There are two basic ways you can start a campaign. Both are valid and both have a number of pros and cons. As always, the one you pick depends on your personal preferences and those of your players.
Method 1: Choose a module then generate characters
- The Good: This method is most GM friendly as the GM can start preparing the new campaign as the last one reaches its end. This means that by the time character generation comes around he’ll have prepared any necessary campaign handouts, read the module and generally be able to answer any questions the players may have about the campaign’s themes and so on.
- The Bad: The downside to this method is that it normally renders some character concepts poor choices if a player wants to meaningfully contribute to the campaign. For example, a half-orc barbarian is probably not the best choice for an investigation-heavy campaign while a heavily armoured cleric of the fire god might not be a great concept for a nautical campaign.
Method 2: Generate Characters then choose a module
The players generate characters and only then the GM chooses a module.
- The Good: This method is most player friendly. Often towards the end of a campaign, a player starts to come up with a number of new concepts for his next character. Although he might not actually build the concept ahead of time, he’ll probably start thinking about it quite a lot. A new campaign is a fantastic opportunity to put the new concept to the test. Because some adventures and campaigns favour certain races and classes over others, this method enables a GM to choose a module which fits with and rewards the players’ character concepts.
- The Bad: The downside to this method is that the GM is left with very little preparation time between character generation and the first session of the campaign. Depending on a GM’s personal circumstances it can be a real challenge to prepare the module, create a campaign primer (more on this next time) and so on in the week or so between sessions.
A Note on Character Generation
In many ways, this is one of the most important aspects of the campaign and it’s worth devoting a whole session to getting characters sorted. A character generation session enables the GM to give an overview of the campaign and for the players to ask questions about the setting and the setup of the first adventure. It also allows the players to generate characters together which gives them a much higher chance of both generating a balanced party and of creating mutual backgrounds and ties between the characters. This builds a much more cohesive group which is good for the players, good for the characters and good for the storyline.
Next time I’ll look at campaign primers – what to include, what not to include and so on!
About the Designer
Creighton is a keen gamer who passionately believes in the Open Gaming License and is dedicated to making his games as fun and easy to enjoy as possible for all participants. Reducing or removing entry barriers, simplifying pre-game prep and easing the GM’s workload are the key underpinning principles of the products he releases through Raging Swan Press.
Over the last 11 years, Creighton has worked with Expeditious Press, Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. He now releases his own products through Raging Swan Press. You can read his thoughts on game design at raging-swan.livejournal.com.
Creighton lives in Torquay, England where, apparently, the palm trees are plastic and the weather is warm. He shares a ramshackle old mansion with his two children (“Genghis” and “Khan”) and his patient wife. Famed for his unending love affair with booze and pizza he is an enduring GREYHAWK fan.
[Editor's Note: Creighton has graciously offered the opportunity for U.S. readers to check out this series of columns originally posted at the UK Roleplayers site about a year ago. This is the second article in a series. It first appeared here on 1-APR-2011. Here is the previous article.]