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4/26/2018 12:21 am  #1


Campaign Structure

Since I like to shamelessly mine this board for ideas, I want to talk about campaign structure and see what everyone here uses.

My current campaign uses a loosely structured sandbox, giving the players a few clear choices along with the option to do whatever they want, i.e. "You can do A, B, C, or whatever else you want." Experience has taught me that 100% free form sandboxes are those one of those things players claim they really like but in reality, most of them like some structure and options alongside the freedom to do whatever they want. Below is an excerpt from my player FAQ sheet.

20. How is the campaign structured?
The campaign is a loosely structured sandbox based on the Open Table model. The default activity for players consists of plundering ancient ruins, tombs, and dungeons in search of gold and magical treasure. Players will have a variety of adventure seeds representing rumours, job offers, insider information, treasure maps, and the like. Player activity, including downtime, can generate more lucrative adventures that reward items or spells that they desire. Collaboration is encouraged. If Kay the Half-Blooded Pict wants to find a Tlingit Spirit Mask that lets him see in the dark and detect undead, he may want to enlist the aid of characters who can help with the necessary research.

As a general rule, sessions will end with the party in a safe zone, it being a disastrously bad idea to spend the night in a dungeon. This allows a larger pool of players to join the game. One player might make every session but another can only make it every six months, and that’s perfectly okay.

A few things to consider:

Unbalanced encounters. Although adventures will fall into rough “tiers” based on a level range, no provision is made to prevent characters from encountering monsters beyond their fighting ability. Players are encouraged to avoid unnecessary fights and retreat when the odds are against them.

Dynamic world. Many adventures have a limited window of opportunity. Rival adventurers race to sack tombs and raid dungeons. Choosing one adventure quite often means that others will no longer be available.

 

4/26/2018 10:30 am  #2


Re: Campaign Structure

Brock Savage wrote:

Since I like to shamelessly mine this board for ideas, I want to talk about campaign structure and see what everyone here uses.

My current campaign uses a loosely structured sandbox, giving the players a few clear choices along with the option to do whatever they want, i.e. "You can do A, B, C, or whatever else you want." Experience has taught me that 100% free form sandboxes are those one of those things players claim they really like but in reality, most of them like some structure and options alongside the freedom to do whatever they want. Below is an excerpt from my player FAQ sheet.

20. How is the campaign structured?
The campaign is a loosely structured sandbox based on the Open Table model. The default activity for players consists of plundering ancient ruins, tombs, and dungeons in search of gold and magical treasure. Players will have a variety of adventure seeds representing rumours, job offers, insider information, treasure maps, and the like. Player activity, including downtime, can generate more lucrative adventures that reward items or spells that they desire. Collaboration is encouraged. If Kay the Half-Blooded Pict wants to find a Tlingit Spirit Mask that lets him see in the dark and detect undead, he may want to enlist the aid of characters who can help with the necessary research.

As a general rule, sessions will end with the party in a safe zone, it being a disastrously bad idea to spend the night in a dungeon. This allows a larger pool of players to join the game. One player might make every session but another can only make it every six months, and that’s perfectly okay.

A few things to consider:

Unbalanced encounters. Although adventures will fall into rough “tiers” based on a level range, no provision is made to prevent characters from encountering monsters beyond their fighting ability. Players are encouraged to avoid unnecessary fights and retreat when the odds are against them.

Dynamic world. Many adventures have a limited window of opportunity. Rival adventurers race to sack tombs and raid dungeons. Choosing one adventure quite often means that others will no longer be available.

Yes players want options in my experience anyway.

I love running like an old TV show. Weekly episodes with some big "continued next week" adventures.

If I give them choices then should I balance the encounter?  The level of threat guides how they approach things.  I don't balance encounters, not sure I could even do that.  

I usually rub the serial number off adventure ideas after they choose one.  The same idea may re-appear under a new name later so I don't waste a good thought (a rarer thing as you get older!)

I like your approach very much as its the way I tend to play!!
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

4/26/2018 10:37 am  #3


Re: Campaign Structure

Thanks Mabon. "Episode of the week" is my favorite campaign structure but I wanted to try a more traditional approach with Hyperborea. I ran several Hyborian Age campaigns and used an episodic approach for all of them. It worked great and I feel it matches the presentation of Robert E. Howard's stories.

     Thread Starter
 

4/26/2018 11:11 am  #4


Re: Campaign Structure

Brock Savage wrote:

Thanks Mabon. "Episode of the week" is my favorite campaign structure but I wanted to try a more traditional approach with Hyperborea. I ran several Hyborian Age campaigns and used an episodic approach for all of them. It worked great and I feel it matches the presentation of Robert E. Howard's stories.

Episodic works because we are all working folks and may not always make the next adventure.  The cast may change every time we play!

I had up to about 6 years ago always had the grand campaign with story arcs and long term plots but it just got too much to manage for me.  My friends have as much fun now as they did then....

Yup! The pulps were very episodic.  

My question would be why change?


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

4/26/2018 11:16 am  #5


Re: Campaign Structure

My players can do whatever I have time to prepare or make up on the spot.

I sometimes have "arcs" which are more "islands in the stream". I have ideas of stuff to do but no railroads for the most part. Some stuff will connect together and might make a coherent "story", but is up to pc actions and the rolls of the dice.

My bottom line is that any plan I make won't survive contact with the players, but I like to have some plans regardless.


What? Me worry?
 

4/26/2018 1:16 pm  #6


Re: Campaign Structure

Crom laughs at your plans!

 

4/26/2018 3:44 pm  #7


Re: Campaign Structure

francisca wrote:

Crom laughs at your plans!

He sits on his mountain, grumbling.

Little does he care of our actions or our plans.


What? Me worry?
 

4/26/2018 5:26 pm  #8


Re: Campaign Structure

Brock Savage wrote:

Since I like to shamelessly mine this board for ideas,

Haha! That’s what it’s for, my friend!

I structure my campaigns very similarly, usually providing several “module” options and also the freedom to “do whatever.” My players know that if they choose “do whatever,” I’ll be improvising more, which has its benefits and drawbacks. They’ve always been pretty good about recognizing my improvisational limitations and not intentionally trying to “break the game” by “asking” for impractical levels of realism from me.


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

4/26/2018 7:43 pm  #9


Re: Campaign Structure

@Chainsaw
I feel like improv is my weak spot. It's exhausting to run on pure creativity for 4-6 hours straight. I like to have some notes and prep, I can do pretty well with an hour or two of prep. I have run into those d*** players you mention, luckily it's been about 10 years since I've had to deal with that sort of thing.

mabon5127 wrote:

If I give them choices then should I balance the encounter?  The level of threat guides how they approach things.  I don't balance encounters, not sure I could even do that.

I agree with you 100%. 

mabon5127 wrote:

I usually rub the serial number off adventure ideas after they choose one. 

Oh yea, that's the way to do it. I've reskinned S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth for 2 different Hyborian Age campaigns!

Last edited by Brock Savage (4/26/2018 7:43 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

4/26/2018 8:06 pm  #10


Re: Campaign Structure

I prefer guided sandboxes and megadungeons.

For sandbox games, I usually prepare a single sheet's worth of information to start with. The first adventure is either a mission or something that inevitably involves the characters to get them going. I don't ask for character backgrounds prior to play, so it also gives them time to slowly develop some connections to the world. I try to paint the larger picture, who the movers and shakers are, what they want, etc. It's usually enough to get them going, but if we want more structure, I can just put down a few rumours and missions on a shared document and let them pick what they want.

When I run megadungeons (currently Rappan Athuk using ASSH rules, but not the setting) I try to give a similar rundown of immediate information. I make sure they have a place to restock equipment and hire cannonfodders, I mean, henchmen. Eventually, they have so much gold that they either go on exploring other parts of the setting (and the game becomes a sandbox as described above) or they blow their cash on rare items (quality armour and weapons, one-use alchemical and magical items, magical research, extracurricular training, etc.). The game is divided into expeditions, obviously, and delving has its own well-developed structure. So... buy equipment and hire henchmen, then delve deep, get loot, then come back and sell it. Rinse and repeat.

 

4/26/2018 11:39 pm  #11


Re: Campaign Structure

Invariably, I sit down at the table with a module that makes some sense with campaign current events, having studied it through and through for weeks, then the players walk into room 1, do something really cool, which in turn makes me think of something really cool and we're off - and the module is mostly out the window.
 

 

4/27/2018 12:11 am  #12


Re: Campaign Structure

Ynas Midgard wrote:

I prefer guided sandboxes and megadungeons.

That's a great idea, I think a megadungeon is a solid foundation for a sandbox. A classic megadungeon, Barrowmaze (adapted for Hyperborea, of course), happens to be my campaign's tentpole.

I really like Rappan Athuk and would love to build a campaign around it set in Hyperborea. I am interested in learning how you reskinned it for Hypeborea. My only quibble (a minor one) is that Rappan Athuk is so deadly, I imagine that at some point players would seek lower hanging fruit!

Orcus exists in my campaign, along with Xxubleks (Juiblex) the Faceless King and Demogorgon. I had to include the classic 1e demon princes and they hold a position roughly equivalent to the class VII daemons presented in AS&SH.  
 

     Thread Starter
 

4/27/2018 5:11 am  #13


Re: Campaign Structure

Brock Savage wrote:

I really like Rappan Athuk and would love to build a campaign around it set in Hyperborea. I am interested in learning how you reskinned it for Hypeborea. My only quibble (a minor one) is that Rappan Athuk is so deadly, I imagine that at some point players would seek lower hanging fruit!

I didn't. I am not using Hyperborea as a setting for my current campaign; I only use the rules. It's mostly because I wanted to run a variety of modules, both purchased and of my own design, without much reskinning.

As for the deadliness, it really depends. My players are pretty smart and rather lucky with saving throws, and one of the players custom built an Excel sheet that makes character creation and keeping track of encumbrance and temporary ability loss a piece of cake - so we're not afraid of character deaths.

My problems with Rappan Athuk are much different. It's way too wordy at places, crucial information is often buried deep in the paragraphs, too many gotcha traps instead of genuine puzzles, and very, very unimaginative secret doors (plus about half of them isn't even mentioned in the text). However, it runs more like a point crawl (which is good, because we aren't using any screen sharing or virtual tabletops), and the levels are interconnected so much it makes up for the pretty small levels themselves (like, it has 48 levels and 808 described areas, whereas Dwimmermount has 13 levels and 715 areas). It's also very kitchen sink, but with this group we wanna include as many staples of DnD as possible anyways, so it's a big plus for us.

 

5/20/2018 9:57 pm  #14


Re: Campaign Structure

mabon5127 wrote:

Episodic works because we are all working folks and may not always make the next adventure.  The cast may change every time we play!

This is now the way I run campaigns, AS&SH or otherwise. 

 

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