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Campaign Design and Advice Workshop

AegeriAegeri Plateau of LengRegistered User regular
edited August 2010 in Critical Failures
A wee while back I got some comments relating to the way I like to design campaigns. Now that I am in fact in the prototypic stages of designing new campaigns (for Eberron) I thought others might like to share ideas about campaign design and such forth.

Running a roleplaying game

I've now been DMing various roleplaying games for a long time, about 13 years and I started back in high school. I started with 1st edition DnD and moved to AD&D, then to other systems like storyteller and Call of Cthulhu. During this time I learned a lot about DMing, storytelling, designing combat encounters and generally "people" skills required to keep a group of disparate individuals at a gaming table. As a DM (Dungeon Master)/ST (Storyteller) you are taking the most responsibility for the game and also the most difficult role. In no particular order your job involves:

Being the "referee" of the game.

Essentially the core job of any DM/ST is to provide a way that the PCs (Player Characters) interact with the world, what it looks like and the results of the PCs actions within that world. This is different depending on the system that you choose to use, for example Call of Cthulhu tends to have enemies that border on the invulnerable side or drive PCs (Investigators in that game) mad at the drop of a hat. On the other hand, characters in DnD are more than likely to stick their axe through the monster in question.

Despite the numerous differences between systems, no matter what you are using this point still remains the same. The core of a roleplaying game is the players tell you what they want to do and with a combination of the games rules and your judgment they can affect the world you've created.

In the same vein, you also decide how the rules often work and what rules are allowed or disallowed. This is by far one of the most complicated parts of DMing and takes a lot of finesse. Too restrictive and you risk denying players the ability to play the characters they want. Allow anything and often you can end up running into some problems.

People manager

You're also responsible for managing your players, setting the time the game starts and resolving conflicts. This is often the most or second most difficult task, especially when players take a direct exception to one another to the point of outright attacking one another or just storming out of a session. There are also issues about if people don't attend sessions, what to do when you have a player with a really problematic character and other things.

Storyteller

The main thing with DMing is that you are telling the story. You make the characters and world that the players interact with, or you get it from somewhere else like a setting like the Forgotten Realms. You then decide what characters are important, what NPCs inhabit the world and overall how the plot is structured.

Worldbuilder

Often you use a set setting like in Forgotten Realms or Eberron. These come complete with a world already mostly built, NPCs and other things established for you. Sometimes you'll want to make your own and this obviously takes a considerable amount of effort. Sometimes you'll be using the real world, maybe even your own city with a darker twist (Call of Cthulhu and Vampire are examples of systems that make great opportunities for this sort of thing).

With these points in mind, I'm going to start going over some of the things I do when designing a campaign. I'm not going to be able to cover every aspect in one post otherwise you'll be dead of old age by the time you're done reading, but instead I'm going to talk about how I do things. Bear in mind that this is simply my method, I've never found two DMs who agree on exactly how to do this and everyone has different ideas. You should ideally take anything purely as advice and nothing here is supposed to be set in stone or the "right" way of doing things. It's simply how I do things and I hope it can provide a starting point for your own campaigns.

Bear in mind as well there will be a bias to 4E DnD especially during the more mechanical sections of this thread, but a lot of the advice I give will be applicable to multiple systems and I will be bringing up experiences with my past games routinely.

The first step: What do I want to run?

The first thing you need to do, assuming you have a group of people who want to play some roleplaying games and you have decided to take up the mantle of running the game is what to run. There are a lot of different systems and the mechanics are very divergent. Something like DnD is very good for a combat orientated game, while something like Call of Cthulhu is designed from the group up to make for very lethal combat and a slower paced game. So you need to decide what you'd like to run and what your players want. A group of players wanting to hit things while pretending to be fantasy elves may not be impressed with playing Call of Cthulhu. A group that likes immensely lethal combat and slow intrigue based gameplay may not be enthused with 4E Dungeons and Dragons.

Once you've made that decision you have your first two issues when starting to run any game:

A) What world are you going to use? Is it a twisted version of our own reality, maybe even your own city? Is it an official published world? Did you make it up from scratch?

B) What books and supplements you are going to use; essentially you need to make it clear to your players if you don't want particular races and rules being used. For example, if you're running a Dungeons and Dragons game and you don't think Warforged fit into your setting, you need to state that to your players.

Both of these decisions inform people playing how you are going to run the game, both in what sort of characters they play and in how they will perceive the way you are going to run the game.

Choosing a setting

This should ideally be the first thing you do, if you want some generic high fantasy than I think the Forgotten Realms is good for that. Often though as a new DM you may either not know about these or have any on hand, as they can be a big investment for something you are not even sure you will even enjoy. So often the easiest thing to do is draw a small map, plonk a town on it and then radiate the gameworld out from there while keeping the "core" assumptions and world (which nearly every game system has).

Let's work through an example for DnD; the first thing to do is maybe pick a map that someone else has done like from the cartographers guild pick a town and then start to populate it. You need a selection of basic shops, an inn, some basic NPCs to give your players some direction in life and from there somewhere to adventure. Ideally, pick a place near mountains, hills, a forest, the ocean or similar. This means you can put in a bandit camp hidden among the trees, a cave full of orcs or whatever else you require nearby easily.

From here you can simply expand outwards to bigger cities, making new locations and similar as you go. You can gradually expand the "world map" outwards as well. For example, you start with one town, then maybe another and then make a city as your campaign escalates. This provides you with a way of designing things gradually, so you don't become overwhelmed or burn yourself out. The last thing you want to do is try to make an entire campaign setting with the detail of say Eberron or FR straight off the bat from nothing. Combined with writing the story, planning encounters and other aspects you're going to end up with too much to do and a lot of stress.

If you're playing something like Vampire: The Requiem, you can pick your own town or city! Then you have your map, places and things already worked out. This simplifies your work, helps automatically ground the games verisimilitude in the minds of your players and provides you with something familiar to start with. As an example, I once ran a game of Call of Cthulhu where the game was based in my home city Christchurch. I used real world locations and even the format of the local newspaper the press to add verisimilitude to the game.

Depending on what you're doing, I like to choose a published setting in the end. Published settings already assume or conform to the rules and logic of whatever game you are wanting to play. They reduce work on your end allowing you to focus on the important bits and give your players an idea of what the game will be like before they begin. As I will discuss in the future, DMing is a massive amount of work and so things to reduce that will only help you keep on DMing; as opposed to growing frustrated and eventually having to stop the game.

Establishing rules

Every DM has things that they either don't like or don't want in their games. Perhaps warforged doesn't fit with your setting, or perhaps you don't want Werewolves in the same role (or as a playable role) in your World of Darkness. These are things you need to decide after you've set upon whatever setting you've made and to make sure your players are aware. This will be the most varied thing between systems, but here are some general ideas for when you're starting:

A) Don't go editing the rules a whole bunch of stuff initially if you've started on a system you haven't used before. This can either frustrate players or have completely unintended side effects during play.

Example: When I first started running DnD 4E I made the big mistake of trying to change some of the core assumptions that 4E makes, particularly with the way the magic system worked. In 3E I always favoured low magic settings, as a way of resolving the issue that casters would frequently dominate the game at high levels. In 4E this had disastrous consequences because 4E is built inherently assuming PCs have certain increases to hit at different levels, their defenses increase certain ways and that they have extra powers from the items they carry. It turns out when you remove these things 4E tends to break down in several places, because the system was designed in a certain way and when you change that without compensating for it; you get issues.

Of course, I would now feel comfortable doing this but I have a year of DnD 4E experience now and firmly understand how the game works. It's important to realise even if I have been running games for 13 years, just strolling in and changing things with a new system wasn't a good idea. Experience with a particular system is the most invaluable thing when making changes to it.

B) Decide if you're going to put any restrictions (if any) on certain races or elements.

Example: I'm going to bring up my experiences using World of Darkness. Back in the old World of Darkness (which was basically a looming apocalypse type setting) one player wanted to play a mixed game, with him playing a mage in a vampire game. After some thought I went "well why not?" and allowed this. To be quite frank it was the biggest disaster I've ever run in a PnP game in the history of my time running games. The mage would literally derail the game and often completely overshadowed the vampires power wise.

Allowing classes or races with especially divergent power levels is a careful consideration. If you're not willing to deal with something like that, stick to say a mono-supernatural game in say World of Darkness or disallow things like monstrous races if you're playing Dungeons and Dragons.

C) Somewhat contradicting B though, make sure you are still open to your players ideas and suggestions. If someone has a truly great concept for playing a gnoll or warforged in my FR campaigns, even though I don't feel such things fit at all into the setting cohesively you should consider allowing it. The game once you begin isn't just yours anymore; it's everyones. The better you integrate your players and make them feel like they are a part of the world you've created the more they will work with you on your plot hooks and other things.

D) Many roleplaying games are not a you vs. them situation. Don't view your players as the enemy and they won't view you as the enemy either. Sure, you control the bad guys but bear in mind you also control their allies, the innocent people they are trying to protect (well, not always...); but ultimately for a condusive and long running game you should not be trying to basically kill them. Killing your players is always easy, as you control the rules and decide what they can or cannot see anyway.

This of course somewhat comes under encounter design as well; making the game challenging (and fun) but not to the point where you're basically murdering people.

E) Don't be a dick.

You're in control of the game yes, you do most of the hard work but if you're a dick to your players you're going to make your life harder. The simple point here is that if you work with your players about things and listen to them, you're going to get much further than if you act like some sort of power mad dictator. This doesn't mean you should let players just walk all over you; you're still controlling the game and your decision *is* final. What I am saying here is to try to listen and be open to the ideas of the people you're playing with. If someone comes up with a detailed character background and history, try to find ways to reward that player by putting in interactions for their character.

A lot of information, especially in 4E Dungeons and Dragons terms, can be found in the DMG of course and I don't intend to reiterate a lot of that information beyond this post. The next posts will cover building a campaign more specifically with a focus on fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons. Starting with the basic building blocks of writing a story (what kind of plot); plot progression (thinking in relation to the three tiers in Dungeons and Dragons 4E); encounter design (which will be largely 4E focused) and then dealing with other problems that can arise with a campaign (such as "What do I do if I get bored or don't like how the plot is going?").

Further Entries

Campaign 101: Theme
Campaign 102: Plot Progression 101 and Encounter Design 101
Campaign Building 103: Telling a Story
[url]Campaign Building 104: Module and Encounter Design: Part 1[/url]

The Roleplayer's Guild: My blog for roleplaying games, advice and adventuring.
Aegeri on
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Posts

  • Silas BrownSilas Brown Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    This is so excellent and really gets my GM blood crying to run a game again. Thanks for sharing, Aegeri.

    Silas Brown on
  • SUPERSUGASUPERSUGA Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Interesting stuff. Rule E should be in huge bold text.

    SUPERSUGA on
  • stratslingerstratslinger Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Awesome start, Aegeri! I'll be following this closely, as I've recently gotten back into DnD and I'm trying to build my first campaign in ages. Hopefully, I'll have some players for it - I'm running a few friends through Kobold Hall this weekend to give 'em a taste, and hopefully they'll want to come back for more!

    One question though; if you're willing, get to it whenever you can: In 4E DnD, how do you handle limiting, or preventing altogether, specific character races? For instance, I really don't dig Tieflings or, to a lesser extent, Warforged - I don't feel like they "fit" as PC's. I'm trying hard to get over that, and work something into my campaign setting to make them fit better, but is it kosher to just tell my players that such races do not exist in the campaign? Do I risk screwing up any game balance by doing so, or just risk a slightly upset player or two?

    stratslinger on
  • mynamewasgonemynamewasgone Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    but is it kosher to just tell my players that such races do not exist in the campaign? Do I risk screwing up any game balance by doing so, or just risk a slightly upset player or two?
    It's kosher, and doesn't really affect game balance, and it's quite common. Look at the opening post for Mining Rites. And SkyCaptain has sworn to die before he allows anyone to play a warforged in a campaing of his. It's more unbalancing to start adding stuff to races, or to go on a class banning spree and accidently ban all leaders.

    If a player really wants to play as a banned race accomodate him as much as you can, let him try and write it in, or replace the mechanics/background of a race that already exists. And remember that rules can always be broken by good roleplaying.

    mynamewasgone on
  • tastydonutstastydonuts Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    One question though; if you're willing, get to it whenever you can: In 4E DnD, how do you handle limiting, or preventing altogether, specific character races? For instance, I really don't dig Tieflings or, to a lesser extent, Warforged - I don't feel like they "fit" as PC's. I'm trying hard to get over that, and work something into my campaign setting to make them fit better, but is it kosher to just tell my players that such races do not exist in the campaign? Do I risk screwing up any game balance by doing so, or just risk a slightly upset player or two?

    Here's a tidbit from my campaign spec for the b-side of teh zephyr that I'll be putting up eventually.
    Excerpt wrote:
    List of acceptable races:
    • All PHB Races - Dragonborn are rare. Tiefling are exceedingly rare.
    • All PHB2 Races except Deva - Goliath and Shifters are rare. Half-orcs are exceedingly rare.

    Be it because their flavour doesn't fit the game or because I just don't like em as player characters, the others aren't acceptable at all. Tbh, the races that are marked as rare would require a nice pitch to be accepted. Since there are NPCs of those races, I don't cut them out wholesale. I'm sorry for the inconvenience that may cause.

    It's very kosher to say they don't exist. Being upfront about these sorts of things saves a lot of time for everybody involved. You can't please everybody. :U

    tastydonuts on
    “I used to draw, hard to admit that I used to draw...”
  • SUPERSUGASUPERSUGA Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I personally think limiting races can make for a better experience, in some cases. It definitely helps in planning as a GM if you know you're going to be limited to, say, Humans, Tieflings and Halflings. I did this with an all-dwarf game and although it didn't take off I feel the all-dwarf aspect was fun and I'd definitely try it again.

    SUPERSUGA on
  • GoodKingJayIIIGoodKingJayIII Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Aegeri wrote: »
    Storyteller

    The main thing with DMing is that you are telling the story. You make the characters and world that the players interact with, or you get it from somewhere else like a setting like the Forgotten Realms. You then decide what characters are important, what NPCs inhabit the world and overall how the plot is structured.

    For myself, I've found that if I approach things as the lone storyteller at the table, I tend to muck things up. I've learned that the players share an important part of storytelling responsibility as well. I create the setting and the NPCs with whom they interact, but the players create the main characters and I find that they drive the action as much if not more than I do at the table.

    When creating a setting and prepping for a game, I tend to have a very loose plot. I may plan the first adventure and series of encounters for the players, but beyond that how they approach my story is up to them. I throw out lots of plot hooks and invite them to pursue whatever path they wish. I may have an epic tale in the background, but when or even if my players involve themselves is up to them. I continue to run my world as a persistent setting; that is, plots that are not picked up by the PCs' actions continue to unfold, while plots they pursue might change based on their actions. But I always keep in mind that this game is about the PCs and the story that they choose has to be the most important.

    Not that what you've said here is incorrect. Just a little addendum and some of my own personal observations in my experience GMing.

    GoodKingJayIII on
    Battletag: Threeve#1501
    PSN: Threeve703
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited June 2009
    I personally am really, really against limiting player choice within a system (eg, not like Aegeri's mage in a Vampire game thing) unless it's for a very good and straightforward reason, like playing an all-half orc tribe. As the DM already controls the world, the NPCs, the story arc, and a hundred other things, he has more than enough tools to be able to make it work and make sense; it also seems to me to be very needlessly intrusive into the players' domain.

    I mean, I hope nobody here would ever imagine telling a player "no, you can't pick that weapon/feat, it's sub-optimal", so what of saying "no, you can't play that race because my personal conception of fantasy - the genre of imagination - may have room for flying, fire-breathing lizards, obese midget ninjas, two-headed demon goats, and flumphs, but a seven-foot reincarnated immortal is a bridge too far!"

    Jacobkosh on
  • tastydonutstastydonuts Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    I personally am really, really against limiting player choice within a system (eg, not like Aegeri's mage in a Vampire game thing) unless it's for a very good and straightforward reason, like playing an all-half orc tribe. As the DM already controls the world, the NPCs, the story arc, and a hundred other things, he has more than enough tools to be able to make it work and make sense; it also seems to me to be very needlessly intrusive into the players' domain.

    I mean, I hope nobody here would ever imagine telling a player "no, you can't pick that weapon/feat, it's sub-optimal", so what of saying "no, you can't play that race because my personal conception of fantasy - the genre of imagination - may have room for flying, fire-breathing lizards, obese midget ninjas, two-headed demon goats, and flumphs, but a seven-foot reincarnated immortal is a bridge too far!"

    There is a big difference in both context and intent of race restrictions vs itemization or feat restrictions. Mechanical reasons, even if they are bad, have nothing to do with telling a story or painting a world. Limiting or removing races because their flavor doesn't fit into the specification of a given world isn't that big of a deal, imo.

    tastydonuts on
    “I used to draw, hard to admit that I used to draw...”
  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    While I agree that players need to have some freedom, players need to stop feeling like they're entitled to play any damn race or class out of any book they may or may not own. Sometimes a GM has a reason for running a themed game and it's the players fault for not understanding that in the first place, unless the GM is a dingleberry and isn't up front with that information.

    I've tried to run themed games before, being very upfront with that information... and I still get dumbasses that whine about it.

    SkyCaptain on
    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
  • GoodKingJayIIIGoodKingJayIII Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    SkyCaptain wrote: »
    While I agree that players need to have some freedom, players need to stop feeling like they're entitled to play any damn race or class out of any book they may or may not own. Sometimes a GM has a reason for running a themed game and it's the players fault for not understanding that in the first place, unless the GM is a dingleberry and isn't up front with that information.

    Completely agree. That wasn't what I was talking about before. I like to talk with my players about what they're looking for, but I always have final say about what gets included and what doesn't.

    Basically, construct the framework, then allow as much freedom as possible within that framework.

    GoodKingJayIII on
    Battletag: Threeve#1501
    PSN: Threeve703
  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Well my point goes towards feats and spells as well. Sometimes a GM just doesn't like the way certain things mesh with the world they've created.

    SkyCaptain on
    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I don't see every core race as an inherent part of 'the system' but as a broad selection to pull from, which Wizards has designed the generic Points of Light setting to include everything in order to facilitate pick up & play gaming. This takes a lot of burdens off players who can't or don't want to develop a unique setting, but for those who like making them (or dislike D&D's modern style) it makes for a very murky and disjointed canvas. Not every fantasy setting in literature includes everything (even D&D's current selection is a small and changing swatch), so there's really no reason to keep PoL's goal when running your own camapign.

    As long as the DM spells out the differences clearly and immediately, I don't see what's wrong with running the game differently. A homemade setting is really not much different than an all-one-race game in restrictions and intent; the goal is to create a specific world with a flavor and theme that's different than what they'd get from just playing the default or an official campaign setting. The players should know there's going to be some changes when they agree to play a custom setting, and that the DM goes to a lot of trouble to make it coherent and distinct (well, ideally anyway. Most aren't.). If they don't like the style or omissions they should tell the DM and not play it, and the DM should consider catering to his available players if it comes to that.

    The bottom line is the DM needs to make player options as clear as homebrew rules, and as long as everybody's fine with them there really isn't a problem.

    Utsanomiko on
    hmm.gif
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited June 2009
    Limiting or removing races because their flavor doesn't fit into the specification of a given world isn't that big of a deal, imo.

    Maybe to you, but someone who really wants to play a tiefling or whatever might disagree!

    Obviously, there are shades and degrees. If someone just wants to play a race because they have a hard-on for the mechanical bonuses, that's one thing, but if it's important to them, if they have a great concept that they've put a lot of work into - iwhy not try and work with them on it? As DM, you control "the specification of a given world" - it isn't some immutable outside authority - so why make that world openly hostile to your players' wishes? The phrase "no, because I said so" should really be the tool of absolute last resort.

    And again, this is more specific to D&D, but I generally have a hard time lending credence to arguments about what "fits" in a fantasy world where ninjas and angel summoners do battle against naked demon chicks and man-eating flying saucers.

    Jacobkosh on
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Maybe it's more of a problem with D&D trying to cater to everything and be every fantasy world rolled into one.

    Utsanomiko on
    hmm.gif
  • tastydonutstastydonuts Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Limiting or removing races because their flavor doesn't fit into the specification of a given world isn't that big of a deal, imo.

    Maybe to you, but someone who really wants to play a tiefling or whatever might disagree!

    Obviously, there are shades and degrees. If someone just wants to play a race because they have a hard-on for the mechanical bonuses, that's one thing, but if it's important to them, if they have a great concept that they've put a lot of work into - iwhy not try and work with them on it? As DM, you control "the specification of a given world" - it isn't some immutable outside authority - so why make that world openly hostile to your players' wishes? The phrase "no, because I said so" should really be the tool of absolute last resort.

    And again, this is more specific to D&D, but I generally have a hard time lending credence to arguments about what "fits" in a fantasy world where ninjas and angel summoners do battle against naked demon chicks and man-eating flying saucers.

    Well, when I do limit races and other things I lay it out all upfront before the time comes 'round to stat up and build the characters.

    If the limitations are poorly planned and executed—having somebody shows up with a fully rolled limited race/class/alignment—because you never told them that they couldn't do it, is one thing. From personal experience I hadn't restricted evil characters and when I projected that it would be an rp issue in the future had to change it, since I dropped the ball, I worked with the player to correct the situation.

    But if you put your limitations/standards out there up front, and somebody shows up with something different, knowing what the score was? That's a different beast. Even then as a game that you're playing with friends or what have you, it even borders disrespect towards you as a DM. A player needs to be willing to work with you just as you need to be willing to work with them...

    tastydonuts on
    “I used to draw, hard to admit that I used to draw...”
  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    Maybe to you, but someone who really wants to play a tiefling or whatever might disagree!
    Then they should find a game that allows it instead of whining when a DM limits what races are available and make it clear that races are limited right up front.
    Obviously, there are shades and degrees. If someone just wants to play a race because they have a hard-on for the mechanical bonuses, that's one thing, but if it's important to them, if they have a great concept that they've put a lot of work into - iwhy not try and work with them on it? As DM, you control "the specification of a given world" - it isn't some immutable outside authority - so why make that world openly hostile to your players' wishes? The phrase "no, because I said so" should really be the tool of absolute last resort.
    Because I said so is not a last resort. As the world builder, I have a very specific theme in mind usually and build the world around that theme. If this means there are no tieflings, there are no tieflings and no amount of whining or cajoling will get me to change my mind.
    And again, this is more specific to D&D, but I generally have a hard time lending credence to arguments about what "fits" in a fantasy world where ninjas and angel summoners do battle against naked demon chicks and man-eating flying saucers.
    Some people prefer to run/play characters in settings that are more plausible. Not necessarily realistic, but consistent and have a reasonable versimilitude. I played in a game where everyone started as orc slaves in a human run kingdom, quarrying stone for our masters. It was a blast.

    SkyCaptain on
    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
  • GryphGryph Registered User
    edited June 2009
    I agree with the Captain, to an extent. D&D does attempt to be very inclusive in the types of fantasy and fantasy tropes that it embraces. I personally find it very dificult to use every element, be it race, monster, item or class, that I have available in my toolkit for every campaign that I build. So I will usually trim a few things that I cannot comfortably incorporate into the campaign.

    With all that said, I finally came to the realization that in my games, that I run for friends, that we all have more fun if my role as the DM is less of a storyteller and more of a scenery painter. I provide the backdrop and some of the speaking parts and let my players do the real heavy lifting in storytelling.

    The essence of plot is conflict and resolution with each carrying even weight in advancing a story. As DM I supply the conflict and I do my best to let the players supply all of the meaningful resolution. For my games and groups this approach has led to the greatest enjoyment for everyone at the table.

    Gryph on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited June 2009
    Utsanomiko wrote: »
    As long as the DM spells out the differences clearly and immediately, I don't see what's wrong with running the game differently. A homemade setting is really not much different than an all-one-race game in restrictions and intent; the goal is to create a specific world with a flavor and theme that's different than what they'd get from just playing the default or an official campaign setting. The players should know there's going to be some changes when they agree to play a custom setting, and that the DM goes to a lot of trouble to make it coherent and distinct (well, ideally anyway. Most aren't.)

    As I said, there are shades of nuance. If we're playing a Tolkien game or a quasi-historical all-human medieval game and one guy shows up and wants to be a snake-man - well, that's a fairly clear-cut case. A middle case would be something like someone wants to play a Warforged in the Forgotten Realms, where it's not explicitly allowed, but with all the crazy shit already in the setting I can't honestly see the harm, but denying it seems reasonable too. But when the DM has made a custom setting explicitly for a certain game, but then chosen to arbitrarily limit the players' options within that game, I think that calls for at least a bit of introspection and examination of one's own motivations, and if it boils down to "my favorite childhood fantasy writer didn't have tieflings", then one should consider gritting one's teeth and dealing with it, because maybe someone else's favorite fantasy writer is China Mieville or Michael Moorcock.

    EDIT: and SkyCaptain, your willingness to over and over again, in this thread and the other one, characterize your players as "whiners" and "morons" genuinely creeps me out. I'm glad I don't use my DM position to get my tinpot tyrant rocks off.

    Jacobkosh on
  • stratslingerstratslinger Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    OK, sounds like I touched on a sore spot with some... How about a slightly different take:

    I've been mulling over my setting (still little more than a twinkiling in my eye), and it's occurred to me that I may want to hold off on introducing certain races until some point in the future. Basically, this world would exist with very definite and, at least to start, utterly impassable physical barriers between the lands of the more Tolkein-esque races and the lands of the Dragonborn or Teiflings or even some of the other-planar races.

    That said, how conducive (or not) to the flow of a campaign would it be for a DM to tell his players that "You can't take a Dragonborn or Tiefling for now... Roll up something else, and get back to me later - the story will tell you when the right time is." This seems like it'd give those players the opportunity to play the character they want (well, eventually) and the DM the breathing room to build his world as he wants. But how jarring would it be to the party, to have built up a rapport with this one character, only to have them replaced at some point? I can think of some story-geared ways to make that swap, and I _think_ it would be cool, but I don't really have any experience to judge by...

    stratslinger on
  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    As I said, there are shades of nuance. If we're playing a Tolkien game or a quasi-historical all-human medieval game and one guy shows up and wants to be a snake-man - well, that's a fairly clear-cut case. A middle case would be something like someone wants to play a Warforged in the Forgotten Realms, where it's not explicitly allowed, but with all the crazy shit already in the setting I can't honestly see the harm, but denying it seems reasonable too. But when the DM has made a custom setting explicitly for a certain game, but then chosen to arbitrarily limit the players' options within that game, I think that calls for at least a bit of introspection and examination of one's own motivations, and if it boils down to "my favorite childhood fantasy writer didn't have tieflings", then one should consider gritting one's teeth and dealing with it, because maybe someone else's favorite fantasy writer is China Mieville or Michael Moorcock.
    It doesn't boil down to anything other than the DM wanting to run a specific themed game. Take the 13th Warrior for example. That is a perfect example of a themed game where the players assume the roles of human heroes adventuring in a specific land and area. Having a tiefling in a 13th Warrior like game would just completely destroy the feel the DM was going for.
    EDIT: and SkyCaptain, your willingness to over and over again, in this thread and the other one, characterize your players as "whiners" and "morons" genuinely creeps me out. I'm glad I don't use my DM position to get my tinpot tyrant rocks off.
    First, the morons and whiners are not my players. Those people never make it into games I run. Second, I'm not a tyrant. I'm a storyteller. Sometimes I have a set of themed stories to share and the players need to make characters that fit within that theme instead of trying to subvert it with their favorite retread. It helps players to play something other than their favorite every now and then. Typically, my themed games run for six to eight sessions. Long enough to tell a decent story and not too long to make it boring.

    SkyCaptain on
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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited June 2009
    I've had players swap out characters in my game, and if you and the player both have some forewarning and can touch base on the idea, it can make for a great moment.

    My 3E game, which was heavily influenced by Perdido Street Station, took place in a tyrannical steampunk city. One player had clearly gotten bored of his ranger around level 6 or so and was having a hard time staying engaged, so I took him aside and we talked about what class he would rather be playing and how we could have the character go out in an interesting way. It came as quite a shock to the rest of the party when at the worst possible instant the character unmasked herself as an informant for the secret police, who of course promptly came rappelling through the windows. His new character joined us in the subsequent big jailbreak mission, and the old one became our main adversary for the next few levels.

    The funny thing was that in the couple of sessions building up to that point, the player, knowing what was coming, got a lot more involved in the character and started having a lot more fun. Ah, well. What mattered was that everyone had a great, memorable moment that we still talk about several years later.

    Jacobkosh on
  • GryphGryph Registered User
    edited June 2009
    OK, sounds like I touched on a sore spot with some... How about a slightly different take:

    I've been mulling over my setting (still little more than a twinkiling in my eye), and it's occurred to me that I may want to hold off on introducing certain races until some point in the future. Basically, this world would exist with very definite and, at least to start, utterly impassable physical barriers between the lands of the more Tolkein-esque races and the lands of the Dragonborn or Teiflings or even some of the other-planar races.

    That said, how conducive (or not) to the flow of a campaign would it be for a DM to tell his players that "You can't take a Dragonborn or Tiefling for now... Roll up something else, and get back to me later - the story will tell you when the right time is." This seems like it'd give those players the opportunity to play the character they want (well, eventually) and the DM the breathing room to build his world as he wants. But how jarring would it be to the party, to have built up a rapport with this one character, only to have them replaced at some point? I can think of some story-geared ways to make that swap, and I _think_ it would be cool, but I don't really have any experience to judge by...

    I've tried this in campaigns. Your concern is justified. In campaigns where I've done this, the players do get attached to their characters and the party as a whole tends to get attached to characters. With the result that when the right time arrived no changes ended up being made.

    Unless you want to effectively use it as a way to say no without saying no to a given race; I would recommend working with the player to find a good backstory reason why a member of that distant race could be there for a player to use as a character. You don't haved to work in a whole community of that race, just a reason why one individual is there.

    Gryph on
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    A middle case would be something like someone wants to play a Warforged in the Forgotten Realms, where it's not explicitly allowed, but with all the crazy shit already in the setting I can't honestly see the harm, but denying it seems reasonable too.

    In the case of debatable instances (where something is plausible and in-line but not known or considered to exist) I think the DM and players should meet each other half-way. A warforged could exist in FR, since it's essentially a smart human-like golem, but the PC should have a reasonable backstory to explain how he uniquely fits into the world, like he was one of the last things made by engineers in Lantan before their workshop sank under the sea, where he was later picked up by pirates diving for treasure.

    If the DM is putting together an elaborate setting and most the players are excited for uniqueness or intrigued by the changes, then the guy who is 'only in it for the elves' either needs to compromise or find a different game. If the DM declares his 'Yet Another Fantasy World' is only majorly different by not having elves and most of the players are annoyed by its lack of reason or purpose, he really ought to put in some thoughts for accommodation or find a new group.

    Utsanomiko on
    hmm.gif
  • AegeriAegeri Plateau of LengRegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Campaign Building 101: Deciding on the games Theme

    With the first part out of the way, we now move on to the actually difficult part of making a campaign: what you are actually wanting to do with it and how you want to go about doing that. Essentially, my method is to view this part of the process like you're writing a novel and your players are the protagonists of the story (IE: The characters that "do" things). The main villains in the story are antagonists (they oppose the PCs actions). Unlike with writing a traditional novel, I like to start with the antagonists first and work backwards from this point. This might seem odd, but I'll explain myself and why I've started to use this method for writing campaigns.

    The antagonist is *your* character

    The PCs at your table all have their characters, but you also have your own character that you will be playing for probably the entire span of the campaign too: even if they are never seen often by the PCs. Your antagonists are your character, they're created by you and like a player you get the most opportunity to roleplay through your antagonists. What I'm getting at here is when players become disinterested or dissatisfied with their characters they want to get rid of them. The same principle applies to antagonists, if you don't like how your antagonists are going or how they are faring up (or perhaps even your PCs don't really like them) you'll lose interest in the game as well. It's a little like with the PCs, if you don't like your antagonist and you just feel like getting rid of him then it means you lose some of your enthusiasm.

    A good antagonist for DnD (or just about anything) needs to have several elements:

    1) An origin

    Essentially, where did they come from? Perhaps they were dug up from the bottom of the deepest ocean and then released onto the world. They may have arrived from an extraplanar source. They might be the leader of an existing evil nation or empire. A good origin helps to establish and anchor the entire campaign, because you can use the source of your villain to help determine many other aspects of the campaign.

    Example: In my IRL game Tides of Dust, which is set in the Forgotten Realms the main antagonist is the creature called Ammon. Ammon was the ruler of an ancient civilization thousands of years before the campaigns start, which controlled most of the Sword Sea and Sea of Fallen Stars (which at this time was one large body of water). Like the Roman Empire, the encroaching "barbarians" notably Sahuagin, Kuo-toa and other evilly aligned creatures pushed in on their borders and the empire began to collapse. To avoid the inevitable fate of the empire, Ammon ordered his archmages to summon forth allies from the darkest corners of the planes themselves to turn the tide. Unfortunately, Ammon got more than he bargained for and the creature they summoned consumed his enemies and then soon turned upon those who summoned it.

    Chained and bound, Ammon watched the destruction and consumation of everything that he once loved even as the being (Dagoth) set about releasing several bound primordials locked under the seas since the dawn war. This caused the Gods of Toril to descend down and engage their ancient opponents once more, the resulting war destroying much of the surface of the world and causing one of the worlds moons to be smashed into the inner sea (forming what it looks like now). Inevitably the Gods persevered and put the released primordials back in their cages and banished Dagoth back to the Abyss. Ammon, for his part in the war was damned by the Gods for the destruction he had allowed to be wrought on the world.

    As punishment, Ammon was cursed to forever be made of dust* and bound within an artifact called the "Chamber of the Gods". There he was buried within his own palace at the base of the Inner Sea and then it was collapsed on top of him; forever to be buried and trapped within the darkness. Thousands of years later, madness having firmly taken root within the creatures mind a group of explorers finds a partially collapsed structure underneath the recently depleted Seas...

    2) What is your antagonist like?

    You should now get an idea for what your antagonist looks like and perhaps how they behave. For example I have a player in one of my games who I can get to sketch my villains and antagonists (sometimes allies too). Ammon looks like this as I envisaged him as being a kind of ancient underwater conquistador. Your antagonists personality and appearance can dictate a lot about them, from the kinds of powers they use to what kind of things they would want. A human noble for example, is different in thought and mindset to an ancient all consuming primordial. Effectively, you should have a short description or an idea of what it looks like. If your antagonist is a giant Cthulhuish monster this is probably not really that required or even desirable however!

    Remember that when viewing things from my approach detailed here, this is your character, no other character in the game is going to be as close to you as a DM as your antagonist. You should build your antagonist in such a way that you find him compelling and interesting. If you don't even feel like using your antagonist or if he doesn't provide you with good story elements and plot hooks it's going to make your job harder. But as I will discuss later, there are always ways around this problem.

    3) What do they want?

    We'll discuss this again in more detail below, but essentially antagonists want something and that these can be pretty varied. If you consider some of the great works of fantasy literature, like Lord of the Rings the antagonists of those books often want things that are pretty simple; Sauron after-all is essentially searching for the magical macguffin (the One Ring) the protagonists are carrying so he can invariably rule the world. So you don't need to over-think this part of your antagonist. Perhaps your antagonist wants revenge? Perhaps power? Perhaps they want to be reunited with a former love - but the price they must pay for her soul is truly terrible? Essentially, this motivation sets up a large amount of your campaign and will tell you how your campaign should progress. But for now it should be able to be summed up in, at most a short paragraph but ideally a simple sentence that you can elaborate on later.

    Example: Ammon wants to reclaim his former empire and its lost artifacts from the heart of the Sea of Fallen stars, killing anything and anyone who gets in this way.

    You can now see how the antagonist influences the entire campaign just from looking at the title of the campaign "Tides of Dust". Ammon is essentially uniting all of the worst things of the depths against the generally more civilized Sea Elves, Tritons and Mermen and he is essentially a monster made out of sentient bound together sand. So the title reflects both the campaigns theme (which we'll get to shortly) and gives an idea of what sort of antagonist the PCs are facing.

    Returning to the issue of theme, this is actually a somewhat backwards way of doing things. Normally you would think to yourself "I want to run a pirate campaign" and then go searching for an antagonist that you would think fits that. In this particularly method, you make your antagonist first and then your antagonist dictates the theme of the campaign. In my method, I make the antagonist first and if I like where it is going I then design the campaign around them. This method has advantages and disadvantages, mostly in the fact that you are designing it independently of the world it is being put into.

    By designing the antagonist first and then fitting it into a setting you...

    Can establish a lot of things like theme and such based on the kind of villain you want to use.
    Makes it easy to figure out what sort of "power level" the campaign has. Obviously a local tyrannical noble doesn't go quite as high level as something that threatens Gods or is a God itself.
    Make sure you've made a villain who you actually like; rather than made a villain that just happens to fit best.

    But you have the following problems...

    If you make a villain who fits into an underwater campaign and your players aren't keen on that, you may have to come up with something else or make it fit.
    It can be harder to come up with a villain and then put him into the campaign. Sometimes you should start with the games theme (see below) first and then let that inspire your antagonist.
    If you don't like the antagonist you've made and you've based the campaign around it you can find it much harder to change your antagonist to something else.

    With this in mind we can now move to the most important part of any campaign outside of its primary antagonists: Theme.

    The theme of your campaign is the most important aspect

    Depending on your method, inevitably you have to sit down and think to yourself "What do I want to run?" and this is basically the theme of the game. Theme is vitally important to a campaign, because it establishes a lot of ground rules and ways that the campaign will work. A "gritty" theme to a campaign for example may have players facing overwhelming odds, perhaps even being slaves initially and having to fight a tyrannical ruler. A more comedic themed game may have routinely zany encounters that never make any sense; like goblins in tutus that throw darts. The important part here is that your games theme can really aid you in how to design your game, what sort of restrictions or suggestions you may want to give your players and aid them in designing their characters and backgrounds.

    So if theme is the most important part, why did I discuss making your antagonists first? Because if you have your antagonist that you like, it can decide for you the theme of the campaign. A campaign about the antagonist who sells his soul, then does increasingly depraved acts to return the soul of the one he loves back to him has a tragic theme by default. This helps you decide where you should set the game and how events in that game progress. It also informs you that a lighthearted fantasy tone probably isn't gone to work well.

    At this point it's important to define theme, which is essentially the same as saying that it's a dominant idea or motif that basically pulls everything in your campaign together. Examples of themes include:

    1) Piracy: Your game is set on the high seas, perhaps involving the raiding of enemy ships, exploring uncharted islands and delving down to long since sunken temples.

    2) Heroic: Your players are fighting against the tyrannical oppressors of the land to save the people.

    3) Tragic: Perhaps inevitably your players will have to sacrifice themselves for the greater good; or risk watching the entire world burn (This could also be defined as "Heroic Sacrifice" as well).

    4) Age of Sail/Exploration: Most of the world is unknown and the campaigns goal is to explore previously unknown lands.

    And many more. The whole point here is that like a movie or novel, your theme helps you to write the game and think about what sort of elements it should include. A character who is deathly afraid of water might be rather obnoxious for example in a campaign where you as the DM are really wanting some underwater action. Here is an example:

    Sorrow of Heaven is a Judeo-Christian mythology themed campaign. The antagonists and even the PCs allies in the game are fallen angels, who rose up against their God in a war for their own liberation (my PCs already know this so it's not a spoiler). The Judeo-Christian mythology establishes a lot about the games antagonists, how they behave and view the other NPCs and PCs in the game. Essentially it's a campaign about Angels, Daemons and the nature of God.

    Tides of Dust is a high seas piracy campaign that went wrong (and in a future installment I will be explaining what went right with theme in SoH and what went wrong specifically with ToD and why). The idea of the campaign was for a lot of delving into sunken temples and engaging with the elements of an ancient civilization; all with a good helping of Call of Cthulhu mixed in. Unfortunately, I got it wrong and the game ended up getting derailed.

    Artist of Sharn is essentially a horror themed campaign. It's slower paced and reduces the amount of combat but makes combats far more dangerous when they occur. Taking a page from Call of Cthulhu, it's more about the horrible revelations that the PCs discover about the antagonist and how they approach investigating the events that unfold.

    As you can see, my campaigns have a varied theme and these were designed by starting with the antagonist first and then writing backwards to decide the theme. This is simply my approach, but it's equally valid and possibly even easier to come up with your theme first and then your antagonist to fit into it. In any event, once you've got your campaigns theme you have lots of decisions to make about what you want to do with it.

    Last but not least, the most absolutely important rule for DMs: Pick a theme you enjoy and want to run.

    There is no point at all in picking something you don't think is fun and exciting. A player may not like it and leave or whatever, but the game is going to be dead on arrival if you lose interest and no longer enjoy the game. This is absolutely essential, remember as a DM you are putting a lot of time and effort into the game. If you can't maintain your enthusiasm and get up to write 4 encounters a week for a game; you're going to get behind and then frustrated.

    When frustration sets in so does the desire to just stop playing.

    Theme informs how your game plays

    Depending on what you're going for, you may want to think about how particular classes or races fit with your campaign and then allow your players time to make characters that fit. For example, a campaign in a world without Gods may disallow or make divine classes rare; which you can get away with easier in 4E due to the primal and martial classes that can heal being able to replace the traditional Cleric. You may have restrictions on race or similar, because perhaps Half-orcs, minotaurs or similar don't fit with the games theme or the campaign world.

    There are important decisions here to be made, because you should if possible justify your decisions and explain these decisions to your players. For example, while you are the DM and you have every right to remove anything you dislike if you simply state "I don't like it and therefore it's not allowed"; you're likely to run into problems. If you state "This particular race doesn't fit really with the world and the campaign, because I feel that people who are half-daemon running around is going to make a problem with my campaigns story for various reasons", you're going to do a lot better in terms of placating players.

    At the same time, you should consider *why* that is an issue and if it is something that can't be worked around. A game based around daemons overrunning the world may mean that tieflings could be viewed as monsters/killed on sight. A PC who understands this and is willing to work with that concept, but still wants to play a tiefling should still at least be listened to about their ideas. You may not have to agree or even in the end want to allow the character anyway; but if you listen to your players and explain why you still don't think it works they are more likely to be happy with your decision (if disappointed).

    People who are too persistent even after that point though are probably likely to cause other problems later down the track anyway in my experience. In saying this, don't simply restrict something for the sheer sake of restricting it unless there is a decent reason for doing so. "I don't like it" isn't really the best reason. "It doesn't really work in the campaign setting I've designed or the campaign setting I'm using" is certainly a decent reason. "It doesn't really work with this campaigns story" is also a good reason (especially once the players know the whole thing).

    As a general concept try to be as inclusive as possible instead of exclusive, but bear in mind how your system you use may influence things for your players. For example, a 4E game where you plan underwater combat is a nightmare for a character not trained in athletics and endurance. They are going to have heavily restricted movement and are more than likely going to drown horribly. So you should make it clear that being trained in athletics is going to be a really solid idea. Same thing with taking ranks in swimming in 3rd edition and whatever else comes to mind based on the system. At the same time if you have a vision about a campaign where monsters rise to be recognised heroes in even the most civilised lands, you should certainly not be shy about making sure players conform to that theme; just explain your reasoning!

    So now you have your theme, what do you do with it?

    Once you have your theme, if you haven't already it's useful to think about how it makes your villain fit into the world. Ideally your villain should conform with the theme; a heroic adventure needs a despot or tyrant to oppose. A game based on Cthulhuish monsters well; to be honest it just needs Cthulhu and you're set.

    But now that you have your games theme, it provides you with your best tool for your campaign: it gives you an idea of your campaigns plot. Writing your plot is probably the most difficult part of a roleplaying game; because being too restrictive makes the game feel railroaded and removes any feeling from your players they have any control over how the game progresses. At the same time, you want to make sure that your plot progresses so to make the game fun and continue momentum. Sometimes your villain needs to get their hands on information or an item the PCs have as an example.

    This next section will be heavily 4E focused, because a lot of the games here are 4E but many of the principles will still apply. Essentially 4E provides an excellent way of determining plot progression as it separates the game into three individual parts: Heroic, Paragon and Epic. This provides an incredibly useful tool for thinking about and writing the games plot. As a result, I'm going to structure the advice around these tiers in 4E very heavily.

    Aegeri on
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  • Silas BrownSilas Brown Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Excellent stuff as always, Aegeri.

    Silas Brown on
  • ShurakaiShurakai Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    What is everyone's taking on fudging rolls?

    In my view, the stats and player rolls are there as guidelines toward a realistic experience, and you cannot count on random chance to always give the most fun experience.

    For example, I am setting my players against a very hard boss monster for thier level.

    Should the players think they might die fighting the monster? Yes.
    Will I beat on them until they are almost dead and then fudge the rolls a bit in their favor so that they can turn the tide of battle and fight back and kill the horrifying beast? Also yes.
    To me, sometimes nudging random chance in one direction or another can enchance the fun for the PCs, even if they don't know I am doing it.

    I'd like to hear others thoughts, though.

    Shurakai on
  • SAW776SAW776 Registered User
    edited June 2009
    I'll sometimes fudge misses into hits so that a situation makes for good narrative. But then I'll also tend to back off if its going to destroy them because of bad rolls.

    If they do something stupid, then I don't tend to fudge rolls in their advantage, but if they're doing everything right that's in their power, then I'm not going to let them die because of it. In my view, fudging hits into misses just basically "pauses" the fight until the players get the shitty rolls out of their system, and then I can go back to enjoying the fight myself as well.

    SAW776 on
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  • GryphGryph Registered User
    edited June 2009
    Truly excellent, Aegeri.

    One thing I would like to comment on. One of the parts you discuss under Theme I tend to think of as Tone. For example, your first description of a "Griity" theme I would think of as a tone that colors the theme.

    I ran a game several years ago with a theme of courtly intrigue in a pseudo-renaissance europe. Within this theme I considered a couple different tones or approaches to creating the encounters. The first was a free flowing Dumas style of swashbuckling the other was something closer to Italy during the ascendancy of the Borgias. Same theme but very different tones.

    In my campaigns, I've found that my players are very willing to play any theme I want to throw at them; if I set a tone that they enjoy. In the above example, I started with the very gritty and paranoia inducing Borgia court tone. My players did not respond well. When I shifted to the more optimistic tone of the Three Musketeers, my players loved it and we had a great campaign arc that ran weekly for nine months.

    Same theme, same antagonists and plot points. The tone made all the difference to the players enjoyment and ultimately mine. It's miserable trying to keep a game running with unhappy players.

    Gryph on
  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I'd just be happy to find players online that would accept a themed gamed like that. Problem is, most feel like they're entitled to play anything the rules allow.

    SkyCaptain on
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  • SAW776SAW776 Registered User
    edited June 2009
    SkyCaptain wrote: »
    I'd just be happy to find players online that would accept a themed gamed like that. Problem is, most feel like they're entitled to play anything the rules allow.

    Is it so hard to say "No, you can't be a tiefling, but we can take said tiefling stats and make you a human or a dwarf or something with a background/flavour that gives you the same abilities and fits into my world?"

    SAW776 on
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  • zenpotatozenpotato Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    SAW776 wrote: »
    SkyCaptain wrote: »
    I'd just be happy to find players online that would accept a themed gamed like that. Problem is, most feel like they're entitled to play anything the rules allow.

    Is it so hard to say "No, you can't be a tiefling, but we can take said tiefling stats and make you a human or a dwarf or something with a background/flavour that gives you the same abilities and fits into my world?"

    Sometimes, yeah, it can be, especially when the background and flavor is the reason DMs decide not to include them.

    zenpotato on
  • SAW776SAW776 Registered User
    edited June 2009
    zenpotato wrote: »
    SAW776 wrote: »
    SkyCaptain wrote: »
    I'd just be happy to find players online that would accept a themed gamed like that. Problem is, most feel like they're entitled to play anything the rules allow.

    Is it so hard to say "No, you can't be a tiefling, but we can take said tiefling stats and make you a human or a dwarf or something with a background/flavour that gives you the same abilities and fits into my world?"

    Sometimes, yeah, it can be, especially when the background and flavor is the reason DMs decide not to include them.

    That's silly, though.

    Tieflings are demonic, horned presences that are resistant to fire. That I could understand not fitting.

    But what about someone who was a slave in a forge for years and years to develop an resistance to fire? That same character, as a slave, had to learn how to survive in a place where people would fight and kill to get any kind of luxury, and so he's learned to fight a bit dirty, and so he gains a +1 bonus against bloodied foes. And, in that same way, memories of all those times before he learned to defend himself drive him to be able to unleash a bit of wrath and get a +1 attack bonus against people who hit them.

    There. I just turned a tiefling's demonic heritage-flavored abilities into something totally mundane that would make sense in just about any campaign setting.

    SAW776 on
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  • zenpotatozenpotato Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I can see how getting the mechanics in works fine. I don't think anyone has a problem with that. It's the flavor of the tiefling that doesn't fit, and also the flavor which I suspect attracts quite a few players.

    On the whole, I don't really see the problem with a DM saying "This is how I want to use these rules. Anyone want to play?"

    This is why I only like to play RPGs with friends. These kinds of issues never come up.

    zenpotato on
  • AegeriAegeri Plateau of LengRegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Gryph wrote: »
    Truly excellent, Aegeri.

    One thing I would like to comment on. One of the parts you discuss under Theme I tend to think of as Tone. For example, your first description of a "Griity" theme I would think of as a tone that colors the theme

    In some ways I am sort of cheating here, because I am melding the games tone into theme as well. Obviously there are entirely different ways to make a game based on being pirates feel and so just because it has a particular theme, doesn't mean the game will have a certain tone. It could be a age of sails and exploration game; perhaps it has a very dark tone where you are raiding innocent villagers to steal their wimmins or whatever.

    The general idea with theme is that tone sort of can come along for the ride with it. Obviously an evil campaign will have an entirely different tone than one based around good characters (and I will discuss evil campaigns and other things near the end). I will probably talk about how you can change the feel of a campaign by altering tone more there as well; though that will be a discussion on differences and challenges between good and evil campaigns.

    Aegeri on
    The Roleplayer's Guild: My blog for roleplaying games, advice and adventuring.
  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    zenpotato wrote: »
    I can see how getting the mechanics in works fine. I don't think anyone has a problem with that. It's the flavor of the tiefling that doesn't fit, and also the flavor which I suspect attracts quite a few players.
    Honestly... I don't want players in my games that only choose a race based on what mechanical benefits the race provides. I'd much rather have a freeform system of character design where race and armor are just decoration you slap onto the character so it looks like you want it to look (within a given theme of course).

    SkyCaptain on
    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
  • UtsanomikoUtsanomiko Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I know of lots of people who would want to play a Tiefling because they have a background of demonic ancestry, fiendish blood, and/or devilish features.

    I have never heard of anyone who wants to play one because they have Fire resistance and a bonus against bloodied foes. The only exception might have been somebody joining a generic one-shot delve and all PHP races were equally valid.

    Utsanomiko on
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  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I know plenty of people that choose a race based on abilities they can min/max with certain classes to achieve a desired build.

    SkyCaptain on
    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
  • SAW776SAW776 Registered User
    edited June 2009
    But sometimes its not about min-maxing but about a theme. For instance, if I wanted to make a fire mage, it would make sense for him to have at least a little fire-resistance. So a re-flavored tiefling would work fairly well for that.

    That would have nothing to do with wanting to min-max, but everything to do with flavor.

    SAW776 on
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  • SkyCaptainSkyCaptain Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Being a fire-mage doesn't mean you're inherently resistant to fire however.

    SkyCaptain on
    The RPG Bestiary - Dangerous foes and legendary monsters for D&D 4th Edition
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