Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Short Campaign Model (Part Four)

Again, the objective here is to condense all the exciting moments of a longer campaign into a smaller timespan. So here are some tips to help you bring the awesome:
  • Start strong and end strong. Having an episode begin with a good "hook" and end on a note that creates momentum for the next episode are key. 
  • Start stories as "late" as possible, not just in media res but just before events come to a crisis point.
  • Use creative scene framing and editing, just like you'd see on a television show. Again, the storytelling "language" of television should be familiar to everyone, so this is a tool that should feel right and give your storytelling punch.
  • Mix up the tone of the series. Like a good TV show, you should have a main tone that you stay true to, but you need to change it up. Have scenes that are sad, funny, exciting, scary, quiet, mysterious... good stories have variety and depth.
  • Keep the pressure on the PCs. Tight structure means that something important should always be happening!
  • Give the players big, tough, important choices with serious consequences. The more impact a player choice has on the game, the more satisfying it is.
  • Drama comes from character motivations / desires and the conflict between opposing desires / motivations. You should know what your characters want, figure out where there are opportunities to put that in conflict, and apply as much pressure as possible. Instant drama.
This model (and the high trust, high drama style) does have some potential for problems. Here are some things to watch out for:
  • Static characters are situations are dull; dynamic characters that change and struggle are interesting. Mixing it up makes for exciting sessions, but this runs contrary to the way most roleplaying games are played. Expect that your players may be resistant to the idea of putting their characters in crisis; this may feel like you're trying to "take away their stuff" or ruin the thing that makes that character fun to play.
  • Don't back away from dramatic situations. This is another thing that players instinctively avoid -- but it's poison to a game where things have to happen fast. Never put off a scene until later if it could happen now. 
  • Players, don't keep secrets from other players. Open secrets at the table can be used by everyone to set up and develop drama.
  • Players and GMs need to work together to make it awesome.
  • Talk openly and honestly about the kinds of stories you want to tell, and keep talking as the game proceeds. This creates clear expectations and makes the development process transparent and accessible to everyone at the table. But make sure that you don't decide things ahead of time -- play out scenes at the table, not at the coffee shop beforehand.
  • Trust is key for everyone at the table.
Tomorrow, I'll present an example of campaign design using the Short Campaign Model.

To be continued...

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