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[my first] Campaign building help

ninjaininjai Registered User regular
edited August 2011 in Critical Failures
I've been deployed for the last 10 months, and in that time have had plenty of time to come up with a grand story or 2 that I just HAVE to tell. One I'm working on (I hope) is going to be a comic someday. The other I plan on working into a tabletop campaign, but there's just one problem. I've never ran a campaign, and have only participated in one other (shortlived, but EPIC [Dark Heresy]). So I'm coming here asking for help.

I chose Pathfinder because I know that I and my gaming buddies all have a copy of the book, all (that I am aware) that I need is the bestiary and a DM book? right? I've a great story, and have been working on character design and settings etc, but I have no idea about the mechanics involved with setting up dungeons and scenarios. After reading the rules I didn't see anything about help threads. If its kosher, I'd like to keep updating this with progress and tidbits about the campaign, as well as ask questions about designing the engaging part of table top RPGs (at least for me) the combat.

First and Foremost:
What do I need (aside from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook) to get started?

ninjai on


  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain IndianaRegistered User regular
    I would hold off on running your own grand story and buy one of the official adventure paths from Paizo for Pathfinder and run that first. To get your feet wet. It will provide you with everything you need to run a brief campaign. Then, you can take the knowledge you learn from that and apply it towards building your own world for your story, or maybe even provide you with the groundwork to implement your story in the Pathfinder campaign setting (which would actually be a great deal easier in some ways and provide you with a wealth of resources).

    If you do decide to build your own world, you need a map of the area your PC's will start their adventuring. Just a small map with a few dozen miles of the surrounding area mapped out. The website is butt-fugly, but it is a solid mapping program: and it has a free version. After that, you'll want to read some of the D&D / RPG blogs about world building and take it one step at a time.

    The biggest piece of advice I can give is don't get frustrated when the players don't do what you "want" or need them to do to move the adventure forward. The players are not mind readers and won't always know everything they should about the campaign. Forcing them to go down a single, certain path regardless of what they want to do is called railroading and most players don't like that. Part of the reason why people play RPG's is the freedom of choice involved.

    Beyond that advice, much of what you need to learn won't make sense until you actually start running the game and run into those problems and overcome them.

    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
  • ninjaininjai Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    Excellent. Yeah, that's the reason I like RPG's also is the ability to do whatever I want. I want to take that into consideration at the same time while building my world, while simultaneously promoting an overarching objective. The map idea was something I was playing with, but it is something I'm going to draw out. What I have in a mind is an intro campaign run with each character by themselves, just a short prelude into the campaign, followed by a few sessions as a team getting through an introduction to the world, before setting them loose on it. One of the reasons I want to do this campaign in addition to the story is sort of to test my artistic skills, designing the map, characters, making "movie poster" type pieces for each session, as well as making some of the character baddies.

    Running preconstructed campaigns was something I was considering because of my lack of experience. I noticed on the pathfinder website that they have PDF's of various books, I'll see if they have PDF's of the precons on there too or what. Since I have no idea what I'm getting myself into this is probably the best course of action at this point. Thanks for the advice, and any tips you guys have are welcome.

    edit: yeah fugly, but I can see its usefulness for establishing context. bookmarked.

    ninjai on
  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain IndianaRegistered User regular
    Are you going to run this online or in person? If you're going to run it online in a play-by-post format, has a great SceneViewer that allows each person to move the tokens and provide the link to the next person.

    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
  • ninjaininjai Registered User regular
    Definitely in person. To answer part of my own question, the precons are indeed available through pdf, and you can also subscribe and receive them monthly.

    I'll still steal that website, muahahaha

  • IlliantharIllianthar GMT -0700Registered User regular
    First off, thank you so much for your service!

    Secondly, I would second the advice to try something pre-built first. Since the encounters are all planned out for you, you can see how they've been crafted, and that can help you put together your own adventures once they're into your homebrew campaign.

    I would offer, as advice, that your campaign arc should have a start point and an end point, but don't get too caught up in detailing out exactly how the two are connected. Your players ARE going to take a path you haven't planned for, so if you're locked into a certain sequence of events, that could throw you off. Instead, focus on the substance of the plot points, and then insert them as they seem appropriate, scaling the threat to match the PCs at that point in the campaign, or moving in and out pieces of plot that work at that particular time/level. Then you can keep them moving in the way that they want, but still guide them towards the major set pieces that you have that advance your story along.

    Also, borrow liberally from anything you read/see. If you like an idea, or a type of scenario/encounter, take it and mold it into what fits your campaign. You can find great mechanics, encounters, and ideas from anywhere (movies, magazines, old adventures,etc) that set off a spark for you, and then go from there.

  • ninjaininjai Registered User regular
    Thanks for the kind words Illian. I'm chatting with a few friends back home about running some throwaway precon campaigns to help me along. Most of them are veterans of all sorts of game systems, and we all have been playing Warmachine/Hordes for a few years, so they're all pumped to help me along as a newbie GM.

    For the plot, I have a very broad sense of the story, I have a few characters and their roles in the story, but I don't really have any details set out. I was planning on setting up areas on a large LoTR style map, where there's cool stuff to do in each area, and the world is open and free to explore/ do whatever, but with an overarching goal, and plenty of stimulus to make headway without "railroading" as it were. (i.e. people hunting them down/events that preclude progress at points during the story.)

    I guess its all moot until I learn how all this stuff works in the first place. Thanks for the sound advice, I can't wait to get cracking!

  • ninjaininjai Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    This may be a little redundant, as my answer may come from running the precon campaigns, but in writing lore for the larger story are there any specifics that I should take care to include?

    edit: One other question, is writing characters for the players to choose from a bad idea? The story arc is fluid, but the outset is pretty centric around the "origin story" concept.

    ninjai on
  • FaranguFarangu I am a beardy man With a beardy planRegistered User regular
    Always helps when each character has a specific tie-in to the story as a whole. Helps get them involved. And an involved player, more often than not, gives you a decent portion of ideas to use for later on in the arc. It's a self-sustaining cycle.

  • BeerNgamingBeerNgaming Registered User regular
    To begin with, congrats on entering the world of a GM.

    Lots of good advice so far, like running a module first to get a feel for it. In terms of what to buy, I always swear by a beastiary. Feel free to swamp out the skins of enemies where you need to. Like, guards can have orc stats and so forth.

    I like that you have an open world idea. SkyCaptain brought up a good point about allowing your players to have their freedom. This is really, really important. I actually really disagree with Gabe (]) on this one. If you want to tell your story, write a book. If you're playing it as a tabletop RPG, make sure your PCs get to leave their mark.

    Farangu mentioned making sure characters tie into the story and world. Especially if you allow them to create part of it - that makes them invested in it, like a part of the world is theirs as well. Work with people on this. Tell them about the ideas you have, and help them fit into that world.

    Regarding your question about specifics to include in the world - my way is to get the feel of the world first. Everyone is different in this regard. I personally think it's more important that I get players into the same mood about the world I'm in, rather than having the same details in mind that I do. That's probably of no use to you, so here's my advice:

    Make up the details as you need them. You sound like a pretty creative guy, you shouldn't have trouble putting it all together as you go.

    Try to give players major decisions at end of sessions, so you can be ready for where they go next. You kinda have to spring this on them a bit in my experience. Tell them to get back to you before next session, and you'll get one e-mail on the day of. Give them a major problem to contend with, and, as they come to a decision, end it there for the week. Works for me.

    Never frustrate your players. Nothing breaks people immersion (and fun) faster than being frustrated. There are two ways this commonly happens - creating a puzzle where the only solution that works is the one you thought of, and denying the players their choice or control.

    Hope this helps.

  • ninjaininjai Registered User regular
    edited August 2011
    Thanks a lot BNG! Thanks for the positive feedback, kind of helps when I realize I have no idea what I'm doing and that others have done this before. What I'm trying to build is something similar to what you'd experience in a modern video game RPG, because thats what I'm familiar with, and thats honestly what got me into table top gaming (kind of backwards, haha) so what my aim is to create interesting places to visit, with interesting people, and the people they interact with will give them interesting things to do, if they choose... and all the while have an end goal (i.e. dragon age, end the blight)

    I want this to be a rewarding game for the players, I always have fun with loot in video games, and the 1 campaign I partook in had plenty to go around, but I definitely think making a decision (as a player) and thinking 4 or 5 sessions later, "wow, I did that" is the coolest thing you can do in an RPG.

    I hope I'm able to create these moments at the same time immersing them in the story that I want to tell :P

    Thanks for all the encouragement guys. I'm churning through the GM guide, Core RB and the Bestiary. I go home within the week, and will probably start running a kit campaign soonish. I can guarantee I'll be back with questions.

    @skycaptain I'll be keeping tabs on your campaign for help also. Pretty awesome.

    ninjai on
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