Behind the Screen: Material FOREVER!

2007 December 14
by Dante

First off, I’d like to officially thank everyone who posted a comment on my Wednesday post to talk about their campaigns! Talk about an outpouring of excellent ideas… I hardly know where to start, so today I’m going to discuss a general theme that I saw across the board that really impressed me.

First, a note on game settings

Before I launch too far into the minutiae, I would like to make a few general comments regarding my own lack of exposure to certain gaming systems. I am 90% a D&D man, having played both 2e, 3e, 3.5e, and I intend to play 4e when it arrives. In case it wasn’t dreadfully obvious to those of you that frequent other systems, most of my perspective is only relative to D&D.

I have played (or attempted to run, in some cases) Call of Cthulhu, Deadlands, Star Wars RPG, and a handful of others. I occasionally draw experiences and lessons learned from these, but my experience is limited. I would be much more prone to trying new settings if I had more books or materials for given systems, but alas right now this is not the case. Until I get more “hands on” exposure with some of these gaming systems, I might not be too much in the details of those settings however I will attempt to do some research and maybe give some cursory feedback where applicable.

That being said, I would like to address a common theme among the Wednesday comments.

Creativity and the Player Role

I was utterly astounded at the amount of diversity in ideas around how to structure the player experience. Some of you have set up the players to be heroes, some have gone the “political cog” route, and some have created a group of anti-heroes. These ideas are all excellent, an
d certainly merit further discussion but the takeaway at a general level is simply this: Don’t be afraid to shake up the role that players and their characters will play in your campaign.

As I have mentioned here several times, players tend to get bored when presented with the same concepts of heroism, adventure, and intrigue. Turning their worldview on its ear and questioning what the role of the character will be within your world is a very powerful tool and can revitalize a sagging campaign.

Doing this organically

And I’m not talking about fertilizing heavily. Well, maybe I am… to continue this strange botony reference you really need to spread crap all throughout your campaign, and by crap I mean character development opportunities. If you build up this major engineered moment of character change where you thrust them into a new role that has been designed specifically for the purpose of doing something new, they will freak.

In literature, this is called a journey. Noah T. Lukeman has written a very appropriate article on the matter, where he asks a relevant question at the end of his discussion on why the journey is important for characters in fiction writing “Do your characters arrive at any inner realizations throughout the course of the work?”

In the case of our abrupt thrust into a new role, your players and characters really haven’t taken a journey at all and they are responding to a forced march that you have placed them on as a DM. This is a very dangerous course and usually leads to player disengagement and the potential for complete artistic corruption of the character that they are running. By shoehorning a character into a role that they had no real preparation for you are making the story drive the characters instead of the other way around, and in my opinion this is one of the worst sins a DM can commit.

What to look for in coming weeks

Honestly, I really enjoy hearing reader feedback and I find it quite energizing to consider some of the campaign ideas that were listed on the Wednesday post. This has given me a wellspring of great inspiration, so expect that I tackle a few of these ideas each week and eventually I may ask for more feedback on different areas of the roleplaying experience.

Hopefully, this discourse adds some value to your gaming sessions and gives you some things to consider. As always, don’t hesitate to email us with ideas for future columns and one of us will pick up the ball and run with it.

Thanks again everyone!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Dave Peyton permalink
    December 15, 2007

    You know, I always see tips on how to run evil, but never how to run good. In my orc and goblin campaign I linked in your last post I’m using Treasure Tables’ Evil Overlord method and having some buddies play various good factions, but still, rarely playing good characters myself I have no clue as how to be crafty and righteous instead of Lawful Stupid.

  2. Yax permalink
    December 15, 2007

    That’s a very good point. I’d like to see articles on how to run crafty good NPCs and organizations.

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