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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do you even campaign bro?


a series of military operations intended to achieve a particular objective*, confined to a particular area*, or involving a specified type of fighting.
"a desert campaign"
synonyms: military operation(s), maneuver(s); More

work in an organized and active way toward a particular goal, typically a political or social one.
"people who campaigned against child labor"
synonyms: crusade, fight, battle, push, press, strive, struggle, lobby
"they are campaigning for political reform"

When using the term "Campaign" to describe a roleplaying game the phrase"Particular Objective, confined to a particular area" part puts me off. Moreover I think it's just a convenient term held over from the hobbies wargaming roots.

What I normally run is not by definition a campaign. There is rarely a particular objective. I generally put situations in front of the players then conduct my GM'ing duties largely based off what they choose to do. The character objectives rarely single out any specified goal. The goals tend to be loosely tied together, by picking one the players will likely have an effect on the others.

The "particular area" part of a campaign is a bit dicier to dismiss out of hand. On a large scale as Gm's we are limited by those areas which we have prepared enough of in advance to be effectively used in game. Unless your Gm is Alexis from the Tao of D&D who has set out to map the entire globe, the GM's advanced prep is going to limit what areas characters can effectively explore. I wouldn't try to stop players from going anywhere they wanted, but I know pre-prepped areas play out better than non prepped areas. With tis in mind I tend to prep as much area as possible even if it's only in broad strokes. I can mine into an area's details as they arise but I need to know at least broadly what an area holds before the players arrive.(To burn down the library, that's what they do when they arrive... bastards.)  At a smaller scale, I usually don't care if the  players take an adventure hook or not, so I can't say I  ever have a specific location in mind when I start a new game.

The term campaign makes sense when the Gm has laid out a specific goal, with a specific location where that goal can be met. Back to those military roots. In 1798 Napoleon wanted to divide the british empire when he campaigned into Egypt. He also wanted to establish trade, making himself look bad ass (taller) would have made him happy as well. Point being  we have a specific goal, we have a location, we have a campaign.
Writing about a real historic "campaign" isn't that different from a language point of view as "Save the prince that's being held captive in the castle." It doesn't matter if it takes one game or if there are a hundred twists along the way which make the goal of saving that prince take twenty sessions, the  specificity  makes it a campaign. With any luck Admiral Nelson sink the parties boat while they're off saving the prince.
Absolutely the last time
I will use "bro"
on this blog.

So I guess the  answer to the title of this blog is  "Nah Bro" I don't exactly campaign.

So what is it I want to run?
Starting to run something new is the endgame in all this thinking.

I think the closest term is a "sandbox" game. It's a term I like. I like the idea of a sandbox better than I like the idea of a "hex crawl." I know the terms represent different techniques but something about the  word "crawl"  has never inspired me. I don't want the heroes crawling belly down through the muck for a whole multi session game. To me sandbox denotes something to be dug into, where toys are found, castles are built. I know it's a stupid distinction but it's how my brain works.

I very much want to run a game where exploration is the main driver.  Perhaps finding certain things, perhaps exploration for it's own sake.
Not knowing what lies around the next bend really fires my cylinders more than any other trope in fiction. I wrote a bit about this concept back in July of 2016. That post was more or less an open question to you the readers. Some good points were made, about not allowing  travel to be too easy. particularly,

 "If you zoom that out traveling by vehicle craft, you lose that chance to stumble across the details of a location. They are going to be hitting big landmark after big landmark. That's when exploration can get a little bland." (Geek Ken)

That point resonated with me. The D&D group from my long standing game has a flying ship sure. Their purpose in life in not exploration. They have been out to reform ley lines along with a few other goals (not getting eaten by a blue dragon being the  main goal last time we left off.) They have a course plotted, they have for a while.
Thinking ahead to running something new, considering I want exploration to be a big part of the game I'll have to avoid making travel too easy. For the same reasons I'll also have to prep much more than I have in the recent past. AAIE is a low prep game. My D&D game has been built out over  many years to the point where I don't have to prep all that much for it anymore. A new thing will be a completely different animal from either of those.

I will also have to think about Genre. As I'm a bit burnt out on fantasy right now. I'm not any good at horror more to the point I don't think horror supports my exploration theme. Steam or diesel punk are possibilities, though not my favorites. I'm not sure post apocalyptic hasn't been done to death. I like the idea of near future, not too heavy on the science fiction settings. Sci-fi could possibly make  moving around too easy anyway, unless I came up with some artificial constraint on  travel. A ship wreck , or some other such contrivance. I always wanted to run a game based on the Lewis and Clark expedition, only in an america filled with legendary creatures. I would have to work hard to find/ make a system to support that idea. The research would be a blast.

As you may have guessed:

  • I am writing this post without having spoken to any of the potential players.
  • Without having decided on a system to run. (I have a no list but I don't have a yes list)
  • Without having wrestled that  three headed bugbear known as "Scheduling"  (Scheduling has killed more games than the 80's satanism scare ever did...)
  • Without having decided on an actual  Genre.
  • I guess a reader could determine this is all very preliminary. That reader would be 100% correct.
I hope to  formulate some ideas in the  next week or so. When I do I will share them here as breaks from all the  AAIE nonsense.

That's it for now, just sharing some of the things germinating in my  brain.
As always thanks for reading.