1. EXPLAIN THE RULES
Start the first session by explaining to everyone that you're getting together to create an original, collaborative story in the world of Harry Potter.
Each of the players will play one of the main characters in this story. You will be the Narrator, who plays everyone and everything else. You’ll do this by describing the world and portraying non-player characters, like teachers and other students. You're also there to guide the story by asking questions, introducing threats & mysterious events, and helping everyone with the rules.
Then, go over the following basic rules:
Whenever a player wants to do something – like casting a spell, impressing a teacher, or facing down a monster – they’ll make a move. Moves are all the different actions the players can take in the story. Player moves say, “Whenever this happens, then this other thing happens.”
Players have three kinds of moves. Basic Moves happen when players roll to see how something goes. Magic Moves happen when players cast spells. Quidditch Moves happen when you play a Quidditch match. You have moves too, but they work a little differently.
If something in the story prompts a move, the player must make that move. When someone makes a move, the outcome must happen in the story.
You can call for moves, but everyone should be paying attention for when they happen.
Remember, moves only happen when something happens in the story. If someone says, “I want to stand in the face of danger”, you should say, “Great, how do you do that?”
If you’d like, you can quickly go over the Basic Moves and Magic Moves with the players.
Every witch or wizard has five traits that describe them. They can be positive for strengths or negative for weaknesses. The five traits are Bravery, Cunning, Intellect, Loyalty, and Magic.
Bravery describes a witch or wizard’s courage, integrity, honesty, and nerve.
Cunning describes a witch or wizard’s ability to trick, hide, deceive, or manipulate.
Intellect describes a witch or wizard’s wit, knowledge, memory, and ability to gather information.
Loyalty describes a witch or wizard’s helpfulness and dedication to their friends & classmates.
Magic describes a witch or wizard’s skill with casting spells, making potions, or using magical objects.
When a move tells a player to roll, it will almost always ask them to add a trait to the result.
Rolling dice is how you determine what happens in the story when a witch or wizard does something and the outcome is in doubt. All the Basic Moves tell a player to roll.
The process is simple: A player rolls two six-sided dice and adds the results together. Then they add any relevant traits or bonuses. If the total is 10 or above, they succeed. If it's between 7 and 9, they succeed, but there's a cost. If it's 6 or below, they fail, but they get to mark a point of Experience.
Players get to say how they succeed, but you tell them what happens when they fail.
Sometimes, a witch or wizard will become scared when facing a monster, or stressed from too much schoolwork, or jealous of a friend’s crush. They might have a broken an arm after falling off a broomstick or find themselves vomiting slugs after getting hit by a curse. These negative states are called Conditions. Conditions can be emotional or physical. When a someone fails a roll, they might take a Condition as a consequence.
The eight possible Conditions are Scared, Angry, Stressed, Jealous, Embarrassed, Injured, Hexed, and Unconscious.
Emotional Conditions like Scared, Angry, Stressed, Jealous, and Embarrassed go away when a witch or wizard gives in to their negative feelings. They can also be cleared if another witch or wizard comforts or supports them, or shifted to another Condition if they spend time with their pet. Physical Conditions like Injured, Hexed, and Unconscious must be healed with medicine or magic.
Every witch or wizard has a small store of Luck they can call on in a pinch. When a player wants to do something they normally couldn't, like cast a spell they don't know or make an impossible Quidditch catch, they can mark a point of Luck to make it happen. Every witch or wizard has 3 points of Luck.
Finally, everyone has a shared agenda. This is a list of three goals you're all trying to achieve while playing through the story. Your group’s agenda is:
1) Portray a magical boarding school.
There are many stories to be told about the wider wizarding world. However, this one is about young witches & wizards at school. It‘s your job to tell that story and bring it to life.
2) Fill the students’ lives with mystery, wonder, danger, & hope.
A young witch or wizard’s time at school is about much more than going to class and sitting for exams. There are wonders to experience, questions to answer, and threats to face.
3) Play to find out what happens.
This game is about surprise and collaboration. You’re building the story together, scene by scene and session by session. It’s fine to plan out things you’d like to happen. But in the end, all the outcomes are up to the main characters and the dice.
2. ASK SOME QUESTIONS
Now that you've gone over the rules, you need to answer a few questions about the story. Ask everyone the following questions:
First, what year does the story take place?
Hogwarts was founded in the 10th century, so your story could take place any time between then and now. When the group reaches a decision, write the year on your “Narrator Notes” & “Story” sheets. Think about any existing Harry Potter characters who might be around in the year you picked.
Second, is everyone in the same Year and House?
They don’t have to be! This could be a story about three Gryffindor siblings in three different Years. Or it could be about four First Year friends, each sorted into a different House. The group needs to agree on this, because it affects how players make their witches/wizards and where the story can start.
Third, what do players want to see in the story?
Maybe someone wants to see a hippogriff. Maybe someone else wants to see the main characters get into trouble. Maybe someone else wants Dumbledore to be there. Players can say anything they'd like.
Get at least one answer from everyone in the group. You should make sure each player’s answer appears at some point during the story.
If it would help everyone to be more comfortable, you can also ask what players don't want to see in the story.
Finally, when does your story start?
The Harry Potter stories generally begin during the summer holiday, but yours can begin anywhere. You can start on the Hogwarts Express, at the Welcoming Feast, or even during a regular class.
The group’s answer to this question will be your opening scene.
3. make the characters
Now it's time to make the main characters! Players should follow the steps on the sheets titled “Create Your Witch or Wizard”. Be ready to answer any questions players might have.
When you're not answering player questions, start thinking about the opening scene. Who could be in that scene with the main characters? What details will bring the scene to life? What will everyone expect to happen in this scene? What are some unexpected things that could happen? Think about possibilities, but don't plan too much. Remember, you're playing to find out what happens!
When everyone has finished making their witch/wizard, collect their “Create Your Witch or Wizard” sheets.
4. PLAY THE FIRST SCENE
All right – you know how to play, you know who your main characters are, and you know when & where your story begins. Time to jump in!
SET THE SCENE
If you can, put on the film soundtrack in the background. Then, start by describing where the main characters are. “We open our story…” is a good first line.
Describe things with a sense of wonder and danger. Fill in details that bring the world to life.
INTRODUCE THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Now, focus on each witch or wizard. Ask each of them to introduce & describe themselves, and to say what they're doing right now. As they introduce themselves, write their names on your story sheet. Be sure to ask follow-up questions when someone says something interesting.
From here on out, everyone speaks as their witch or wizard, and you call them by their witch or wizard’s name.
INTRODUCE SOMETHING UNEXPECTED
At some point in this scene, something strange & unexpected is going to happen. Maybe the Hogwarts Express stops in the middle of nowhere. Maybe mysterious writing appears on a corridor wall. Maybe a teacher announces that a floor of the castle is off-limits this year.
The strange or unexpected thing can be something you've thought of before, or you can say to the players, “Something is out of place here. What is it?” Listen to what they tell you. Then build on their answers and ask what they do.
It's okay if you don't know why the strange or unexpected thing is happening right now. You and the players are playing to find out!
MAKE YOUR MOVES
As the scene unfolds, you’ll follow three steps. First, you’ll tell everyone what’s happening and what the non-player characters say. Second, you’ll ask the main characters what they do. And third, the players will describe what their witches & wizards do and say what they say. Then you’ll go back to the first step.
Sometimes something you or the players say will prompt a move. At that point, a player will roll to see what happens. Sometimes a player will fail a roll and you’ll have to play a Serious Consequence. Sometimes you’ll react to something a witch or wizard does by making one of your Narrator Moves. And sometimes you’ll make a Narrator Move to give the scene an extra nudge.
You should avoid calling for the same move too often. Players don’t have to roll to cast a spell every time they wave their wand, for example. If a player knows a spell and wants to cast it quietly to avoid alerting a teacher, ask them to roll to hide & sneak. If they need to cast a spell quickly because there’s a dementor coming at them, ask them to them roll to stand in the face of danger. Think about the situation and get creative!
WRITE DOWN ANY MYSTERIES
As the scene ends, ask the group if they've come across any Mysteries. A Mystery is a question the main characters want to answer, like “Who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire?” or “Why was Snape walking with a limp?” Good Mystery questions ask who, what, when, where, why, or how.
Anyone can suggest a Mystery at any time, though the end of a scene or session is best. When someone suggests a Mystery, write it down on your “Story” sheet. Make sure everyone can see the “Story” sheet! Most of your story will be about the main characters trying to answer the Mystery questions.
GO TO THE NEXT SCENE
It should be obvious when it's time to move on to a new scene in the story. Usually the players will tell you, “Okay, we’d like to go here now.” At that point, you can cut to the next location. If it's not obvious, pay attention for a moment where nobody’s doing anything and ask, “Are we ready to move on?”
You can also suggest a time or place and ask if everyone is ready to go there. When in doubt, move to a different part of the school day, like a class, a meal, or free time in the common room. Or you can go to the next big Yearly Event.
5. PLAY ADDITIONAL SCENES
The rest of the scenes in your story work just like the first scene. The only real difference is that you don't need to introduce the main characters or ask about new Mysteries every time.
Make sure to include something strange or unexpected in every scene! It can be something as big as a dementor attack or something as small as one character passing another an odd note. There's no such thing as a “normal” class or meal or sporting match at Hogwarts.
Whenever the main characters answer a Mystery question, cross it off the “Story” sheet.
Remember that list of things players want to see in the story, too! Look for places to include them as you go from scene to scene.
6. END THE SESSION
When you're out of time for the day or when you reach a natural stopping point, it's time to end the session. Try to end by wrapping up the current action. Or, better yet, end with a cliffhanger by introducing something strange or unexpected!
At the end of a session, everyone can mark or unmark characters as Friends or Rivals. Remind anyone with four Experience they can take an advancement.
Make sure to ask the group if they have any new Mysteries to add to the “Story” sheet, or any solved Mysteries to cross off.