How can I weave this into my story? Maybe the escort had a guy who was quiet good at writing and he made an epic tale of something. So now, in the present, lots of people have read the epic, there even is a Hollywood film (a la 300) of it -- Imagine King Leonidas waking up today and his reaction to 300!

Add smells to your description of one scenes, especially one that has a strong emotional impact on a character. In the present, the character smells that same sent... Nostalgia overcomes them and they are left sad, miserable, and sorrowful at having lost everything and now being in an alien world.

Foreshadowing is the key here. 2000 years have passed and thus many things are no longer remembered. However, the bad guys are still there -- I assume -- and you can foreshadow their weakness, powers, and modus operandi. Make sure that something in that pre-session is a vital clue for the future. But make that a detail, something not dwelt upon. Let the players remember that several months down the line.

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This is great. If I had to sum it up to easily remember it myself, I'd put it something like, "Maintain continuity through non-mechanical things from the setting and personal PC experiences", or "Find old threads of fiction to weave around the new system's mechanics." –  SevenSidedDie Sep 1 '11 at 17:32
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