The Campaign Pitch

Sunrise over the MountainsWhen of Dice and Dragons turned nine last year I mentioned that one of my goals was to finally get a new campaign of the ground. There’s been a bit of interest but nothing that I would say that’s catching fire and getting things going and some of that is on me.

Let’s face it, you need to have the GM fired up over his campaign to get the players hyped up right?

So, I’ve decided that I need to create a campaign pitch. It’s something short and sweet that will cause the players to show some interest and generate the types of discussions that get you from “sounds interesting,” to “here’s the latest take on my character.”

Obviously you need something to build off of, a concept of sorts, a direction to take your players, even if you don’t have all the plot lines mapped out yet (or even started).

So I came up with a campaign setting to start with, say hello to The Osrin Empire (I’ve previously stated that I’m leaving my beloved Rylon behind). The name is just a starting point really, there’s no history sketched out yet, other than it’s been in existence for some time. I’ve also decided that the Empire itself isn’t really interested in expanding at the moment, things are comfortable and stable so the powers that be are following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” model.

That’ doesn’t leave anything really interesting for a group of adventurers to do, unless your into pure urban or political adventurers, so I need somewhere for them to go as a jump off point for adventuring.

I will admit that the merchant’s caravan mechanic crossed my mind but I don’t want to force feed things here so I’m going to put a town on the edge of the Empire, a place where young fools, or adventurers, go based on the tales they’ve heard. This gives me the ability to craft locations, NPCs, and story lines but it also serves a purpose when it comes to generating characters.

Why did you travel there?
Who did you leave behind?

In addition it leaves open the ability to start characters above the initial level as they had to journey there. Since the town is at the edge of the Empire things will get more dangerous the further out you go so improvements in battle skills and arcane ability wouldn’t be out of the question.

Finally, no campaign can really exist for me unless it has a cool title as well. I’m also fond of titles that hint at things to come, or not.

So here’s what I came up with for my pitch, I’ll be circulating it to my potential players in the days to come as well.

In the Shadows of Giants

The Osrin Empire has become tame and there is little adventure to be had within its borders now. The great adventurers of old sit around the fire telling tales to those that will listen and fill their flagons with ale.

But there are those that still yearn to travel into unknown territories, delve into the depths in search of riches, and slay those creatures that were only whispered about in the scary tales told to keep them in bed as children. For those, they travel to the edge of the empire, to Ashbourne. A bustling and growing town that sits in the shadow of the Burning Slopes, the Giant Mountains of Osrin and is the base for many of their journeys.

So, will you pay for another round of ale or will you take to the road and travel to Ashbourne to make your mark?

Would you play based on this? Why not share in the comments.

May your dice roll well.

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Person, place or thing? What do you use to get started?

Volcano

Often the hardest thing to do when you get started on a new project, whether it’s a new campaign, story arc, or even a session, is to find inspiration.

So my question to all of you is what do you use for inspiration? Whether you go to your favorite novels, movies, or music, I think it all comes back to one of three things – a person, place or thing.

Person

Personally I tend to gravitate towards this one when I’m working up a session idea, who do I want the party to interact with? There are lot of stereotypes and cliches you can use here but the more memorable ones are those that have a particular quirk that the party can always recall later.

One such person I used in the past was a character by the name of Pix (my group I’m sure will remember him all these years later). Pix was an NPC that only the party could see, at least initially. He had a particular pattern of speech which would mimic and poke fun at the party members. This started out as an annoying trait but the party came to realize that it was just his way of speaking and eventually learned to look past it in order to understand what he was saying – often times a warning as he was a rather “old soul.”

If you need examples think of Yoda and his speech pattern, or Merlin the the film Excalibur who always spoke in a type of riddle format.

The important thing here is to stay away from the stereotypes – think outside of the box.

Place

Who doesn’t like traveling to some far off place in search of adventure? Having an iconic place to make as your group’s destination is always a good way to get the juices following. Picking a location as a destination typically brings out the need for a new map (something that I find always helps get me going) or maybe a written up description that you can share with the group. If you’re artistic, maybe there’s a drawing you can do or create a short video showing the location with some mood music.

Some of those might seem a bit of a stretch (a video?). The point is to get your creative juices going, something that will get you to have a vested interest in the development of those plot lines, and let’s face it, a video or written description you can use to “advertise” your new campaign to your group is a great offshoot.

Thing

I think this category is probably the most used of the three. At the center of many quests is an object that someone holds in high regard and that it appears only a hero can obtain. The point is to create something that only the party can obtain or is hired to obtain. A rare artifact, or a spell component, are both often used in fantasy settings, but you could just as easily select a weapon such as Excalibur, or, if you read Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara.

You can also flip it this and make it about getting rid of something, such as the One Ring in the Lord of The Rings. Let’s face it, it was all about the ring, but not obtaining it, rather destroying it (also note that it’s also about a place, Mount Doom).

So, what do you use to get your creativity flowing? A person, place or thing? Why not share in the comments below?

May your dice roll well.

 

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Plot Hooks – be careful not to have too many

Hooks

 

I came across another interesting post at Reality Refracted talking about plot hooks and asking the question, “How many should you have?”

A.L. does a great job of making the argument that you should have as many plot hooks as you can handle as a GM:

If possible, the GM should have infinite plot hooks more or less ready to go at any moment.

On the surface I would agree with that statement, a GM should have at his fingertips an infinite supply of hooks so that he can keep his group interested and involved.

Beware the plot hook trap!

There is a dark side to this thought process and I myself fell into the trap of too many plot hooks. I mentioned in my posting, Realms of Rylon Postmortem – The Bad, I talk about the multitude of plot lines that contributed to the campaign going stagnant due to there being too many things for the group to tackle.

Where did all those plot lines come from? You guessed it, the stockpile of plot hooks I had accumulated during the campaign’s construction and play, I just love using player ideas when the offer them up.

It’s good to have the plot hooks available but be very careful when you go to tap that list. How many plot lines do you have open and do you want to drop another hook or two into the mix? You also need to make sure that what you have introduced is also getting resolved – that sense of accomplishment that all players need to feel.

So remember, have that tackle box full of hooks ready, but don’t toss them all at once into the water, they may just sink to the bottom and never again see the light of day.

May your dice roll well.

Plot Hooks – How Many Should You Have? via Reality Refracted

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Use a burn down list to keep from running out of ideas

SlyFlourish-tweet

 

When I came across the above tweet from SlyFlourish in my feed the other day I tagged it as something to follow-up on as it hit a nerve with me.

In one of my many roles at my day job I manage projects and tweet speaks to a tool used in Agile Project Management – the burn down list (or chart) and it definitely has it’s place at the gaming table.

For those that aren’t familiar with the tool, the burn down list, in a nut shell, is a listing of everything and the kitchen sink you’re hoping to accomplish when creating a new product. It forms the basis of scheduling what is done in what order, the goal is always have a usable product at the end of any given development cycle (typically called a sprint and lasting 2-4 weeks). Depending on the project (and management) that list can change frequently, both in what is included on it and the priorities.

I’m sure you can see where this would be useful as a GM running a campaign.

Think of the campaign as your product and any given session as a cycle or sprint.

Create your burn down list

Go ahead, list out everything you’d like to accomplish in your campaign. Don’t limit yourself to just the next session, what would you like to have included? Be sure to add in everything, locations, NPC types, rewards, anything you can think of.

Don’t organize it, just get everything out of your head.

Share it with your players

Take some time out of your next session to show the list to your players. As you go over the list be sure to share your thoughts about why some of those items are on the list. It’s okay to not share those things you want to keep as a surprise for your players but give them a sense of where you are going with this – and explain that it’s to help you remember to insert these things over time.

Get your players’ input

This is always the tricky part, ask your players for input. Some of your group may give you a mountain of items and others will sit there quietly and not share anything, try and get everyone to add something to list. This will give them a sense of ownership with the campaign as well, they have a vested interest, after all, they had a say in some of what’s going to happen.

Set some priorities

Not everything can happen at once so take your list and prioritize it. You don’t have to go through and put a priority number on everything, in fact I wouldn’t, just lump them together in a high, medium, low, type system (you can use more levels if you want). Be sure to have your players give you an idea of what they feel are some high and medium type priorities, again to help establish that they are contributing to the campaign.

Add them to a session

I know there’s a tendency when you have a list to just start at the top and check them off as you work your way down, but I would recommend against that. You have this list (possibly massive), take your time, think through the campaign plot (you have one of those right?) and what will work, short, medium and long term, and then add a few to your current session.

You may find that items lower on your list make it into your session list, that’s okay, in fact you should mix things up. You don’t want to run out of high priority items in session five and then wonder what you’re going to do going forward to keep everyone’s attention.

Review and update

The last thing I would add is that it’s important to review the list and update it. After a few sessions things that seems like a high priority may no longer be relevant to what the part is doing and some item way down on page 42 is now the focus – it’s okay to revise the list, go ahead and do it.

Be sure to include your players too. Every few sessions ask them what they would like to see more of, added, or just plain dropped – keep them involved with the overall campaign picture.

Have you every created a list and used it to drive your campaign and sessions? If so, why not share a bit of what you’ve learned in the comments.

May your dice roll well.

 

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