Gaming

How do I choose a new RPG Campaign

When I end a campaign storyline with my players I usually like to discuss what I would like to run next or simply state what is planned and ask who wants to join in..

As I run three games a week with each of those run once a fortnight, I have six games a fortnight to prepare for. To allow for this to not take too much time I have most of those using pre-written modules that I alter for the group as we play to represent how they have done things, and how the world is different from the world it was written for.

I occasionally write the whole storyline but that is rarer as players are not as invested in the game as I am in running it. Yet if I don’t tailor the game to suit their characters I risk having unhappy players who cause problems at the table and worse leave the game. This is where I have tried to make the games easier to run by having annotated stat blocks.

Options for my players

Once a campaign has ended I have a game planned for the following week but I am open to doing other games that I would like to try and play if that group is interested.

Pathfinder Games (Converted to 2nd Ed or Remain as 1st Ed):

I have a preference for using Pathfinder 2 over Pathfinder 1 as I find it holds up better at higher levels, is easier to maintain as a character, was less confusing to create high level characters and a better rules set. I am happy running at least one Pathfinder 2 game, more depending on interest.

  • Rise of the Runelords Revised
  • Curse of the Crimson Throne Revised
  • Skull and Shackles
  • Emerald Spire
  • Goblins adventures
  • A series on connected adventures…
  • Another Adventure Path

The Lost Lands:

This is the Frog God Games world, and one that I enjoy running. But it is also a deadly one where character loss will happen often. I wish to run at least one lost lands game a fortnight.

  • Pathfinder – The Northlands Saga
  • Pathfinder or D&D 5E – Cult of the Sundard Kingdom
  • Pathfinder or D&D 5E – The Blight
  • Pathfinder or D&D 5E – The Borderlands Provinces
  • Pathfinder or D&D 5E – Rappan Athuk

Dungeons & Dragons:

Mostly set in my own take on the world of Mystara, this has regional class and backgrounds, as well as imitations on sourcebooks available. Running with downtime and many of the optional rules it is not for everyone.

  • New storyline in Mystara
  • Adventures running from Old BECMI to 1st through to 5th edition.
  • Dragonlance tales from the Lance as 5E
  • Worlds Largest City and Dungeon
  • Drow Campaign
  • Dragonlords Campaign
  • Diablo Campaign
  • Other concepts possible

Genesys Rules:

This system is the best version of the star wars rules I have run and I have run them all. With a truly narrative dice system which works if the players make the most of it, the generic version of the rules has a few improvements and tweaks that I might bring back to the main rules once I get a chance to run with them. I wish to run at least one Genesys based game a fortnight, if not one for Shadowrun and one for Star Wars would be ideal.

  • Shadowrun converted to Genesys
  • Star Wars
  • Elven Realms (Ariadna’s fantasy world)
  • Paranormal Realms (Ariadna’s demon worlds)

Other Game Systems:

These are other systems I would like to run, but are lower on my priorities.

  • Sentinels of the Multiverse (Superhero)
  • Dresden Files (Fate)
  • Babylon 5 (d20)
  • Fragged Empire
  • Shadowrun (6th Ed)
  • Runequest
  • FATE

How to Choose a Campaign

I will open it up to my players to see if there is an interest in running something specific from this list. They can discuss it amongst themselves and I will describe how I would run each of the campaigns. While I have a planned storyline to run after the end of each of the current campaigns, I am open to discussion and changing to something I am actually passionate about running over something that is nice to run. A game I am passionate about will get more of my time and energy, and may actually be enjoyable to work on between games. So I try and pick my games carefully and limit games with large preparation time.

The more games I run of the same system the easier they are to run as I am not switching between too many rulesets. At one stage I was running Star Wars, Shadowrun, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Dresden and Sentinels of the Multiverse at the same time.

Planning the Campaign

I will go with a general agreement from everyone and a discussion of what characters are expected to be created, and plan the campaign around that.

I expect players to talk with me if they are going to change from this as it can throw out the preparation work if its not as agreed. This has happened a few times and will result in less game time as I re-do the preparation work while everyone waits or leave that character out and an NPC steps into that role.

What is expected is usually along these lines:

  • Basic background of the PC
  • Name and appearance (usually race and character options)
  • Story elements and hooks
  • Links between characters

I then work out a good starting point for where these characters are at the start of the story for the first session and that is where we start with a short backstory point for why they group is all at the location they are, what they mean to each other and the scene they are currently in.

Actual character backgrounds need to be voiced by the players in a game session for it to be canon in the storyline or it will be ignored. This has been a rule for many games due to fantastic background written and then ignored by players. So any length background is allowed and will be glanced at by me (and encouraged) but I can’t be the guardian of a character’s backstory.

Story vs Mechanics

The hardest part of running a game is what is more important, story or mechanics. Most of my players are mechanics focused as that is how a character advances but it does take away from the story if mechanics are allowed to rule the story.

Whereas if you take story reasons over mechanics, when running a set adventure, you can have an imbalance where the character is under powered and unable to compete with the NPC’s and other players in the group. An example is that they can’t harm opponents.

If the character is completely mechanics focused then it can feel very powerful when compared to the NPC’s and other players in the group. An example is they can’t be harmed by opponents.

A happy medium is desired where character choices are meaningful for the storyline but enhance the gameplay such that all the characters are competitive at a similar level. The downtime mechanic in D&D is fantastic in advancing the timeline such that characters don’t go from level 1 to level 20 in a single month.

Conclusion

I like players to be invested in the story but happy with the mechanics agreed upon for the storyline so all future games are intended to be a negotiation and agreement between players and games master about how the game is intended to be run. This does not take into account spoilers to the story which are still to be surprises for the players and their characters.

Game Tool Posts:

For more blog posts by me, here is my author page.

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