Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Campaign Conversations Part 2- Getting to the Root of It.

So a bit went on and I got a few emails, and this is where things really picked up. This is the first real start of the conversation, but it took a bit to get to with it. Bare with me as I give you everything.

Daniel's Question

Email 1
Cool, and its fine it took you a bit, until now I was away from a computer since dnd Friday.

Email 2
Also thanks for the help.

My Response

Always glad to help. I'm particularly good at world building...

Daniel's REAL Question

If that's an offer to help...

Although I'm not too worried about any of that yet, I haven't heard back from 3 of them. I also told them we wouldn't start until September to give me time to get my own computer and set something up.

How do you normally go about planning a campaign, I've generally just started with a planned adventure and improvise from there. Do you start out more concrete?

My REAL Response

Email 1
Well, it depends on what I'm running. TBH, I've been running Ronlin for so long that it is second nature to me, but that being said I love world building. I find that having a definitive idea of what the overall uberplot is can help. Dinner time. More later.
Email 2
Prepare yourself, this is a master course. So I'll be expounding at length.

When creating a campaign, there's a few key things to keep in mind. The Theme, The Underplot, and The Uber-plot. I'll address these in turn.

Theme of a campaign is the flavouring. It's the guns of Ronlin, the Katana of the Orient, or the Sacrificial Blade of the Aztecs. The theme of the campaign helps determine the other stuff. If I don't know the theme of the campaign, I'm wary. A solid theme on the campaign influences how it will go, a bad theme or one that is not strongly enacted can actually detract from a game. A theme doesn't have to be deep, it just has to be solid. For instance, if I were to run a GIJOE game, I would leave out cameos by the Autobots (even though they are a well established part of the Joe Cannon- haha pun), because it would dilute the theme of a realistic special forces game. However, a theme of Joes vs Transformers would be a very thin theme, but an awesome one.

The Under Plot is the stuff that is going on in the world that is not directly attributed to the PCs or their actions. A good underplot gives a campaign world a certain verisimilitude. If the players decide to get mixed up in it, fine, if not, then things still happen. A good example from Ronlin is the growing tension between the two kings. If you guys didn't get involved in it, it was still happening. The thing with a good underplot is that it gives NPCs something to talk about besides plot hooks or dreer lives. Under Plot is best described as 'what's happening where we aren't'. It is something that is heavily influenced by the theme. Talk about warring shoguns, the construction of a new temple complex, or the potential marriage of previous rivals. All good stuff, and it works best as things that aren't potential adventure hooks. Seriously, you throw a war or a uprising and the PCS are going to be all over that.

The Uber Plot is the least important one in world building, but the most important one in campaign building. It is the over all story arc of the campaign. This is the one that is best left until the PCs have made it clear what they do and do not want to do. There's no point in creating a grandiose campaign involving the destinies of dynastic rulers when all the PCs want to do is hunt dragons. The best example of Uber Plot to ever exist is the TV series X-Files. Most of the episodes are stand alone (as should most adventures), but every once in awhile one of the episodes had to do with the Uber Plot of the Aliens and Mulder's sister. The uberplot is basically the planned end of the campaign. I've had the end of the Ronlin campaign in mind since before you joined. We're about half to three quarters there. If you ever wondered why a campaign fizzles out, its down to uber plot. If the uberplot is not engaging enough, a campaign fizzles. The Ronlin campaign is engaging, because the uberplot (that you asshats decided on) of rebuilding a city is engaging. It is slowly undergoing a change, which you might have realized recently, but it is still the same uberplot. Previous uberplots I've had were Dragons controlling Thieve's Guilds, Deamons controlling the clergy of a city (which ended in a time tripping, planar thing).

Monday, August 5, 2013

Campaign Conversations Part 1- The Beginning

So a few weeks ago, a buddy of mine dropped me an email asked me a simple question ;

Daniel's Question;
"Hey this is unrelated to our groups stuff but I'm thinking of starting a game of dnd ( to be played on days that arent our game days) with the group I played with in college.

Do you have any advice for this, anything you would do differently or is it pretty much like playing around a table?"

This question began a series of emails. Some of which some of you might find interesting. Many of you won't. I'm mainly putting this up so that I can have a good record of it.

My Response;
"Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I went to bed and then we went to the races today.

As for running a skype game. My suggestions;

1. DM needs headphones and microphone. I really really suggest it.
2. There's significantly less prep involved. Due to the nature of having the srd and other materials easily accessible, there is a lot less copy/paste you need to do.
3. The main thing I do differently (and the group picks up on it), is no talking over people. In a live game, three or four people can all talk or even hold side conversations and it won't effect anything, in skype if more then one talks at once, everything is garbled. Like I said, they pick up on that.
4. This is something that I don't do too often, but if you wanted, and it can be effective. Look up pics to send before the game. I'm ususally busy so I don't bother, but it can add a delightful dimension to a game.

Other then that, its no different. Probably the closest thing to a normal game there is"

This is going to be a long series. I'll probably pop up a new one MWF, or at least that's the idea, until the conversation peters out...