By building a new world (or adopting an existing one)
and creating the key events that launch your campaign,
you determined what your campaign is about. Next, you
have to decide how you want to run your campaign.
What's the right way to run a campaign? That depends
on your play style and the motivations of your players.
Consider your players' tastes, your strengths as a
DM, table rules (discussed in part 3), and the type of
game you want to run. Describe to the players how you
envision the game experience and let them give you
input. The game is theirs, too. Lay that groundwork
early, so your players can make informed choices and
help you maintain the type of game you want to run.
Consider the following two exaggerated examples of
HACK AND SLASH
The adventurers kick in the dungeon door, fight the
monsters, and grab the treasure. This style of play is
straightforward, fun, exciting, and action-oriented. The
players spend relatively little time developing personas
for their characters, roleplaying noncombat situations,
or discussing anything other than the immediate
dangers of the dungeon.
In such a game, the adventurers face clearly evil
monsters and opponents and occasionally meet clearly
good and helpful NPCs. Don't expect the adventurers
to anguish over what to do with prisoners, or to debate
whether it's right or wrong to invade and wipe out a
bugbear lair. Don't track money or time spent in town.
Once they've completed a task, send the adventurers
back into the action as quickly as possible. Character
motivation need be no more developed than a desire to
kill monsters and acquire treasure.
Waterdeep is threatened by political turmoil. The
adventurers must convince the Masked Lords, the city's
secret rulers, to resolve their differences, but can do so
A WORLD TO EXPLORE
Much of a campaign involves the adventurers traveling from
place to place, exploring the environment, and learning
about the fantasy world. This exploration can take place in
any environment, including a vast wilderness, a labyrinthine
dungeon, the shadowy passages of the Underdark, the
crowded streets of a city, and the undulating waters of
the sea. Determining a way around an obstacle, finding a
hidden object, investigating a strange feature of a dungeon,
deciphering clues, solving puzzles, and bypassing or
disabling traps can all be part of exploration.
Sometimes exploration is an incidental part of the game.
For instance, you might gloss over an unimportant journey
by telling the players that they spend three uneventful days
on the road before moving along to the next point of interest.
Other times exploration is the focus, a chance to describe
a wondrous part of the world or story that increases the
players' feeling of immersion. Similarly, you should consider
playing up exploration if your players enjoy solving puzzles,
finding their way around obstacles, and searching dungeon
corridors for secret doors.
CHAPTER 1 I A WORLD OF YOUR OWN
only after both the characters and the lords have come
to terms with their differing outlooks and agendas.
This style of gaming is deep, complex, and challenging.
The focus isn't on combat but on negotiations, political
maneuverings, and character interaction. A whole game
session might pass without a single attack roll.
In this style of game, the NPCs are as complex and
richly detailed as the adventurers, although the focus
lies on motivation and personality, not game statistics.
Expect long digressions from each player about what
his or her character does, and why. Going to a temple to
ask a priest for advice can be as important an encounter
as fighting orcs. (And don't expect the adventurers to
fight the orcs at all unless they are motivated to do
so.) A character will sometimes take actions against
the player's better judgment, because "that's what the
character would do."
Since combat isn't the focus, game rules take a back
seat to character development. Ability check modifiers
and skill proficiencies take precedence over combat
bonuses. Feel free to change or ignore rules to fit the
players' roleplaying needs, using the advice presented in
part 3 of this book.
SOMETHING IN BETWEEN
The style of play in most campaigns falls between these
two extremes. There's plenty of action, but the campaign
offers an ongoing storyline and interaction between
characters as well. Players develop their characters'
motivations and relish the chance to prove their skills
in combat. To maintain the balance, provide a mixture
of roleplaying encounters and combat encounters. Eve n
in a dungeon setting, you can present NPCs that aren't
meant to be fought but rather helped out, negotiated
with, or just talked to.
Think about your preferred style of play by
considering these questions:
- Are you a fan of realism and gritty consequences, or
are you more focused on making the game seem like
an action movie?
- Do you want the game to maintain a sense of medieval
fantasy, or do you want to explore alternate time lines
or modern thinking?
Do you want to maintain a serious tone, or is humor
- Even if you are serious, is the action lighthearted
- Is bold action key, or do the players need to be
thoughtful and cautious?
Do you like to plan thoroughly in advance, or do you
prefer improvising on the spot?
- Is the game full of varied D&D elements, or does it
center on a theme such as horror?
- Is the game for all ages, or does it involve
Are you comfortable with moral ambiguity, such as
allowing the characters to explore whether the end
justifies the means? Or are you happier with straight-
forward heroic principles, such as justice, sacrifice,
and helping the downtrodden?