Mash rightly points out in the comments of the previous post that while my ‘rules’ for a ‘con scenario may be fairly transparent (if contested) for a GM. As a player, how would you ever know that you’re going to get a game which actually delivers on those points?
It’s a fair point, and in many cases you don’t. I actually think that writing a pitch is much harder work than it might seem at first, and that a decent number of GM’s don’t pay it too much attention; I mean, if you’re like me, then sometimes you’re writing a pitch months before you actually write the game as a kind of placeholder to denote your participation in the event. You try and make it seem like something you’d like to play in, and hope that there are enough other people out there with similar tastes. And yet, it’s not unheard of for games to not get enough interest to be run. I know I’ve often been uninspired when trawling through a collection of pitches, and even decided to skip a round entirely. And yet, at the same time, I’ve had some great fun playing games I probably wouldn’t have signed up for on the basis of the blurb…
The aim here is to create something akin the trailer for a movie, or dust-jacket blurb for a novel. Text so compelling that the reader always finishes reading it, then wonders; “I wonder what that will be like? It sounds so cool I need to try it!” Short, punchy, high on ideas and strongly evocative, yet with sufficient integrity to not alienate the discerning.
Obviously, even a good pitch won’t convince everyone. Some people just don’t like some things. And word-of-mouth and reputation can be a much greater factor in the popularity of a game (just like for other media) but ultimately a good pitch should, at the very least, get you a full game for at least one or more sessions.
Again; I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m any kind of expert on writing a great pitch, nor that my taste is the same as everyone elses, but here are my requirements for a good pitch:
- Well written. To quote my earlier point, for me this means the writing should be “Short, punchy, high on ideas and strongly evocative, yet with enough integrity to not alienate the discerning”
- Not clichéd. Gamers are very aware of clichés and tropes in genre; what does the game offer that is unique, how does it twist boring clichés, or avoid them entirely?
- Not overwhelming or overly complex; I don’t want to have to work hard to read a blurb, or work to understand complex concepts or settings. I’m going to be worried that any game that seems to technical or grandiose is simply an excuse for the GM to show how clever he/she is.
- Doesn’t draw on too much established material – this is probably more personal than something I’d expect everybody to follow, but I’d probably not sign up for a Star Wars game because I know I don’t have much understanding or care for the complexity of the setting, and this would likely annoy the players who did and possibly mean that the game would have to slow down to explain things to me. I don’t suggest you shouldn’t use established high concept settings (Buffy, Star Wars, Dresden Files, Anime etc.) but I do suggest that in doing so you may limit the pool of potential players and may end up with a challenging mix of rabid fans and people who just signed up on the spur of the moment, and don’t really care too much about the details.
- Speaks to me as a player. I want the GM to sell me the game, then level with me about how he or she expects it to work. If I’m going to have to learn a system, I want to know that. If I’m going to get some degree of freedom and autonomy, that’d be nice to know as well. I don’t think you need to spell everything out, but you should try and mitigate any surprises – and obviously you should be catering for the player who knows nothing about anything as a starter.
Anyway, those are my thoughts about what makes a good pitch. What do you think?