View Full Version : On creating campaings

2013-06-30, 02:36 PM
Hello everyone.

Recently I thought about the process of creating a campaign, and I wondered: Are all of them basically the same? I mean, usually PCs try to use combat, stealth or persuasion. You can spice it up with a change of scene, moral choices and some riddles, but that's it?
I guess what I would like to know is:
1. Is that basically correct?
2. How do you spice up your campaign?

2013-06-30, 02:45 PM
The game can change quite dramatically if you are going with different styles.
However, the most important thing for that is not what the GM is providing for the players, but what everyone in the groups agrees on.
A GM can create the most impressive mystery and conspiracy adventure, but if the players simply try to fight everything, it won't go anywhere.

Everyone has to agree that you are playing a campaign of political conspiracies, a horror game about extremely dangerous monsters, building a small kingdom, and so on.

2013-06-30, 02:50 PM
A campaign is essentially a series of connected adventures.

A campaign setting is the backdrop for the player's activities which provides the narrative tension. This element of conflict in turn fuels the story. It's also helpful, though not necessary, to have a theme. Failing all of that, just copy your favorite books, videogames, and shows.

Now, it sounds like you're talking more about running a campaign for a group of players, rather than designing the world in which the game takes place. Is that correct?

2013-06-30, 03:42 PM
I very rarely write out a full fledged campaign any more. Thatís because most of the time I run sandbox games.

But if I was going to, this is the method I would go by doing it (i call it TheThan's 6 point guide to creating Campaigns):

1: create interesting villain(s), decide personality, abilities and goals.
2: create situation that causes villain to start working towards his goals. (this can be background fluff, but not necessarily.)

3: create situation that causes PCs to influence villainís plans, this can be positive or negative (depending on the perspective you choose to take).

4: villain takes steps to neutralize or recruit PCs, as necessary.

5: repeat steps 3 and 4 as necessary.

6: allow for pcs to thwart and/or have their final showdown with the villain.


1 villain wishes to worship dark god X on top of massive ziggurat.

2: Villain doesnít have a ziggurat so he decides to build one. So villain enlists the help of slavers to raise an army of slave labor to build his ziggurat.

3: Pcs bust up major slave ring, slowing down Villainís plans.

4: The lack of fresh slaves causes the villain to hire a squad of mercenaries to take pcs out which would allow him to reestablish slavery.

5: PCs have learned about the ziggurat and plan to assault it, destroying the unfinished construction. They assault it, free all the remaining slaves, and plant explosives.

6: PCs battle villain atop his unfinished ziggurat, they slay the villain and escapes from the ziggurat as it explodes around them action movie style.

the trick is to flesh things out and not make it seem as formulaic as it really is.

2013-06-30, 03:55 PM
Thanks for your answers :smallsmile:
However my question was more about challenging players in different ways rather than the campaign setting or style.
For example, I am currently DMing a V:tM campaign with an overarching topic and a style that every player can live with. And it has been really good so far, but I am concerned that the different "adventures"/chapters might become repetitive. What else can I do except combat, stealth, persuasion/politics, riddles and moral choices? And if there is nothing else I would appreciate some ideas on how to combine those elements.
I have been a DM for many years and my players have always enjoyed my campaigns, but... I don't know, maybe my doubts are just fuelled by tiredness. Still, I think my questions have a point.

2013-06-30, 03:57 PM
the trick is to flesh things out and not make it seem as formulaic as it really is.
Sorry for doublepost. But I think this is exactly what I wanted to talk about. Any ideas on how to flesh things out?

Totally Guy
2013-06-30, 04:03 PM
What about making the player make difficult decisions. Ethical ones, how far they will go to get what they want, what explicitly they would risk for their goals.

2013-06-30, 04:29 PM
I think that the key to making a long term game successful is to set it up in a way which will allow it to evolve and constantly reinvent itself as it goes on. If you consider a campaign to be a series of connected adventures then each of those adventures should cover new ground, while still being in keeping with the theme of what came before.
A campaign which start out with the characters doing one thing, and tehn keeps them doing that ad infinitum is not going to last as long as one which presents a range of scenarios.

I ran a campaign which lasted for a fair while, but essentially started with the PC's fighting lizardmen in a random encounter, developed into a larger conflict, and ended with them defending a city against the lizardman army. It was an ok campaign, but at any given time they were usually fighting lizardmen. To the point that one of the best bits was the random encounter with the undead pirates in the middle.

So in designing my next campaign I deliberately created a range of different stories that would interweave throughout the course of the campaign.

They started off at low levels trying to get to a city, coming across some strange events, which when they investigated got them in over their heads and facing a few really tough fights. Fights against dopplegangers disguised as themselves. In the present its a fairly tought fight for characters of their level, in the long term dopplegangers are one of those races that can carry a campaign, because once you've encountered them once you will be aware that anyone could be an imposter. It casts a shadow over everything that follows because they never know whether a subplot will be unconnected, or whether a doppleganger will be behind it.

Once they got to the city they started trying to figure out what they had gotten involved in, but at the same time I introduced another subplot tied to one of the character's background. It introduced a new villain, and ended with her escaping from being taken captive, and hijacking an airship in the process.

So now they had an airship, which had actually been the plan all along, but by taking the time to set it up over the course of two adventures they had a larger stake in everything that was going on around them than if we'd started out there.

They flew off to do some trading, and lie low while looking for more information on what the dopplegangers were planning, but ended up being marooned on an island in the eye of a hurricane. this was intended as a filler episode while one player was away. But when it dragged out for a few sessions I decided to weave it into the larger plot, giving them some revelations about what was going on but giving rise to many more questions in the process. They then tried to follow up some leads about that an became embroiled in another very different conflict, Someone set them up to investigate a conspiracy by hinting that the dopplegangers might be involved. In fact they weren't but it led to them getting involved and investigating what they initially thought was a sort of gunpowder plot type scenario where the faction in question were trying to assassinate the new pontif.
Then I shook things up, instead of foiling a conspiracy and doing the political stuff they'd expected it turned out that the gunpowder in the catacombs of the cathedral wasn't meant to explode, but rather to emit alchemical smoke that would animate every body entombed there. By changing what they thought the premise was mid track I kept the game from becoming to predicatable and threw in a change of pace where suddenly they had to fight a host of undead in the catacombs, more like a traditional dungeon than much of what they'd been doing recently.

they've since had their airship hijacked and taken to a castle in the clouds, and have now headed back to the original area, only to fall into a trap by the villain they stole the airship from. The rumours they've heard are true, he is now working with the Dopplegangers. And so two of the major plots tie together.

Who knows what will happen next.

well, me.

At various points i've not actually known how any given subplot will tie back into the main arc, if you have plenty of time you can just run with something that seems like a good idea and a change of pace and then figure out how it all fits together, or even see what the players hypothesise to be the connection, and either run with that or subvert their expectations. By throwing lots of seeds into the campaign you give yourself lots of ideas to build on and keep the game feeling fresh.

2013-06-30, 07:29 PM
I mean, usually PCs try to use combat, stealth or persuasion.

Those are three of the tools in the PCs' toolbox. They're probably the most popular choices, although you could probably make a case for magic too.

But these tools are just for solving problems. Just thinking about those skips the investigative part of the game. You can't persuade someone until you've figured out who the right person is. Gathering information on exactly what your goal is and how it can be accomplished should also be a big portion of the game.

2013-07-02, 08:35 AM
I think you are forgetting emotional connections and relationships. Those are often the most memorable parts of a campaign. Friendships, romances, rivalries etc all make for great emotional triggers for players. Having people the players and the characters really care about around can not only make for great stories (of death and kidnapping) but developing these emotional connections can be worthwhile in itself.