Plans of Mice and GMs

So, it has already begun…my Players are starting their own stories!  Yeah!  My best games come when I build the environment and my players move the action.  So, this may be really good.

Vadis Mal and Stone are spending money to find out which prostitution establishments treat their “employees” as free people and which ones use them as objects or slaves.  They plan on ending those that do the latter.  Adran is planning some divination events, but I haven’t gotten any e-mails from him, yet.

These two event-lines will surely take time away from anything that I have planned out and that is okay.  I realized that I set up this campaign, when I was still working under the 3E/4E “Campaign Arc” plan.  I don’t really like the campaign arcs.  I really need to work on my NPCs and settings and let the story build itself.  This is going to be a blast.

Here is a list of the NPCs in the Pellham Campaign.  (linked 2014.11.24)

So, fellow Game Masters, how do you experience Player initiative?

Game On!

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3 thoughts on “Plans of Mice and GMs

  1. I’m not sure what you mean by the question, but I’m happy to answer here or in a blog post of my own when I understand better.

    Here, however, is my own thought on “campaign arcs”!

    I agree that, without the right group of players, the “campaign arc” can get messy and railroadish. My most successful campaigns with something similar have had “campaign backdrops” though, which is essentially the same thing but with increased player agency at the lower levels.

    A great example of this was my “Witch King” campaign – the backdrop was that there was a evil lich or archmage who was trying to conquer the Heartlands. He was an ancient evil, he was a returning evil, and “war” was always on the horizon.

    At lower levels this was merely a backdrop (in amongst a series of other things) and the players kind of did what they wanted, though the threat of the Witch-King was always present (spies, raiding parties, etc). But as the players advanced in level, became more caught up in politics, more desirous of powerful magic (which was definitively a “war resource”), they increasingly became drawn into the conflict as “agents” rather than “pawns” or “extras”. Now, the players could have made choices not to do so, they could have simply left the Heartlands for that matter, but they were invested enough in their homelands to decide that they really didn’t want the Witch-King to win.

    In your case, with the anti-slave characters, I almost see the development of a broad arc as a needful if only to start addressing questions by the players/characters as to “what’s next” and “how might this all end”. I usually try to stay two or three “narrative steps” ahead of the players so that I have at least some idea what to do when they inevitably do something I wasn’t expecting, or get really lucky or unlucky. In this case I’d have my own rough idea of the hierarchical power structure that they are attacking, with some notes and game stats jotted down for the key NPC’s. If the opposing NPC is a 7th level fighter with a Int of 14 her responses are going to be quite different than if she is a 12th level wizard with an Int of 18.

    I’m generally a huge proponent of knowing what the resources of the NPC organizations are – mostly because as the PC’s starting mucking with stuff this provides a huge amount of “adventuring” possibilities.

    D.

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  2. D, you got the question exactly as I hoped that you would. You seem to work the way I used to work my campaign and to which I am returning. The last few campaigns that I ran focused only on the PCs and lacked a feel of a “real world,” since they didn’t have a world moving on outside the PCs actions. I need to use my “campaign arc” as a “campaign background. Hope your campaign is going well and thanks for commenting.

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    • Excellent!

      Personally I know that my campaigns are going well when I have the sense of them being a living world independent of the characters. When I know what is happening in this kingdom and how that effects things in that kingdom and all of the ripple effects bouncing back and forth between those events and the events of the characters.

      Where when the characters decide to meander off on a side quest of their own, and either some other group of adventurers loots the dungeon, or rescues the prince, and gains the rewards – or evil cult wins and the village or the kingdom goes to heck in a hand-basket.

      The best times are when the characters do or uncover something and suddenly “it all makes sense” and the kind of disjointed set of events that I’ve known is going on “around them” suddenly makes sense because I finally have a piece of the puzzle.

      Heck, the Witch King campaign generated one of the reoccurring great villains of my game – and all because they couldn’t be bothered to hunt down the escaped leaders of the cult from Orlane (in the old N1 module – Against the Cult of the Reptile God). That haunted the gaming group *years* with the Cult seeking revenge on them, then their henchmen and students, and then *their* henchmen and students… Heck, in some ways that was what spelled the end of that campaign. They were never willing to go and (the metaphor really is right for once) cut the head off of the snake and the series of characters really paid for it over and over again.

      D.

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