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Running a Theatrical Campaign - Part One

   Posted by: Wolfgod   in RPG

ONE OF THE THINGS I’ve been learning a lot about lately is screenplay structure - and I’ve been thinking about how to apply this structure to an RPG Campaign.

Want your campaign to feel epic without saving the world (again)?  Try the structure I’ll outline below the fold.

Most stories follow a kind of macro-pattern.  Guys like Joseph Cambell and Christopher Vogler have analyzed these stories and come up with an outline that most heroic tales follow.  I’m borrowing from their hard work to present a general pattern for an adventure.

Its my belief that a good story-based campaign can be played in about a dozen adventures.  It’s long enough to establish good characters, villains, and build up to a climactic ending - but not so long as to feel like you’ve seen and done everything there is to do.

I’ll be breaking this into parts, but not every part should be it’s own session (though it could be).  Three or four might be covered in a single session, or one phase might take several sessions to resolve.

The first thing in your campaign is an establishment of things as they are - what Vogler calls the Ordinary World.  All those characters your players just made - are they from the same small town where nothing ever happens?  Street kids in the world’s biggest city?  Mercenary brats?  Establishment of the way things are matters, because it gives the heroes something to contrast their later adventures with - and it gives their characters memory.

Another possible hook this establishes is a ‘home’ to return to at the end of the adventure.  All players want to feel like the hero - that’s part of why they’re playing.  Being able to have your character return to his starting point and demonstrate all the changes and improvements they’ve made while out having adventures is a nice reward.

Naturally you should configure this phase of things to the relative power of the characters.  If they are inexperienced kids just off the farm, then their world should reflect this.  If they’re already powerful heroes, they might exist in a more complex world with their own responsibilities and expectations.  Once you’ve established the way things are, you’ve primed the characters for phase two - the carefully prepared adventure hook.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, September 6th, 2008 at 10:55 am and is filed under RPG. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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