Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DMG - Campaigns

Oops. Obviously I don't look ahead to see what the chapters are, as I talked about some of the ideas in the Campaigns chapter when I discussed the Adventures chapter.

Of course, a lot of the rules and ideas behind creating and running a module also apply to the campaign as a whole. Again, this chapter is meant, I feel, for newer Dungeon Masters who need some guidance in developing their world and the adventures within. In the same way as the Adventures chapter, it starts off talking about published campaigns, and how you can use or modify them to your needs. I think that using a published campaign setting is more recommended than a published module, because creating a whole campaign setting can be daunting and quite time-consuming. Taking a world created by others and adding your own twist into it is so much easier.
And, as this chapter reminds you, there's no reason that you have to stick with anything in the publish material -- if you don't like the name of this city, or where it is, or who rules it, change away. The only warning that needs to be given is that if your players are familiar with the campaign setting, perhaps too much, then they might argue fine points that you change and/or dislike the changes you make to their beloved world.

The various themes suggested are pretty standard fare, and I think I've used nearly all of them. World-Shaking Events, Divine Strife... these are what tell the characters that their role in the events will put then in the annals of history forever. The subgenres are a little more subtle, and while I've taken snippets of these here and there for a campaign, I myself stick to the Swords & Sorcery style of campaign for the most part. To me, many of these could last for a module or two, but a campaign dedicated to them seems a bit much. Perhaps my players don't agree?

The idea of the Super Adventure is interesting. It's not new, but putting a name to it is, I think. The campaign I'm currently designing could be classified as a super adventure. One thing that I find lacking in campaigns that I've made (and this is wholly my fault) is that the characters don't get much sense of a homebase. The story takes them from village to town to city, from kingdom to kingdom, from crypt to dungeon to demi-plane. There's no familiarity being built-up, apart from the occasional visit from recurring NPCs and the general flow of the plot. The super adventure, being focussed in one setting, helps to both personalize the events that are taking place in the characters' (possibly adopted) home, as well as to provide easier revelations of the effects that the party is having on its environs. If the characters see the city grow from ruins to a thriving metropolis, knowing they're the direct cause, that's as rewarding as the electrum pieces in their purses.

The next few parts are again for the newer Dungeon Master, talking about the story design and flow, and how to introduce the players and their characters to your schemes. The Starting at Higher Level section seems out of place here, being a rule-based section in an otherwise role-playing chapter. Isn't this discussed in the Player's Handbook?

The section on running a campaign gives guidance on tying together separate modules, either ones that are meant to be in a chain of events, or ones that might be completely separate ideas that the Dungeon Master wants to turn into an epic series of conflicts. When using store-bought adventures, such as the initial 8 from 3rd edition, you had a subtle theme in the background (the ancient dragon Ashardalon) that loosely related the modules together. But it was up to the Dungeon Master to give a reason why the party went from the Sunless Citadel to the Forge of Fury and onward to Brindinford. When making your own campaign and modules within, I tend to start with a grand scheme and parcel it out into smaller bits that make sense as self-contained stories, but stories that all tie together, progressing to the ultimate... demise of the party.

My favorite section of this chapter was on the Tiers of Play, where they spell out the kinds of events that characters in each tier might expect to see, the foes they will face, and the range of the characters' adventures and fame. I'm still not sure what I think of the Epic Destinies, however. They have a note of finality to them, that this character has reached the end of their career, even while this chapter assures you that immortality doesn't mean retirement.

Now, if only one of our parties could make it that far.

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