One Click and a Few Minutes of Thinking
With decent generators you can reduce your prep time give you a place to start. You can revise what you generate or take the best of several options, surprising your players with the amount of detail you have worked out in advance....
A Plot Generator
The start of a campaign is about gathering the group and setting the tone. Use a plot generator to give players something to focus on. A simple plot is perfect for your first couple of sessions.
A nice option is to generate several options and choose the most appropriate one. Donjon has a Fantasy Quest Generator which includes a quest-giver, a quest and possible complications.
My favourite quest generator is an ancient generator from Wizards of the Coast, the Adventure Hook Random Generator, letting you choose from D&D Classic, Faerie Tale and a Bare Bones plot.
Below is the Bare Bones version which gives enough to frame a simple adventure with setting, quest-giver, problem, villain, quest and reward.
Create A Villain
If you start with a villain then you have enough to create their place of operations (lair), underlings and a reason for the players to stop them.
Enough to start off a campaign.
My favourite for this is Villain Generator from 1-dot-encounter-planner which has an ideal filter for Good, Evil, Lawful, Chaotic, Neutral or Other and an optional weakness.
An option for Evil Magic Users, Mad Scientists or Super Villains is a generator from Seventh Sanctum with creates several short descriptions such as.
"This athletic warlock is driven by fear. He employs high magic in his plots, often stealing and corrupting the magical research of other to achieve his goals. He has rare occult knowledge."
If you use a particular system there might be more specific generators you can use to create villain statistics too.
Create A City or Settlement
For a sandbox campaign or more open-ended beginning consider starting with a settlement. This gives players somewhere to start from, multiple places to investigate and lets you define the immediate scope of the initial sessions.
If you would prefer to generate a map and use that as a starting point then consider the beautiful renderings from this medieval fantasy city map generator which includes filters for appearance and map size.
We've just looked at starting here with a Plot, Villain or City but you could use many other generators as a starting point such as a dungeon, fortress or monument.
Comment with a generator you have used as a starting point for a campaign or adventure.