Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Campaign Design Best Practices (Part 2)

I have begun enumerating these. I can crack a hundred, easy. Let's see if it holds my attention for that long.

5. Mechanics - Dungeon Design: If you are using D&D 3.0 or 3.5, be sure to include at the potential for at least one incidence each of Fortitude, Reflex, and Willpower saving throws. Be sure to include at least one trap, one locked door, one secret passage, and one optional encounter. Try to have "conceptual" dungeons, like a dungeon with only one monster that can attack them at various points throughout the dungeon. I once had a dungeon in which a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts was used to keep an avatar of Yogsothoth (as statted in the 1e Deities and Demigods) incarcerated in a crypt. On their way into the dungeon the PCs had to contend with tentacles coming out of holes in the walls that were treated as though they were individual monsters, weird spatial distortion, and abrupt mind-control effects --all courtesy of Yogsothoth, the sole inhabitant of the dungeon, whom they could not confront until the end.

6. Style - Dungeon Design: Don't be bland about your dungeon designs. You want dramatic locations. You want "ah-ha" moments. You want interesting terrain and situations. Do things like design a dungeon based on a Frank Lloyd Wright house, or Hitler's Berlin bunker. Have things to fall off or into. Have rivers and ledges and cliffs. Fight in all of these places. I once based a dungeon off the design of Masada, in Israel, for example. This will let you concentrate on filling the dungeon rather than drawing floor plans.

7. Style - Characters: The more you make it about your campaign world, the less it is about your player's characters. I have found that there is a sliding scale between these two that cannot be bypassed in tabletop gaming with more than two players. With smaller groups there is time to emphasize both the personal and the general, but in larger groups this is not possible, and you have to make the choice. I have run campaigns in which I desperately tried to convey the special noir of the campaign world, and I have had more bland campaign worlds in which the players' ideas for their characters became the driving force behind the action. Both make for wonderful games, but one or the other may be more suited for your group.

8. Style - Character Background: In exchange for a little extra experience -particularly if a player missed a session or two and wants to catch up- you can give him the opportunity to bluebook. That is, to write a summary or excerpt from the character's journal, or otherwise indicate what he was doing during the session that he missed. Alternatively, the bluebook may delve into the character's past -- it can be anything from a travelogue of the time before the PCs met, to any other form of campaign literature. In a more modern setting, perhaps the character has written a book or recorded a CD, the player might then write a review of the work.

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