Building a campaign can be tough and sometimes we forget and leave some of the important things out, so I’m going to take you into my world as we start from the bottom, and build up. As some of us know, a campaign is NOT an adventure but does not have to be a full world. Faeruen, for example, is a campaign setting; A vast area with varying rules to allow for adventures and games to take place. It’s basically a series of adventures that lead up to one (or two?) plot lines.
Now, I was scanning through the Fourth Edition DMG 2 and the very first thing it talks about is “Group Storytelling”. It gave me so many ideas to talk about today! I’ve decided to list a few of these things off and put in my two cents as well.
Story Structure, Fantasy stories are often based on or inspired by myth, cultures, or other traditional structures. You don’t have to come up with it out of thin air for it to be good! In fact, DnD Creatures were built on various myths and stories all brought into one RPG, drawing inspiration is not a lack of creativity — it’s only when you choose to copy a story one hundred percent that you have issues.
But back on track, a typical story structure is built on four basic parts. Now don’t be fooled, the fact that there are only four parts does not mean that the story has to be simple or lack any complexity, it just simplifies the story telling process for you.
The Introduction, the dawn of time. Where people get to know each other, heroes are molded, the seed of villainy is planted, and your basic story is laid out in full. Think of this as a Military tactical debriefing; These are the good guys, these are the bad guys, this is the plan of action, and this is what we need from you. As we know, plans change, people make decisions, and some people even lie! Perhaps even the person who debriefed you. Once you’ve established the introduction, that it is not set in stone. It’s your world — AND it’s your players who inhabit it. Anything can happen!
“Rising Action” The way they describe it is perfect. It’s a series of events that make the characters situation more complex and adds that extra urgency. Consequences get worse, stakes are doubled, and tensions builds or is released to build again to a higher point…and that point brings us to the Climax.
The Climax “…a pivotal moment of maximum tension…” the Climax is your grand finally as you plunge your characters into a resounding resolution; be that for better or for worse! When creating the climax it is absolutely essential to keep your characters at a heightened emotion. Keep them guessing or at least keep them interested. Using emotional attachment to character ideals or other things is a great way to do this.
Denouement is the wrap up, where your players get a glimpse into the end result of their actions and the consequences of their decisions. This can be good or bad and is a look into the progression of their adventure.
Next, you should decide the setting for your campaign or create your own, there are many supplements that can be used to eliminate your responsibility of creating one, or perhaps, one is predetermined in your mind. Setting is important as it sets the mood, imagine if Lord of the Rings was filmed on a beach in California. It’s not quite the right feel, is it? Settings often change through travel and other circumstances, so again, this is not set in stone. Remember to change accordingly and not be too sporadic without explanation It makes it feel more real if there is a cause to the effect.
Also, take into account your players as they are the most important part of the game. Take time to learn what their character’s ideals, morals, alignment, and motivations are. Find a way to get your players emotional attached to both the story and their characters. If a character wishes only for battle, then asking them to tend horses during war is not exactly ideal. When players feel their characters progressing, they have more a reason to get avidly into the game and connected with their character and surroundings.
Emotional connection is hard to create sometimes, but is a big thing that will help make even the simplest campaign or adventure seem epic no matter the gravity of the events. Not every campaign has to save the world, especially at first level. Campaigns can be character progression, discovery, and can also help create and expand your world. Rather than give them a long history you created, let them have a hand in creating your world with you. This gives them more of a connection with your world, and when they see things later on with their characters or with new characters they can get excited because, as players, they have seen or heard certain things before. There is nothing more exciting than discovering history or legends built off of old characters or even current ones.
To build a campaign, you need to have a well thought out story line, or at least be good off the cuff. A basic idea is always something good to have otherwise you might end up straying from it. Everything gets bunched together or scrambled and the story seems incomplete or all over the place.
I had a character I adored at one point. The DM had made a connection between my character and I. I had an emotionally attachment, but then he couldn’t stick to one story line. He jumped around and in turn, it screwed the character up. I played it in character, and she ended up being torn from her objectives so much she went crazy and ended up, essentially, putting herself in harms way and eliminated herself. The things that happened led her to believe she’d be fine, but wasn’t. So you need to take in mind what you are putting the characters through. Imagine if they were real people. How would they react to those situations? Good players will be able to play their characters similarly to if they were actual beings, or part of themselves. Keep in mind the style of play of your players, and it will help for a much better game.
Keep in mind it’s your game and your world. Also, for those of you with the DMing tools I’m thinking about adding some excerpts of my campaigns, creatures, and more. If you are interested, considering either getting the DMing tools or checking it out if you already have them.
Happy gaming folks!