A2 Series • #3
In this final part on how to take a campaign from concept to table, I’d like to discuss the process I use in finally getting all the pieces together, planting the seeds for adventure, and finding satisfaction in seeing it all come together.
Before that, though, I’d like to briefly mention pre-made campaigns. There are some fantastic campaigns out there, prepackaged and ready to run. The Enemy Within (for the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Game), Masks of Nyarlarthotep (for the Call of Cthulhu RPG), The Great Pendragon Campaign (for the Pendragon RPG), The Red Hand of Doom (for the Dungeons & Dragons RPG), and the Darkening of Mirkwood (for The One Ring RPG) are great examples — in my opinion — of well-written RPG campaigns designed to provide hours of fun for a gaming group. For GMs with little time, or inclination, to prepare their own campaign there are many out there that can be purchased and run with little work. Many of these can be adjusted to fit your RPG system-of-choice but it can also be a good way to try out a different RPG system.
In the previous installment, I discussed inspiration and what to do with it. These started out as ideas that popped in my head that I would write down in a notebook. Occasionally, some ideas were “shelved” while others got discarded. But sometimes I would get an idea or two that I really liked and thought, “hey, these might work together to make an interesting story!” Here is a simplified example of how I cobbled some ideas into a workable story.
Some small settlements in one corner of a kingdom in my homebrew setting were revolting against the local baron. Taxes went unpaid, crops stayed uncollected, and general unrest gripped the area. The villages sought independence from the baron, who felt their contributions to the barony weren’t worth what they were getting in return. The baron, in retaliation, tasked his wizard cohort to travel to the area and terrorize the villages with ungodly creatures and unnatural disasters. His aim was to make them fall in line and quash any notion of independence by having the villages seek his aid. Rumors of druids in the forests turning evil and sending creatures to attack the villages became rampant — rumors that turned out to be started by the wizard. The idea was that the PCs would get involved by aiding the villages against the threat and (hopefully) realizing that the machinations were not the result of druidic activity but by the mage. Then the trail would eventually lead back to the baron.
The ideas got a bit more polish with threads and seeds tying them together much more coherently than I could possibly write here and I put out enough plot hooks to get the PCs involved. Plot, or adventure, hooks are a great way of introducing the adventure or campaign to the PCs. For me, it’s usually an innocuous way of putting them on the path to the adventure. For this particular campaign, the baron had offered a reward for investigating why grain shipments hadn’t come from the villages. The idea here was that the PCs would figure out that there were never any sent and then find out why. Another hook, which approached the campaign from a different angle and time, was the rumor that there were fierce beasts in the forests near the villages. This idea would lead the PCs to investigate the villages and the forest to figure out what was going on. I believe that these hooks are important in that they make the transition into the campaign smoother and less forced. For that reason, I often start new campaigns with a lot of small adventures, most of them not really leading to the larger plot directly but sprinkled with clues. By having a few hooks in there to get the PCs interested in the campaign story, if one hook doesn’t interest them then one or more of the others might still lead them to it.
One last digression. While I discussed how to take inspiration from various sources and tie them into a campaign idea, I also want to mention that these don’t have to be seemingly random thoughts mashed together. I’ve used this method multiple times in the past to varying success, and thought I’d share it, and say that it is perfectly okay to “borrow” some great ideas that are out there to use in an RPG campaign. That said, inspiration doesn’t need to come from various, outside, sources. If you have an original idea, don’t hesitate to go with it and make it a spectacular campaign.
I hope my insight proves useful to those out there who might be interested in starting a campaign. At the very least, maybe my ramblings were an interesting read! I don’t claim to be any sort of authority in the area of campaign planning and execution, but if you ever need to bounce around some ideas or would like feedback on a campaign concept, please feel free to contact me. I can be reached on the LRPG forums as Lord Dynel (I don’t post much, but I do lurk!) and on MeWe (the only social media platform I currently use), and in person at LRPG Guild meetings. RPGs are my passion, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about them. Thank you!