Campaign Creation - Part 0: How A Campaign Is Born



This is the beginning of a brand new series (hopefully), wherein I intend to build a homebrew campaign from scratch. Ideally, the series will follow from the very beginning of an idea and go all the way to the start of the first session. During that time, it is my intention to show my hand the entire way to show you how I create a campaign from the ground up. My hope is that this may serve as a guide of sorts for new Game Masters looking to begin their own campaign.

This will not be a series about world-building. I already have a little something already going for that. Instead, this will focus more on pacing, story elements, arc building, villain and NPC roles, areas of focus, and using shortcuts to get good results in a fraction of the time. I will keep this series chugging along if you folks seem to like it and if there is enough interest.

"Damn you Wonka!"

I have run many campaigns in my lifetime. Short ones, long ones, some as big as your head. I've indulged in published campaigns, worked with individual adventure modules and strung them together, but my real passion comes from building the whole thing myself. There is something deeply satisfying about watching other people play out something that was once in my head. They are a little intimidating if you are just starting out, and can get very complex the longer they run.

 "It's almost too easy..."

But what about where they start? How does the process begin?

I am not sure how the concept of campaign construction begins with other game masters, but for me, it all starts with one thing; a simple idea.

And when I say simple, I really mean simple. The current campaign I am running was spawned entirely from a single fight I wrote for a con game a few years ago. In that, the players had to fight a half-dragon wizard in a volcano. All because I thought the concept was cool. Which it was. The few times I ran the scenario for people, they had a good time. The fight was challenging, the players did clever things. Good times were had by all.

Then I got to thinking, "Wouldn't that make a great final fight in a campaign?"

 "Some like it hot."

I tossed around the idea in my head for awhile and decided that I could expand on that idea. Half of storytelling is justifying why things are the way they are. There is a half-dragon in a volcano and a dragon demi-god with no body. Why? Once the ball gets rolling, you can start answering the questions, which raise more questions to answer. In this case, I built the whole campaign backwards.

But that was just a specific idea. They don't have to be right on the nose. Vague notions, abstract concepts, or even straight up questions can make good campaign ideas. Another example stems from the glorious "Way of the Wicked" adventure for Pathfinder, quite possibly the greatest evil campaign ever written. I ran this for a group with great success. They were Totes McGoats evil. As the game wore on and they proved to me time and time again how proficient they were at villainy, my mind began to wander to what happens after the game. In case you never played it or ran it, SPOILER ALERT! The campaign has multiple endings, one of which is that the bad guys win and plunge the world into a hundred years of darkness. So I asked myself, "What if they win?"

Ideas began flooding my noggin. In this land, a bunch of villains took over, completely, and the people had to suffer through it for a hundred years. Then I got floored by the question, "What would it be like to be heroes in a world where evil has absolute rule?"

Thus was born a campaign idea, one that I have kept on the back-burner for awhile now, waiting for just the right group to spring it on. Campaigns can grow out of just about any seed, from simple things like "An asteroid is going to strike the world", to complex ones like, "What would happen if all the Gods were dead?"

All you need is that one idea to get the ball rolling. And if I am going to do this series any justice, I am going to need an idea. Sure, I could come up with about a hundred myself, but I kinda want to make things interesting. That is why I am going to turn to YOU!


I would like you guys to submit a simple idea. This can be anything. A phrase, a song, a sentence, a question, a situation, a real life experience. Anything. Wherever you saw this article, be it right here or on a facebook group, submit a short idea in the comments below. If you can't find a suitable place to do it, head over to my facebook page and leave a comment there under this blog (also, likes never hurt anyone). I will pick an idea at random (with due props given) and that will be the start of our campaign.

I look forward to hearing your ideas.


Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard 


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Levi Davis

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