Funnily enough, I started my PbP campaign in media res
within the Nile Empire. Here is the introduction I presented to them:
The acrid odor of petrol assaults your nostrils, punctuated percussively by the gritty landscape of the desert. The ringing in your ears subsides gradually as you struggle to stand up against the backdrop of the Pride of Nut wreckage. Who knows what caused this plane to crash? Could it have been the buffeting winds of the sandstorm that now overtakes you? Could it have been the lightning strike which set fire to one of your wings? Could it have been the glowing purple death beam that shot out of a nearby dune that cut your plane in half?
Come to think of it, it probably was the glowing purple death beam that fired out of that dune--the dune next to the metal hatch which flipped open to allow several large scorpions to scuttle onto the shifting sands. The hatch laboriously swings to close, but the sandstorm forces thousands of obstructing grains of sands into the hinges, preventing the metal door to slam shut. You could seek shelter from the storm within that hatch if only the scorpions didn't have other plans for you.
I don't view in media res
as starting a combat in round 3 or something like that. I may describe it where an NPC got knocked out by the villain, which implies that they're in the middle of combat, but I'd have the combat begin at that point.
As I look at my introduction, I think about how this could've run differently with a more organic approach. When I went with in media res
, the card pools began with fighting the scorpions after the plane crash. If I had started it sooner, then it's possible I could've put the plane crashing into rounds, in which case maybe they would be fighting the scorpions in round 3 or 4.
Interesting thing about running in media res
is that it lets you set the stage so that the complications are already in place without trying to force it through game play. For my story, the plane has
to crash. So it did. In the background. If I had tried to put them in a plane and make it crash through dice and mechanics, it probably would've been clunky as hell. I might roll crap for lightning damage. A Storm Knight might have a spell or miracle to offset something. A Storm Knight could make an Outstanding success on Air Vehicles check, and how much of a jerk would I be if I just ignored that roll and crash the plane anyway?
It could be tricky to do in media res
. It could easily fail. I think a way to make it fail guaranteed is to dictate a PC's actions before the action. If the mummies attack because a PC standing guard falls asleep, that could rub the player the wrong way. If the mummies attack because they burst through the wall unexpectedly, then it doesn't rely on a Storm Knight's failing—unless the player is cool with that; describing the scene and letting the players fill in the gaps is a great way for someone to say, "Oh, sorry, guys, Herbert has jet lag and fell asleep on watch. My bad." In fact, I think in media res
has a greater chance of success if you let the players fill in the gaps on why you're there. I didn't do that for this game, but I could've, and I think it would've been fun.