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Old 02-25-2018, 11:54 AM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Stories: "My old campaign ..."

Quite a few GMs seem to have run campaigns in the past which shaped their styles, and are reflected in a lot of their later creations. Tell us about yours?
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Old 02-25-2018, 02:10 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Stories: "My old campaign ..."

I've run a number of campaigns of which this is true since I changed from fiddling with homebrew systems back to using published systems about a quarter century ago. But here's one that was particularly significant:

Boca del Infierno, 2005-2007. System: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Role-Playing Game. This was set in Alta California during the period of Spanish rule in the early 1800s, in the pueblo that later became Sunnydale (it was then called Valle del Sol). I let the players vote on which of them got to play the Slayer; the other four played her companions—the sorcerously gifted daughter of the local apothecary, the daughter of a half-demon famlly living on a nearby ranch, the friar with training as a Watcher who unexpectedly found himself called on to use his knowledge, and the officer in charge of the local garrison. In addition, I had each player create a secondary character—a scooby-level character for the player of the Slayer, and heroic-level characters for the others.

This campaign benefitted from all of the players being serious fans who had seen the entire series and were prepared to emulate its spirit. The game mechanics served this very well. For example, the Watcher's player deliberately chose to spend all his experience on buying drama points that he used to save his character from disaster through fortunate coincidences; he never became any more competent at anything! I found the rules in The Magic Box the best I've ever used for improvised magic. And the rules framework was loose enough to allow lots of character-driven scenes. I particularly remember one session where two of the five players were absent, and the characters of the other three were travelling back from a ball at the governor's mansion in San Francisco—these characters were the Slayer, the half-demon girl, and the handsome soldier, and since they had been flirting with each other for some time, I had all three of them targeted by the Roman deity Cupid (in the form of a boy of 12 or 13, not an infant). The players took my hint about the supernatural influence their characters had fallen under and ran with it, in one of the funniest sessions I've ever run.

I think the important thing I got from this was confidence in my ability to do comedy in an RPG. I had tried this once before, with a short Toon series, but of course Toon is specialized, and I wasn't running a "campaign." This time I ran a full length campaign where the humor had to be integrated with the action and drama, and was able to sustain it, largely by encouraging the players to take their crazy impulses and run with them. Since then I haven't felt any hesitancy about offering comedic premises.

I also felt that I scored a minor triumph when one of my scenarios climaxed with the destruction of the nearby mission (Mission Sangre de Cristo), and explained both where the ruins under UC Sunnydale came from and why the Chumash resented white people so badly (there had been a demon in the mission who was killing their children).
Bill Stoddard

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Old 02-26-2018, 09:49 AM   #3
Not another shrubbery
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: Stories: "My old campaign ..."

I don't really have a campaign that stands out in my memory much. I remember my first one for it being a marked failure - one session, and I couldn't convince any of he players to try again. That discouraged me from GMing again for some years *shrug*

"My Old Campaign" (to the tune of My Old Flame, with apologies to Coslow and Johnston)

My old campaign
I can't even think of its name
But it's funny now and then
How my thoughts go running back again
To my old campaign
My old campaign
My new games all seem so lame
For I haven't played one since
As loved by the participants
As my old campaign
I've played in other people's games
With fascinating scenes
Or fascinating themes well-prepared
Some great, or so I declared
But those games others loved
Were only imitations of
My old campaign
I can't even think of its name
And I don't recall what I wrote
I must find those old typed up notes
Of my old campaign
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Old 02-26-2018, 10:14 AM   #4
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Cockeysville, MD
Default Re: Stories: "My old campaign ..."

Hm, I would say that almost every campaign informs and helps me refine my GMing style. Here are some of the major campaigns that let to changes.

1) The Last Shottenyager - This was a Banestorm/Yrth game I ran many, many years ago. The basic plot was suppose to be the players running into the the last member of the "shadow hunters" that was looking to hunt down and kill a vampire. In the first session the players decided to side with the bad guys, kill the shadow hunter and try to frame the murder on another NPC. From there they ran around killing, burning, and causing all sorts of havoc.

After the campaign I realized that 90% of my plans and prep were wasted. I tried from them on to never assume what the players were going to do. Instead of having a "plot" where the players are expected to perform a certain task, I started to shift to more focus on NPCs and their motivations, and how they react to the players getting involved.

2) Lanton - Years later I ran a fantasy game that was more of a "sandbox". In this game LOTS of things were going on in the background with hidden plots and lots of different motivations.

The game concluded with the character (and players) not really aware of what was really going on. Again, I started to think that the "plot" had issues. This time I didn't presume what would happen and what the games climax and resolution would be, but it still didn't focus enough on the player actions.

From then on I tried to make game more about NPCs that were more or less "stuck" and not able to further their goals w/o some sort of external assistance. This way the PCs are the major players. I also tried to make NPCs clear in their goals or at least as far as what they want from the PCs.

3) Fallout: Two Towns - In this game there were to two different towns were warring over some area between them. There were no "good guys" as far as the town leaders were concerned. They both were morally grey at best. The players had to balance what they needed (to win the freedom of a companion), with the bigger issues of this conflict between the two towns. This morally grey area led to lots of party conflict, one player plotting behind the backs of the rest, and a big finish that while fun, did feel a bit contrived in retrospect (because I was trying to salvage a hot mess of a game at that point).

Afterword I tried to tone down the darker aspects of my NPCs. I still take a very "everyone is self righteous" approach to major NPCs in power and give the selfish reasons for wanting to get whatever they want, but I don't try to make everything a hard morale choice for the players to consider.
My Blog: Dice and Discourse - My adventures in GURPS and thoughts on table top RPGs.
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