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GM’s Journal – That New Campaign Smell

In the GM’s Journal we will discuss all things role playing. From tips for running a successful table to reviews of various systems, you’ll find it here.

There is nothing like the joy of starting a new campaign. As I am writing this, I am about to head out for the first campaign I have played in in over two years. Don’t get me wrong; I run games often and I love it, but there is something special about playing in a new campaign. The very idea of starting fresh and in a new world flush with possibilities is so exciting! Who knows what might happen or where it might lead? What new memories will be made and what treasures will be unearthed?  The timing of this post is perfect as many of my players are wrapping up a campaign that some of them have been playing in for well over a year. Afterwards, we plan to move right into our next campaign. In this post, I will offer my advice to Game Masters who are planning to start a new campaign.

Something Old

Anytime a new campaign is starting, this usually means that an old one is ending or at least being put on hiatus. Every good story deserves a fitting ending and a campaign is no different. It is easy to get excited about the prospect of running a new campaign but before moving on to your next story, be sure to wrap up any loose ends.  Before ending a campaign, I usually ask my players to make a list of things they want to see resolved. This way none of my players feel like there are parts of the story that were left out.

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a campaign must be put on hold. It is understandable, as some campaigns can last years. During this time, schedules change, priorities shift, and sometimes everyone just needs a break from the action. It is always best to leave the campaign on a high note. Leaving the campaign on a cliffhanger or resolving a major plot point is much better than leaving the players wandering through the woods.

Something New

Before starting your new campaign, make sure you take enough time to plan it out. Familiarize yourself with the system that you are running. Read all of the rules and do a quick search on online forums if you have any questions. If you are running a module, make sure that you have read the entire module and made notes of the important plot points. This way you are familiar with the direction of the story and can adlib if necessary without damaging the consistency of the story. You also avoid the need for a retcon later.

If you are creating a homebrew campaign, decide what kind of campaign you want to run. Will your campaign be set in a high fantasy, near-future, modern day, or historical setting?  Next, decide if you will be creating your own world from scratch or using an established world. [Unfortunately, some systems don’t give you much choice on this matter.] Then, decide what the major plot device is. Perhaps a new land has been discovered, the prince is missing, or a usurper plans to overthrow the established government. Finally, you must figure out how the players fit into the story. Maybe they are investigators, heroes for hire, or in the wrong place at the right time. I will discuss building blocks of creating a world from scratch in future blog posts.

Something Borrowed

When you are designing a campaign it is always acceptable to ask for advice and to borrow ideas. Ask your fellow GMs for input; they will likely be able to offer helpful insight and advice. Check out the Malted Meeple’s previous GM’s Journals and check out online forums for suggestions. Most importantly – ask your players what they would like to see happen in the campaign. Your players will always be a large resource of inspiration in your campaign. Tap into that resource!

Sometimes it can be hard to come up with original material week after week. It is okay to borrow plot devices, character archetypes, and tropes from other forms of media. When you are creating your main story arch, be sure to leave room for sub plots and side missions. These can be a fun diversion from the main plot. Borrow ideas from your players as well. As previously stated, they are your biggest resource for creativity. As I mentioned in a previous post, my players drove an entire campaign based on their dislike of one NPC! The paranoid conjecture of your players can inspire incredible plot twists that even you may not see coming.

Something Blue

It is hard to bring a campaign to a close. When you have put so much time and effort into telling the story, it can be hard to come to accept that the story is over for the characters and players. It is even harder when a campaign ends abruptly. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a campaign doesn’t work out. Relocation, major life changes, or lack of interest make continuing a campaign impossible. Sometimes even a new campaign won’t work out past the first session.

It is easy to feel down about a campaign ending. My advice? Remember how it all started and cherish the fun times of the campaign. Remember the characters, the moments of heroism, the not-so-heroic moments, the critical fails, the critical successes, and everything in-between. Think about what in your campaign went wrong but also what went right. Then, start planning your next campaign! Get ready to face the new challenges and make new memories!

What are some of your most memorable moments from your campaign? Join the conversation on Facebook!

See you at the Table!

Meeple Karington Hess - Small

Karington Hess is a lifelong gamer whose passions for hospitality and all things game-related led him to Ravenwood Castle, where he served as an Innkeeper before joining The Malted Meeple. When not pouring beers, crafting milkshakes, or teaching boardgames, Karington can be found behind the DM’s screen, weaving intricate stories for his fellow gamers.