Saturday, August 13, 2016

#RPGaDay 2016 Day #13 What Makes a Successful Campaign

Day #13:  What Makes a Successful Campaign?

It doesn't matter if you're running a new-fangled four session campaign, or haven't stopped running your game since the fantasy expansion for Chainmail, one thing is required to run a successful campaign:  Continuity. 

While most players are quite content acquiring money, fame, and power in a game, most will take a second to a pause when they realize their action (or inaction) has a direct result at the world at large. 

We were all taught at an early age that the Caves of Chaos, if done right, weren't just a traditional dungeon crawl of going through Rooms 1-20 in order.  Once the orcs were removed, and the party moved on, SOMEBODY was going to fill that vacuum, be it the kobolds, the bugbears, or some new threat.  Most players expect that.  It's when it occurs outside the anticipated, basic throw-away interactions that mean something to someone. 

That barmaid you keep throwing money at, but she always rebuffs you?   After a certain point, something needs to be done regarding her.  Is she saving up enough to help her family move to the frontier and start a new life?  Will the extra money be the catalyst to have her world spiral out of control?  Will street thugs catch wind of this income and waylay her in the alley... or worse?   It doesn't have to be a major story arc of the campaign, but this continuity makes the story believable, relatable, and provides some attachment to the players/characters.   Worst case, if the players ignore the warning signs and something terrible happens to her, perhaps the tavern owners will hire more half-ogres bouncers to ensure that fraternization with the wait staff doesn't endanger them.

Outside of plot points, I emphasized subtlety in most actions.  That doesn't mean I don't drop the "They were spider people shapeshifters all this time!" plot hammer when appropriate.  Even when I retro-fit the story into the campaign, it needs to feel like it occurred right under the characters' noses, not slapped on like a "Ninjas drop out of the ceiling," moment. 

Even more than the intimate moments, characters need to know that the world outside their purview is going on quite well without them.   People die, nations go to war, borders change, famines and miracles occur, with or without the character's knowledge. These changes affect the world, sometimes immediately, many times over the duration of a long campaign.  These events should be analyzed the same way you review the outcomes of those times the party doesn't rescue the prince/princess, kill the dragon, or returns the Egg of Weeble Wobbling. 

Wait, your guys always succeed?   That's another topic for another day. 

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