View Full Version : Are your players world saviours or world travelers?

2009-09-10, 10:46 AM
There are two big subtypes of campaign.

One is where your party is literally the most important thing in the land. Their mission is to stop the BBEG and save the entire kingdom, world, or multiple worlds) from conquest or annihilation. They're the Neo of your setting. They're not necessarily the most powerful person around (take Frodo for instance) but what they're doing is of universal importance.

The other type is where your characters live in a fantasy world, but the world itself isn't dependent on their actions. They might be doing things for profit, or for good or evil, but if they died the world would continue more or less unchanged. Most fiction falls into this second category.

Which type of campaign do you prefer running?

2009-09-10, 10:55 AM
I've done both. Both can be lots of fun.

I think the save-the-world campaign model is a lot harder to pull off. You have to answer a lot of awkward questions like "Why does the fate of the world depend on a bunch of 1st-level nobodies?" and "If they're the most important people in the world, shouldn't everyone be giving them phat lewts so they can kill the BBEG?" and "What are all the higher-level people doing?"

There's also the issue of pressure. What if one of the characters wants to do something other than save the world? It can feel very railroady after a while as you're hustled along from one plot event to the other. If you want a really funny depiction of how this can go wrong, read the "DM of the Rings" webcomic. :)

On the other hand, the rewards if you do it well are awesome. You get to feel epic and really accomplish something.

The sandbox-travel style of game is a lot more forgiving in my experience, because you can take your time and write things out if you make a mistake. Also, the players have a lot more freedom. The downside is that if the players don't have very well-thought-out characters, they may just sit around waiting for something to happen. Sandbox games tend to work better with more experienced players who will come up with things to do on their own initiative.

But both can work.

2009-09-10, 11:16 AM
Option C) Looters, then builders, then conquerors.

They start out as nobodies who want to get rich. When they achieve this goal they have to ask themselves "What do we do with all this wealth and power?"

Player-led plotting: because I've already got enough to think about. :smallwink:

2009-09-10, 11:19 AM
I think the best is combination of the two, have the players in a sandbox where they find out about the world ending Curse of Doom and are the only ones who can do anything about it at the time. Hopefully, by the time they get around to asking those awkward questions they are high enough level to be the higher-levels and have nifty loot.

2009-09-10, 11:20 AM
I vastly prefer the latter option, where every step of my character doesn't have region-wide consequences. Of course, in D&D in necessitates plaing on lower levels.

2009-09-10, 11:24 AM
I can't take epic save the world quests seriously anymore. I've seen too many of them.

What I like in roleplaying is seeing each character make his mark on the world. This should happen in a unique way. I resent games that try to be robust enough to work with any set of characters, without alteration. Epic save the world quests all have the same result. You save the world, or you die trying. It doesn't matter who your character was going into the quest, he becomes the epic hero. In a game where the world keeps turning with or without you, your character's destiny is his own choice and no two characters will leave the same mark on the world.

2009-09-10, 11:31 AM
I vastly prefer the travel the world campaign over the save the world. I find it very rare that a DM is willing to do the kind of things nessicary for making me truely want tokill the BBEG, saving the world just to save it bores me.

2009-09-10, 11:38 AM
I prefer a mixture of the two. It's a mistake to think in terms of one or the other.

For example, in my current Tiatia campaign, the party must discover the identity, whereabouts, and even the very nature of the Dark Lord, or all of Tiatia will be plunged into darkness, and all the people will be enslaved as a growing army of sentient undead soldiers.

But... if that should come about (either due to the party failing, or simply giving up and bugging out before the cowpatties hit the fan), then the rest of the world continues on as before, with only a few nasty side-effects.

Just across the bay in Zantia, they would see the cloud of darkness fall upon Tiatia, and living bodies will wash ashore. (Truly a great scene, to have bodies wash up on the shoreline... then rise and walk into the countryside, confused... and hungry.)

There will be waves of panic, there will be political reactions, and the balance of power shall be jumbled around and nations scramble to react to this new threat. Then alliances will be formed, armies will be raised and navies will be constructed, and what once was Tiatia will be blockaded off from the rest of society, for the safety of all.

Then the party, and future parties, can continue on with their exploration of the rest of the world, or even go explore the "Dark Lands" that used to be Tiatia.

Net result - the campaign is run as a 'world saviors' campaign, but can be turned into a 'world travelers' campaign at the drop of a hat. Though for the record I still prefer if they save Tiatia. I got a lot of good NPC's there I'd like to keep alive.

2009-09-10, 12:01 PM
MY players should be travelers. More to the point adventurers.

If they aren't they are going to be screwed. Sit around in one place, and the game ends, or something will happen that they mis and having to rewrite the game, means it ends.

If they boast of being big bad world savior...well like any other blowhard there is always someone bigger and badder that may take offense and prove to them they are wrong. S(H)e might even visit their funeral.


Lycan 01
2009-09-10, 01:00 PM
Option B, and then slowly over time reveal that its really option A. :smallbiggrin:

2009-09-10, 02:25 PM
I much prefer the latter, as a player and a DM. It's generally more realistic, particularly in a pre-made setting. The players might get powerful and be regionally known, but the fate of the world does not rest on their shoulders. That trope has always irked me slightly in video games, for all the reasons outlined by earlier posters: the Chosen One seems to get bogged down with a lot of unnecessary crap. The acknowledgment that without the PCs, things would be different, perhaps worse, but not apocalyptic, is a good way to go about things.

2009-09-10, 02:36 PM
Much like Lycan, my campaigns tend to evolve toward option A as the players get higher in level - which only makes sense, considering the power of high-level play.

For example, in a 3-year D&D campaign I ran several years back, the PCs started out as regular, 1st-level characters, with 1st level concerns (goblins+village, lost kid in a cave, etc) and grew from there. About 6th level they started adventuring around more than the immediate area, dealing with larger threats (pack of wererats messing with a city, etc). About level 9, they went into a long-abandoned dead city populated with undead and found a statue that was identical to one of the PCs. By 12th level, they were journeying on a continental scale and had realized/researched that the party bard was essentially a great elven heroine born anew to meet a prophecy about killing the great dragon that had wiped out the elven realm (etc, etc, etc) - which had been the city in which they found the statue. By 15th level, they were embroiled in a war where the diety-wrought gates that had closed this particular campaign world off from planar summoning/travel/influence had been broken open and Bad People - led, naturally, by the immortal Dracolich the bard was destined to fight - had summoned Devils and Demons into the campaign world, and it was up to the party to convince and unite a world to fight back against invaders that nobody even had a concept of at "game on". The last 5 levels were the story of the PCs saving the world, closing the planar gates, and destroying the Dracolich.

Was the campaign type A or type B? Both. The two aren't exclusive.

2009-09-10, 02:39 PM
I vastly prefer B. At a minimum, for a long period of time before A.

You shouldn't be saving the world at level 1. That's epic, or nearly epic level stuff.

2009-09-10, 02:59 PM
The only A-version campaign I've run that didn't suck started as a B-version. In fact it would have never gotten to A-status if it weren't for the players causing the big problem that they then had to fix.

2009-09-10, 03:03 PM
The only A-version campaign I've run that didn't suck started as a B-version. In fact it would have never gotten to A-status if it weren't for the players causing the big problem that they then had to fix.

I love these kinds of stories. It's so much more fun when the DM can use what the players give him instead of making it all up from scratch. :P

2009-09-10, 03:11 PM
I vastly prefer A to B. I would only consider B if it eventually led to A. My players tend to become passive if I just let them do whatever they want.

2009-09-10, 03:42 PM
The only A-version campaign I've run that didn't suck started as a B-version. In fact it would have never gotten to A-status if it weren't for the players causing the big problem that they then had to fix.

Thats exactly what my party is going through.

Letting one freaking tree burn pulled us from our individual goals and to dealing with a potential planar incursion