A New Year, A New CampaignJanuary 4, 2019 Off By TK
Welcome back, adventurer! Last week we concluded “Treat Ye’self” with Ashley Warren’s ominous “Amira Metanova’s Opuscule of Omens”. It was an auspicious end to 2018, a beautiful cherry on the top of our first holiday season together. Today, we’ll be rising from our holiday stupor with renewed vim and vigor. We are refreshed! We are rejuvenated!
This week, we’re going to embrace our new beginnings! We’re going to talk about the New Campaign!
So pull out a fresh notebook and get ready to lie about your stat rolls. Let’s go on an adventure!
Obviously the first question you’ll have is about the foundation of the campaign. Do you want to play an epic fantasy? A space opera? A gritty western? There’s no end to games that you can bring to the table with your friends and the list is growing by the day!
Remember that the setting you choose will often determine the themes and atmosphere of the game. A cosmic horror setting like those featured in Call of Cthulhu will typically be much darker than the political drama and romance of Blue Rose. With a dungeon-delving, high fantasy epic like Pathfinder, there is often the expectation of combat-heavy plotlines and heroic struggle, but the GM-less, apocalyptic Dream Askew is more open and distributes the power of story-telling equally around the table with no dice.
The last section, by no means, is meant to imply that setting always dictates the content of the game experience. The beauty of tabletop roleplaying games is that a group of friends can explore whatever stories they wish and the rules and settings only inform mechanics—that is, the way in which you explore those stories. Decide whether you’ll be purchasing a published adventure, such as WOTC’s newly released Dungeon of the Mad Mage or forging your own path. In addition to the main adventure, ask yourself what sort of underlying concepts you’d like to address in the story.
There are many different motifs, themes, and statements in TTRPG, the most readily recognizable being good vs. evil. However, you can feel free to experience other conflicts, such as loyalty vs. ambition (common in classic stories such as Berserk or Akira), or progress vs. tradition. In examining themes beyond good and evil, you open the game up to incredible possibilities that you may have overlooked previously.
Who are your heroes and how are they changing the world around them? How can you help your friends and party members shape the story into something truly special? What can they bring to the table in return to guarantee that the game is enjoyed equally?
Essentially, how can all of you share a story together?
One of my favorite ways to help players acclimate to a new campaign is to offer a Questionnaire. I ask for backstory information that they may never have thought of, such as a scent that triggers a memory, a hypothetical scenario where they’ve found a missing wallet, or their favorite bedtime story. After this, we work out side scenes through text, which act as pre-game flashbacks, or we will host as many Sessions 0 as necessary for the characters to find their “voice”. Using one-shots (such as those sold by Kobold Press ) help with getting players acquainted with your GM style or into the groove of player speech and roleplaying. Reward them early and often for investment and they will likely do the same, transforming the story in ways you never anticipated.
That’s all for this week, adventurers! Next week we’ll be continuing this trend of “new beginnings” by looking at a couple of adventures and games that are touted as “beginner friendly”.
About The Author
TK is a speculative fiction writer and part-time eldritch horror. They can be found as a cast member of The Demonplague, Unearthly Twilights, The Land Between Two Rivers, and Hell’s Belles on the Don’t Split the Podcast, WebDM, and Dungeons & Dragons networks, respectively. Their gothic and cosmic horror stories can be found at tkjwrites.com and very soon in print in a collaborative set of short stories and comics with artist Kayla Cline. TK themself can be found on Twitter @tkjoinsthefray.