Admittedly, it's hardly groundbreaking news, and not terribly befitting a blog site that aspires to product reviews. I mean, here I am on this fancy-shmancy blog talking about creating my own campaign, and for a bunch of new players at that. It's so personal it's almost irrelevant to anyone else, right?
But then again, I have to buy the products I review, so there's a personal element right there. Then there's also the readership issue: I have one subscriber, and even she's only posted one comment so far. Start sending me review copies and get me up to 100 subscribers, and then we'll talk about this "journalistic integrity" think, okay? Until then, kthxbai.
Wait... strike that, reverse it...
Then again, really, it fits. The whole point of this blog-thing is to improve the state of gaming. This is why I review interesting-looking games that most people would never have heard of (the "review" category), why I talk up trends in gaming companies (the "industry" category), and the way these games are played (the "playstyle" category). All this is intended to give the reader food for thought, even if he ultimately just quietly spits it into his napkin and hangs out by the bar trying to hit on the staff.
The notion of starting a new campaign for a bunch of near-total strangers is highly deserving of discussion on a gaming blog, in that "playstyle" category. In fact, it could be the most deserving chunk of commentary: here I am, attempting to live the life, explain my rationale for doing the things I'm going to do, and let people know in an ongoing narrative how well it works out. Missteps? I expect to make 'em. I expect to learn from 'em, and by describing them here, I expect everyone else to learn from 'em too.
That's the plan, anyway. Let's see how it survives first contact with the enemy.
The Campaign: Champions, or a Reasonable Facsimile
I've mentioned it enough times here: there's this roleplaying company called Hero Games which publishes what is now a very generic ruleset for roleplaying games, although to be fair it started out geared ideally for superhero gaming and that's still what it feels mostly adapted to.
It's something I've wanted to try running for a live group. I've had some limited experiences with its fifth edition online, and now the sixth edition is out and I want to try it. Preferably for a live and present group.
The Venue: Rather LFR-Heavy
The first challenge to getting a game of that started was the utter lack of people. The local game store is generally friendly enough, but the roleplaying on Thursday nights is about 80% Living Forgotten Realms campaign, a D&D campaign so episodic that the player characters are faceless, interchangeable components. The other 20% tends to be private and cloistered.
I've been assured that other games would be welcome, but there's the whole problem of the episodic nature of the 80% of the games there. I'd thought at first that I could manage with a set of pre-generated characters and tightly encapsulated episodic one-shot adventures. I even posted to the HERO forums about running a campaign like that, but it still bothered me, that there would be little player continuity and less following of long plots, even if the characters were identical. It's reminiscent of George Carlin on hemorrhoids.
The Players: Largely Unknown and Variable
The turning point was stopping by the FLGS on Friday and encountering (ahem) one of the people who is usually there Thursday, but more often than not playing some other game. We got into conversation, and he mentioned how he sometimes played with the LFR crowd but usually preferred campaigning (hi), how he was a few players short because family crises kept about half the group busy elsewhere (Hello!), and how he'd wanted to try Champions for a while now but never had the opportunity (GOOD EVENING!).
In all probability, I'll know one player because I'll be bringing him in myself—a friend who was in my previous gaming group and is still quite game-hungry. I've also been told that one of the players in the new party likes to play, well, evil. As in "eat the corpses" evil. Admittedly it doesn't say much since in some MUDS that was not only possible but cheaper than buying food, and there is something to be said from the conservationist standpoint about dressing and eating what you kill. Still, in a fantasy game, it could get kind of icky; it depends on the culture. In a Champions game, however, well that just won't play in Peoria if y'know what I mean.
So I am coming into this with knowns and unknowns. From this point on, I'm flying blind.
The Campaign: Indeterminate, not surprisingly
Yes, I admit it, the point of this was to talk about the new campaign, and I don't have enough information yet to talk about what I'm going to do.
And that's part of the lesson here. I'm going into a situation with a number of unknown players. I can't say for sure what kind of campaign they're going to want to play, so we have to discuss it. We have to negotiate what they do and don't want from a campaign, reconcile that with the kind of game I do and don't want to run, and from that discussion come up with details like genre, setting, and playing style which everyone will at least be comfortable with.
There is a very real possibility that I'll end up creating a Dark Champions campaign for these guys. It's also possible that I'll end up creating something a bit brighter and four-color, or that I'll go with a completely different genre altogether, so long as everyone agrees. Heck, depending how the conversation runs, we might end up playing something altogether different than Champions. The important thing is that we're having the conversation first, to make absolutely sure.
Given the ubiquity of D&D at that venue, though, I think we can safely rule out Fantasy Hero.