Hello all, and welcome back to…where do I even start? This series is just a quick overview of the three main phases of building your first campaign! Last installment we talked about the planning portion of the whole thing, which involved making some surface level decisions about the hook, setting, and main enemy of your campaign. Today we’ll be taking those decisions and creating the rest of our campaign based on them. Let’s get started!
Part 2: Building
As with any good story, there needs to be a starting area and objective. Usually your hook will establish this place and person right off of the bat! If everyone is involved in or witnesses a bar fight, then the party is probably in a bar. The initial quest giver can be a shady man in the darkest corner, or the bartender, or even a soldier just wanting to forget the day. This NPC will point the player in the direction you want them to go, so make sure they fit the narrative. The shady man will probably give them something that may or may not be legal, the barkeep will probably offer a bounty on something, and the soldier will have work for the military. Around this time the team should be almost ready to go, unless they want to shop for potions and other gear. Once they do leave though, events need to be planned.
The general idea behind planning out a day of adventuring is to leave your party with less than half of the resources they started with that day. To put it in perspective for you,
The general idea behind planning out a day of adventuring is to leave your party with less than half of the resources they started with that day. To put it in perspective for you, everything is a resource in an RPG. Magic, health, ammo, potions and all other gear should be taken into account when planning out the difficulty of your combats in order to make sure that each one is challenging but passable. As a note, not each of these things individually should be below half at the end of the day, but overall the party should have half of it’s normal resources. With that in mind, we can pick and plan out our combats. Generally speaking, a day should consist of 3-4 combats that ramp up in difficulty as the day goes on. These enemies should be derived from your big bad of the campaign arc, or some interesting random encounters.
It will be a tough balance to find, but you have to make sure you aren’t making your players always fight minions of the main enemy. Fights that feel the same lose their luster very quickly, and keeping the players invested is the main objective of the campaign. For a few examples of combats, let’s just say that a Galactic Bounty Hunter is your big baddie. Obviously flying from planet to planet will yield a wide variety of enemy types, but it also provided an opportunity to make the story interesting. Maybe this Bounty Hunter has agents all over the place, and you stumble across some trying to infiltrate and derail a small government, or turn the tide of a war by assassinating a general, or just looking for a fight in the streets. By stopping any of these the party will make themselves known to the Bounty Hunter, and thus the story is advanced. Now the big baddie can send assassins, thugs, specialists, and more to try stopping the party, and all of these enemies being wherever the party is will make more sense. It also forces the party to ask questions like “how are they finding us?” and “Who are these people?” If you have your players asking story driven questions, you’re usually doing something right.
Don’t forget to spice things up with social encounters as well to ensure that you are getting the players all of the information. These encounters are simple in theory, but can be hard in practice. Make sure you read over your material, because somehow the players will always ask the one question your didn’t consider, and it is a lot easier to deal with when you’re solid on everything else. Finally you need your biggest encounter. This should be with the Bounty Hunter himself (to stay with the previous example) and easily the most difficult combat. My best advice here is that usually single enemies die very quickly without meat shields. Remember that your party does more damage than the average thug and there are more than three (usually) in any given party, so killing one thing isn’t particularly difficult. Throw in some minions, or some hidden abilities/secrets to catch your team on the back foot and make the Bounty Hunter a threat even if he is alone. Now we’ve fleshed out more of the campaign and we’re almost ready to enter the final stage…running the game.
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