Let me begin by clearing a misconception I, myself, used in the title. If you are hosting a game and view the players as your enemy, you are already off on the wrong foot. Although it is your job to make them work for what they get; you are not their opponent and they are not yours. You may play the antagonist, plotting and planning how to undo the players at every turn, but you are not the antagonist. You just play one on TV.
Being a new host, game master (GM), dungeon master (DM), storyteller can be a daunting task, you run everything that is not the players, themselves. This is where the initial problems begin. You may be thinking to yourself: “This is my game.” You couldn’t be more wrong. I won’t say you won’t encounter the odd group willing to do as you please, but that is the exception not the norm.
So, where do you begin? I’ll assume you’ve acquired a game you and your players enjoy; hopefully you’ve played it as a player. I’ll further assume that the setting is built in or you are using one already developed. Now comes the hard part.
What do they players want to do? I don’t know and odds are you don’t either. You should begin by asking the players what type of stories they enjoy. Some players like combat, some like social maneuvering, some like thinking and analyzing, some like to rush in. You probably won’t be lucky enough to have a group who agrees. So, try to make note of what everyone wants and what they absolutely don’t want. One method I use, it gets the players thinking in character, is to ask them what they envision their character doing in the game. At first just ask and let them set the scene, if they seem at a loss for ideas, give them specific scenes.
Now that you know what the players expect, you are ready to start on the first story, right? Probably not. You are ready to start on what will most likely be a discarded draft of the first story but go ahead and write down your ideas. As you write, think of how you will position and manipulate the players so that they get what they want and you tell the story you want. If your draft is good, consider a writing career. Everything you just wrote will not work out how you planned. If it does, you are either a savant or you forced the players into specific actions, and they normally don’t like that. It really won’t matter though since that draft won’t be played.
Using the draft you just created, make a list of only the most important ideas and concepts. You will only need one or two important events in the first game. These events should not be “the thing” that you really want to make a part of the game. It should be mildly important people, knowledge, items, etc. You want to first game to be something other than fluff but you don’t want your dreams crushed in the first game. Remember, this should be fun for everyone.
You may fill the need to mention the secret information vaguely or let the players catch a glimpse of the main villain. Don’t. As your first game, you can’t be sure how things are going to go. Nothing will anger your players more than changing the rules in mid-game or obviously lying about some of your rolls. You should be prepared to treat the first game as a learning experience. Something, if not everything, will go wrong. That’s why you hold back the “good stuff.”
In closing, there are a few important ideas I want to re-enforce and few new ones. You and the players have the same goal: to enjoy yourselves. Your ideas will work far better in your imagination than they will in play. Your first game will most likely not go exactly as planned. There are no simple and easy solutions to problems you face as a host. Just because it is fair, doesn’t mean the players will think it is. I’m not an expert, no one is. There is always opportunity learn and what works for me may annoy you to no end. So, finally, get out and play, give it your best and everything should work out.