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Author Topic: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign  (Read 1153 times)

Mishihari

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2020, 03:24:43 AM »
I tend to do a broad-strokes early design, and put enough time in that the players will know what kind of opportunities are out there.  More than that is not a good use of my time.  I find it nearly impossible to predict what players are going to do, and I don't want to spend hours detailing a region that they'll never visit. 

When running a single adventure, I tend to make a storyline, then detail out the encounters that will happen along the way.  Then when my players choose a different story I use what I can and ad lib the rest.  (I can recall exactly one time in twenty years of running games when the players followed the story I had in mind)  I tend to build campaigns similarly.  I'll detail material in the direction I expect the players to go, then try to keep ahead of them with preparation as they wander about.

jeff37923

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2020, 05:47:14 AM »
MOAR was the best campaign acronym I ever used. It stands for Map Only As Required or Make Only As Required. If you fully flesh out a campaign before it starts then you have a lot of wasted effort, especially if the Players decide to do something completely unexpected. As has been said above, start small and grow the campaign in ways that provide for adventure possibilities for the characters - let the Players dictate the direction through play.

Pat

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2020, 07:05:56 AM »
I'm in the design only as needed camp, as well. If you want to take everyone on a grand tour of a world, then write a story. But in RPGs, the players choose the direction, so the GM should be reactive.

HappyDaze

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2020, 09:03:15 AM »
MOAR was the best campaign acronym I ever used. It stands for Map Only As Required or Make Only As Required. If you fully flesh out a campaign before it starts then you have a lot of wasted effort, especially if the Players decide to do something completely unexpected. As has been said above, start small and grow the campaign in ways that provide for adventure possibilities for the characters - let the Players dictate the direction through play.
This method is an absolute must if running a large and expanded existing setting, like Forgotten Realms or (as I did) Star Wars. Trying to prep everything that could possibly happen before the player sit at the table in such cases is madness.

LiferGamer

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #19 on: September 07, 2020, 09:53:47 AM »
MOAR was the best campaign acronym I ever used. It stands for Map Only As Required or Make Only As Required. If you fully flesh out a campaign before it starts then you have a lot of wasted effort, especially if the Players decide to do something completely unexpected. As has been said above, start small and grow the campaign in ways that provide for adventure possibilities for the characters - let the Players dictate the direction through play.


YES!


My current campaign has been running in my homebrew world for better than 2 years, I finished the campaign area map last week.


BUT


They had an idea what the major nations were, where they were in relation to each other, the pantheons of gawds, broad strokes of the different cultures, and where different groups came from.
Your Forgotten Realms was my first The Last Jedi.

If the party is gonna die, they want to be riding and blasting/hacking away at a separate one of Tiamat's heads as she plummets towards earth with broken wings while Solars and Planars sing.

Graytung

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2020, 07:46:41 PM »
I watched the video. I didn't get a sense that Pundit was saying you have to prep a massive campaign setting before you let your players interact with it.


I thought the point he was trying to convey is that there are some things you have to prep (that many gm's don't) and there are some things you don't have to prep (that many gm's do). He's also talking about a specific type of campaign, one that is long lasting and given his penchant for history, probably one involving a good amount of political intrigue.


It all depends on the type of game you are running. A simple coming-of-age adventure won't necessitate the need to develop the setting beyond a village and a nearby dungeon. However, when it comes to a socially complex game where apposing factions have entirely their own motivations, then taking the time to work out what exactly each are capable of and who the major personalities are, what they can do, is probably a good idea. The rest you can improvise.


In that sort of game, it's a lot harder to improvise the intricate hierarchy and interplay between half a dozen noble families, without at first having a foundation in which to work from, than it is to improvise a 1 hour encounter with monsters in the cellar dungeon.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2020, 07:51:12 PM by Graytung »

Chris24601

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2020, 12:34:38 AM »
However, when it comes to a socially complex game where apposing factions have entirely their own motivations, then taking the time to work out what exactly each are capable of and who the major personalities are, what they can do, is probably a good idea. The rest you can improvise.

In that sort of game, it's a lot harder to improvise the intricate hierarchy and interplay between half a dozen noble families, without at first having a foundation in which to work from, than it is to improvise a 1 hour encounter with monsters in the cellar dungeon.
And you're still better off going with the MOAR because the players will completely ignore the social complexities and go off in the direction of SQUIRREL!!!

Yes, I'm still bitter about all the work I put into coming up with a complex web of political alliances and opponents and agendas for the last Vampire campaign I ran... only to have the PCs utterly ignore it all in favor of trying to become YouTube pop stars and using Tinder as a meal delivery app. **headdesk headdesk headdesk**

Things ran so much better in my Mage campaign where I stopped doing prep work years ago because I learned that there is no way in a sandbox to predict which bit of flavor is going to send the PCs off on a tangent... in one case a book that was intended to be an Easter Egg referencing a past campaign turned into the players dropping the entire line of investigation they were exploring and running off from campaign central to Mexico City, then the Middle East, then Vienna and Prague... all of it on the spur of the moment as they chased one random world detail they interpreted as a clue after another.

Over the decades, I've gotten VERY good at improvisation. So much so that when I gave advice to one of my players looking to GM something that they should start really small and use the MOAR approach to running games they literally told me "I know you don't do it that way because I've seen the adventures you run."

Now, I keep copious notes on what has happened IN the campaign so whatever I set up remains consistent, but I actually let that player take a peak inside my game binder where all that was there was notes of the previous adventures, a list of names (because I'll invariably need to come up with a speaking-role NPC on the fly) and blank sheets of paper for taking new notes.

Not prepping beyond my immediate needs is the only thing that has allowed me to not just give up the GM screen permanently... and EVERY time I forget that lesson and think, "this time it'll be different," things like my current Vampire campaign happen and I'm left disheartened about even running that game because all that hard work I put into creating an intricate setting would have been better served watching YouTube videos on Boston's history and nightlife. All my work is NEVER going to be seen by anyone but me because the players just don't care.

So my honest to God advice to the newbie GM to not end up completely disheartened by all your prep work going to waste is... take an Improv class or two and learn deductive reasoning as it relates to cause and effect (as in, the effect of players doing X will be Y). Both will serve you MUCH better than any "here's what you need to prep in your world before running" advice ever will.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2020, 12:36:32 AM by Chris24601 »

RPGPundit

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2020, 07:01:38 PM »
If you run a ttrpg campaign the way it's supposed to be run, you'll do a lot of prep work before the campaign starts, and hardly any after it starts. But to do this right, you have to understand that a dnd or OSR DM isn't supposed to be a "Storyteller". He's supposed to be a God.
This is terrible advice to give a Newbie DM.
For any newbies reading: Do not do this.  Spending several months of prep before playing is a recipe for sure disaster.
Rather start small with one dungeon and one town and work up from there.
Pundit's method will likely result in weeding out a lot of DMs that might otherwise drop a campaign early on, but it might just as likely burn out some good ones with a massive start up load. I tend to do a lot of reading and indirect prep--sometimes for games I'm not at all likely to run--months before a game, but it's not at all of the intensity that I spend in the days immediately before game that's  already in play. As a DM, I tend to want feedback from the players to motivate me through prep, and that really isn't there months before the game contacts the players.


If you're too much of a newbie to create your own world, you should use a good pre-made world.


Second, while there's validity to the "draw the borderland, the village and the dungeon and then expand from there" approach, that's best for when you're not really sure you want to run a real campaign. And if you do end up making it into a campaign, you'll eventually have to create all the rest of the stuff I'm talking about in the video later, as you go along. The main flaw, at that point, being that you will tend to have to retro-fit elements into the game, carefully avoid contradiction, and unless you have very good GM skills it can be hard to do this in most serious game worlds without it feeling artificial.
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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2020, 07:03:30 PM »
I watched the video. I didn't get a sense that Pundit was saying you have to prep a massive campaign setting before you let your players interact with it.


I thought the point he was trying to convey is that there are some things you have to prep (that many gm's don't) and there are some things you don't have to prep (that many gm's do). He's also talking about a specific type of campaign, one that is long lasting and given his penchant for history, probably one involving a good amount of political intrigue.


It all depends on the type of game you are running. A simple coming-of-age adventure won't necessitate the need to develop the setting beyond a village and a nearby dungeon. However, when it comes to a socially complex game where apposing factions have entirely their own motivations, then taking the time to work out what exactly each are capable of and who the major personalities are, what they can do, is probably a good idea. The rest you can improvise.


In that sort of game, it's a lot harder to improvise the intricate hierarchy and interplay between half a dozen noble families, without at first having a foundation in which to work from, than it is to improvise a 1 hour encounter with monsters in the cellar dungeon.


Yes, precisely.
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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2020, 02:26:30 AM »
If you're too much of a newbie to create your own world, you should use a good pre-made world.

Second, while there's validity to the "draw the borderland, the village and the dungeon and then expand from there" approach, that's best for when you're not really sure you want to run a real campaign. And if you do end up making it into a campaign, you'll eventually have to create all the rest of the stuff I'm talking about in the video later, as you go along. The main flaw, at that point, being that you will tend to have to retro-fit elements into the game, carefully avoid contradiction, and unless you have very good GM skills it can be hard to do this in most serious game worlds without it feeling artificial.


I find the best/most reliable approach is to choose an area within a published campaign setting, do your borderland village + dungeon, and set them in the area. This immediately gives a bunch of sketched out material to work with as you expand from the starting base.


IME anything else is far more likely to crash and burn. A viable alternative is to have a string of published adventures lined up; this can risk railroading but can work well for more episodic genres. Eg my Primeval Thule campaign was centred around a couple interacting strings of published short adventures and that worked well for the S&S genre. But really nothing beats "home base & starter dungeon" for ease (both player & GM) and reliability IME. It very consistently creates a good seed from which to grow a great campaign.
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tenbones

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2020, 10:34:57 AM »
There are levels to GMing.


Running a pre-made adventure, reading the flavor text as the PC's move room-to-room, rolling dice for the monsters attacks, and inevitably running into a rules quandary/situation that forces the GM to *make a call*, is the first layer that forces GM's to become better at understanding their 'Godhood' and real role in the game. But this layer is little more than an interactive boardgame.


The moment the GM realizes that the needs of his PC's, and the desires of what the GM wants in their game, is when the door creaks open to a new level where the GM is trying create content beyond the assumptions of a literal room-to-room description of a dungeon. Considerations of "what in the fuck is a dungeon and why is it here?"


"Where does all this gold come from?"
"What do classes represent when they're not dungeon diving?"
"What in the fuck is outside of the Dungeon? Holy shit a TOWN is just a dungeon that's outside but combat doesn't necessarily happen."
"Wait! My town has recurring NPC's that run the town that I can create their own backstories which gives them things to do while the PC's are diving in dungeons - which then changes the world, so when the PC's return they then have to deal with those changes!"
"Holy crap - all of this can exist in a larger area... we'll say it's in a Hex. What's in the Hex to the left?"
etc etc


All of these things push the capacity of the GM from being a text-reading adversarial dice-tosser, to being the God behind the scenes that makes the world move. But you gotta go through this process in order to make your game more expansive.


The capacity of the GM is commensurate to the games they're able to successfully run. They go hand-in-hand. GM's that want to pretend that running modules is "as good" as running a full-blown sandbox where anything can happen, are likely not really GM's that have the capacity to run a big sandbox. This is not to say a good sandbox GM can't run a ridiculously good module... but without fail those lead into becoming sandboxes themselves.




Omega

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #26 on: September 11, 2020, 11:42:56 AM »
I prefer to flesh out the local area and at the very least put some thought into at least one site local to the start area. Then have at least a general idea of whats out there that the PCs might hie off to out of the blue. And then have a general idea of whats past that and so on. Even if its only the bare basics like the names of towns or regions. That way you have a frame to work on and can flesh out as need or just for fun in case it gets used later.