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Eleven
2013-02-05, 02:49 AM
I've got a question for you all -

I'm DMing for the first time in a little while; and asked around. Turns out that the group is hoping for a long game: we're all in a similar life-situation and it seems like it might be interesting to see a really in-depth use of the same characters.

I've been thinking about what best constitutes a solid arc for a really long campaign. To what extent do you all think about that sort of thing? What types of adventures would you use when? What order of things leads to the most intricate character development?

What are your experiences with this sort of thing?

ArcturusV
2013-02-05, 03:09 AM
Well, as far as long term plot arcs? I usually just get a vague idea of the themes I want, if necessary plug in a Big Bad Evil Guy, or the equivalent. I don't put too much thought into it beyond that. That way you can remain flexible and don't get locked into the pattern of "Well my chart says THIS has to happen next".

So take my 4th Edition game I'm running. I know that it's going to be based around the attempt to set up the "Human Empire"... which at the start of the game is little more than an armed camp out in the wilderness. So I know the themes I'm going to touch on involves Exploration and Pacification of the Wilderness. They're out in the boonies and NO ONE knows what is out there, so things should seem alien and weird. Nothing should come off as "it's just a...", but each threat should seem unique and strange. I'm also playing up a mystery angle, and and political intrigue angles as why things aren't working out for the makeshift "human empire" and have in fact NEVER worked out for humans attempting to make their own empire.

Which gives me a vague idea of a few different bad guys, and what tiers they would likely fall into. Dealing with the "Strange Wilderness" stuff in Heroic Tier, the Political Stuff in Paragon Tier, and the Historical Mystery stuff in Epic Tier... though sprinkling events and themes throughout all the tiers so they blend together and the change isn't so abrupt.

mjlush
2013-02-05, 07:49 AM
I've got a question for you all -

I'm DMing for the first time in a little while; and asked around. Turns out that the group is hoping for a long game: we're all in a similar life-situation and it seems like it might be interesting to see a really in-depth use of the same characters.

I've been thinking about what best constitutes a solid arc for a really long campaign. To what extent do you all think about that sort of thing? What types of adventures would you use when? What order of things leads to the most intricate character development?

What are your experiences with this sort of thing?

If your going to do a really big story arc (and I assume a number of smaller ones). The most important thing you can do is establish a campaign diary preferably as a campaign wiki.

I find that writing up the session in the form of a bullet point list is a good way to go, as you can concentrate on getting the important points of the session down without having to bother with writing it "as a story". its also useful to have a all seeing NPC write the document as they can editorialise and expand on unclear points. Its also really nice if the players can come in and comment on the diary in character (the blue indicates links to other pages).

so you may end up with something like

Our Heros arrived at the City of Cosmopolis late in the evening and had more than a little difficulty in bribing the watchmen to allow them in. (A little difficulty??? I didn't know that the phrase 'a contribution to the Watch Beneficent fund' meant something totally different in Cosmopolis!?!?! Sir Tristrian .. I think it was they way you winked Ed)
Once they had found lodgings in the Old Pea and Boilermaker the party immediately split up in search of any hint of Lord Gargamar passing.
Ragnar the Green got lucky in the temple archives finding that Pharamond and been purchased all the swamp land North of Koormar...


Writing the diary has two enormous benefits 1) it gives the campaign a memory, two year in and I'll bet noone will be able to remember any details from the first session. This means you can be cleaver and put in all the foreshadowing you want and it will get remembered. 2) it give the GM a chance to review the session add in any details that got missed and perhaps write or update the page on Koormar etc if your careful you can also get away with a little bit of reconnecting on the session esp if the establish Ed as an unreliable narrator

The other important thing to remember is Google Image search is great source of illustrations for your wiki.

Lord Il Palazzo
2013-02-05, 01:50 PM
I've been thinking about what best constitutes a solid arc for a really long campaign. To what extent do you all think about that sort of thing? What types of adventures would you use when? What order of things leads to the most intricate character development?

What are your experiences with this sort of thing?The only game I've ever run has been going for nearly a year and a half. I like the way I did it (more or less by coincidence) for getting character development going. Early on, adventures weren't especially personal to the player characters; they would get sent to fight some bandits or explore some ruins or something like that. This gave players a chance to figure out who their characters were and how they would act in different situations. Once that was mostly established, I started bringing in elements that were more personal to the characters. Maybe the one who's looking for his long-lost family finally finds a solid lead or the one who is the apprentice to a powerful master starts finding out more about her master's history and motives. This lets you (as a group) see the characters both in a a neutral setting and in "now it's personal" mode. As things go on, more and more of the characters' backstories are becoming involved in the overarching story and it's becoming clear that these characters have a reason to be facing down this threat. It's not something any four guys you hire in a tavern would be suited for; it's personal.

It's like how a lot of TV shows are structured. Early episodes will have stand-alone plots and be there for introducing new characters to the cast or establishing the characters who are already there. Once the audience has a good feel for everything, the show launches into plot arcs that will be the focus of the show for the foreseeable future. In the same way, use your early adventures to let your players decide who their characters are and to introduce important NPCs for later. Once everything's set up, you can start making it clear that something bigger is going on. (It's okay to sprinkly clues into the early adventures, just don't make them big enough that they'll send your players looking for that "something bigger" before you're ready. A few little unexplained plot threads here and there should be fine.)

ArcturusV
2013-02-05, 04:23 PM
Oh yeah. Mjlush covered something I can't quite believe I forgot. The two things I usually do with any long term campaign:

1) Create a Primer. Before session one, before people start whipping out characters, I usually type up (or back int he day write up), a short 10-15 page primer on my setting, current events, etc, to give players an instant handle on what the world is like in broad strokes. Also to cover any rules I may or may not be using, like... no half-orcs because there are no orcs in this world to half with. Or I AM using Psionics but it is only open to Races X, Y, Z. I don't spill all the details of WHY something is the way it is. But there should be enough hard evidence in there that a player should roughly know things like "Okay, I'm a Knight-Page from Torrissia... so I behave in this way, I believe in that... cool."

2) Have a Chronicle. It's a great tradition I've had to have one player write up a Chronicle of each play session after it's done. If they want to. Otherwise I'll do it. But I prefer players to do it for several reasons. A) It avoids me giving away information they may not have picked up on or considered important. B) It lets you know exactly what your players DO think is important. C) If anyone misses a session you automatically have a Recap document to catch them up on current events. D) if you have a creative RPer that wants to write up the Chronicle "In Character" it can end up kinda funny.

Of course as a DM you can keep your own, separate, notes list in tandem with the Chronicle to make sure things that they DID skip over, but were important, are remembered.

Lord Il Palazzo
2013-02-05, 05:06 PM
Oh yeah. Mjlush covered something I can't quite believe I forgot. The two things I usually do with any long term campaign:

1) Create a Primer. Before session one, before people start whipping out characters, I usually type up (or back int he day write up), a short 10-15 page primer on my setting, current events, etc, to give players an instant handle on what the world is like in broad strokes. Also to cover any rules I may or may not be using, like... no half-orcs because there are no orcs in this world to half with. Or I AM using Psionics but it is only open to Races X, Y, Z. I don't spill all the details of WHY something is the way it is. But there should be enough hard evidence in there that a player should roughly know things like "Okay, I'm a Knight-Page from Torrissia... so I behave in this way, I believe in that... cool."I'd be careful with this. I haven't been DMing long, but I doubt a lot of my players would have read 10-15 pages of background before our game started. A page or two of bullet points might be fine and would get the big stuff across, but I wouldn't go much further.


2) Have a Chronicle. It's a great tradition I've had to have one player write up a Chronicle of each play session after it's done. If they want to. Otherwise I'll do it. But I prefer players to do it for several reasons. A) It avoids me giving away information they may not have picked up on or considered important. B) It lets you know exactly what your players DO think is important. C) If anyone misses a session you automatically have a Recap document to catch them up on current events. D) if you have a creative RPer that wants to write up the Chronicle "In Character" it can end up kinda funny. This is good advice and I wish I'd had it when my game started. There have been so many NPCs coming and going and so many decisions the party made that seemed insignificant at the time that I wish there was a written record.

mjlush
2013-02-05, 05:08 PM
Oh yeah. Mjlush covered something I can't quite believe I forgot. The two things I usually do with any long term campaign:

1) Create a Primer. Before session one, before people start whipping out characters, I usually type up (or back int he day write up), a short 10-15 page primer on my setting,

I was just about to act all outraged "10-15 pages???" I was going to say "You expect your players to read all the??? Just think about all the work needed to put that together".... then I realized that the last game I started I'd got (short) pages for about 40 NPC and others about the setting

OTOH 10-15 pages is quite a lot to write on spec that a game will last long enough to make big Campaign Arcs



2) Have a Chronicle. It's a great tradition I've had to have one player write up a Chronicle of each play session after it's done. If they want to. Otherwise I'll do it. But I prefer players to do it for several reasons. A) It avoids me giving away information they may not have picked up on or considered important. B) It lets you know exactly what your players DO think is important. C) If anyone misses a session you automatically have a Recap document to catch them up on current events. D) if you have a creative RPer that wants to write up the Chronicle "In Character" it can end up kinda funny.


I wholeheartedly agree with all of the above.. Though personally I prefer to write a seed Chronicle, then encourage the players to expand on it up to and including apocrypha about their off screen exploits (I would then audit them and as long as it doesn't conflict with anything it becomes cannon and a source of keen ideas :->



Of course as a DM you can keep your own, separate, notes list in tandem with the Chronicle to make sure things that they DID skip over, but were important, are remembered.

I don't have a problem giving away information because I'm in the habit of including all sorts spurious nonsense at least 30 of the NPC were probably going to be in no way important... I'd much rather be able to say "Look I told you its right here" than Well it didn't make it into the Chronicle but...

ArcturusV
2013-02-05, 06:01 PM
Honestly I don't expect them to read it all. I expect them to roughly skim it, and maybe just read the section that interests them. :smallwink:

Just like anyone in our world probably knows roughly that some place/idea exists but may not know more about, I dunno, Uzbekistan more than "It exists... and it's over there... somewhere." But if they really want to look something up I can also say, "Page 3 on your primer, halfway down." And it feels more like the world was built up instead of just ruling on a whim.

nedz
2013-02-05, 06:29 PM
I used to write a chronicle, then we acquired a player who likes to do this anyway. So now I let him do it and he gives us a recap at the start of each session. The one drawback is that it's from his characters point of view, so some things get missed. It is also handy when the players need to know what happened five years ago.

Matticussama
2013-02-06, 12:22 AM
I definitely agree that the best way to set up a long-term campaign is to see what the characters personal interests are. You can start off with a series of relatively easy short story arcs ("orc tribes to the north are raiding caravans!", "pirates are attacking shipping lines", "the mayor of [small village] was assassinated and we need to find the culprit!") and see what they're most interested in. Give them 3 or 4 adventure path options towards the beginning and see which ones they follow. As their characters develop during these early missions, you can offer more complex missions to suit their interests.

If they keep going after the "lets stop the [group of bad guys] from attacking the [important place]" then perhaps they draw the attention of the royal army. They wish to recruit them as an elite team of special forces, which can then draw them into all sorts of fun and unique battles on behalf of a nation. Or if they go for the "save [mayor/priest/guild mage] from [anti-government force]" get more involved in the politics of the realm. They've made several political allies by saving lives, but also enemies of the people scheming to take them out. Or maybe they want to form their own feifdom and have to work to clear out a castle, keep the lands patrolled, etc.

mjlush
2013-02-06, 02:54 AM
I used to write a chronicle, then we acquired a player who likes to do this anyway. So now I let him do it and he gives us a recap at the start of each session. The one drawback is that it's from his characters point of view, so some things get missed. It is also handy when the players need to know what happened five years ago.

Are the omissions because he forgot things or his character did not see them? If its the latter perhaps you could give him a small cast of NPC henchmen/watchers who could fill in the gaps.

nedz
2013-02-06, 07:58 AM
Are the omissions because he forgot things or his character did not see them? If its the latter perhaps you could give him a small cast of NPC henchmen/watchers who could fill in the gaps.

They're mainly things other characters did without him. Short of him setting up a spy network focussed on the rest of the party this isn't going to change.