I've come to realize that...

Everdark
Everdark
edited November 2010 in General Discussion
Building a world/campaign setting, at points, takes more time than making the actual campaign itself. I'm diligently working on my campaign setting/first campaign, though. I can't wait until I have enough so that I can show you guys and get your feedback.

I'd like to get everyone's opinion on something, though. What, in your personal opinion, is a _must have_ in every campaign? It can be anything. I'm just looking for some extra ideas/flare.

Comments

  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Boy tell me about it! Hm, that's sort of a tough question to answer because what a campaign setting _must_ have really sort of depends upon your own DM style and intentions for you campaign. Some DM's really key in on well fleshed out characters while the surrounding setting is left largely as an undeveloped back drop. I on the other hand tend to go for really in-depth cities/regions that have that "lived in" sort of feel. This is just a matter of taste really. I guess the questions to ask are, "what kind of setting would I enjoy playing/DM'ing in?" and "what kind of campaign would my players enjoy playing in?"

    For instance, if you know that you and your characters like to play in urban settings full of intrigue and complex plot lines, then I'd invest allot of time into building a single city and its immediate surroundings whereas I'd spend considerably less time trying to figure out what's going on in the rest of the world. Thus you'd probably want to think about things like the political, religious and economic climate of the city. I'd also create and flesh-out the key movers and shakers of the city (e.g. nobles, guild-masters, religious leaders, military captains etc), as well as several other NPC's that the PC's are likely to run into in day to day life and exploration.

    On the other hand, if you know that you and your players really like to explore and don't stay in any one location for very long, then it would be overkill to do all of what I have just mentioned. In this case, I would think more on the grand scale. I'd start by creating a map and filling it in with a bunch of geographical and political sites (at least the major sites anyway). Then I'd think about the history of the world and how those sites came to be. I'd try to get a general sense of each civilization/territory, and create a few important NPC's and figures for each nation, but I wouldn't get too detailed. You can always fill in the detail as you go along, making up people, places and events as the plot of your campaign develops. I would also think broadly about the various cultures of the world. That way, when PC's travel from place to place they get a real sense the distinct personality of that place.

    Whether you go for the small-scale Microcosm or the large-scale Macrocosm approach in your setting though, in both cases you should have some general information about: Religion, Politics, Major Factions, important locations and house rules.

    Some of my thoughts anyway.

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
  • Everdark
    Everdark
    Posts: 122
    I probably should have specified that what I meant by "must haves" was on a smaller scale such as a recurring NPC that makes a cameo in every campaign, a certain city that's always there, et cetera. Just little Easter egg type deals. Bits of fluff to make it that much more enjoyable. I thank you much for your detailed input though, my good man. That was quite helpful and I appreciate it a lot. It puts many things into perspective.

    See, I'm a sucker for details in all aspects. On a personal level, for my campaign setting, I feel like the entire world, cities and people alike, all have to be done and fleshed out down to the nitty-gritty. That's just the thing. I want it to really _feel_ like a living, breathing world. Also, we have a pretty well-rounded group of players whom enjoy different aspects of the game ranging from in-depth characters to in-depth cities to the ability to free roam and everything else in between. Making _everything_ in Geneseed well detailed is a personal goal of mine as the creator and DM.

    Furthermore, the group of players I'll be DMing for are all players in Duskreign's (who's going to be playing as well) Wyrmshadow Campaign Setting, which as you know, is an extremely and brilliantly detailed and crafted world. Subsequently, with Mike being such a fantastic DM, I believe the players have very high expectations for a campaign. By no means is it a competition between us, I just feel like that by taking on the role of DM I have some serious expectations to live up to and some seriously large shoes (I promise that's not a tall joke, Mike. Lol) to fill. Ya know what I mean? I've DM'd plenty before, but not yet for this group. Going from a player to a DM with this party, I feel, is a big step and also an honor for Mike to let me take over the table in his most holy sanctum of gaming.
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085 edited November 2010
    Think of preparing a campaign as if you are preparing a meal. You answer a few primary questions in the earliest moments of this process. Who's coming to dinner? Do they have any specific likes or dislikes? What ingredients do I have on-hand? How much can I afford to spend? How much time do I have to prepare the meal? Should I have a few backup plans in case someone doesn't like one of the selections on the menu?

    These questions are similar to the ones you should be asking yourself right now. The first question (who's coming to dinner) is a great one to ask. I think it will be pretty much everyone that shows up for "my Star Wars game.":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/star-wars-knights-of-the-old-republic That means you can expect Anglaris, CitrusAssassin, ChristineScott720, Cade, and myself to be playing. You're feeding five people every other Saturday, so to speak.

    Do we have any specific likes or dislikes? Let's examine the players one by one and see if we can figure that out. Anglaris enjoys being presented with opportunities to surpass peoples' expectations of his character, but dislikes tedious, drawn-out fights that seem like they have no end in sight. CitrusAssassin likes consistency in storytelling and characterization, but severely disapproves of mood-shattering segues. ChristineScott720 loves camaraderie and light-hearted adventure, but hates having to fight tooth and nail to get a word in edgewise. Cade enjoys being given a chance to shine in combat situations, but has a distaste for feeling any pressure to engage in dialog. I like when a GM takes what his players say and runs with it, and I appreciate the craftsmanship of a session well-planned, but I really hate when things get started and never go anywhere. (whoops!)

    So, in examining that list, we have five things TO DO, and five things TO AVOID:

    To do:

    1) Provide opportunities for characters to surpass expectations
    2) Remain consistent in storytelling and characterization
    3) Encourage camaraderie and light-hearted adventurism
    4) Give everyone a chance to shine in combat
    5) Be prepared to improvise based on player input

    To Avoid:

    1) Boring, tedious, or excessively long battles with no end in sight
    2) Segues that ruin the mood of the moment
    3) Allowing showboating players to overshadow others
    4) Forcing reluctant newbs to do something they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with
    5) When you start it, keep going, no excuses, and finish it

    Now that we've established who's coming to play and what they like/dislike, we need to explore the big three things every DM should always keep in mind: the haves, the needs, and the wants. Going back to the food metaphor, the "haves" are essentially what you have in your pantry already:

    1) The game room, minis, dice, and other physical materials needed to physically sit down and play
    2) The players who will be playing the game
    3) The day of the week you will be running on (every other Saturday night at 9:30 PM)

    The "needs" are the things that are absolutely vital to be created or obtained before you begin running your game. THIS IS YOUR BIGGEST ISSUE, VIN! You're confusing wants with needs! You're stalling because you want everything to be "perfect", but the perfect game isn't 100% planned and 0% played. You have to find a balance that you can live with. Here is, in my opinion, what your "needs" are:

    1) A short introductory story arc concept (e.g. - Five heroes find themselves drawn to an ancient altar in a ruined city infested with the restless dead, and it is only in finding a way to work together that they discover the true nature of the force that led these heroes to band together)
    2) A few place names, NPCs, and monster concepts to throw our way
    3) A series of challenges, encounters, and other such gameplay elements to flesh out your story arc and present your game world to the players.
    4) A basic understanding of your world.
    5) The ability to improvise and track your ideas as you go.

    You are now focusing on "wants" when you should hammer out the "needs" instead. That way, you can get the game rolling. Easter eggs are afterthoughts. Beforethoughts are where your mind should be. Then Duringthoughts (which I guess is the improvisation you do as you play).

    That's just my opinion, though.
    Post edited by Duskreign on
  • Curufea
    Curufea
    Posts: 161
    That's fantastic opinion though.
  • Everdark
    Everdark
    Posts: 122
    I concur.
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Having said all that, I am very much looking forward to Geneseed. I just think you should consider planning less and running more, that's all :)
  • Everdark
    Everdark
    Posts: 122
    Got'cha. I know what you mean.
  • Idless
    Idless
    Posts: 58
    That is one very sharp analysis Duskreign!

    I know nothing of the players or if your assesment is correct, nor SHINenzo's world or Planning abilities!

    But as a general methodology to plan and start campaign it it is tremendously insightful!

    I once told myself, that being a GM for 12 years gave no need for the Galactic Campaign Guide, from WotC. But when I could buy 3 books, a little under the price of 1, I bought it... and am I glad.

    There in is a small tool to shape the dinner for the guests. I ask all of them to give me 3 keywords or key phrases that defines Star Wars to them. I then include those very elements in the campaign. It's often: Jedi, Light and Dark, Epic Battles, Heroism, Aliens. But I know that I need these ingredients in my Chili con Star Wars, otherwise it just won't taste like Star Wars to them.

    Futhermore they get to, seperatly, cast a yay/nay vote on each of the following points:

    Would you like to see 'this' type of encounter every session:
    Land Combat:
    Space Combat:
    Chatting:
    Investigation:
    puzzle:

    Lets say it turns out like this, with 4 players:

    Land Combat: 3
    Space: 0
    Chatting: 3
    Investigation: 4
    Puzzle: 2

    I now know, that for every 10 sessions, over half of them should contain Investigation and chatting with NPCs, every third or fourth time there should be a combat, and once in awhile there should be a puzzle to solve - space combat should only happen when it is paramount to the story and probably be kept short.


    ...Idless
  • Everdark
    Everdark
    Posts: 122
    Awesome. Idless, I absolutely love your idea about asking each player for three keywords/phrases that define the game to them and the yay/nay to the types of encounters. I seriously think I'm going to do that for my campaign.. A most excellent idea. Thank you for your insight, good sir.
  • Idless
    Idless
    Posts: 58
    I totally stole it from Galactic Campaign Guide, by WotC

    You are still very welcome :D

    ...Troels
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Hey, Idless, I love the concept. I actually do take an inventory of what my players enjoy and attempt to incorporate as many of those elements as I possibly can. I think Vin could attest to this, considering how many occasions I have granted him leave to take the most audacious, high-risk, and ill-advised actions. His characters are nearly always thrill-seekers and daredevils, and it wouldn't be as fun for him if the threats weren't real, so when he tries something incredible and succeeds, the rewards are great, but when he tries something audacious and fails, I make the failure as brutal and humiliating as I am capable of. I do this because I took an inventory of my players' likes and dislikes and this turned out to be one of Vin's great big "likes."

    I like the idea that others do the same when planning games for their players. I think any chef worth his/her salt should at least consider the diners' tastes when planning a meal.
  • Idless
    Idless
    Posts: 58
    Also, I like the expression: Chilli con Star Wars!
  • Everdark
    Everdark
    Posts: 122
    I'm Vin and I attest.

    I do crazy stuff. =)
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Space Chilli is Spilli

    Space Pizza is Spizza

    but Space Spaghetti is Spaghetti.

    Therefore: Spaghetti is the Universal Constant!

    (side note - Space Pie is spie! I KNEW IT!)
  • Idless
    Idless
    Posts: 58
    So you heard the commentary on the Firefly DVDs I take it ;)
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    LOL... Maybeee :P
  • Everdark
    Everdark
    Posts: 122
    Spaghetti makes me smile. =)
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    I want my name to be Spaghetti.

    (Not really)
  • Everdark
    Everdark
    Posts: 122
    If you're not going to legally change your name to Spaghetti Scott then I will.
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    ... we'll see. No promises.
  • Dyluth
    Dyluth
    Posts: 92
    I just found this thread now, and this is one of the most useful threads I've found thus far on game preparation. Duskreign that "opinion" of yours should be required reading, and Idless I might just borrow that survey idea of yours to pass out before my next session. Awesome ideas all around.

    My only real advice on what a must have in role playing is, above all else, is making sure there's a good reason for the player party to be together in a campaign and STAY together. A reason they want to be in the group they find themselves in. It may not sound like much, but I was once in a campaign where the PC's all were sick of each other wanted nothing to do with each other after three years of playing together due to all of us essentially fulfilling our in game goals by that point.

    This will help prevent unnecessary party splitting on the PC's part as well. Just my two cents!
  • Duskreign
    Duskreign
    Posts: 1,085
    Thanks, Dyluth. That is insanely flattering!
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