Thursday, March 17, 2011

Plan A

A message from your sponsor … apparently “come back tomorrow” actually meant “drop by next month.” I REALLY didn’t think the hiatus was anywhere near that long. Oh well …

At the minimum a new campaign needs: a) a game system; b) an initial adventure site; and c) some potential victims, uhm players. It’s also a good idea to have at least the rough outline of a campaign setting … assuming you’re not using a commercial product for this purpose.

From personal experience, the impetus or inspiration to put together a new campaign can start with any of these elements. Over the years I can’t remember how many times the purchase of a new game has instantly inflamed the desire to build a new campaign just to try it out. Sometimes my players jumped at the opportunity, sometimes they reluctantly acquiesced, and occasionally they retreated firmly behind their walls and barred the gates – I was NEVER able to convince them to play FGU’s Bunnies & Burrows, which sounded absolutely amazing when I read a campaign article about it back in the early ‘80s.

Sometimes you pick up or read an adventure that just screams to be played. I’ve been reading Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day project whenever I have the time, and it’s really made me want to get back into gaming in a serious way. There is some irony in the fact that this product is not currently on the top of my “to play” list; instead it’s on my “save for the perfect day” list.

Occasionally you pick up an interesting campaign setting or come up with a campaign idea you want to develop yourself, and that can lead to a new campaign too – though, it’s also possible to simply link the new setting to an existing one via conventional travel, gates, planar adventuring, etc.
So … having decided to plan a return to gaming I got to work on Plan A. Here’s how the initial idea looked:

Factor 1: Adventure: “I really want to DM Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day megadungeon.” I’ve never run or adventured in a megadungeon; the first couple of levels look great; and Monte Cook is an amazing designer.

Factor 2: Game System: “I’ll use D&D4E.” I’ve been buying all these neat-looking 4E products but haven’t had a chance to try the system out yet. Okay, admittedly Dungeon-a-Day is specifically designed for D&D3E (and more recently for Pathfinder) but that’s okay; it’ll give me the chance to really figure out how 4E works.

Factor 3: Victims: I “sort of” have potential players: the core – or debris - of my 1980s gaming group. There are a few teeny tiny problems though. One player lives an hour away and doesn’t have the health to travel or game for hours on end (the fact that he thinks another regular is a tad insane is an added complication). Player #2 has expressed reservations about committing any “acts of violence” in a game. I’m not sure exactly how this reconciles with his default preference for playing violent computer games instead, but it definitely could be a problem.
Celtic Chieftain painted by Ben Pecson

Having read over the core D&D4E products I’m immediately struck by the game’s “high beam” focus on combat. Admittedly, D&D in any of its incarnations has always been a combat oriented game but at first glance 4E doesn’t seem to support much else; in other words, if you chose to play a largely non-violent character I’m not sure what you’d actually do for most of the evening. Fortunately, my third regular traditionally likes to wade into combat and kill things. So … if I’m going to use 4E I should probably plan on using it with players 1 and 3; the drawback being that we’d probably get together once a month at most if we were lucky.

Factor 4: Campaign Setting: Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day megadungeon has local detail but is designed to be generic enough to be fit into almost any reasonably standard fantasy setting. At the time, I was playing with the idea of designing a Celtic rather than Feudal Medieval world, and that seemed like a reasonable mesh with Dungeon-a-Day.

Okay, I had a basic plan for how to develop a campaign and get back into gaming. Interestingly enough NONE of these factors worked out in the long term.

Next time … Plan B.

P.S. The painted Celt Chieftain is painted by pro-painter Ben Pecson, and the image comes from his Brush Warriors webpage. Link @

1 comment:

  1. Just here to welcome you to the A to Z blogging challenge! I'm a co-host, should you have questions don't hesitate to ask! I know we're on day 2 but you are already rockin' it out! I do hope you'll stop by and say hello! We are also having fun on twitter (I'm @jenunedited and we're at #atozchallenge)!

    I do hope you'll get caught up in time to join in on the fun!