CREATING CAMPAIGN SETTINGS
- Tips on structure and design for newbies
It is my goal here to build on the concepts you will have learned in the Gamemaster's Guide. I feel that the section they present on Campaign Design is deficient in its content not only for structure, but also for ideas in design.
First and foremost you must consider the Timeframe and Genre of your campaign Idea. Although these are printed in the Gamemaster's Guide, I will further elaborate on them:
The contemporary timeframe is for all intents and purposes the world of today. It is all that you come across in your daily life and I cannot stress enough the potential for any number of magnificent campaign ideas that could be used for a PL 5 campaign. I find that many movies every type easily fit into the Contemporary Timeframe, as well as books and random newspaper articles you can come across while walking down the street.
Try this when making an absolutely new campaign set in the Contemporary world:
Enter a nearby Library's section where they contain a plethora of newspapers. Every Library I've been to has many major cities' main paper and they are a wealth of information. Not only do they provide you with many campaign ideas, but they also provide you with an accidental education.
Just use your scissors to cut out pictures, sentences and paragraphs, headlines, or any other useful looking piece of paper.
NOTE: One time I used an ADVERTISEMENT from the classified section as a secret contact number for the PC's and I used a black and white photo from the opinion section as a link.
I like the Near-Future Sci-Fi because of the foreseeable possibilities. The PL 6 world of the future is close enough to generally predict advancement and it's far enough away to be exciting. Cyberpunk is one of the more interesting Genres for this Timeframe because it represents what many people fear and what is most anticipated in advancement today. Other Ideas however will be later in the article. Near Future represents flexibility and maximum believability.
Perhaps the most fascinating of all the Timeframes is the Far-Future Sci-Fi. The possibilities are endless here simply because nobody knows for sure just what the future holds for humanity. (And who says that the campaign has to feature even one human?) You will decide the future of humanity in such a way that entraps the players and either dismally or stupendously projects them ever forward in your world. There is a great selection of material to draw from if you are considering the Far Future Sci-Fi, and you are never alone...
Although it would be interesting to base your world in another Timeframe, I mainly want to consider the above mentioned three. I believe that there is a great deal of history to draw from the library and that there should be no shortage of ideas to pick at. For instance, I wanted to create a PL 0 campaign and found that there was a lot of campaign ideas just waiting to be discovered. (However the idea never came to fruition, as there was a lack of motivated players.) Don't forget about movies, I cannot stress movies as a source of information enough.
For the campaign we're going to do, we'll take a look at the Contemporary Setting. This is because I have some really good ideas for you, as well as some good sources for props as well... All covered later.
Next, let's take a look at science fiction genres
Your next and more difficult task is what Genre of Science Fiction you want to base your campaign in. The alternity line has a few prefabricated campaign settings already that you can extract some ideas from. Star Drive, Dark Matter, Gamma World, etc. Are all useful tools upon which you can base gear, NPCs and locations.
However if you're like me, you will want a totally original, nothing ripped campaign setting that you can call your own. And as such, I will *Briefly* outline various campaign Genres for you here.
If you're thinking of a Contemporary SCI-FI, think Independence Day. But an invasion could come from another 'tangent' (Referring to an alternate universe) or even from underneath the Earth. (Like Time Machine) Alien invasions represent probably one of the easiest ways to mould a group of NPCs that want to work towards a common goal. (No, Really!)
What would have happened if say, the Nazi's produced the first nuclear weapon? What would have happened if nobody had developed the bomb? The premise of an alternate history campaign setting is "what if?". You simply select a key or pivotal event in history and change the historical outcome and modify the present accordingly. Alternate histories have lots of potential for great campaigns as many players are intrigued by the "what ifs" that abound in the Genre. This Genre has its application in mainly the Contemporary setting.
A great movie just came out recently named I, Robot that specifies this genre perfectly. Although you need not to create a world where robots eventually turn on their masters, it certainly makes for a good plot line. I think that the Artificial Intelligence campaign should be set no lower than a Near - Future campaign. On the other hand, it is
your game after all...
As with any interesting colonisation campaign, it would be a lot more interesting to encounter a planet packed with as much life as Earth is instead of a rock in the void of space. However with proper Game Mastering it is possible to make either one as exciting as any genre. I really like the colonisation idea for the potentials that it has. You could plant a gate to another planet on this one that links two radically different worlds through alien outposts. Or perhaps in the far future you can create some alien competition for the habitable world the players are about to lead the colonisation of.
This genre doesn't necessarily have to be a constant hack and slash style campaign, however it is the general theme here. Just remember that in any arena of combat the players aren't the only ones fighting (Unless they are of course a small covert team for a few missions), so be sure to include the PC's allies, enemies, and stray 'mortar shells'. If you're hosting a futuristic style campaign, then perhaps you'd like to use orbital bombardment in front of the PCs. The Starship Troopers Marine Corps. is probably a good parallel to draw for the combat sci-fi as they're not always fighting; they do take breaks once in awhile, and it's your job to orchestrate these.
The cyberpunk SCI-FI genre refers to cyborgs of the future. When I do this type of setting, I usually try and make the players feel alienated and distrusted by everyone other than other cyborgs. You can envision a future that embraces them at your whim however. The punk just refers to the sort of 'attitude' the genre carries with it.
When I refer to massive disaster, I mean the kind that players would immediately find their attention grabbed by. It could be anything from an agricultural breakdown (And possibly military/gangs controlling what remains of the food!) or an ecological disaster caused by a prototype weapon (or other source) that forces people underground to the eventual overpopulation disaster scenario. What do you do if Africa has developed a disease that can only kill white people for instance? Really, there is no shortage of campaign material disaster settings, but it is my experience that something that we all know is about to happen makes for the easiest to believe campaigns.
This could easily go under the Massive Disaster spot, but I really see the whole plague/epidemic setting as standing on its own. I really like the idea of how the military begins to control the population in the most popular productions. I cannot recall what movies I'm thinking of, but there are quite a few of them out there.
This campaign setting may have an interesting hook if you find a way to interrupt the local utopia in some way. Many people do not like change and changing that Utopian way of life (For the worse, of course) could have some drastic consequences for the natives as well as promote an interesting idea. The setting of continual Utopia just seems too unreal for me, and I believe that it would be absolutely boring to have to experience constant Utopia.
It's kind of hard to control the main idea here, unless you specify definite rules for the campaign players to follow. Time travelling anywhere and at anytime or to any time could bring a quick end to an otherwise excellent campaign idea. You should explore two different laws as well. One is that anything in the past cannot be changed and, as such events and actions undergone/taken by the players to interrupt the timeline should be frustrated by something... ANYTHING! This is because 'Something' had to stop the players because if the history books are written in a certain way, than that is how it happened no matter what the players want to do. Another, more popular option is to have the ability to interrupt the timeline. The future is never set relative to the players and they simply enter another tangent when they do alter the timeline. Such tangents would continue normally only with the altered event in the history books. (Of course, going back further than that and stopping yourself is not an option because if you did stop yourself than how did you do it in the first place so that you would want to stop yourself? See what I mean? You could really mess with your players this way...)
There are literally unlimited genres to choose from and I am in no way going to tell you that this list is anywhere close to complete. The list like I said could go on indefinitely. Fortunately for us, I will stop here as you have an excellent Idea of where it is that I'm going.
Our Campaign will be set in a Plague/Epidemic genre. We can obviously make the name for the campaign based on the genre, but I really think that a campaign deserves a name when it is completed, that way you look forward to the very last thing that will personalise your game.
Until Next Time
I know it's not much, but I really wanted to show you guys what it was I had in mind when I considered doing this for you. I would really like to hear your comments if you have any in a thread at A.NET or in my e-mail inbox at WayneTC@Telus.net
Next time we will look at stage of creation I like to call complex creations. Hope to hear positive feedback, complaints etc. in the next few days. Thank you for your interest and TTYL.