The Macro-Adventure: Part 2

Workshop 5

Adventures Within the Campaign
Campaign Play
Campaign play should go as follows: 1. Campaign introduction Get your characters together. It should be like the starting shows of a television series or the beginning of a movie. You need to present the “Campaign Characteristics.” Ideally, you will be able to play out the way the characters meet. They need to be tied in early to the campaign theme. Some will be made when you create the characters’ backgrounds and they are part of “History.” They will already be tied in. Some will be dragged in. Some will be swept in. They don’t know why they are dragged in at first. Let them discover it. Example: Princess Leia is part of being “part of history.” Luke and Hans are dragged in. New characters, such as Lando, will also be dragged in. Build the idea that things are changing. Let them know that there are things happening that they have no control over when they start. The player characters should know they have to choose between going with the flow, try to change it, or even try to stop it.

2. Setting Go through the areas they are going to frequent so they are established in the players’ minds. Get them involved by taking the characters there. Invest a lot of time and effort now in description. You’ll know a lot more than they will. You’ll have it later. You then give them a reason to get there. And return. Plant the seeds of adventures here — early. If you have a fireplace in the tavern and there’s something special about it later, they need to have it planted early — so they can have “clues” of what will happen to them. 3. Introduce characters Begin introducing your major characters. Your characters will then have access to people who know what is going on instead of you, as the Game Master, having to hand pieces of paper to them. Who wants to stop playing to “read” information? Bars, town squares, libraries, guilds, and even marketplaces are good places to meet major characters. Don’t go overboard on descriptions of major NPCs and skimpy on lesser NPCs. Your players will notice. Don’t give them big clues. Give lush enough description to give them flavor, but not so much that the players are hit over the head. Manipulate your player characters through your non-player characters by emotion. Let them think the actions taken are entirely their idea. If you try to push your player characters, they will always go the other way just because you are trying to force them to do something.

Game Master Workshop Series

Don’t bring in major allies / villains at this stage. Let them deal with each one’s lackeys — distant non-player characters make the player characters feel like they are not important enough to know the major allies and villains. The minor players work as links to the major boys. Later, they will meet the major allies and villains face-to-face. Now is not the time. It will ruin the campaign because . . . where do you go up from there? Let them slowly work their way up to the attention of the big boys through the lower channels. Let lesser non-player characters bring the player characters to the notice of the more important non-player characters and build experience before meeting the big boys. Build adventures around lesser non-player characters. If the player characters get an emotional tie to a non-player character, use him. Don’t discard him. Give them non-player characters early. The main goal at this point is to let the player characters create a niche for themselves. At first, give them different locations at different locals and describe the setting. Create people, places and things the characters will care about and want to defend. Give them reasons to care. 4. Major conflicts Major conflicts should loom on the horizon. Give them changes and ability to ask “why” these changes are occurring. Let their surroundings / life begin to be changed by the major conflicts around them. Early Campaign (4-5 months after starting game) After establishing characters, relationships and getting your players interested let the characters build — financial base and experience base. Get friends. Build a power base. ● Locate and obtain magic, spells, and allies. ● Build a sense that there is more to obtain than what they have. ● Side adventures / sub-themes. Get a feel for the players (or for the Game Master).

Middle Campaign (1 year or less) By this time, you have a mature group of player characters that are ready to face mature challenges. Characters tend to grow slower as they mature. Power level for characters isn’t as important as being integrated as part of the group (new non-player characters or player characters). You may need to focus on the new member for a while to bring him up in level that is somewhat equal to the established player characters. Make this person and experience the most important in a few adventures. Same as a new character as an old player. Build on what you’ve done before. Items you’ve developed before start having meaning here. Non-player characters seeking revenge should start here. Let the consequences of their past actions come back to haunt them. a. Start to have “crisis points.” This happens in conjunction with the major theme. Decisions must be made. Characters can no longer be unaffected by things happening around them. They have to take a stand. b. Players begin to see progress and minor victories against major villains. You need to move toward their personal goals. The players must feel their characters are changing / growing or they will lose emotional attachment with their player characters and then interest in their characters. c. Non-player characters start noticing the things the player characters have done. Rewards and recognition come into play. Have villains working through lackeys to retaliate. d. Let the details slide once the player characters have established a routine. These details are not as important. e. Give the player characters something to protect and declare theirs. Now, this causes more problems. They will work harder to protect it. f. Player characters need to create new goals that relate to the main theme. Also, these new goals should fit in the opportunities that have originated from the campaign that have nothing to do with theme. Also, goals will come from their experiences.

g. Game Master must handle a cycle of goals being achieved and made. The player characters must stretch and work toward their goals. Then, when accomplished, they make new ones. Older Campaign a. Characters only die heroically or because of severely bad judgment. b. Player characters are used to working together. c. Campaign flow has hit the rapids -- main theme. Player characters must be challenged by this conflict. Harder to accomplish and more consequences to actions. Levels change more slowly at these levels. d. They start obtaining major goals. Characters are established as part of their society. They are the center of attention. e. More focus on campaign history. The more “past” you have, the more “past” you have to deal with. Also have “upstarts” to deal with. f. Now, major decisions are made. Things bog down . . . they are getting tough.

2. Landscape Changes in landscape can result from volcanoes, raising islands, sinking existing land masses, fire, floods, etc. 3. Social structure You can raise / lower the player characters through their actions and the influences of things not under their control. 4. Biological Major fauna / flora changes. 5. Ecological Disasters If you kill all the dragons, what does that do to the world around you? 6. Time Move the player characters 200 years forward or backward. 7. Technology You can move up or down on this. 8. People Missing / Arriving This can be non-player characters or player characters. This might be one person, a series of people or even an entire town’s population being affected. 9. Make the Player Characters Outcasts This can be done in a variety of ways. Make them appear as villains / criminals. Perhaps even socially unacceptable. 10. Romance Again, this works best between a player character and a non-player character. If your player characters are willing to spark the romance between themselves, let them.

Changing Campaign Directions (Major)
1. Characters fortunes Changes in the characters’ fortunes is not always good for them. Fortunes include money, items, physical damage, etc. It may be a gain of fortune or a loss in fortune. If a gain, ask yourself who else might want it? If it is something that can be exchanged for money, the poor will want their share. The middle class will want you to act as if you have gained and are now part of the upper class. The upper class wants to take it from you and ostracize you. If a loss, you must have a justification for this. Work it into the game. For power gain / loss you can include magical items, technological items, attributes, physical abilities / disabilities, and political upheavals (such as an overthrow of the current government).

Kill the Campaign
You only want to kill the campaign only if you are sure the players agree. Is the campaign worth saving? Ask your players. Have you done everything you can to save it? You can always set is aside for a while and come back to it later. If you are going to take it out . . . do it with a BANG! 1. Tie up ALL plot lines. 2. Kill off ALL main villains. Deal with them completely and finally. 3. Give ALL characters glorious deaths! a. Make them feel they have not died in vain. b. Take them to “Valhalla.” Let them be on the right hand of their god(s)! Let them attend their own funerals. c. A great death is what they can talk about for years. 4. Lay waste to the whole world.

This paper is a written record of the “Game Master Workshop Series” presented by Guy McLimore and Greg K. Poehlein, creators of Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game. This workshop was held at GenCon in 1993. There are eight pieces to this series. This account was made by Laura Rajsic-Lanier ( She makes no claims to the material presented herein.

Game Master Workshop Series

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