A2 Series • #2
Okay, so we are inspired. That’s fantastic. I truly believe that without inspiration, getting a campaign to the table is difficult. But now that we have inspiration, what are we to do with? Harness it, of course!
The first thing I do, whether it will lead to a campaign or not, is jot down these ideas, thoughts, plans, and plots somewhere. I often use a small notebook (like a Moleskine) to get these inspired thoughts from my head onto paper; someplace I can go back to later and review. Using a computer word processor (like MS Word) can also be used to neatly organize your brainstorms. These days, with the advent of smartphone technology, “paper” can easily be substituted with the device’s voice recorder and digital note capabilities allowing for easy note taking, anytime and anywhere. I often use my phone to take notes in this manner, while driving or out and about, transcribing them later into a notebook.
Here’s an example. Pulling out an old campaign notebook, I can see that I was inspired by the movie “The 13th Warrior” and the idea of there being foes of an otherworldly, fear-inducing nature (but really being nothing more than men). There also are notes about “evil druids” that I recall coming from some book I read (I didn’t write the title in the notebook, but I recall it being from a book or story somewhere). I can also see that I was inspired by the Revolutionary War. Three interesting concepts, totally unrelated to one another, that would eventually form the basis of a campaign. More on that later.
At some point, when I have enough to work with, I then consider the system I will use. This is a big decision, in my opinion, because it will determine the scale of the campaign. Will our heroes ultimately be facing giants, dragons, or magic-wielding madmen? Or will it be more “even-keeled,” where the PCs will have more down-to-earth challenges such as intrigue and investigation, or foes of a mundane sort? The former typically calls for a high fantasy system, such as Dungeons & Dragons, 13th Age, or FATE while the latter campaigns might be better suited by systems lower in power; GURPS, Warhammer Fantasy, or Savage Worlds come to mind. This isn’t gospel here, folks, only my experience. I’m certainly not saying you cannot use D&D to play a gritty game or Savage Worlds for high fantasy! It’s also important to note that your ideas and inspiration might lend itself to a system naturally. In my previous example, D&D was the system I chose.
This brings us to a person’s “system of choice.” Some people prefer one system and will play all their games using that system. I am NOT one of those people because I believe that a campaign can be better played with a system that “fits” it better. For example, for a modern crime/drama campaign that I am currently planning, GURPS is the system I’ve chosen. While I love D&D, Savage Worlds, and Star Wars, I don’t think any of these would work as well. There are some for obvious reasons, but also because of the nature of the game itself. The campaign I envision involves average people (more or less) trying to right wrongs in the “real” world (as imagined by the campaign and the GM). For that, I feel GURPS can and will do that perfectly. Ultimately, however, you will pick the system you want to use, whether because you love it or because it’s the best fit. Or both. But don’t be afraid to try something new, especially if it fits some cool idea for a campaign you have!
Inspiration? Check. System? Check. Next time, I will discuss planting seeds and watching the world grow.