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Author Topic: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign  (Read 1150 times)

RPGPundit

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Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« on: September 04, 2020, 08:02:13 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.






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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2020, 09:43:58 PM »
I subscribe to the philosophy of just-in-time game design. That is, the DM only needs to know enough about the game world to run the adventure the players are currently playing. Better to get started playing than delay the game for months while the DM creates (or reads) a complex game world that the players might never fully explore until years later.

HappyDaze

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2020, 10:19:36 PM »
I'd swear I've heard Pundit do almost this exact piece once before.

Cave Bear

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2020, 11:13:38 PM »
I like to compromise with an archaeological approach to storytelling. Write your crappy fantasy novel, but don't tell it to your players. Let it be something that happened in the past, where the events cannot be changed, and drop the players in the aftermath of those events. Break your story up into gameable items and environments that the players can find in any order and piece together. Let them put the pieces together and do the work to try and figure out what the story was.

Philotomy Jurament

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2020, 12:20:36 AM »
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.


I agree with most of that (i.e., just what you say, above, as I haven't watched the video yet), but I'm not so sure about "most prep before the campaign starts." In my experience, there's still a lot of prep during the campaign, because as DM I'm reacting to the player choices within the campaign. I don't always anticipate the direction they're going to push the campaign, so I often end up prepping during the campaign based upon those surprises from the players.
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S'mon

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2020, 02:30:00 AM »
I like to compromise with an archaeological approach to storytelling. Write your crappy fantasy novel, but don't tell it to your players. Let it be something that happened in the past, where the events cannot be changed, and drop the players in the aftermath of those events. Break your story up into gameable items and environments that the players can find in any order and piece together. Let them put the pieces together and do the work to try and figure out what the story was.


Jean Wells' original B3 Palace of the Silver Princess is a great example of this.
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S'mon

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2020, 02:33:53 AM »
I agree with most of that (i.e., just what you say, above, as I haven't watched the video yet), but I'm not so sure about "most prep before the campaign starts." In my experience, there's still a lot of prep during the campaign, because as DM I'm reacting to the player choices within the campaign. I don't always anticipate the direction they're going to push the campaign, so I often end up prepping during the campaign based upon those surprises from the players.


Yes, I find it's a mix. I create the campaign sandbox wilderness map seeded with dungeons & potential adventures before the campaign starts, but in play I'm still developing material in response to the direction of player activity. Eg I have a Shrine of Chaos dungeon on my initial map, but I only created the dungeon later on. I only decided the Fallen Halls on map were the Forge of Fury after play started. I also create & seed more dungeons on the map as play progresses. And I may discard some ideas too.


« Last Edit: September 05, 2020, 02:35:59 AM by S'mon »
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Shasarak

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2020, 04:34:08 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.
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HappyDaze

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2020, 05:04:57 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.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2020, 05:07:17 PM by HappyDaze »

oggsmash

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2020, 05:08:50 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.



  I agree here.  I think a newbie GM's homework and prep work should be in knowing the nuts and bolts of the game system they are running.   I still prefer the start small to every campaign.  I will flesh out the very basics of a few nations maybe, but it will be local town and local adventure to get the players moving and they decide what they do/where they go next.  I can see value in having an entire continent mapped out and worked up, but I think for newbs, just getting a handle on the rules and how to handle a group is going to be enough.

Shasarak

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2020, 05:23:47 PM »
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.
I would say it would weed out the majority of the DMs.
Lets face it, being a DM does not require the equivalent of almost a year of preparation.
And then you need to look at the other side of the equation, when you sit down for your game - how long is it going to last?  You just spent 7 months of prep going into a game that may not last beyond the first three sessions because of flaky players.
It is only worth it in my opinion if you plan on writing the next Lord of the Rings.
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RandyB

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2020, 05:43:13 PM »
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.
I would say it would weed out the majority of the DMs.
Lets face it, being a DM does not require the equivalent of almost a year of preparation.
And then you need to look at the other side of the equation, when you sit down for your game - how long is it going to last?  You just spent 7 months of prep going into a game that may not last beyond the first three sessions because of flaky players.
It is only worth it in my opinion if you plan on writing the next Lord of the Rings.


Unfortunately, most newbie DMs think that they are doing just that.

Chris24601

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2020, 06:00:24 PM »
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.
Gonna second this. HORRIBLE advice. Being a "god" doesn't mean you have to lay out an entire planet before the campaign starts.

My invariable experience with DMing is that 99% of anything you spend time developing before the game starts will NEVER see use because the PCs will run off in a direction you hadn't even considered and you end up having to do all the work on the fly anyway.

The advice I give in the system I'm writing is to start small... a single region maybe a week's walk from edge to edge; a community or two where you can restock and some dungeons you can explore. Then grow your world, region by region, as your player's explore it.

I've got a bunch of tables for newbies to roll/select from in the book for those who just don't feel like coming up with it all from scratch. Need an unplanned dungeon? Its a (roll) shattered (roll) magic academy that is important because of (roll) its ancient armory and is dangerous because of (roll; ooh... roll twice) angry dead and murderous heirs.

I also recommend a fairly sparsely populated world to newbie GMs; that way when the player's invariably go off on an unexpected tangent you can throw a wilderness/travel encounter or even a session while you figure out what's actually over that next hill where your current map ends and it doesn't feel out of place to the players.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2020, 06:03:39 PM by Chris24601 »

S'mon

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2020, 01:08:34 AM »
I think having some kind of campaign setting map and a general idea of locations is good. I don't think it needs 6 months; something like one of the Mystara Gazetteers or the 1e FR Bloodstone Lands I'm currently using is good (the 'world' settings are too high level to help much). And a couple generic adventure sites (dungeons, typically) you can plop down wherever they go.


That gets you ready to run. Then you develop the starter town, the nearest dungeon, a couple more local dungeons, and a bunch of NPCs. I definitely agree with Pundit that NPCs are important. But the best campaigns IME always start small and work up. Players care about what's in front of their PCs' noses. A couple week's work to lay out the sandbox is good. Maybe some sketched NPC vs NPC conflicts. I don't recommend a timeline, at most a few likely future events. Dice rolls are better than scripts. Maybe the orc invasion is turned back on a d6 roll of 5-6. On a 1 it reaches the capital. The king gets ill on a 1. On a second 1 he dies, and so on.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2020, 01:15:34 AM by S'mon »
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S'mon

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Re: Newbie Gamers Don't Know How to Make a Campaign
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2020, 01:13:32 AM »
I also recommend a fairly sparsely populated world to newbie GMs; that way when the player's invariably go off on an unexpected tangent you can throw a wilderness/travel encounter or even a session while you figure out what's actually over that next hill where your current map ends and it doesn't feel out of place to the players.


I find that "You arrive in Dyvers without incident" works fine too - I just focus on the 'talky stuff', the slice-of-life that often gets overlooked. Let the PCs do what they want, flirt with the barmaid, haggle with the armourer. I can improv NPCs ok so this stuff is easy to do, players often really enjoy it, it helps bring the world to life and makes the 'adventuring' more meaningful. Players who hate anything but killing stuff probably are not a great fit for my game anyway. But for my lowbie sandbox game I do have a few dungeons I can always throw in rumours of if they go looking.
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