Monday, March 9, 2020

The Campaign Pitch or How to see what your players are interested in

Red background with an Imperial eagle surrounded by a laurel wreath with SPQR written bellow it.
The Stellaran nation is ripping itself to shreds. “The Dictatrix is dead! Long live the Republic.” cry the traditionalists after the assassination. “Burn the Senate and restore Imperial glory” is the rallying cry of the Imperialists. The vassal states see this as a chance for freedom while everyone else sees the opportunity for conquest and riches. The dogs of war have been set loose. You can choose a side or strike out to build a new power in the world.

Catchy, right? Well I think it is and it will be one of my campaign pitches for a game in a world that will lean heavily on classic tropes with the added menace of a Rome parallel Stella. If my players choose to play this campaign. I hope to offer them a few choices once my current campaign ends.

While thinking about what interests me for my next campaign. I wanted to write out what a starting pitch for a fantasy RPG campaign should look like. A campaign has to catch your players and GMs fancy. If people don’t like the theme, ideals, or style of play then you are going to have players constantly butting up against what you want to run and what they want to do which can be frustrating.

This means it needs a catalyst that drives conflict and shakes up the status quo so the players can step in and set things right or shape the world in a new way. A threat of war, or an actual one, are classic examples. These events make heroes and give them places where their actions ripple across the world amplifying their effects and grandeur.

It should give the players options. In my example above the players could be trying to set the Republic back on track, they could be involved in establishing the empire as an even greater nation, they could be vassal state citizens fighting for the freedom of their people, or they could be barbarians seeking fortune, glory, and a place to burn or conquer.

To be clear, different PCs could have different agendas. But I would try to look for ways to keep the party from having bother Republicans and Imperialists so I can cast the other side as a decadent self serving power hungry faction that must be stopped.

It should also leave enough room that you can shift the focus a bit if the party loses interest. An example would be if the campaign started with lots of political intrigue but after a while they decide they want dungeon crawling or other fights. The campaign can shift towards protecting Stella from outside attacks or finding artefacts to bolster a right to leadership or even to stop the treacherous acts of another faction.

The political cartoon that gave rise to the name Gerrymandering
It may sound democratic bu I'm not above gerrymandering.
I could run this in many different systems. I will probably run it in 13th Age’s Archmage system or 5E using rules and monsters from the new Theros book and Odyssey of the Dragon Lords. By hooking my players on the plot I could potentially run this in a system that my players are less comfortable with because the premise excites them.

My goal here is to find out what excites my players and me. It also gives me the chance to think about all the cool things I’d love to run or play. The goal is to make this a short elevator pitch that everyone will read. Once the players have picked a campaign I’ll work to flesh the campaign premise out into a couple of pages. This will let me add some details to inspire the players when they are creating their characters. Give them a bit more grounding in the campaign and hopefully inspire them to flesh out parts of the game as well to help keep them involved.

For anyone interested my other ideas, which still need to be refined, are:

“Behold a new god is born!” proclaim the oracles around the world. Some claim she will bring a new age of enlightenment to the world. Others cry she will destroy it while making something deserving of her. Atop of the Spire of the World the babe waits to be shown the world she has inherited and will grow up to make her decision over. The best and worst of are amassing armies to claim the land around the spire and take the god child so they can mold her into a weapon or salvation. Will you sign up with a cause or strike out on your own to shape destiny?

The dead rise. It is spoken about behind churches and among gravediggers. Even miners claim they can hear the shuffling tramp and ghoulish armies. Some even claim small villages and farmsteads have been overtaken and destroyed by this curse, or worse they’ve been dragged below to feed something worse.

The swamps are dark and cold. Hidden creatures stalk the darkness. It was slow at first but more and more have gone missing….are you ready to save Saltmarsh?

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