Campaign Creation Sheet

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Latest revision as of 02:32, 26 November 2010

Contents

Dealing With Loot

I plan on having two ways of dealing with loot every campaign.

Way 1: Low Loot

Following the rules in the DMG2 for Boons and inherit bonuses, in this kind of campaign, you'd have a list of boons available, and each player can attempt to gain one or more. Simply assign as needed and go.

Way 1a: Masterwork

The core idea of this variant on the above is to use the same system, but add more masterwork gear that replaces some of the feat fixes. For instance:

  • Weapons that give Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus, and Critical damage die benefits.
  • Armors that do not require enhancement bonuses, and give the armor specialization benefits.
  • Capes/Amulets that help take care of the NADs.

Way 2: Group Assigned Loot

This requires a bit more work on both the players and the DM's side, but is much cleaner then wishlists. The DM prepares a list of the loot parcels that appear in one adventure (An adventure being roughly two levels or a logical change in story progression). Then, the players go through and lock in what each item is (As a group).

This also has an advantage when players leave - Simply remove all of their assigned parcels. If a new player comes in, get them to create with starting level loot + parcels already gained by the character (But not with items locked in) and then assign loot to the empty parcels.

Interesting Encounters

Interesting Encounters are based around four core elements:

  1. Cinema,
  2. Challenge,
  3. Features, and
  4. Goals

Each encounter should include at least one of these. In general, If something is supposed to be a recurring feature in encounters, you should have one to learn how it works, one to abuse it, two to complicate it, and a final, fifth encounter to take it to a whole new level. If you plan on using more then five encounters with the same feature, create subsets of encounters based around 5, sharing the final of each as the beginning of the first.

Example
I make 11 encounters with the recurring goal of saving various hostages. We will call these encounters A through K.

In encounter A, the players see the hostages, and learn what the enemies do. In Encounter C the opponents will start killing the hostages whenever one of the captors die. In Encounter D, the opponents will kill one whenever convent in the battle. In encounter E, certain hostages will in fact be captors. This means that we have a subset [A, B, C, D, E].

I will then have encounter F to exploit the captors are hostages, Have encounter G and H in which the hostages are put in constant danger / traps, and Encounter I where they switch the Captors with the Hostages. This gives me subset [E, F, G, H, I].

Finally, Encounter J will be used to exploit what was learnt in I, and then K could be used as a major complication or a minor complication - In this case I'd make it so that half are captors and half are hostages. This gives subset [I, J, K].

Cinema

Cinema refers to the feel and some-what to the setting of the encounter. Cinema, overall, is created by the other three elements. However, you must still consider what sort of Cinematic feel do you want an encounter to have? If you, for example, make an encounter challenging, with deadly features and hard goals, you may of just made a gritty feel instead of a pulp feel.

Because of this, working with Cinema can be dumbed down to a simple statement: "Are these elements, whether alone or in conjunction, causing the feel I want?" If you answer yes, you meet your cinema goals. Answer No, and you need to rethink your entire encounter.

An important technique of cinema is foreshadowing. While each encounter should not be foreshadowed, important encounters should be foreshadowed by rumors and actions that the NPC's in an encounter take.

Challenge

Making an encounter challenging is generally where the XP comes in: Spending XP on traps, monsters, and skill challenges as necessary. Skill challenges only count as part of an encounter if they can't be ignored. Traps are best placed where the PCs will have to come into contact with them. Monsters are best used when they create movement.

Features

Terrain, Columns, Icicles, Chandeliers, Lava, height, and illumination are all important decisions, and have various uses depending on your goals.

Goals

Primary Goals are three-fold:

  1. Where does this encounter fit into the story?
  2. What is reward of this encounter?
  3. What are the outcomes of this encounter?

The first question ensures the encounter is beneficial to the campaign, and moves the plot in some way - In other words, the long term goal. The second question addresses the immediate reward, the short term goal. The final one considers what happens if PCs fail, barely succeed, etc. A reward here reefers to anything the PCs may gain from finishing an encounter: This is not necessarily treasure, but can be allies, stopping a plan, or a variety of other things.

Secondary Goals are two-fold:

  1. What is the reward of this goal?
  2. Is it ever worth doing?

Puzzles

I love puzzles, but implementing challenging and interesting puzzles can be difficult.

First off, avoid word riddles outright unless you are doing all of the following:

  1. Giving players the riddle in text form.
  2. Giving them the means to actually have the knowledge needed to decipher it.
  3. Don't have a premade answer, instead allowing any answer that does meet all the criteria.

Without these three things, using a Word Riddle is pretty silly.

The 4e DMG lists the following puzzle types: (82-84)

  • Number Grids
  • Logic Puzzles
  • Quotation Puzzles
  • Word Searches and Crosswords
  • Riddles
  • Cryptograms
  • Mazes

Handouts

When possible, always give PCs handouts. A good handout usually is of one of the following three types, and of a size no greater than half a page.

Images

Images are handouts designed to give the players an idea of a scene. In addition, an image might be a map. These are pretty straight forward.

Letters

Letters includes journal entries, actual letters, book excerpts, and battle plans. The point of a letter handout is to physically give the player some kind of information. These tend to be the longest handouts, but unless it serves a purpose in your story to be really really long, it's best to keep them as close to half a page as you can.

Puzzle Handout

This is an image, text, or physical object that is part of the puzzle. The text of a riddle, the image of a cypher, or a hint to a puzzle all qualify. In rare cases, while gaming in real life, you may be able to construct the actual puzzle and give it to the players, which will give the best results.

Designing Campaign Arcs

The best way, in my opinion to design campaign arcs is to follow the following procedure:

Step 0: Arc or Adventure?

An arc is a series of adventures that all lead to a climax - That is, an Arc is a complete story. However, an arc is so large that it is difficult to drag players into the arc itself, instead drag them into each adventure with plot hooks.

An adventure is a short series of encounters that deals with one specific threat. Adventures are also stories, but much shorter. A good adventure hooks players in, and when concluded leaves something not quite right, a problem that still needs to be fixed. This second part allows you to branch together adventures to create arcs, with the problem at the end of the arc acting as the bridge between two arcs.

Step 1: How many Arcs, and how long?

The "Standard" campaign has one arc per tier, but an arc can last as long as 30 levels, or as short as 1 level. This leads to another question automatically: What is your start and end level? If you decide, for example, that you have a level 1-30 campaign with 5 arcs, the next logical question is how long is each arc? You may wish to make them all equal, but I find that the following tends to give the best results:

  • Introductory Arc: 10% of the campaign.
  • Action Arcs: 50% of the campaign.
  • Transitory Arcs: 10% of the campaign.
  • Conclusion Arc: 30% of the campaign.

So, In a standard 1-30 campaign, 3 levels will be introduction. 15 levels will be Action arcs, 3 levels will serve as transitions, and the conclusion will be 9 levels.

Step 2: Map the Campaign

Now that you have your Arcs basically set up, it is now in your best interest to map your arcs to your campaign. By this, I mean do the following:

  • Choose the levels each arc will occupy.
  • For each arc, create the overall conflict. This is best done by choosing the first event that players will have to face, and then the final event of the arc.
  • Create a transition between each arc.
  • Choose a bunch of interesting encounters, and put them at approximate levels you'd like the PCs to fight them.
Example
I'm running a 1-30 standard arc as above. I set my Introductory arc to be 1-3, spend a transition arc on level 3-4, have an action arc from 4-12, have a second transition from 12-13, Have a second action from 13-20, have a final transition from 20 to 21, and then the conclusion arc for the last levels.

I then write out my arcs for easy reference:

Introduction (1-3)

  • Players fight pirates
  • Defeat the vile Seabeard, and get a blood-stained treasure map.

Transition 1(3-4)

  • The map leads through the dangerous Octive Strait
  • The island the players arrive is filled with demons.

Action 1(4-12)

  • Players fight Demons on the shore, and lose their ship in the process.
  • Players find the treasure after defeating The Deep Demon, including a mysterious ship.

Transition 2(12-13)

  • Players return home on the mysterious ship to find their families missing.
  • Ultimately find a ransom note, from the long dead captain of the Ghost Ship

Action 2(13-20)

  • Players start tracking the Ghost Ship.
  • Face the Ghost Ship, but lose, and become prisoners.

Transition 3(20-21)

  • Prison Break
  • Learn of the Ghost Ship's purpose: A way to collect souls for Dagon.

Conclusion(21-30)

  • Find a new ship
  • Players kill Dagon, who had been empowered by The Ghost Ship

So thats a good start. I then start coming up with interesting encounters and putting them in between, as well as solidifying my transitions.

Step 3: Design the First Adventure

At this point, we have everything pretty planned out. However, we will need to have the first adventure all completed before the players can get anywhere. Creating Adventures is mostly just the work of applying the ideas of Arcs, and filling in the spaces.

Step 4: Design subsequent Adventures

This is an ongoing step, but generally you want most of the first arc planned out before continuing the next step.

Step 5: Adjust as necessary due to PC actions

PC's hate you and your preparation. Adjust as needed as circumstances arise.

Step 6: ???

???

Step 7: Profit!

Profit!

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