I had multiple sections of what I call questions. I asked the group questions, but the purpose of each set of questions were different. These were key to what I thought the session had to do. The group needed to have idea of what the game was about and what kept their group together. We'd questioned it prior to it.
So questions seemed apt.
Same Page QuestionsThe first section of questions weren't character centric. They were game and group specific. The urge to just leap in and crack characters without no bigger framework wouldn't help. The questions about the game as a whole were just reconfirming things we'd already been doing. I borrowed parts and pieces of the Same Page Tool from here.
I wasn't looking for a consensus, I just wanted to get an idea of what the game was. Preferences crept in a bit too. It confirmed that I didn't need to adjust some dials, although I think it helped to clarify things.
The last questions were about the group the characters belong to, the Keepers. After a bit of discussion, I helped sell the group on the idea of a backstory for the group that connected all of their characters' own backstories to it. Although the original Phase Trio we had should've done this, it helped to at least cement a group identity to a degree. Something we could craft group stories around, without individual character arcs carrying things out of hand.
Character QuestionsFor characters, I created a series of leading questions intended to help players come up with things they did with other player characters during the timeskip. I didn't want five separate stories of "what happened" during the break. I wanted a series of quick scenes or stories that could be called back to. Players or myself could use these hooks for future story fodder.
It also helped me get newer characters installed into the group proper. The three characters that have been there the longest tended to not have as strong connections with the new ones. Despite my previous attempts, having a session devoted to creating that connection seemed the best route to solve the problem.
It feels like it worked.
Each question borrowed from Apocalypse World and other places. They had [BLANK] in them, where a player would replace it with a name of a different character. A few had multiple choice options in them, letting a player choose the context.
Here's an example:
What happened to ruin an evening you and [BLANK] were having? Why did things at [Choose One: the Opera/ the Scroll and Bones Pub/ the catacombs under the Skullmount]?
I didn't care how big the answer was. Just so long as it was honest and the player got what I was trying to do: create moments shared between characters. Things they could touch back on.
Results?In the short term, it felt like a success. I don't know what'll be in the long term yet. If any of the work done carries over to help the flow of a session, good. If not, I got enough information on how it worked for future stuff.
I always can canned the game and do something new. That tends to be the one thing: if a thing isn't working, you can just kill it. Trying to force it to fit when it won't means you could just cancel it and try something new instead. It sounds callous, but I don't believe in saving a story that is failing. The return you get for it has to be worth the work, otherwise you spend years tweaking a thing.
Of course, you have to have a good idea of whether it's failing or not. I'm still not sure if I'm a good judge of that.