#RPGaDay 2018: Day 8

Another alternate question, so I can skip the ‘how to get more people playing’ original. I can’t really think of anything beyond be more diverse and open and engaging, and encourage people to enjoy games, whatever games they like, because it’s all gaming.

Anyway, onto the alternative:

Question 8: How do you prepare for extended campaign?

In general I prepare for most creative endeavours exactly the same way.

Germ of an idea or image, somehow it links to something else or expands into a neat concept all by itself, and then I build on that with characters and places, objects and incidents.

Like if I imagine a wasteland of petrified forest, carpeted with human teeth, at some point I have to come up with a vague notion of why that nightmare might have happened and what sort of folk could survive in a world like that.

If it’s a short story or a novel, I’m looking at beginning, middle, end; side plots and tangents; opening lines and showdown endings.

If it’s a game I’m coming up with Things That I Want To Happen; NPCs likely to appear; at the same time–in discussion with the player group–characters we’d like to throw into this world/planet/universe.

I suppose I mostly create a space in which Some Things are already happening, and it’s the players who generally have their characters make choices about which direction to head, or which clues to follow. Unless it’s some kind of military, law enforcement or espionage game, in which case there are procedures, tactics, orders to follow. Usually in the player characters’ own unique fashion.

Take my Stars Without Number game as an example. It doesn’t really have a name as a campaign, but it’s working title for me was “State of Decay” because it was predicated on the notion of a ‘fallen universe’, very much in keeping with the background of the game as printed, but in my campaign off on a slight fork to link up with some background details of my own. In any case, something catastrophic has happened that brought a Golden Age of Technology and Expansion to a chaotic, bitter end.

The essence of my preparation was the following note to myself:

After the Fall

A prisoner is released into a galaxy stricken with dissolution and war.

He has access to a higher level of technology than most others, and is thousands of light years from his home.

The game will be the journey back, picking up fellow travellers along the way, and perhaps unravelling the mystery of what happened.

And after that, and once we had the characters and ship locked down, the rest of the preparation–aside from a significant sectoral alien presence known as the Kovanari Chain Polity, and some notes about a powerful psychic religious order–it’s all done on the fly, session to session, using the many, many useful tables provided in Kevin Crawford’s games like SWN, Silent Legion and Other Dust.

And from this loose and lazy process we nevertheless end up with the former prisoner they call ‘Arbiter’; the ship and ship AI known as the Baleful Gaze; a monk with mind powers and a Very Sharp Sword; a man from a world where humanoids share a common ancestor with otters, and have no concept of privacy; idol singer -Annika (Dash Annika), whose management want her dead; a series of humanesque ship ‘droids with special skills and names like Picasso, Humble and Shooter…

I guess what I’m saying is I don’t really plan too far ahead beyond the setting and shape of the game. I come up with an idea and see what we can make of it.

I suspect for a one-off I might put in more pre-production effort because that kind of caper is likely to have a clearly defined narrative path, but I’ll save further musing on that for when I need another alternative question.

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