I became a bit…um…notorious for my hot starts. The players loved it, but I stopped doing it because it was starting to feel cliche. My best was my first one, though. We were playing Rolemaster. Everyone had created 1st level characters and we sat down to play. I said, “Go ahead and take about 10 minutes and do a quick-and-dirty upgrade of your character to 20th level. Any spells, armor or weapons that you want.”
Once everyone, confused, had done so, I said, “Okay, your allied forces have fallen, the Priest and his top minions remain. They’re bringing back the Dark Gods and the ritual is nearly complete. Roll for initiative.” Any questions they had I replied to with, “I’ll tell you after the fight.”
They fought and were brought down one-by-one, but taking out their opponents and delaying completion of the ritual. Finally, the ritual was completed and a rift opened in the sky, allowing gods of Dark entry. At the same time, there was a yell from a messenger at the back, “You did it! You bought enough time!” As the last PC fell, another rent opened in the sky as the gods of Light returned, charging across the heavens to battle the gods of Dark.
As everything faded and the last PC died, Armageddon waged overhead.
Then I told everyone, “You awake. You have no clothes and no belongings. You’re on a hillside that you don’t recognize. You have no memories beyond what has already been described. You know your names and each other’s names. Switch back to the 1st level character sheets. What do you do?”
The phrase, “naked on a hillside” became a running joke for years afterward. Especially any time someone lost consciousness.