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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Campaign Sparks I

If you haven't read any of Johnn Four's Roleplaying Tips, go do that right now.  Read all of them, I'll wait.

Back?  Great.  Anyway, one of my favorite things that Mr. Four has created is the campaign seed.  Basically, this is a 100-word blurb from which a GM and players should be able to grow an entire campaign.  In fact, since you've read his post on them, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.

A campaign seed should have a villain, an interesting milieu, 2-3 NPCs to stir the plot, a left hook, and something that makes the stakes real for the players (not just the PCs).  A tried-and-true method for generating a classic campaign.  I only propose a couple of modifications, mostly just clarifications.  Though I'm calling my versions "campaign sparks" instead of "campaign seeds."

A campaign spark is a 100-150 word summary that sets off an entire campaign.  A campaign spark requires five pieces.

Conflict: A persistent villain (with a tangible goal), an impending catastrophe, or an intractable situation between equally powerful forces.

Setting: A neat place to adventure, full of excitement and opportunity.  It also has a memorable or evocative name.

NPCs: 2-3 characters who have an interest in the Conflict and the power to effect change.

Stakes: What happens if the Conflict isn’t resolved?  Why do the players care?

Twist: A revelation that changes not only the campaign going forward, but also sheds light on previous events and actions.

Now that you know what a campaign spark is, here's an example.

Campaign Spark: The Village and the Forest
The Forest is a dangerous place.  The Village is home to a few hundred content villagers.  Every day, the Forest expands inward, closing in on the Village.  The villagers seem indifferent to this constant growth, treating it as a minor inconvenience.  But when the Forest grows too close, villagers start disappearing.  Whatever happened to the old explorers, anyway?

New explorers have been chosen by Noïta, the wisewoman and village leader.  She sends them into the Forest to bring back anything interesting that they can find.  Faber, the blacksmith, will craft many found resources into usable tools, but he grows suspicious of the Forest and the other villagers’ indifference.  All the while, Rolf, the woodsman, busies himself by chopping down trees and clearing brush, cheerily failing to slow the inevitable advance of the Forest towards the Village.

Hidden by layers of mystery is the truth: the Forest and the Village are a test created by two gods to judge the worth of mortals.  Will the explorers save the Village and the oblivious villagers, will they allow the Forest to take its natural course, or can they find a way to thwart the plans of both gods?

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