Bringing a campaign to life

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Bringing a campaign to life

#1 Postby Utgardloki » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:43 pm

What are some of the things that have helped to bring a campaign to life?

I am most interested in the player's point of view, things the GM did or did not do to make the campaign setting vivid.

Some of the things I've done include

* Write up campaign notes summarizing the previous session and providing notes and "articles" from NPCs' points of view

* Just mention things every once in a while, such as "The Audorians have a rule that once a tomb is older than 100 years, then it is okay to take whatever you want from it."

* Mention yearly events such as holidays they observe, or the fact that "This is the month when, wherever you are, that's where you're going to stay, because the roads are all impassable mud."

* Come up with short jokes about the campaign, such as "Dormacs only lie when their lips move"

* Establish concordances between setting cultures and Earth cultures. I don't really like to do this, but in my Audor campaign, PCs got that the Toranians were like the Arabs, and the Kosaka were like the Mongols.

* Break things down into bite-sized chunks. Rather than overwhelm the players with a three-page writeup on the pantheon and mythology, I'll just mention that "Neriya, the goddess of the wind, has kind of a sinister reputation, being responsible for both fertility and death."

* Try to point out elements of the architecture, how the Dormacs have elaborate carvings on their wood doors, or the Toranians like great, expansive stone architecture. I'm not sure this has worked very well.

* Try to tell the players what they would need to know, when they need to know it. For example, when a player created a female Kosaka warrior, I told her that female Kosaka warriors often worshipped Skade, because she is less demanding than Neriya was. Of course, the player had her pick of patron deities, but I think that little note helped indicate a little bit of the mythos.

* Throw in random bits. For example, the PCs entered one village when they happened to be having a wedding.

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Factions that make a difference

#2 Postby Utgardloki » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:50 pm

Another thing that I should mention, is that when there are factions, the factions should make a difference.

For example, one reason I like Iron Kingdoms is that it makes a difference whether the Kingdom of Khador wins or loses a battle. A lot of settings it's just "This noble is warring against that noble" and I'm thinking "Who cares?" But the kingdoms in Iron Kingdoms are all different, and you can really root for one kingdom or another, even if you do end up changing sides with your next PC.

When I ran my Audor game, I made a point of pointing out the gray livery of the baron the PCs were working for, vs the black uniforms worn by the army of the baron to the north. Not that the baron to the north was evil, of course, although he registered as Evil to the Paladin's detect evil ability.

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#3 Postby Takeda » Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:59 am

I think it's a good idea to use the short-hand of providing a cultural analog for the players to relate to. You as the GM (if it's home-brewed) are the only one that really understands the setting. Unless you want to write a book and require everyone to read it the analog is the way to go.

As an example in my homebrew: Humans of the western Kingdom are a close parallel to the Indian subcontinent from the time that the Taj Mahal was built at the height of the Mughal Empire. Eastern human Kingdom is much like the Khmer of the 7th century. Western Elves are Japanese of the 12th century, Eastern Elves Korean of the 12th century, Western Gnomes are Australian Aborigines of the 15th century, Eastern Gnomes Dakota Sioux of the 13th century, Hobbits the Moors of the 11th century, Western Dwarves Greeks of the 12th century, Eastern Dwarves as the Turks of the 11th century, the northern barbarians as Lapplanders of the 8th century.

Just that paragraph provides enough cultural background to fill an encyclopedia.
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#4 Postby grendal1 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:18 am

what about collaborating on parts of the campaign lands with the players?

also maybe using different methods of storytelling to show historical events of the world...I am talking about using "Fiasco" to show some event (that went horribly wrong of course) that the characters may have heard of or come into contact with.

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#5 Postby jpk » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:40 pm

Involve the characters (and players) in it. Pick one of your gods who you feel is likely to be something of a schmuck. Make sure that every time your players have to interact with his clerics, they leave thinking "man, what a schmuck," but don't go so far as to give them "man, what a schmuck, let's burn down his stupid temple." In some groups, that line may be too fine to walk.

Liberally apply stereotypes. Make it clear that all Thoseguysalusians are liars, thieves, and cheats. Later, when they finally realize that their trusted friend and ally is a Thoseguysalusian, they'll really have to reconsider either their opinions or their friendship, and either one will help cement the game in their minds.

Feel free to do the same with positive traits. I mean, if you're one of those GMs who has character with them, any way. ;-)

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#6 Postby canology » Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:46 pm

I second (or third) the idea of cultural (and linguistic) analogs. These can add a lot of flavor and help firm the culture up in the minds of your players.

Little asides can also help. Stuff like "reminding" the players that their characters know a specific holiday is coming up, or that a particular land doesn't like mages, or that that kingdom has lots of blackpowder weapons. That way it doesn't sound like a lecture or require reading a bunch of background notes (which are also useful, but only if your players like that kind of stuff).

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#7 Postby Birbin » Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:26 pm

I think a setting is vivid if the npcs have thoughts, tastes etc. They might ask the players about their opinion about campaign elements. For example they may ask if the players like wine from brekeke or hahaha. Or what they think about other npcs, about certain events.
Do you like the Keddi Festival or not?

Another important point if npcs think reasonable in the game world.

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