Unless your game is a simple series of published dungeon crawls with little to no storyline, it’s a good idea to create a player packet (also commonly called a campaign pack or game packet) for your players. This packet should contain all the information players need to create their characters.
You need to know what you want your campaign to before you create your player packet. Use your elevator pitch, if you created one. If not, you want to express your campaign idea as simply as you can. This version of the campaign idea is for the players: it may differ from the version in your notes. After all, you don’t want to give away any secrets in advance. Still, reveal as much as you can; think of this as a commercial or preview of your game and make it as exciting as you can. Some GMs even create video “trailers” for their game. This is a great idea if you have the time, skill, and software to produce it. Don’t worry if you don’t; a printed packet is more than sufficient.
Your packet should tell players what to expect from your game. You want to highlight the parts of your game that make it different from the “typical” game of that system and from other campaigns you’ve run. The second job of your player packet is to entice your players and make them as excited about the game as you are. (if you aren’t excited about your game, you need to retool your campaign concept until you are. Because if you’re not excited about this idea, your players won’t be, either.) There’s no wrong way to write a campaign packet, but try to match the tone you want for your game. Use active verbs, possibly even second person viewpoint. Anything you can think of that will build interest.
Divide your player packet into three sections:
Even if your players are die-hard setting junkies who will eagerly pounce on every tidbit of information you provide, you should still weed your information down to the most important points for your player packet. You can give them the rest of the information just before it becomes important. Or you can provide them with a separate setting booklet, describing your world in full detail. Again, include only the things of most importance to the players. By sorting your campaign ideas into core ideas versus side issues, you can tighten up your own notes and have a better idea of what are the central points of your campaign and what can be dropped if necessary.
Consider adding maps and illustrations to help jazz your pack up. If you’re not an artist yourself, check out stock art sites. Many time even paid stock art sites will have some free images you can use. Or you can often get a few images for a nominal fee. Here are some places to get stock art:
The important thing about a player packet is that it’s for the players. It’s not to show off your writing skills, or to detail every last inch of your game world. Keep your player packet short and useful.
This month, rpgGM.com is hosting the RPG Bloggers Blog Carnival and we’re talking campaign creation. Do you have a method you use to create your campaigns, or do you just “wing it”? How would you like to create your campaigns? Is there something specific you do that you think would help other GMs create better campaigns? What’s the best campaign you ever ran and why do you think it was so successful? Or what campaign went horribly wrong and what would you did differently? If you’re a player, what would you like to see your GM do when he sets up a new campaign?
Campaign creation is a big topic, so your posts can be as broad or as narrow as you like. Talk about the whole process of campaign creation or just one small part of it, like making antagonists or choosing a game system. Or discuss the player’s responsibilities regarding campaign creation. To participate, write a post relating to campaign creation. Then leave a comment containing a link to that post. At the end of the month, I’ll do a round-up post listing all the sites that participated. Have fun with this, guys. I looking forward to seeing your ideas.
I know this blog has been dormant for the past several months. The truth is, I’m running through a gaming dry spell. My GMing is off and I’m having trouble getting myself enthused about my game or writing here. I think that’s largely because my creative energies have been going in a completely new direction.
Like probably a lot of you, I’ve had a dream of writing fiction. A year ago, I decided to stop dreaming and start writing. Up to this point, my forays in fiction have been…well, “terrible” would be a generous description. I’d get a page or two in and then *pwffft*. No more ideas. This time I determined I’d keep at it until I got a first draft and set out with the goal of writing the suckiest first draft I could possibly managed. And because I knew I couldn’t create plots well, I decided to do what many of us did in high school (large warning bells here), I decided to write a story about my current favorite PC. I know, bad, bad, bad. I got permission from my GM to use his homebrew world and many of the NPCs as a starting point for my setting and permission from the other players to use their characters as well (with big warnings that these would be my versions of their characters, so not to expect them to be the same). I did that, thinking that if nothing else, I could use events as the game for my plot.
This is, of course, generally where things go wrong with game fiction. But I wasn’t married to the game events. Just used them as a starting point. I wrote about 200-300 pages of character development, world setting, three or four plot outlines, even a few scenes, but the story was going nowhere. Even when I completely stripped out the game events, the story still went nowhere. I gave myself permission to change anything to make it work as a fiction piece (which actually, I’d done at the beginning of this adventure) and threw out all the game events, all the other PCs and most of the NPCs, except for my main antagonist and his primary agent. That helped. I could tell there was a real story in there, I just wasn’t sure how to get it out. I vetted my PC, my main character, out on a couple of writing boards (“Would you read a story about this character?”) and got a very positive response, so I knew there was a story to be told, I just needed to keep digging.
A year out from my first start I’m now about a quarter of the way into the new first draft and it’s working. I mean, really working. I’m averaging about 2000 words a week on the rough draft alone. That’s slow going, but it’s taking shape. I’m finding surprises as I write constantly and I’m starting to see the complete picture of the story. What changed? Well, I won’t go into detail here, since this is a gaming blog, but I’ll briefly say How to Think Sideways, a fiction-writing course from Holly Lisle (author of Talyn, Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, Fire in the Mist and about fourteen other novels) that reminds me of Gamer Lifestyle for fiction writers (having taken both courses now, I can say that ). I’m not an affiliate, just a very satisfied student. I highly recommend the course for anyone with the dream of writing fiction.
I’ve still got some gaming projects in the works. I need to take a day or two and force myself away from the story to finish revising The Adventure Creation Handbook. It’s almost complete. Just needs an edit of the new appendix I added on quick adventure ideas and then some packaging and it’ll be done and out. And I’m still wanting to finish the The Campaign Creation Handbook, but that’s till in first draft. I just need to make myself work on it. Maybe with the reboot of Gamer Lifestyle, I’ll get more inspiration to do it.
I’m starting a writing blog to share my journey (and–I admit it–start promoting the book, since I plan to self-publish). I’m not going to be talking about it here, because this is a gaming blog and I’d guess that most of my readers here probably don’t care about how my novel is going. For those of you who do, my fiction blog is currently titled “Jade’s Fiction” (though I’m going to come up with a better title). There’s nothing up there yet; that’s one of my goals to do tonight. I’m going to try and continue posting here, but if you don’t hear from me, now you know where I am .
There are a number of RPG-related podcasts, everything from RPG news and GM tips to recorded play sessions. But there five non-gaming podcasts that regularly give me game ideas and I thought I’d list them here:
How about you? What non-gaming podcasts give you idea? Let us know in the comments!
[Graphic courtesy of derrickkwa via Flickr Creative Commons]
Or you can purchase both in a single file with all of their freebies for $10.
These prices and the bundle will only be available until January 2, 2013:
Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Session Prep by Phil Vecchione is that good. I spend a lot of time writing about things that most GMs don’t think about writing — like a book on how to write adventures– but I never even thought about writing a book about preparing for game sessions.
I’ve been a GM for a long time (30+ years) but I’ve never really thought much about session prep. Since I have a very improvisational GMing style, my game prep has consisted largely of daydreaming about what the important NPCs have been up to and jotting down a couple of quick notes about what the PCs need to find that session to advance the plot. My game notes usually take up about half a page.
Never Unprepared showed me what I’m missing. Whether you’ve been GMing thirty years or thirty days, you’ll find something helpful in this book. There’s really new information in the book. I often found myself thinking “Yeah, I knew that.” But I’d never thought about it in such a cohesive way.
And that’s this book’s strength. It takes what you already know, codifies it into a set of steps that you can follow each and every time you sit down to plan your game. And these steps cover everything from figuring out your strengths and weaknesses as a GM to how to prepare a session at the last minute.
The chapter and section titles give you a good sense for what each section is about. The 132 page book is broken into three main sections:
The book is written in a conversational style that’s enjoyable as well as informative. This is a “from the trenches” book: the author has been GMing almost as long as I have and has to fit his game prep in around a full time job and family priorities. So the book is written with the needs of busy people in mind.
If there’s one quibble I have, it’s with the layout of the print book. I like the 5×8 size–it’s easy to fit into a game bag and I’m guessing the publisher, Engine Publishing (who also brought us Masks and Eureka) wanted to keep the page count down to help keep the book affordable. But I would really have loved wider margins, so I could take notes in the book itself. The 5/16″ side margins make the book feel very cramped and detract from the otherwise professional look of the book.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you’re having trouble preparing for game sessions (or even if you’re not) this book will help you find the problem and fix it. After reading it, I’m excited and eager to dig into preparing for my next game session, something I’d previously considered a chore. And that alone makes it worth the cover price.