13 thoughts on “How do you guys start out campaigns? Just want to see how it differs from my heavily improvising approach.”

  1. My approach to all the Apocalypse Engine games (with the exception of Tremulus) is the same:

    Ask loads of leading questions as people fill in their playsheets

    Throw a location at the players:

    “You’re all hiding in the throne room, behind a tapestry. The king is currently holding court.”

    Then ask them why they are there.

    Finally ask a leading question that’s going to lead to action one way or another.

    “Sir Renolds enters. Everyone seems okay with this, however from your hiding place you know he’s an assassin. What gave him away?”

    And finally if they don’t bite – force them to action:

    “Sir Renolds points to your hiding spot. ‘Guards ! Assassins! The King is in danger'”

    Let the players explain whats going on nthroyugh questions.

  2. I let players fill out their charactersheats. Then, when they have introduced their character i start asking questions like where they are from and what is especially cool about them. About hte Clerics god and it’s church, about where the fighter trained etc. Then we fill out bonds and i ask questions about this too. 

    Then i usually pick one of the elements described by the players and make an adventure begin out of it. In the Play by Community game th elf fighter said he came from the Starfall islands, weird islands that are said to have fallen from the sky and are part of an ancient magic thingy. 

    So the thing we started with was a blue meteor that had hit somewhere close to one of the established towns and went from there. The Paladin quested to find out what happened there and recruited the party to go along. 

    Jumpcut to the meteor and the weird blue sparks that came from it. 

  3. Declan Feeney My approach is generally the same, but my questions are a lot less leading than yours. Maybe that’s because I literally haven’t got the slightest clue what’s going to happen in the session before the characters have been presented.

    If the players says something interesting, I go with that. If the current state of affairs after character presentations are “everything’s fine”, then I just give everything a violent shake.

    Like the session last Thursday. The players had just awoken from their sleep, everything was all fine and dandy. So I just threw in a violent case of “important guys daughter was ripped in half last night”, and suddenly the game went from “sippin’ fine wine” to “who dunnit?”

  4. Well don’T start the game at sippin whine. Put them in a cave, put them on a sacrificial altar. 

    To quote the book: 

    Start the session with a group of player characters (maybe all of them) in a tense situation. Use anything that demands action: outside the entrance to a dungeon, ambushed in a fetid swamp, peeking through the crack in a door at the orc guards, or being sentenced before King Levus. Ask questions right away—“who is leading the ambush against you?” or “what did you do to make King Levus so mad?” If the situation stems directly from the characters and your questions, all the better.

  5. Oh, we didn’t start the game with it. We started the game with a murder mystery. Hope that clears the confusion 🙂

    Besides, the druid did give me that he was looking for something that “smelled wrong”, so wrong that he was compelled to leave his homeland and put an end to it.

    And the fighter had sworn to protect and aid him in his quest 🙂

  6. In my current game one of the players mentioned his home town

    Another, described his character as appearing fearless, although that being more showmanship that his true character. I immediately asked what he did fear and was told ‘the walking dead’.

    Another player mentioned a job he’d done for the Duke.

    Hence my opening scene was the Duke’s tower under siege by zombies.

    I then followed witn loaded questions about:

    – Why they were there.

    – Why the Duke wasn’t there

    – How they’d become aware of the undead


    I could equally well have picked up on the bits which came out of character gen about the city of shamanistic orcs living in the mountains, or order of halfling knights errant that one of the characters belonged to, but I didn’t  I just picked buts which sounded interesting, and added the other hooks to my notes for later inclusion in the game.

    (The orcs have since become central to my game. The halflings haven’t made an appearance yet)

  7. I’m of two minds for my soon to start campaign. On one hand I want to play with the gorgeous stuff in the French Red Box, but on the other hand, I’m afraid playing the dungeon (The Bloodstone Idol) would have too many consequences and start a campaign I’m not really interested in.

    Return to the Keep on the Borderlands is what I really want to run!

    So to answer your question, in this case I’ll start with some material. Either a dungeon or a map and some fronts. But I could see myself starting a campaign with nothing but the players’ input.

  8. Eric Nieudan I think the reason that I improvise so heavily from player input is because I’ve had some pretty bad experiences with GM’s who used RPG’s as a medium to tell a story in which the players were only peripherally involved.

    I’ve also don’t it myself some times, much to my regret, but after I began improvising like this, I’ve had a feeling that players are more invested in the story.

    I’ve never played under a GM, who was as “loose” as I am, but it feel that it works for me.

  9. well, the problem about the PCs being peripherically involved should be solved by the Fronts. Grim Portents are “stuff that happen if the PCs don’t do something to stop them”, and stakes are “things you want to know about PCs and dangers”. With that in mind, it’s pretty hard not to make the PCs the core of the adventures.

    Also, of course, improvisig like you’re doing, ask questions and building on the answers. That is also a brilliant way to share the (usually huge) load of work that’s traditionally associated with being a DM. Man, I love sharing “work” with the players. “So, how are the elves in this region responding to the human’s colonies?” “I don’t know, you’re an elf, you tell me!” 🙂

  10. I’ve had some pretty bad experiences with GM’s who used RPG’s as a medium to tell a story in which the players were only peripherally involved.

    The failed writer syndrome, also known as ‘me before 2005’ 😉

    Reading everybody’s approaches, I think what I’m going to do is present the loose setting: the caves of Chaos, the Keep, what happened in the 30 years before, the tech level. And then let the players riff off it all. If they use any of my hooks, great. Otherwise we’ll just go somewhere else with the story.

Comments are closed.