Yesterday, I talked about the adventure/story worksheet. Today, I’m covering the campaign/chronicle/saga worksheet. The campaign worksheet is very similar to the adventure sheet, but expanded to cover the entire arc of the campaign. For my campaign sheets, I use basically the same questions and topics, but answer them from the perspective of the entire campaign. If you’re like me and your PCs shape the direction of your campaign, you’re going to find your campaign diverging from the plot ideas you wrote down at the beginning. That’s okay; I’ll frequently do three or even four versions of the campaign worksheet. I date them and keep them with the rest of my game notes. If I run the campaign again, the next group of PCs may develop the plot of the game similarly to the way I expected the game to originally, so I find having the multiple versions of the sheet extremely helpful.
I do add one thing to the campaign worksheet that’s not in my adventure sheet: a list of adventures. In games where I’m frequently using canned adventures (such as AD&D), I find this list invaluable for helping me remember what the PCs did over the course of the campaign. My Storyteller, Amber, and such games don’t usually end up with specific adventures; for these break the campaign up into logical sections and briefly summarize them.
Next time: The city/location worksheet.
White wolf publishing introduced the idea of a story worksheet in their Vampire Storyteller’s Companion (first edition) . Basically, it’s a “quick reference” sheet that covers key details of the adventure at a glance, such as a plot summary, key NPCs and situations, any rewards for the characters should receive and the conditions for success and failure. I found this so useful for planning adventures — even whole campaigns — I’ve expanded on it and adapted it to all of my other games. Using these sheets helps me focus on the important points of a story and not get lost in the details.
Any GM will want to tailor these sheets to fit their own gaming style and world. I use separate campaign and adventure sheets, as well as a quick-reference sheet for important locations. Frequently, I don’t need anything more detailed than these to run a game, but I’m a very “off-the-cuff” GM.
Here’s what my adventure/”story” sheets cover:
Next time: Adventure / Chronicle Worksheet
Dice Monkey posted a blog entry on is site titled My Appendix N about inspiration sources. So, here’s my “Appendix N”:
There are many more, but these are the ones I’ve come up with off of the top of my head. My biggest source of inspiration, though, is my players. Someone will mention something or make an off-hand comment that sparks an idea in my head. Even casual, non-gaming get-togethers usually end up with someone getting hit by a foam die, a Nerf sword, or a rolled-up character sheet accompanied by the words: “You idiot! Now you’ve given her ideas!”
What’s your Appendix N?
Just recently, I’ve started a new campaign. I think I’m more excited about this game than any other I’ve run (which is saying a lot, given the fact that I practically live for running games). It’s nothing fancy: just a plain, vanilla, out of the box ADD3.5 game, using largely canned adventures. The adventures aren’t anything to write home about — many are old-fashioned dungeon crawls updated to 3.5 stats. It’s not the adventures, it’s not the setting (I haven’t really developed one yet). What makes this game so exciting for me is the players … well, one player.
You see — I’m teaching my son AD&D. At 12, he’s finally able to sit down long enough to make it through a game session. I’m not sure who’s more thrilled: him or me. Probably me.
As the child of two gamers, he’s been around RPGs his whole life. He actually played his first game when he was 14 weeks old; he played a changeling child in a World of Darkness LARP. He’s been playing MMOs since he was five. He’s watched countless game sessions I’ve run and played in. He follows the AD&D game I’m playing in almost as closely as I do and always asks what happened if he’s not around during a session. But this is his first real tabletop game.
I’m not expecting him to play all of his games with me. Honestly, I wouldn’t want him to. I know for me, half of the fun of games was discovering things for myself, with people of my own age and skill level and that’s an experience I don’t want him to miss out on. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud when he asked me to run his first game.
I ran my first game when I was about his age. It was the B1 module In Search of the Unknown that came in the Basic D&D “blue” box. Of course, back then adventuring consisted of killing monsters, gathering treasure, and getting as much magic and experience points as we could. We had only the most rudimentary idea of a background for our characters and there wasn’t as much role-playing as roll-playing. But it was the start which, 30 years later, led to our current games of rich character interaction, fully-developed game settings, and intricate plots and subplots where it’s almost as much theatre as game.
I’ll refer to my son as ‘Kraseus’ — his character name. After all, when I was his age, I preferred my character name to my real one, too .
Kraseus is starting from a different point: he wants what he sees the adults playing. He wants a detailed character background and the sense that he’s playing in a world that could be real — something I never looked for until my later years of high-school. But he’s entering a well-developed hobby where as, 30 years ago, it wasn’t just us that were new: the whole idea of gaming was new. My son is a second-generation gamer (actually third, on his dad’s side), so his expectations are different from mine at his age.
It’ll be very interesting to see where his generation takes us.
I’ve mentioned how useful character questionnaires are to me as a GM. I can draw reams of campaign ideas just from the questionnaires I receive. My questions run the gambit from “What does your character look like?” to “What gives your character’s life meaning?” I ask players to answer the questions in character, except for those specifically stated “as a player”. It’s a long list, but I require players to answer only what I call “The Basic Six” questions. These questions are:
I encourage players to answer as many questions as possible and, for the most part, my players seem to enjoy doing it. I do give player contributions (see my post Player Contributions for more info on that) for finished questionnaires. If a player’s answers are really detailed, I’ll often give extra contribution points.
Also, I allow player to go back and change their answers, as long as they don’t change anything already known to be true in the game. It sometimes takes several game sessions for a player to find their character’s “voice” and I don’t want a player stuck with an answer that no longer seems true for their character.
My questionnaires have changed over the years; I’ve added some questions, dropped or reworded others. I have one “master list” of questions that serves as the base questionnaire, but I usually rephrase the questions to fit the game system I’m currently running.