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November 9, 2005, 11:17 pm

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Cheka Man

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Starting a Campaign the MoonHunter way.

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Starting a Campaign the MoonHunter way, what more is there to say?

This piece assumes that you have a game troupe that will be gaming with.

1) Start with the tease: You need to know if the players will like what you want to play.  I solve this by creating a number of campaign trailers. For every campaign I want to run, I create a “title” and some “copy”. The title is akin to a book or movie title. The copy is like a book blurb or advertising text for a movie, describing a bit about the campaign background and story it will (try to) tell. As a campaign is starting to wind down (before it ends or it will go on hiatus), I start presenting my troupe with these “trailers”. I can then judge their interest in various types of campaigns and build interest in the possible games. After a while, I tailor the trailers to match their responses (planning appropriate changes in the campaign). By the time the campaign stops, the players are excited about the new campaign, just as if they were excited about a new movie.

2) Poll your players I:  While I am presenting various campaign trailers to my troupe, I start to work on the actual campaign we will run.  I ask each player for one to five “bits” they want to see in the campaign.  Each bit is a campaign element, character types, major NPCs (or type of NPC), types of story lines they want to see, the kind of settings, type of adventures they want to see, types of opposition, important elements (magic, tech, skills), genre and subgenre.  From these elements, I can usually tell which campaign trailer they are most interested in.  Sometimes, I will create new movie trailers based on their answers. 

3) With a ruler and some tape: Armed with the various campaign bits the troupe wants to see, I start a vague outline for the campaign setting. I will work out outlines for each campaign trailer the troupe is genuinely interested in, modified for their responses. 

4) Buy the Tickets.  They have seen the updated trailers, the troupe begins to decide which campaign they want to play.  In theory they should choose just one. It has been my experience they will waffle between two until the very last moment.  Once the campaign has been choosen (or for each campaign they might want), I ask them for the 1-5 campaign bits based on that setting.

5) With a ruler and some tape II: I begin to build the game environment in earnest.  For this I use a top down, bottom up method.  That is, start with some conceptional ideas, and brainstorm every important part- noting the best parts.  After deciding on the pieces to keep, I build the world up from the details selected.

I will also begin to work on the main storylines for the campaign. 

6) World Pack: After creating the world, I create the basic world pack for the campaign setting.  This will include the overview of the world, some details, and any special rules that we will be using for this game.

7) Casting: We have Casting Parties.  In these group sessions, we work out all our characters together.  Players help players with game mechanics and conceptions.  The characters are woven together in terms of their mutual histories, so the group has a real reason to be together.  As the GM I provide direction and information to the group.  This casting party allows the players to create what will become a team with mutually supporting roles in the group, weave their backgrounds and story lines together, and get a good feel for the group.

8) Poll the characters II: In addition to any notes I make during the casting party, I ask each player for 1-5 things they want to see in the game, with an emphasis on their characters.  This time they will give me actual roles they want to see in the game (love interest, evil wizard to be their enemy, etc), storylines they want, types of scenarios they are now intersted in, opponents or types of opponents, and so on. 

9) Polish the work.  The final elements of the world are created to support the characters and their conceptions.  Plot lines are mapped out. Villains are created. All the final polishing of the game is done.

10) Start the game.



Additional Ideas (5)

Okay, we are heading back to #9 and 7

When each player is created, I make sure there are 3 plotlines attached to the character. One is something the player wants to do. One is kind of neutral and links the character to the main plotline. One I make up and will be a suprise to the player. These plotlines are part of the notes you are going to make in section 7 are going to be used in step 8 and 9.

Important Villians and senior minion might have 1-3 plotlines attached to them. (Villians have dreams and goals too...) Every location might have a couple of plotlines that are based in its location set up (part 9). Additional plotlines you can plug and play into your campaign can be created from the things found in step 8.

Now each character, the villian, the main plotline, and perhaps a location, will have 1-3 plotlines going at a time. Each plotline is broken down into key scenes (things that have to happen for the plotline to go on). These key scenes can be connected by one (and sometimes more) transitions scenes. You can plan these key scenes and some transisitons out ahead of time. (See the flow chart potential?)

Find the links and ways to connect these various key scenes of others. (Oh look, Johnny needs to meet his brother who is a sailor to discover this... well that key scene is a great transition for these other players who will need a boat to get there). See the advantage of flowcharting now?

On a given night, everyone has to have something interesting to do. I look at all the open plotlines.. finding what is available (including ones for locations and the main storyline). Each key scene will of course have entry requirements that must be met (location, other events, so on), so that help unlock what is possible or where I might need to steer things (we need to be in Avalon for these three plotlines to go forward.. how do we get them there....) I choose either a key plot point (ideally) or a transition one that will feature a character.


I have the important scenes selected for the game. I come up with a couple of routes (possile transition scenes) on how to get to them. I figure out where I am going to need to put cut scenes (to split the action). I go into the game with a rough plan on how to oder the scenes and how to get between them. These things seldom survive impact with the players, but they come pretty close most nights.

It should be noted that I do most of my prep work for given night long before the game starts. Usually I take upto 15 minutes to plan an evenings adventures. Sometimes it comes down to 30 seconds and my existing notes.

Yes this is a bit of a balancing act, but by making sure the players are tied to the plots, the plots interest them, and everyone gets some spotlight time (if humanly possible), you get a great game.
0xp

2010-07-05 03:46 PM » Link: [1461#74151|text]

If you want to tie this into world building Okay, now that you have all these people, places, and events, (plot lines and scenes) find out what you need for all these plotlines. Start making maps, places, events, and things to tie them all together. This process helps you make everything you need.


Now some people say, but what about cosmology or history or that space over there. The question I have is "Will these things ever come up in the game?" If they are in the list above, then yes.. work on them. However, how many times have you needed to know who was the ruler of a given country two centuries ago in the course of an adventure? Probably never. However, if that was going to be needed the GM would of figured them out ahead of time.


<b>Just do the work that is required. Then if you have time, add other stuff that might be needed or that interests you.</b>

0xp

2013-05-20 09:09 PM » Link: [1461#87128|text]
Why I build worlds with rulers and some tape.

1) First, it is funny, All that construction with just a ruler and some tape.

2) Things in the world have to be connected (tape) and both fit together and measure up to each other (ruler)

I use the metaphor a great deal, but never explain it... so here you are.
0xp

2013-05-20 09:12 PM » Link: [1461#87129|text]
The one idea that is most useful is "lend your players movies, books, and comic books, that fit your future campaign."

Most GMs have the source material that inspired the setting, especially settings they like (and would prefer to play). GMs might as well share. If you get the players in the mood for that kind of story, then it is easier to get them to buy that ticket, rather than the other options.

"Oh I just watched a great John Woo movie.. Sure, we can play Martial Arts Monks."
0xp

2013-08-15 02:45 PM » Link: [1461#88665|text]
This is related to
5) With a ruler and some tape II: I begin to build the game environment in earnest. For this I use a top down, bottom up method. That is, start with some conceptional ideas, and brainstorm every important part- noting the best parts. After deciding on the pieces to keep, I build the world up from the details selected.

You can create a more cooperative world building experience. Players can make more and more elements of the game. Players working cooperatively with the bits. This helps them do some of the blending of elements. With the GM keeping people on the same page, allows everyone to contribute useful bits that can be used in the setting.

Players can easily take the next step. They can work with the GM to build up the Bits. Bits needs to be expanded, giving them faces (NPCs), places (locations), and things (items). Beyond just adding ideas, they can even add mechanics as appropriate. Most players are fairly good at generating mechanics, despite their claims to the contrary. They know what they want to have and know what they don't want to face in the campaign.
0xp

2014-07-13 06:34 PM » Link: [1461#91765|text]
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Comments ( 13 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Strolen
November 9, 2005, 23:17
0xp
Moonhunter has been nominated official game's master for the Citadel game convention that will be held at an undisclosed location at an undiscloses time.
MoonHunter
November 9, 2005, 23:20
0xp
Now, I have been around... mostly tinkering/ editing existing posts and adding websites. And if Strolen will put us up, I will fly to Japan for the convention. A wild weekend locked in a small room with all of you (or is that all of you trapped with me?) sounds like fun... in the normal maschistic gaming way.
Voted manfred
November 9, 2005, 23:19
0xp
Gives me a lot of to think about...



Quote from: "MoonHunter"

4) Buy the Tickets. They have seen the updated trailers, the troupe begins to decide which campaign they want to play. In theory they should choose just one. It has been my experience they will waffle between two until the very last moment.


Hmmm... sounds probable. Of course, the precious time is best spent on the chosen campaign. But, it would not hurt to _slightly_ develop even the second campaign, for several reasons. The players seemed to have a liking for it, so...

- you can always take an adventure from it for something different
- in emergency cases, the group could switch campaigns
- create NPC heroes for the campaigns, it makes the world bigger, gives more rumours, not everything is about the PC's, etc
- should the campaign 1 come to a surprising end, and you have no idea what to do, campaign 2 is at hand...

And at last but not least, if another group is playing in the same world, it may be an option for them, or simply a 3rd campaign that can influence both. It could get weird, if two parties want the same sword to save the world from a different threat, and downright crazy, when a 3rd party arrives for the same purpose...
MoonHunter
November 9, 2005, 23:20
0xp
I have dozens to unfished campaign settings, only 5-20 pages invested in them. Of course, most people's preliminary work on a campaign might be 3 pages, so your millage may very.

They are good to have around for the reasons Manfred stated. They are nice to have as backups should something occur and kill off the campaign. In addition, you can use the same material again (submitting it as a trailer and be ahead of the game, next time around). When I was gaming regularly with two different groups, we would change campaigns once every 2 months to a year (the majority of them coming to a planned end), so having the material around was handy.

Besides, the more work you do on creating and maintaining a campaign, the better you get at it. Campaigns that don't launch are great ways to practice creating worlds and trying things out, without subjecting players to it; so when it comes to it, you will be able to create the setting and campaign, quickly and easily.
Erebus
November 9, 2005, 23:21
0xp
Interesting and inspiring article MoonHunter. I particularly like the idea of the 'trailer' approach.

One thing that works well for me when starting a new campaign is to invest an hour in role-playing with each PC one on one. Naturally this is not done on the night the main game begins - but at convenient times between game design and game commencement.

The gives them a chance to really get in to character before the group game begins - and allows me to introduce hooks and background specially relative to that PC.
Voted KendraHeart
November 11, 2005, 23:29
0xp
I have found my new path to gaming Nirvana. It makes me want to run a game again.
MoonHunter
January 28, 2006, 16:21
0xp
Someone on another board was talking about how to deal with problems in the game early rather than later. I pointed him back to this article with this addition.

Most problems are resolved by taking them on early. In fact, most problems can be resolved before the campaign even begins.

Insert article....

The point of this process is that there is always something there to engage the PCs AND the players. They gave input to the setting, the campaign, and the character group. It is not all player driven. By the time this is over, the players know what kind of adentures to expect and how they want to interact witht he world. Together, the troupe has put together a campaign they can all deal with. Thus the only thing that can go wrong with a campaign is something totally unforseen or personality/ social issues within the group. Even those problems can be "cut off" by talking with everyone early and often about the game and the game group. If you are proactive, you can make your life easier in the end.

Note: When you start running low on bits to put in the game, poll the players for what they want to see, recurring NPC, new stuff, what ever.
MoonHunter
April 26, 2006, 15:45
0xp
This pull of randoms came up with two of my favorite articles. This is another piece that works well.

It pulls together the concept that players and GMs should work together for everyone's own benefit.
MoonHunter
October 15, 2008, 17:06
0xp
4375 Note to self
Voted Cheka Man
October 15, 2008, 17:34
0xp
Very good (not that I GM much.)
MoonHunter
January 12, 2013, 17:24
0xp
Some one (a grognard) on another site was complaining that all these "new ways" to put together campaigns were just a fad. "These story process things won't last, none of these will work for very long."

So I posted up the following response (as I had posted this article and the link up earlier in the thread he was crapping in.

"I have been doing this for over 30 years and done over 20 campaigns with this specific process. "

His response (a couple of posts down was, "Oh."
MoonHunter
April 9, 2013, 18:20
0xp
I can't add this in to the Ideas as I get errors...

If you want to tie this into world building

Okay, now that you have all these people, places, and events, (plot lines and scenes) find out what you need for all these plotlines. Start making maps, places, events, and things to tie them all together. This process helps you make everything you need.

Now some people say, but what about cosmology or history or that space over there. The question I have is "Will these things ever come up in the game?" If they are in the list above, then yes.. work on them. However, how many times have you needed to know who was the ruler of a given country two centuries ago in the course of an adventure? Probably never. However, if that was going to be needed the GM would of figured them out ahead of time.

Just do the work that is required. Then if you have time, add other stuff that might be needed or that interests you.
Voted axlerowes
April 9, 2013, 19:02
0xp
Thanks for bringing this back to our attention


Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

The Poet's Last Words

       By: Wulfhere

Jemas Lorne, the most celebrated poet of the age, was found dead, clutching a fragment of verse torn from his journal. The tantalizing fragment spoke of wealth:
Golden sands, empty and cold,
Treasure's crypt, forgotten gold.
Under stone, ancestor's doom,
Noble's prize, troubadour's tomb.
Rumours claim that the poet's father, an eccentric nobleman, had hidden much of his wealth before his death. Perhaps the missing journal has more clues?

Ideas  ( Plots ) | April 25, 2007 | View | UpVote 1xp


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