Thursday, March 30, 2017
Gamemaster's Guidepost - Framing Your Preferences, Part I
One of the many things I learned running my Aeon supers campaign was how to improve my skills when it came to framing a campaign toward the player's expectations. I say the players and not the characters because when it gets down to it each player has things they truly enjoy doing within the structure of a roleplaying game. +Daniel Dover came up with an interesting concept for the Aeon D-Team that I sort of used and decided to refine for my next campaign. I'd asked Daniel if he minded if I did just that and he obliged.
So here it is. Before the first game (or within the first three) ask your players to take a quick survey that will let you assess what they are looking for overall. Each question has an answer of 0 (I don't want this at all) to 5 (I want this every game session) and a theme describing the particular plot elements the players would want in their game. By taking this simplistic, if somewhat arbitrary approach the players can tell the GM exactly what they want from the game and then the GM can act on it.
The scale used to answer these questions is as follows:
0 - I don't want any of this element in the campaign or I want it sporadically (at most every 6 or more game sessions).
1 - I want this element in the campaign very rarely (at most every 5 game sessions).
2 - I want this element in the campaign rarely (at most every 4 game sessions).
3 - I want this element in the campaign uncommonly (at most every 3 game sessions).
4 - I want this element to appear in the campaign regularly (at most every 2 game sessions).
5 - I want this element in the campaign often (every game session).
Next, determine we determine the elements themselves and any sub elements. For example, you might have Combat of two types: tactical (using the tactical combat), mass (huge armed battles between armies) and abstract (using "theater of the mind").
A few elements common to all campaigns;
Combat: Pertains to how often the players participate in battles or armed conflicts to achieve their goals. Subtypes: Abstract ("theater of the mind"), Mass (huge battles between a large number of forces), and Tactical (using the tactical combat rules).
Intrigue: Pertains to how often the players participate in conspiracies or collusion with others to achieve their goals. Subtypes: Factional (as it pertains to races or groups within the campaign), Personal (as it pertains to things from the character's past), and Political (as it pertains to governing bodies)
Interpersonal Relationships: Pertains to how often the players participate in events related to patrons, lovers, family, friends, allies, etc. to achieve their goals. Subtypes: Familial (as it pertains to the character's family), Friendship (as it pertains to the character's friends), and Loyalty (as it pertains to a character's duty), Romance (as it pertains to the character's love life).
Investigation: Pertains to how often the players participate in exploring the world around them to achieve their goals. Subtypes: Detective Work (figuring things out by animate information sources) and Research (figuring things out by inanimate information sources).
Morality: Pertains to how often the players participate in events or situations that test their moral or ethical fortitude to achieve their goals. Subtypes: Black/White (things are clear, cut, and dry) and Shades of Grey (things are more complicated and actions have consequences).
Subterfuge: Pertains to how often the players participate in events or situations that require them to be take indirect approaches to achieve their goals. Subtypes: Cloak and Dagger (character vs. character interaction), Sneaking (doing things without getting caught or seen), Skullduggery (intimidating others or hurting them), and Wetwork (getting bloody and murder).
Putting it All Together
Once you have the level of participation all players want add the total score together and then average them. For example if you had four players and each of them put 2, 4, 3, and 5 for Combat then as a rough guideline every 3.5 sessions you should have a combat.
I've created a Google Form you can modify for your use. Get it here.
Picking Over the Bones
The GM should absolutely add other elements for a given campaign to the list and clearly define what he means. For example, in a wainscot campaign with a "hidden world" the GM could list "Supernatural" as an element and go on to describe what sort of subtypes that may contain.
The next installment will feature a similiar framework, but will focus instead on how the campaign world itself works. Ergo, this post was about the microcosm of the player characters, the next will talk about the macrocosm and how the player characters fit within it.