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Advent

The Campaign Proposal

by Paul Mitchener
Dec 22,2005

 

Methods of Campaign and Adventure Design 13

By Paul Mitchener

The Campaign Proposal

Apologies that the topic of this column is not what I promised. I will go back to analyse the probabilities people suggested soon, and then perhaps write something about parties of player characters, as also mentioned in the feedback.

However, in this column I want to go back to a much earlier subject- the idea of campaign design. There is not much point in going into intense work designing an unusual campaign if it does not attract the interest of regular players. One way around this problem is to think of several campaign proposals, probably just a few paragraphs each. A proposal that attracts player interest can then be developed further.

Pre-written campaign settings, or games with pre-existing settings can also be written as campaign proposals. In this case, most of the work in the following list has already been done. However, thinking about the proposal can help when specifically thinking about how a campaign world is personalised away from the `standard setting'. Further, some settings are open to a wide variety of possible actual campaigns and some restriction and further structure needs to be provided before play begins.

  • Genre
  • The campaign genre or genres should be mentioned, along with any necessary qualifiers.
  • Short Description
  • In order to catch the attention, by a short description, I really mean trying to sum up the main ideas of the campaign in a few sentences. A more involved campaign will obviously have more ideas than this behind it. However, for the purposes of trying to sell an idea, things need to be kept simple, and only the central themes need to be mentioned.
  • Inspiration
  • What films, books, games, or other sources inspired the campaign idea? A GM should be honest about this, at least with himself.
  • System
  • The system used should be decided upon sooner rather than later- certainly before any serious design work is done. It is possible that players object to a choice of system. If no system-specific design work has been done it might be possible to be flexible. Small changes to a standard system should also be noted.
  • What do the characters do?
  • This may or may not be implicit from the short description or inspiration. In any case, it is worth being explicit about what sort of things the characters are likely to be involved in before character creation. It is possible to broaden things beyond this initial proposal, of course.
  • What is the first adventure?
  • The short description and previous question should immediately spark ideas for adventures. If this is not the case, then running the game could prove very hard work. The GM should have a short (probably one sentence) description of a first adventure which may or may not be shared with the players; sharing the idea with the players might ruin some surprise value, but will help with character creation and forming a coherent party. With a bit of luck, the adventure has the potential to generate ideas for sequels.

Chaos and Order

  • Genre
  • World-hopping fantasy.
  • Short Description
  • The are many many worlds, those in proximity usually connected by gates. Magic can be used to travel between those worlds in proximity, but longer journeys are more difficult. These worlds are warred over by gods of Law and gods of Chaos. These gods are very powerful, ageless, and can grant powers to their chosen followers, but are not immortal can in exceptional cases have even been slain by powerful mortals equipped with potent magic. As a general rule, these gods do not care about people except as pawns.
  • Inspiration
  • The main inspiration here is fairly blatant, namely Moorcock's fantasies, especially the Corum and Elric cycles. One game product inspiration is Beyond Countless Doorways, from Mahlhavoc press, although that product itself was clearly heavily influenced by Moorcock.
  • System
  • Probably D&D. True20 is also a possibility.
  • What do the characters do?
  • The characters need to have some excuse to travel widely and act independently. Possibilities include mercenaries, explorers working for some individual or organisation, or merchants.
  • What is the first adventure?
  • Discovering that a portion of the characters' home world has been infected with Chaos causing widespread mutations and even affecting the land itself. The adventure could involve dealing with the consequences or just surviving. A potential future development could be contacting the agents of Law to counter the Chaos. Is this really a good plan?

The Return of Ares

  • Genre
  • Fantasy.
  • Short Description
  • The world of Arcarnia has been in comparative peace for the last 500 years, since the war god Ares was imprisoned. However, Ares has now returned, and is seeking some sort of vengeance on the world where his actions almost directly led to his banishment.

    This campaign is set approximately 500 years after my last compaign on the world of Arcarnia.

  • System
  • The same mess of a house system that I used in my last campaign in this setting. Think of an unholy union between D&D and GURPS. In this case, it has the advantage of being very familiar to us, however, which outweighs the disadvantages.
  • Inspiration
  • Events from the end of my last campaign. Playing with Greek (and other) myths.
  • What do the characters do?
  • The characters need to be citizens who are in a position to do dangerous things and to some extent act independently. There are not really any other restrictions.
  • What is the first adventure?
  • Like the last campaign, it might be nice to start with a riot- involving panic after a series of Ares-related murders. Later investigation of the murders is an obvious sequel.

The Stars are not for Man

  • Genre
  • Space Opera
  • Short Description
  • Mankind has reached the stars. However, in the numerous frontier settlements, futuristic (or even present day level) technology is rare, with the exception of starships, blasters, and some medicine. There is no interstellar communication apart from messages delivered by starships. Social mores and codes of honour are more or less Victorian.

    The problem is that mankind has expanded too far, and now has made first contact with an intelligent alien lifeform. The aliens are unfortunately hostile to all other life forms, and have wiped out or assimilated other space-travelling species in the past. Humanity is potentially next in line.

  • System
  • Stripped-down version of GURPS with the addition of a luck point mechanic. Tri-Stat or Savage Worlds are also possibilities.
  • Inspiration
  • The series Firefly. The old TSR Stardrive setting for Alternity. The gap series by Donaldson.
  • What do the characters do?
  • The characters are freelance traders, mercenaries, or general odd-job men making up the crew of a small starship.
  • What is the first adventure?
  • Delivery of goods to a planet, with complications when it is discovered that the goods were originally stolen. For further complications, the place from where the goods were stolen was wiped out by the aliens not long after the theft.

More Ideas

For some reason, I have difficulties running campaigns based too closely on works of fiction that are also familiar to me players. This problem also applies to campaigns based loosely in the real modern world. For that reason, I have quite a few ideas where I am reluctant to do the work to turn them into full proposals. In any case, here are some seeds for proposals, which I probably will not use. Specific games are given in brackets where appropriate.
  • Mighty Aphodite (Unknown Armies)
  • Call her Ishtar. Call her Freya. Call her Aphrodite. In any case, she has returned to modern day Earth after losing her place in the invisible clergy after the ascension of the porn star the Naked Goddess.
  • Alternate Tolkien
  • What happened in Middle Earth after Boromir (or as a potentially even more interesting alternative, Faramir) stole the one ring from Frodo and returned with it to Minas Tirith?

Wrapping Up

Okay- next column, back to the probabilities, and after that maybe something on parties of player characters. Meanwhile, in the feedback, feel free to write down your campaign proposal, along with telling me off for not doing what I promised earlier. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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