Has it ever happened to you that the gaming group you were with all had alternative views on what they hoped the game would be? I find that players, in general, often have this clash though with other genres there's a greater push to get folks on the same page or there's such a tight focus about what a game should be (i.e. Vampire: the Requiem) that the books kinda sell it all.
Most people assume that they'll have it easy in the fantasy genre. I guess because most start with classic dungeon crawls which are quite tightly focused around a particular type of gameplay. Roleplay happens around each broken door and no one has to take themselves, or each other, very seriously. If you just want to play your race + class combination, then go for it.
But with any other type of fantasy things get a bit murky and it's one thing to create your characters around a compromise and a basic premise and another thing to slowly edit your character through dozens of little compromises and disappointments. Sometimes the latter is still no big deal. What comes from all the little surprises and clashing expectations is better than the sum of its parts. Sometimes it leads to a clash of ideas with each person struggling to align the game to his or her expectations, perhaps without even realising that the other players even wanted something different.
Take Flashpoint, for example. It wasn't a clash and clamour, but the players sure did expect / want something different from the game. Now my assumptions of their assumptions may well be wrong (and probably are) but I could sense the points of distinction at least.
Proteus' player initially assumed a game of dubious larger-than-life characters with a slight tilt from neutral towards affably evil which involves a rollicking, if occasionally amoral, time full of treasure, feats of derring-do and occasional out-and-out heroism. Think Pirates of the Carribean!
Archer's player initially assumed a game of naval exploits, intrigue, and historical interest mixed into a fantastical world. Think Horatio Hornblower!
Lunjun's player probably didn't have any initial assumptions but he did want to focus on the slow piecing together of his characters' goals through feats, spell selection and the ability to create loads of magical items.
Lhye's player initially h
oped for a game of superstition and slow revelation, of political intrigue mixed with derring-do, where a group of dodgy characters were harnessed to a greater good - which is probably why he latched onto the Andoran plot so tightly.
Now this didn't work out badly but it really could have if my players didn't kind of negotiate over the course of gameplay. It would have worked out even better if we'd all sat down and decided on a single focus.
Unfortunately, trying to get players to rock up to a character building session without having their characters already in mind and/or without each player generating their character in a corner during the session and/or without players ignoring the whole thing in favour of out-of-character chit-chat so that they can sit down later on and develop their characters in peace has been pretty much impossible in my experience.
Sorry dudes, but it's true and you know it!
I suppose this is why other Storytellers simply lay down the law and describe exactly what the game will be about and what sort of characters will be allowed, though such demands are rarely popular.
So any of you guys got the Answer on how to get all the players on the same page when entering the game for the first time?