The best game sessions require work before they ever occur. Do the pregame work on the game setting, character generation, and main story arcs.
Be involved in character development. If you aren’t involved, you get what you deserve.
Before I start a campaign, I make sure the players have a full campaign write up/ packet. This write up includes background material for the world, guidelines for character creation, and rules modifications we are using.
All book keeping is handled between sessions by phone, email, or even snail mail. I also a downtime sheet, that players can detail their down time actions in order of priority (I go buy this.. I research that.. I go look up X and talk to them about Y)..
I also do all my plot/ story prepwork before game (usually in the hour or two before the game). The story/ plot lines are either part of a grand campaign arc (in the B5 tradition created when the campaign was developed), a mini arc (like a series some of them are scripted when the game starts, some are created as a response to the game, and some are just filler sections), or which personal subplots I will pull up (based on the character’s history/ disads/ and actions or fillers in case of emergency).
As my players settle in, I pass out the results of any downtime to them as appropriate. I relay any info and provide any updates to the campaign packet. This encyclopedia moment usually captures their attention, as I tend to review anything that will be important to the campaign (thought I occasionally throw some info in that will not be, just to keep them guessing).
Each campaign has a its own starting bell. We might go through the theme song (played on CD), or a roll call/ story introduction in a TV opening sort of way, a bell ringing, or our current favorite, “When last we left our intrepid adventures….”
A quick recap of last week or important events.
Some original narration occurs to set the current scene, including locations, events, and in media res that I wish to inflict.
I like to start with an action sequence, but you can’t always have everything.
I try to alternate back between development scenes and action scenes of varying intensity. Just like good TV shows. do.
We have a planned break midway through game, but that does not always happen on schedule or at all. By having a scheduled break, people will “hold it” and not disturb game getting up to do things (when ever possible).
Try to end on a cliff hanger, but that seldom works out.
Hand out downtime sheets if appropriate.
Have post game. We vote for the MVP of tne night (getting an extra karma point or ep), the best scene (ditto), and go around listing 1-2 things we would like to see in the future of the game (NPCs/ types of NPCs, scenario types, places to go, plots we want, things we DON’T want, and anything to make the game more interesting for the given player or GM).
Most of my gaming advice can be looked up at www.openroleplaying.org in the tips section. Search for GM for GM tips, Player, for player tips. Most tips will have a title, where if you search for it, you will get more tips of the same type.