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2012-05-25 Persistent Campaign Setting

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Rob Conley is writing about persistent campaign settings and in part 3 he answers some of Brendan’s questions. I think I decided to keep running campaigns in the same setting when I read one of Rob’s older posts back in October of 2008. I’ll call them Rob’s Fantasy Sandbox Rules:

  1. Players should be allowed to have a meaningful impact on the setting both large and small.
  2. The results of past campaigns serve as background for the current campaign.
  3. The focus on establishing their legacy solves many of the problems of high level play.

My Alder King campaign started at around the time: I had created the campaign wiki in June 2008, the first character was posted in August and the first session was in October 2008. I decided to apply Rob’s Fantasy Sandbox Rules and do the same thing. And look what happened: there are two wikis for all these campaigns: The Alder King has 514 pages and Fünf Winde (“Five Winds”) has 249 pages. And the player map connecting Lenap with the Sea of Five Winds is huge.

In his blog post, Brendan asks some questions. Let’s see…

What if multiple groups are playing at the same time and affect each other?
As long as they never meet directly, this is no problem. I just told them some gossip and rumors when we next met. Here’s an example: We had a dwarf from party A leaving a letter for a NPC in a tavern and a thief from party B steal it before it was delivered. The dwarf then posted a sign offering a reward for the thief’s head before he even knew that the thief was a player character from the other party. Another example: Party A and B both have a thief that is building up a guild. At one point, thief A was recruiting new members from thief B’s guild because thief B was adventuring in a different city.
What if one group plays in “the past” with regard to other groups?
I never did that. I think the paradoxes are bad enough with a single group doing time travel. The solution is to keep track of time and synchronize as needed. If group A has an adventure taking a week, then group B meets twice and has adventures taking two weeks, and group A meets again to game, their characters have just spent one week lounging about. I’ll ask them at the beginning of the session if their characters did anything notable. Alternatively, if time goes out of sync because one of the two groups is not returning back to town for a while, then that’s not a problem as long as you keep track of it all. As soon as the two parties return to the same location, you need to sync and one of them has to spend in-game time lounging about.
Another potential issue is that such a setting could become too important.
This is part of the joy for me as a DM. The game is partly about exploring the setting, together, at the table.
Do any of you have a setting that keeps developing as specified above?
Yes!
If so, did you start with a published setting, or did you start from scratch?
The Wilderlands of High Fantasy and the Lenap region in particular.
How many campaigns or groups has your setting supported?
One campaign using D&D 3.5, one campaign using Solar System RPG rules, and two Labyrinth Lord campaigns which eventually merged due to shrinkage.
Have you progressed through multiple historical or technological eras?
No.
What about multiple game systems?
Yes.
Have you ever “upgraded” (or downgraded)?
No idea what that means – if we’re talking about switching from newer rules to older rules: Yes I have.
Do you think the diversity of products available now makes such fidelity unrealistic?
No. If you feel the urge to play in other settings, no problem. Find the time to join other groups. (I run and play in six campaigns of varying intensity at the moment.)
Are there any techniques that you use to record campaign developments?
A campaign wiki with characters and (short) session reports, a growing map, and a growing list of pages of things encountered: NPCs, locations, cultures, powerful magic items.

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Simon Forster
I like the idea of a persistent setting, and I ran my old Greyhawk campaigns this way, although I haven’t done anything like it for a while. Hopefully that’ll change in my next one.

Simon Forster 2012-05-25 09:31 UTC


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