When you run a role-playing campaign, your party will always throw your plans in the bin. Now there is help!
I remember my role playing campaign as a Dungeon Master with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition. I spent months getting the campaign ready. I had a list of NPCs (Non-Player Characters) on hand prepared to jump in as the story dictated. My maps were detailed, with multiple encounters and some generic fallback encounters ready.
I was familiar with the setting and lore. I thought I was ready.
On the very first session, my party went so far away from the outlined route and my ‘planned’ deviations, I had to call the session after 40 minutes. That was depressing.
Who would have thought that trying to break into a random characters house opposite from where they should be going would become a significant plot point?
This change meant juggling prepped characters and creating some new ones to fit what the party was doing. I had to map out new areas in much more detail, as it was apparent a lot of time was going to be spent there.
That sounds like a nightmare!
It kind of was. This is a significant hurdle that scares off many aspiring Storytellers. The prevailing logic of “It’s a learning curve, you will learn to adapt to it” is true, but not always helpful.
Over the years, I started to build up ‘generic’ lists that could be quickly adapted to fit multiple scenarios and even game worlds. I still have some NPCs that I created for World of Darkness campaigns that I know will fit in my upcoming Cyberpunk Red campaign.
This is all built from experience. Like anything, the more you do something, the better you will get at it. But on Monday, I saw a Kickstarter project that will make this easier for aspiring Dungeon Masters.
Introducing Roll & Play: The Game Master’s Tabletop Toolkit.
Sam Bartlett is putting together a small A5 sized book that will help any level of GM with some guidelines to help any adventure.
It’s important to note that these aren’t rule supplements or premade adventure components. It’s various bits and pieces that can guide a GM in those moments your party takes you off track.
A random person just got pickpocketed? Roll a d20 and see what they got! The list is in gold pieces, but you aren’t limited to that. You can change the items to fit your world.
A bag of gems worth 100 gold doesn’t suit? What about a credit chit for 5,000 credits then. Or maybe a prepaid credit card with $1,000 available. Minor theme adjustments like this are a lot easier to make up on the spot than entire inventories for all the worlds characters!
It doesn’t stop there either. You can create quick NPCs including features, flaws and looks this way. Determine their motives. Discover some NPC traits. This will get players further into a gameplay session quickly, and you can then use this skeleton to flesh out the NPC later between games if required.
There are also encounter ideas and world-building sections to help you along. The campaign doesn’t show examples of these yet, but with luck, that will change as the campaign progresses.
So I can just use Roll & Play as an improv campaign generator?
I wouldn’t. Not completely anyway. Use Roll & Play to help plan your campaign, sure. Just don’t run the whole thing this way.
Preparing your campaign is still a valuable skill, and essential to excellent overall player experiences. But Roll & Play will help you keep a game session going when your party takes you off your planned route. And they will.
Players will always go into places and areas you never thought of as well as focusing on talking anyone BUT the character you want them to. Every GM can tell you that.
Are you backing Roll & Play?
I am, but only at the eBook level. The idea behind the book is great, but the Aussie dollar compared to the Pound is pretty low at the moment.
While I have had folders full of this type of information in the past, this is no longer the case. Moves, forced culling and time have meant that most of my prepared items exist somewhere in the back of my head. While rusty, I still have my experience to fall back on. The eBook will be handy for the occasional lookup and inspiration.
With shipping, the Roll & Play physical edition will come close to AUD$50. If you are new to running campaigns, the cost of the physical book with its layout is a good buy. Not only can games keep going when something unexpected comes up, but it gives you some firm ideas to build from later.
The $50 will be a small price to pay compared to the feeling of having to cut games short to ‘fix’ your world between sessions. It will also help your players have a much better time, and make between session tweaking much more manageable.
Check out the Kickstarter campaign here for more info.
Until next time,