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 Need help with an open campaign I want to run
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Aytros
Seeker

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 19 Jun 2017 :  15:44:26  Show Profile Send Aytros a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
Hello all

I want to design and run a very open campaign where PC'S have a geographical area and a broad end goal. Everythema else is up to tgem. I need some advice on how to organize it from anyone who has done such a campaign. Thanks

dazzlerdal
Great Reader

United Kingdom
3502 Posts

Posted - 19 Jun 2017 :  16:43:41  Show Profile Send dazzlerdal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In my expeeience tge larger the area the more difficult this will become. An added problem is that most player (usually tge less experienced) will gravitate towards destructive behaviour if not given some direction. Most taverm brawls instigated by players are caused by boredom or confusion.

My advice would be to be very well prepared and know as much as you can in the region. Then create a number of story ideas in each settlement or ruin or geographic location.

As the players move around you can throw these ar them in any order to try and draw them in. Then when they pick one start fleshing it out as fast as you can.

Be prepared for chaos and for players to pick random quests you hadnt intended.

Its a very difficylt task to run open ended campaigns.

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Cyrinishad
Learned Scribe

255 Posts

Posted - 19 Jun 2017 :  17:12:39  Show Profile Send Cyrinishad a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A truly open-ended sandbox campaign, requires players that are very proactive and self-directed... and a DM that is very comfortable with improvising encounters...

And Dazzler's observations inexperienced players (boredom & confusion) are spot-on... Don't rely on the players to direct the action, just because your trying not to railroad them. As a DM you actually need to do more plot-line related preparation than a "standard" campaign... because instead of coming up with only 2 or 3 options, you need to come up with 10-12 options, and keep throwing options at them until they bite on something... or the game will be right back at Drunken Tavern Brawl before you know it.

To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge. -Socrates

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. -Dr. Seuss
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Kentinal
Great Reader

4299 Posts

Posted - 19 Jun 2017 :  21:09:48  Show Profile Send Kentinal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There is an expression concerning purchase of high end items. It goes something like this: If you need to ask how much it costs you can not afford it.

In this case I would change it to: If you need help with a you need help writing an open campaign and need help you are not ready to run one.

A long time ago TSR put out Red Arrow, Black Shield (D&D Module X10)a massive Known World war of good vs. Evil. Where the world changes because of choices the PCs make. If they collect allies or decide to do nothing things change about them.

Any wide open campaign needs many towns/cites/encounters, many NPCs all working and changing the local areas if the PCs visit those places or not.

You as DM will need at least four times of the possible encounters the PCs will ever run into, plus be able to come up on the fly with reactions to the unexpected actions of the PCs. You will also need to keep track of changes taking place where the PCs are not at.

I have seen reports of play not going well with new players as well, so if your players are new their choices could make their play less then fun as their actions give them a reputation.

With the above said clearly it is possible help can be provided if you are ready for a lot of work. We would though need to know how large your "geographical area and a broad end goal" to be able to offer advice.

"Small beings can have small wisdom," the dragon said. "And small wise beings are better than small fools. Listen: Wisdom is caring for afterwards."
"Caring for afterwards ...? Ker repeated this without understanding.
"After action, afterwards," the dragon said. "Choose the afterwards first, then the action. Fools choose action first."
"Judgement" copyright 2003 by Elizabeth Moon
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xaeyruudh
Master of Realmslore

USA
1808 Posts

Posted - 20 Jun 2017 :  07:34:02  Show Profile  Visit xaeyruudh's Homepage Send xaeyruudh a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree with the others. Advice:

1. pick a small starting community, like one of the dales for example.
2. Name and describe all of the NPCs the PCs are going to have easy contact with, and decide what they know and how they feel about it.
2a. Make sure there's someone in the community who represents each of the classes.
2b. Figure out who likes each race, and who (if anybody) hates each race. This gives NPCs depth, encourages players to pick and choose who they approach and how, and introduces intrigue and additional opportunities for roleplay.
3. Make sure there's somebody the PCs can go to for healing, armor/weapon upgrades and repair, and adventuring gear. This is where they're starting, and where they're going to be returning as they chase leads and collect rewards and explore your world.

The reason I suggest doing all that work for your starting community is that you're going to need to do all of that for every new place the PCs choose to go, and it's good to get a "process" outlined before you have to do it on the fly.

In some cases, if you're in the Realms, you can find a lot of material that's already been published. Many times, like if your PCs wander into Rolene or Surthay or Abreon or hundreds of other towns, or a place that isn't on the maps, you're going to be winging it.

Yea, it's a lot of work. You can manage it if you're comfortable keeping them somewhat corraled into a small-ish region (like Hartsvale maybe) and it can be hugely rewarding in terms of building your DMing confidence and worldbuilding skills. It's how Ed built the Realms, and you can't go Wrong following his lead.

But you're not alone. There are a lot of passionate Realmsophiles here, and some of us love an experiment to sink our teeth into. There's been at least a couple of "alternate Realms timeline" campaigns discussed here in the last few weeks, for examples.

I hope you and your players are able to commit to it and have fun!

Edited by - xaeyruudh on 20 Jun 2017 07:35:43
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Helm
Seeker

United Kingdom
22 Posts

Posted - 20 Jun 2017 :  08:40:58  Show Profile Send Helm a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've come across a few websites describing campaigns with a similar style to the one you are planning. These sites refer to it as a "west marches" style of play. The premise is that the PCs have a large area of unexplored territory to play in with lots of detail pre-prepared by the DM. Try Googling "west march" rpg game style. Hope this helps.
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
3414 Posts

Posted - 20 Jun 2017 :  14:38:45  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Get a Hex-map of your starting area. Number each hex. Each number should have multiple threats and things to explore or do. Each hex has the potential to vary in difficulty, depending on habitat. Example would be traveling to the mountains, you might come across hill giants, mountain trolls, a red dragon, orcs and goblin-kind, manticores, etc. Then make sure that these hexes have information from the locals (if the PCs aren't originally from there) as to what threats might be there based long lore and local legends. "Orc of the Broken-Blade pass have been fortifying their position at the top of the Galena Mountains." sounds like a good adventure plot for 1st level PCs. "It's said that a community of mountain trolls inhabit the Western ridge of the Sunset Mountains." sounds like a terrible place for 1st level Player Characters to go. But they shouldn't be discouraged in attempting it if they try.

Basically it's a lot of rolling on random monster tables based on terrain and throwing out NPCs with their own goals in certain areas.

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Hoondatha
Great Reader

USA
2395 Posts

Posted - 20 Jun 2017 :  16:20:00  Show Profile  Visit Hoondatha's Homepage Send Hoondatha a Private Message  Reply with Quote
As someone who is currently running a sand-box-style campaign, I will second the need to have something that can get the PC's to focus. For me, it's the fact that the group's founders were sponsored by/have connections to the temple of Labelas in Evereska, and are one of the teams the temple uses to find and retrieve lost lore and historical artifacts. I always keep a couple of "lore quest" ideas ready, and whenever the game seems to be slowing down I can have the priest show up and give them a new quest.

That provides the game a bit of impetus and takes the party to a new location. Once they're done with the quest they can wander in the new area and self-direct the campaign until it starts to slow down again. Then I bring in another lore quest.

Doggedly converting 3e back to what D&D should be...
Sigh... And now 4e as well.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
30284 Posts

Posted - 20 Jun 2017 :  18:26:48  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You may want to look at the Kingmaker thing that Paizo did. Basic idea: build a kingdom out of the wilderness. So it was a mix of standard adventuring, but also claiming the wilderness, building up towns and settlements and roads and such.

That was kinda-sorta the Iron Kingdoms campaign my group did, before it took the time-travel angle. We were leaders of a Cygnaran expedition to check out and settle a recently discovered and very large island. So we made our first settlement where we mad landfall, and scouted out resources and places to put roads and other settlements.

Then we got tossed 100+ years into the future, and had to reclaim our kingdom from the bad guys that had taken it over.

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Aldrick
Senior Scribe

909 Posts

Posted - 24 Jun 2017 :  03:01:53  Show Profile Send Aldrick a Private Message  Reply with Quote
One of the best things you can do is tie your players to an organization. For example, they are all Moonstars, Harpers, Zhents, etc. Whatever. It does not matter. What matters is that everyone is interested in being part of that group. They then build characters around that concept.

This solves one of the biggest problems you are going to have because this forces players into narrower concepts. If you allow players too much freedom during character creation you could end up with characters that just are not compatible, and this leads to the group breaking down.

Once everyone is tied to the organization, start the group off with some mission--an opening adventure. This is an opportunity for you to 'show' and not 'tell' the players around the region of the Realms in which they find themselves. This mini-adventure should connect them to two or three NPC's, give them a feel for other power players in the area, and give them at least one antagonist. The adventure is not meant to be something expansive, leading to a major campaign, although you should dangle two or three other plot threads in there for players to follow if they want. Otherwise, once they have achieved whatever is necessary, they are turned loose.

In preparing that adventure, it also gives you the opportunity to spring other things on the players. The world is not static; things are happening, whether the players have anything to do with it or not. So, occasionally, you should let events that have nothing to do with them play out--those are plot threads for them to follow.

The first adventure together is an opportunity for everyone to get a feel for their characters in the game, and get some party dynamics going. It allows as I said, for you to introduce the players to the setting and region in which they are inhabiting.

Outside of this, one of the biggest obstacles you will likely face is really two parts of the same problem. The first is that the players will be overwhelmed by the freedom (stumbling around, doing nothing in particular), and the second is paralyzed by indecision and risk aversion. Because they have so much freedom, they are unlikely to know where to begin--that is why you dangle those plot threads out there for them to follow--and if they have an appropriate fear of failure, then they may not be inclined to take risks. ("If I do X, then Y might happen, and Y would be bad...") You need them to take risks, because that is where the conflict happens, and it is the conflict that drives the story.

One thing that might help is to have each player declare and write down one thing they want their character to achieve each session. It has to be something explicit. They get rewarded with XP if they work toward it (regardless of whether or not they are successful). It is important to reward players when they take risks because it encourages them to take more risks.

Also, when a player wants to do something, make them declare the intent and make the intent explicit. Then link the failure consequences to that intent. ('I want to challenge Lord so-and-so to a duel.' 'Why?' 'Because I want to humiliate him in front of everyone.' 'Okay. If you are successful in defeating Lord so-and-so then he will be humiliated, and if you lose you will be the one who is humiliated instead.')

If players are taking risks, pushing agendas, and are racking up consequences for their actions the story builds itself. If things start going off in directions that are problems, or the players need guidance, that is why they are part of said organization/group. That is also why you introduce them to those NPC's in the beginning. These are ways for you to nudge and guide the players if necessary if they end up stuck.
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