Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 164: Campaign Part 1

Main Topic

So you finished that first adventure and now you ask what is the next step? Well dive into something bigger, what is that bigger thing? The campaign can be the next thing if you want to pull those characters your players had. Now you could do a few different things for a campaign. 

Zen’s Thoughts

Different types of Campaigns

  • One of these is a bigger story arc that focuses on a smaller section of the overall setting. And maybe a couple of those sections are dealt with in the whole arc. This is the one of the most common ways of setting up a campaign for games. 
  • What about the idea of just doing a string of adventures that are not part of a bigger arc? Totally this is a valid way to set a campaign up. Is it common no, not really but it can be fun and a neat way to break player expectations about things. 
  • You could do short arcs like 4 to 5 session arcs that are all strung together in a way that makes for a cohesive story. Each mini arc could be separate but part of a larger idea and all touching on the same themes. 

Which of these is  the best? Honestly I don’t think any of them are the best, it really depends on your group. 

Joule’s insight

To kind of get a subtle read on what should be the main focus of the campaign, you may want to kind of treat the first few sessions like a “choose your own adventure” book.  See what decisions your players make, what kind of thing are they gravitating to?  Have a few “loose” events/encounters in your back pocket, based on what the players do.  The team starts to gel after a few sessions and hopefully will start working as a cohesive group.  When that happens, you’ll be able to better prepare for sessions. If it appears that the group has a “Swashbuckly” feel.  Or goes deep for intrigue.  You can build plot points and set pieces that will further the plot as well as provide one heck of a game session.  Now if they’re not grabbing your major plot point, that’s ok.  Side arcs can always influence the main plot.  And the decisions of the players doesn’t mean that all those wonderful ideas you have for the major arc should be abandoned.  Keep them going on in the background.  In parallel (or series) of your players actions.  If the players ask about them, provide the kind of information that they would be privy to based on their prior actions.  While the GM is omnipotent and the players can see the big picture, the characters wouldn’t.  Their actions will have ripples, both subtle and overt.

It’s not a bad idea to get a small pocket notebook.  Call it “The book of consequences” (both positive and negative).  A brief comment to a kid ”we know you’re sad, But you should know your dog was the bravest boy. He was 19, and he still got the med staff to your dad’s room. He was a hero!”And maybe the kid may point you to bolt holes for hidden movement. If they yank a portable power generator for emergency use, well now they have to navigate a darkened section of ship. 

Guard-a-Manger’s Thoughts

Guard-a-Manger likes to think in a loose three act structure when making campaigns – Act 1 ses the stage and lays out the themes and larger hooks for the campaign. Act 2 throws a big wrench into the plans of the players, but maybe not the PCs. This is where the PCs get thrust into action one way or another and have to react to something that was not part of their everyday lives or standards. Act 3, finally, is the climax and confrontation with the denouement towards the end. This is where the secrets are revealed, if they have not been already, and the true face of the antagonist shows up. A rough campaign using this structure for the Edenship follows.

How PCs resolve the various types of challenges isn’t important – I don’t worry about specifics there. What I keep track of is the motivation of the world and the antagonists – how they react helps create the fluid campaign response. On the Edenship, the threats can be interior most commonly, but the fear of the unknown coming from the exterior of the Edenship is fertile ground for larger campaigns. I like to blend these aspects when making a larger campaign and often will shoot for the PCs to be in between them. In a post-apocalyptic setting, I find it important to put PCs in a moral quandary: a grey area that forces them to make choices like the trolley problem and the lesser of two evils scenarios. 

Closing remarks 

Zendead – Take a break from things and unplug. From all the electronics as well as all the things you do as a GM. Sometimes we all need to get away from things for a bit. 

Joules – Inspirisles by Hatchlings Games  You play Pendragons, the descendents of Arthur and Guinevere. Sent to the Inspirisles, you must fight a dark energy known as Disbelief to restore their World Tree. By learning Shaping (ASL and BSL), a language allowing you to harness the elements, you will bring peace back to a crumbling kingdom.

Guard-a-Manger – Exercise and movement! In the northern hemisphere, we are coming through towards Spring and it has been easy to hibernate, but our bodies need some attention – do as much movement as your body tolerates or jumpstart an exercise regimen if that’s your jam. One way or another, remind yourself that even if Descartes confounds your existence, feeling like the world is real helps for sure. 

Music is courtesy of Sim on Twitter you can find him at @TheSimulacrae

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