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Campaigning at the Con

Expanding the Campaign

by Mike DeSanto
May 01,2003


Expanding the Campaign

Now your campaign has become successful, and you have more players than you have events for them to play. What do you do? You find some new GMs!

There are two primary concerns when adding new GMs. The first is the look and feel of the campaign world. You want to make sure the new GM does not introduce unsuitable elements. If your fantasy campaign is meant to be low magic, be very sure the new GM does not give powerful magic items for completing an adventure. The second concern is maintaining the quality of the events. A convention campaign starts with a rather close knit group of people, who probably consider themselves pretty good GMs. Do not ruin your campaign by introducing new GMs that are less skilled than the rest of the group.

Before you start adding new GMs, you need to determine rules for adding new GMs. Even if the rule is "Go ahead and run games, and if you're a jerk, I'll tell you to stop". Anyone coming into the campaign needs to know exactly what is expected of them. They also need to know what actions will get them removed from the campaign. This does not necessarily need to be written down, but I would suggest that it be part of the Campaign Constitution. If the rules are on paper nobody can claim not to know them.

There are dozens of ways to determine if you want a prospective GM to run games in your campaign. Here are a few:

Previewing - Play in a game run by the prospective GM. This lets you determine their skill as a GM, and the general power level of game they prefer to run. Plus, if you are bored, you know not to let them run games in your campaign!

Adventure Review - A GM who is part of the Campaign must review any adventure the new GM wants to run. This ensures that the adventure has the correct feel, and make sure it meets your ethics guidelines.

Trial Period - After the first few games, the existing GMs decide whether to allow the new GM to keep running games. The existing GMs must interview players or play in the games themselves to see how the new GM works out. This gives a broad experience to judge the new GM and gets them running games right away.

Mentors - A current GM works with the new GM, performing several of the other listed functions. The mentor works with the new GM to design and create the adventures, and reviews them before they are run.

Voting - The existing GMs vote on whether to admit a new GM. This gives everyone a voice, but not all existing GMs may know the new GM.

When we created Davenford we never thought about adding new GMs. After two years, two people asked to join, and we were caught completely off guard. We instituted a mentoring system with a trial period and a vote after one convention. The mentor worked with the new GM to set up their section of the setting and design their games. As many GMs as possible attended games run by the new GM to rate their performance. After one convention of running Davenford games, the current GMs who were familiar with the new GM would vote whether the new GM should continue to run Davenford games. All of the applicants were good GMs, but mentoring was necessary to guide them to the correct feel of the campaign. We did not have a formal Campaign Constitution, so a person had to teach them the style.

Once you start to add GMs, you will very likely find that you need to remove one. If the GM breaks convention rules about behavior or abuses a player in any way, you do not want them associated with your campaign. If they break the rules of the setting or go against the ethics statement in the Campaign Constitution they should be warned first and let go if they continue to damage the setting. Finally, if the GM fails to draw players they do not help the campaign and should be let go to run other games.

Getting a GM to stop running games in your campaign can be much more difficult than getting them to start. Unless you apply for a trademark (a topic I do not plan to cover here) you will not have any legal means of forcing the person to stop using the name of your campaign. All you can really do is ask them to stop, and ask the convention organizers to not allow them to use the name of your campaign with their games.

There are three things you must do to remove a GM from your campaign. First, you must notify the GM well before the convention that they should no longer run campaign games. Do not inform them the day before the convention after they spend hours creating campaign events. Second, you must give the reasons that they are being expelled. If you explained when the GM started what sorts of actions would cause problems, there should be no surprises in this. Third, you must inform the convention organizers that the GM has been expelled and why. This is mainly a courtesy, but it can also be helpful if the GM tries to run games under the name of the campaign after you ask them to leave.

Since Davenford never had to expel a GM, I will give a personal example. I once attended a group as a new player, and things went badly. (I made some decisions that I knew were bad ideas, but I thought were in keeping with the character I was given. I seriously damaged the campaign.) Before the next game, the GM contacted me and said that the campaign was being put on hold due to schedule conflicts. I learned through a mutual friend that I had been voted out.

I have no problem with being voted out, but I was very concerned about not being given the real reason. I will admit that it is possible that I am a jerk and need to change, but if I do not know exactly what I did wrong, I can not change my behavior. I never did learn why they did not want me in that game, and I have been uncomfortable around the GM ever since.

It is vitally important to let your GMs with problems know exactly why they are asked to leave. If they do not know the problem, they can never fix it.


Adding new GMs gracefully is imperative to the long-term existence of your campaign. New minds bring new ideas and make your campaign more rich and diverse. Plan early to add GMs, and look among your player base for those who may want to help.

This is the next to the last installment of Campaigning at the Con. Next month I will give a summary of the column, and do a thorough dissection of Davenford; what we did wrong, what we did right, and what we did not think to do at all. See you next month.

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