Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Question: Campaign Prep

I've been toiling away on developing a campaign and I've been pillaging blogs and my gaming shelf for ideas and short cuts to alleviate some of the work load.  I have a campaign influence list above of some of the posts from other blogs I've really liked and plan to use.  I've also used (using) a batch of books OSRians and others have written.

My question today is, when developing a campaign what book do you use most?  Are there a certain series you use?  A single book that does for you.  Is it a gaming or  historical book? 

When I am looking for cultural nuances to put into play I'll grab some anthropology books/articles and get ideas.  GURPS books are great for boiling down a culture into gamable and interesting parts.  For classes and rules I have a batch of retro clones I like to take from.  The frame system is Swords and Wizardry Complete, but with a lot of Adventures Dark & Deep and Blood and Treasure tasted on.  Not to mention a lot of my own concoctions. 

So when you sit down to write up a campaign, what books are on the desk with you?


  1. Last time I tried to put a campaign together I found The Time Traveller's Guide To Medieval England (by Ian Mortimer) to be extremely useful in detailing the trivia of everyday Medieval life (which I was trying to emulate at the time).

  2. I have a gigantic coffee table book on ancient Greece and Rome; I like to flip through that until something strikes my fancy. Sometimes it's a map, at others a weapon or battle description. Sometimes it's a neat invention. For example, maybe a party is hired to protect a team building an aquaduct that is targeted by a jealous senator, etc, etc.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. My old copy of Chivalry & Sorcery is always my go to book for it's secton on "Designing the Feudal Nation". I also refer to my old 1st Edition Warhammer rules for placing towns. Other than those, the references I use tend to be specific to the setting I have in mind.

  5. I've got a few coffee table books with photographs and paintings of exotic locations on Earth. And then I think about how these places would fit into something like the Hyborian Age. And then I make a map, look up terms like "Heresiarch" (because it sounds awesome), and I just keep piddling away until I have a campaign setting.

    I also try to come up with a few core rules for the setting before I get too much into conceptualizing it. Like if there are divine entities, or if magic users are their own race or just really old people.

  6. I try to keep a fairly loose, vanilla foundation that lets me toss in whatever hits my fancy at any given moment without being illogical. Then when something strikes me, I build a locale or adventure idea around that. For example the song "Alice's Restaurant" which I totally corrupted into "Ellis' Restaurant" or the lyric about the scream of the butterfly from the Doors' "When the Music's Over". The ideas come from anywhere whatever I'm watching, reading, listening to at the moment. Something catches my eye or ear and then I just figure out how to (at least somewhat) logically toss it into the mix.

  7. All I need is Gothridge Manor.

  8. I actually rely very little on gaming products, not that I never use them, but it is more random inspiration from what I am reading. Most recently it is "So Cold the River" and "House of Leaves" (which features a house that grows a megadungeon).

    1. So I guess I do need more than Gothridge Manor. Sorry, Tim.

  9. 1. A historical reference book (or two or three). What kind depends on the kind of campaign I want to run. In the past these usually had something to do with the Hundred Years' War or the Fall of Constantinople.
    2. Ultimate Toolbox.
    3. A battered copy of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide (for luck).

    Like Ken H., I try to stay away from gaming sources for inspiration when I design a whole campaign. What I don't want to visualize are a bunch of stats and thinking about balance (this became really bad during my 3e/3.5e years), I want to visualize some thing that would entertain the players.

    Once the general concept is down ("The Series Bible", so to speak), then I start looking at RPG books and at the like.

  10. I start a lot of ideas from a picture and move along from there. Other than that it is going to depend on the type of campaign. I use wikipedia a lot. When you just don't care if it's true then wikipedia is a fantastic resource.

    I'm doing a lot with Vikings lately so I have a few viking resource books including Paul Du Chailu's Viking Age (with a bevy of illustrations). The Gygax (in name only for the most part) series of builder books can be good resource. I have a book on wagon trains and merchant wagons that has a list of great stuff for detail. I have those pop medieval cultural books like life in a medieval village. I find that the Tain and Mabinogion are great to have around.

  11. It really kinda depends on the nature of the campaign I'm designing. Currently, of gaming materials, I'm using ACKS (instead of C&S or Hârn), the old TSR Celts supplement for 2E (which has some useful random tables and such), the AH RQ3 Gamemaster's Book, Fantasy Wargaming, and GURPS Low Tech (plus printed versions of the three Low Tech Companions).

    Outside of gaming materials, what I use is extensive. I'll keep copies of whatever fiction I want most influencing the setting handy. I have a lot of use for Mallory's In Search of the Indo-Europeans. My library regarding Celtic matters is pretty extensive (I just counted at least 35 volumes within easy reach, and that's only a small sample, not even beginning to count dozens of articles that I've photocopied from journals at a nearby University library), and it pretty well informs a lot of my fundamentals. W. Gordon East's The Geography Behind History is a useful book, as is Marvin Harris's Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches. Books on conlanging or conculturing are almost always useful, such as Mark Rosenfelder's Language Construction Kit and, I presume, its sequels (World Construction Kit and Advanced Language Construction), though I don't myself have the two sequels yet.