Friday, January 14, 2011

Do I dare?

There are groups that have multiple campaigns, with the player of one GMing the other. This is something I have sought as the goal of a Grail Quest for over a decade and have finally achieved, thanks to Shawn. Other groups have multiple campaigns all run by the same GM. Which is impressive and terrifying.

Last night (which is earlier this week at this point), I was over to the house of my friends Jeremy and Laura. Heather and Serwin soon followed. The main point was so Jeremy and I could possibly finalize some of his thoughts on D'alton and the brooding existential crisis the character was going through in dealing with post-Kethranmeer life. I ended up grabbing a bunch of page protectors from my wife and going through our catalog of old character sheets and protecting them and placing them in binders as well. Fun stuff. Once Old Firebeard came over, I turned myself to the task of getting him squared away for next campaign. He alternately wanted to play a gunslinging pirate with stabbyness and hints of vampirateism and a witch.

Now here is the thing, and my wife pointed this out, I handed Sean Erwin the core book for Pathfinder and said, "Here are the rules, first thing you should do is to look through it and kind of get an idea about what class you wanted to be." I then proceeded to tell Serwin no about thirty seven times. "Can I be an elf?" "No, there aren't any elves in my world." "Can I be an Inquisitor?" "No, there are no divine classes or gods in my world." and so on.

What followed was a discussion with my wife and Jeremy about how perhaps you need a background in DnD to play my campaign, and can't just be thrown to the wolves. We then moved onto a discussion about how perhaps I could do a beginner DnD campaign with people who have little or no experience with DnD in addition to my Hekinoe campaign. It was a tempting and fascinating discussion, and at one point it involved this other group hunting down my Hekinoe group and hatemurdering them.

The problem with doing two campaigns is burnout. I wanted to take a whole month off with no DnD or planning for DnD to recharge the batteries, and now I'm considering immediately running not one campaign, but TWO, in addition to being a player in another. It seems like I've just thrown caution to the wind and said fuck it all. Which is dangerous. To get this far, to make this world and this campaign, I would hate myself if three months into our new Hekinoe campaign I was just like "Fuck you guys and fuck DnD, I'm playing Minecraft."

Now, if we imagine for a moment and say that I am going to do this, how would I stave off burnout? What kind of campaign would it be? Who would play? What system would I use? We can't use my current campaign world, my wife kind of convinced me that it is far too complex and goofy for beginners. Not because I am awesome, but just because it is too overly complicated and even if you have the core rules for Pathfinder, you still need to read a bunch of other materials to figure out what is remotely playable and how it operates. My world has all kinds of goofy alternate rules and feats and traits and flaws and restrictions on races and classes. It is kind of like throwing the kids into the deep end and letting them flounder. Plus, Serwin doesn't have the attachment to the world and characters that the other players would.

So what am I doing here? Considering a new campaign world? Is this a noob group? Not per se, but kind of, and I certainly do not mean noob in a negative or condescending context. Who would be in it? Serwin Firebeard obviously, my wife, Laura, and perhaps Kerry. Martel as well if she wanted to, though she already has a group and is technically a veteran of two campaigns. Basically people interested in DnD, that don't have a ridiculous fifteen years of experience under their belt are who I would invite.

So how would I stave off burnout? How would I keep myself interested?

As a veteran gamer, it is kind of my duty to expose new players to the game. To usher in the next generation so to speak. We've done that with Josh and Jeff, though neither of them really plays anymore as far as I know. Helping to generate new players and new interest in the game and genre is something that really appeals to me, and doing that is something I could definitely be committed to.

The brunt of the work of my other campaign is done as well. We're not starting a new campaign world with the guys, they're just continuing their adventures in a world that is already built. The plot is done and I have roughly eleven thousand words of an outline for it that are basically a collection of plot hooks and adventure ideas. Ultimately the goals will be shaped by the players, rather than me, I just have to make the scenarios, and if we're working under the whole 3-4 hour long session format, that is pretty easy to accomplish with a little bit of dedication. This is not to say that I am done putting effort into Hekinoe, not by a long shot. It just means that the world is there, the wiki is there, the only thing that isn't there yet are the players and the stuff they want to do.

The goal these days is to work smarter and not harder, it makes everything easier. I don't really write dialogue anymore, I write the intent and goals of NPCs and base the conversation with the players on my notes. I don't write DCs, I just keep in mind whether a task is hard or easy and watch the result of the checks the players make. Stuff like that makes everything easier and less stressful on me. I want to carry that over to this potential new campaign.

I have an obsession with making things not a carbon copy of other things. I started with odd things like desert Elves and non-metalwork obsessed Dwarves and whatnot, now I've moved to a place where there are no "normal" fantasy races in my campaign and no race is dark and evil and monstrous, every race is just sort of annoyingly grey as far as morals. I'm going to skip that if I do this second campaign. Everything is bog standard DnD (whatever system we use, but we'll get to that later), Elves like forests and Orcs are evil, all the classes are available and work normally. The background will be minimal, the gods will exist and do godly things and be involved in the exploits of mortals. That way, when you read the book, you know you're reading the actual rules and don't have to worry about them being different than what you're reading.

If I were to do any background, it would probably fairly simplistic. This is a forest, elves live here and have done so for some time. This mountain range is where Dwarves live, and they have lived here for some time. Etc. I think I would create a frontier area full of monsters and lawlessness, like a newly discovered continent or island or something. A place with ruins and swamps and that kind of thing. Then make a big continent nearby and say, "This is where all the old and ancient empires are. You are colonists and adventurers here in this new land, don't worry about the past four thousand years of history. Just go clean up the colony. With swords." I think I would also let the players determine some background, like if they were sick of Goblins are evil and Elves like forest cliches, I would let them determine what things should be like.

Another thing I could do to lighten the load of this campaign is to get a co-GM. By this, I mean an actual GM. Someone to actually run scenarios or work on them if I can't or need to take a break. Now the obvious choice would be Eric, or even Tony if he'd do it. They both have experience. No, though. I would choose Jeremy. Seems an odd choice perhaps, I'll explain. Jeremy really started to get a handle on playing DnD in 4th Edition, more than he ever had in the past decade or more. He hit a rough patch changing to Pathfinder, but he wants to get back to where he was at. The best way to get better at gaming and understanding a ruleset is to run the game, to be the GM and have to find all the answers to the questions the players are asking. Maybe he wouldn't agree to that level of commitment, but he would be my first choice.

The main thing, if I do decide to do this, would be to ensure that the group is very interested in doing so. I'm not even going to help roll characters if they're not genuinely, seriously, interested in playing along. I also want to make sure that we all go in with the understanding that I will drop this shit like a hot coal if it begins to affect my attitude regarding DnD in general or begins to detract from my other campaign. Don't mean to be harsh, I just have a gaming commitment first and foremost to the Hekinoe group.

There is a concern about time. If I am running two campaigns, there will be an investment of time into DnD. Maybe not a shit ton more, but I'll need to let go of something, and that something will probably be the dream of playing Warmachine. Which is not to say I won't buy a figure, I will, because there is one that is perfect for an NPC in my next Hekinoe campaign, but I just don't think it would be prudent to buy a bunch of rulebooks and minis and not really have time to paint them.

The final issue of this whole nebulous idea comes down to system. 4th Edition has a certain amount of ease of use to it that appeals to me. It is easier to learn and easier to GM. It is also less complex, which makes it harder to get what you envision your character to be. Pathfinder has the appeal of being Pathfinder, it is more streamlined than 3.5 but more complex than 4th Edition, so it would be harder for beginners to get a handle on, but when they did, it would probably allow them to get more out of it. Heather and Martel want unicorns, hard to do in 4th Edition, easy to do in Pathfinder (albeit at 14th level, and you have to be good). I'll mostly likely discuss it with whoever I invite and see what they want to do.

Whoa, text.


  1. What if I want to play? I am wanting to either DM more or to play another's campaign. This may involve either Lance getting something together for Dark Sun or somehow being involved in something that you run.

    Times like this I wish I still lived by you.

  2. The second group is for inexperienced players sir. Technically, you have been involved with DnD as long as I have. I have the character sheets to prove it. Heh.

    Dark Sun, woooo! (That was my imitation of a drunken frat dude celebratory exclamation).