So now that I’ve decided to dip my foot back into a long-lost hobby, I need to decide where to begin. All of my players will be brand new, ranging in age from late-teens to early 40s. They are generally all interested in fantasy literature and a few have experienced PC or platform RPGs in the past.
I guess that the first decision that I’ll have to make lies in choosing a game system. I would be curious to any advice from you folks regarding this. I do know that I will want to run them in a “traditional fantasy” setting. I’m still getting caught up to speed on what products are out there these days so I suppose I’ll have to let this decision sit for a while. While I’m figuring this out, I still have plenty that I can do.
Generally speaking, I’ve always preferred GMing and playing in home-grown campaigns. I would like to give my new players the same kind of feelings that I first experienced back in the early 80s. That said, sculpting a whole campaign would be a bit of a waste if my group ends up deciding that they’d rather be having a root canal.
I guess that I’ll build a very localized area first, which will detail the immediate surroundings of the area where their first adventure will take place. I will flesh out details for the rest of the world but only enough to cover things which may come up during the first few sessions. The idea here will be to use my experience (and their lack thereof) to create the illusion that this is a place which is very well-known to me.
Again, I’m going with a stereotypical fantasy setting here. As such, the bulk of the “known world” will have a pseudo European feel to it. Depending on character backgrounds, certain players may have familiarity with other, more exotic areas but that can all be determined during the character creation phase.
For my initial foray into the setting, I will be using some real-life places from my past to draw upon. This will allow me the ability to really paint vivid pictures for my players without doing all the ground work that I will have to do as the campaign matures.
RACES & CLASSES
I am going to go by my personal preference here. This campaign will be “human centric”, meaning that known world will largely be dominated by humans. That’s not to say that other races will be unheard of, simply that you wouldn’t expect to be tripping over demi-humans around every corner.
Obviously, classes will depend largely on the system that I decide on. I will note though that magic will be somewhat “rare”. For the setting itself, I wish to foster a sense that magic is something special. Those who possess magical abilities will be cause for wonder, suspicion, or both. I just personally feel that this type of campaign is more interesting than one where every tavern is inhabited by four wizards, a couple sorcerers, and witch.
This is an area which I will only flesh out to the degree necessary at this time. Obviously, if I end up with any PCs with a holy background I will have some information to cover. Also my first adventure or two may have elements which may require various references to religions of the world. For the most part though, I doubt that it will come up and so doesn’t need to be a focus at this time.
This is another one of those areas which won’t require too much work at the start. Points that are critical to the background of the PCs will have to be covered. I will also have to “color in” the starting area with some detail.
As with my feeling about magic for the setting, I would like monsters to be something special as well. Much of the known world will be quite settled. While certainly there would be inherent dangers in traveling through the wilds, settled areas won’t often be besieged by roaming bands of monsters. I would prefer most encounters with monsters to be something that will make players feel a bit of discomfort at what they may be facing. I suppose I have an advantage here in the fact that all of my players will be brand new.
I’m still giving some thought about which direction I would like to go with intelligent, humanoid monsters. Basically, I’ll call this “To orc or not to orc”. Evil overlords, sinister mages, and otherworldly beings have traditionally used a race of humanoid monsters as their disposable grunts. The lowly orc is perhaps the most common of these. As I have yet to decide on the main conflict for the campaign, I’m not really sure whether I will have need for a force like this in the world.
With my focus being on humans, I suppose that humans themselves could easily fill this role. Certainly humans have had no qualms about constantly warring with themselves throughout our history. If not humans, then maybe I could go with something a bit less stereotypical than orcs/goblins.
Without making the campaign very linear, I would like it to focus along one central conflict. I tend to always feel this way but especially with new players. I feel that it will help them become invested in the story.
There was a quote I read once which said, “If your players decide to go to Cleveland, you’d better have something for them to do in Cleveland”. I believe strongly in this and in giving players free will to do what they want. The main conflict will always be out there. However, the PCs may end up doing all kinds of interesting things along the way which have nothing to do with it.
My starting adventure will largely be a stand-alone. Despite this, I would like to sew some seeds within it, to point toward the big picture. I believe I will decide this as I develop the first adventure.
Once I have wrapped up this initial batch of work, I’ll work on the creation of the player characters. Ideally, this will give me a good direction about how I want to flesh out the rest of my campaign.
Using the information that I have come up with in the previous points, I will write-up some basic “world information” for each of my players. I will then work with each of them to figure out what type of character would be most appealing. Once we have a good idea of that, we’ll work on their backgrounds.
Finally, I will take the information that I now know about my party and use that to help me answer more questions about the world that I am building for them.
I would be really interested in hearing any input from you folks. Any suggestions for a Fantasy RPG system? I was a big fan the HERO System but I’m afraid it may be too clunky for newbies. Without outside input, I would imagine I’ll end up with D&D 4e or Pathfinder.
Thanks for reading. Good gaming!