A Key Tip to Creating a Memorable Tabletop RPG Campaign

A Key Tip to Creating a Memorable Tabletop RPG Campaign

Want your players to look back on your campaign as something more than a series of encounters? Lend your story cohesion with themes.

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Think of all the superstitions players have about dice rolls, when the reality is that random is just random.

Spoken like a true heretic. Remind me to burn some incense and chant the Litany of Cleansing to purge the corrupting impurities from my mind before picking up my dice bag again.

OT: Interesting that in the entire piece you didn't talk about the start of the campaign and character creation. From what I can understand of the column, the theme was chosen by the GM and planned ahead of time, but you didn't mention that a character with no interest in the theme is a character unsuited to the campaign- the classic "Barbarian in a political game" problem. If I'm running a campaign with a specific theme in mind, I make sure to bring it up during our character creation section and encourage PCs to have some tie to it. For war, I might suggest that family members got drafted or signed up, their home was destroyed or annexed in the fighting, that the character attended a military academy in their youth, etc.

Not everybody needs to have an obvious link or a character built around the concept, and details can certainly emerge as the campaign goes on, but like you said: a theme is a background event, one that will have influenced the character in dozens of tiny ways long before the campaign starts.

I think a good game is a balancing act. Yes you want a great story to keep everyone together, but as he says the theme is even more important. Sometimes you do get a barbarian at your tea party. Sometimes you have a party of bookish, mawkish, introverts thrust into situations beyond their control. The theme/setting/story clump is what can give the game its distinctive character. Imagine if Kingmaker tightly controlled the flow of action and story, if it didn't have the theme of exploration. It might be fun, but it sure wouldn't be memorable. It's the GM's responsibility as much as the players to stay on theme and weave the narrative. The players do it by getting into the story, the GM does it by presenting the story and being adaptable. In many ways the GM is a herder much more than he is a farmer. He's just there to keep things going in the right direction.

I would love these articles in like a publication or PDF so I could ruminate over then at my leisure when I'm crafting a campaign: That's a book I'd buy! I've also shared them with my GM friends. Thanks and please keep it up!


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