Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Blog Carnival: Prepping for a Campaign

This month's RPGBA Blog Carnival Hosted
by Evil Machinations
There's oh so very much to be done! There's oh so little time! There's no way to be certain anything you write will see any actual game time! Welcome to Game Mastering.

Campaign Preparation/ Management is such a broad topic that some excellent fellows took the time write a whole damn book on the topic. There's quite a bit out there already so I intend to keep this one pretty simple.


My haphazard advice on the topic, under the guise of a FAQ list. 

1) Where do I even begin? If inspiration hasn't yet struck (or hasn't taken me very far), I like to start with a map. Sketching out a rough map of where thing's will be happening really whets the creative appetite. Whereas, staring wistfully at the blinking cursor in a word processor or gazing forlornly at blank page will do nothing to help your plight; drawing should come pretty easily (even while not necessarily looking pretty). 

Draw a shape. That's the island or continent or county or city or space-station in which your game takes place. Toss in a row of carets (^). Hey look mountains/hills! Draw squiggly lines from the mountains to the edge of your shape. Hey look rivers. Cities really ought to be found near those. How does this city feel about that city? Well, they're at war... Or, draw a geometric shape. Hey look a capital building or a fort or a command station. Draw a straight line to another shape. That other shape is the docking port or bazaar or something... You get the idea. Just start drawing and inspiration will come. (Alternatively you could randomly generate a map.) I find that once I've got the stage set, the rest of the creative pieces sort of fall into place.

Of course not everyone's mind is as spatially motivated as mine. My more general advice would be to do something. Start researching something. Start making yourself a list of NPC names to use for on-the-fly reference. Ask your potential players what sort of game they'd really like to play. Action begats further action.

2) The players are just gonna screw it all up: how do I plan anything? I've written some advice on this topic pretty recently. (Go on, read it.) Start the process by painting with a broad brush. Make a sweeping list of Definite and Maybe events/obstacles that'll be happening across the campaign. You may be inspired to toss in a few It Depends bullets, but try not to focus on those just yet, not until you have a better feel for the characters. Beyond that, I'd just recommend that you not heavily plan more than one session ahead. Plotting a campaign is a very volatile and mercurial process. Expect explosions.

3) I'm an adult; how do I run that super-mega-epic aeons long campaign that ain't nobody got time for? The short answer is that you don't. As adults, free-time is often a scarcity. Peoples' schedules change. When you're responsible for more things, commitments more often clash. Roleplaying (important though it seems) will usually play second, third, or seventh fiddle to the rest of life. That's why I typically shoot for a six to ten session mini-campaign. With everyone's ever-changing availability, you're far more likely to come to a satisfying end with a shorter game. I'll take a really good one-shot over a half finished epic any day.

4) What about [really specific thing]? Google it. Ask a friend. There's a metric shit-ton of RPG advice here on the interwebs. You might try any of the sites from that list of Roleplaying Resources there on the top right of this page.

Well that's all I've got for the nonce. Do feel free to post any questions, reactions, or trollings in the comments below. 'Til next time, may you roll max crits in times of need and bewilder your Game Master at every turn (Don't worry. You will.).