Jul 19

Creating a complete and satisfying campaign – Part 1: The introduction

Hello students, Crunch here with an article from Faculty Member Jared Smith (@TheOtherJared1)



Did you ever think of a great campaign concept that you knew would make for an epic story, but never saw it come to fruition because of the fear it wouldn’t play out the way you pictured it in your head? Did you ever create a campaign and after running it felt like maybe you should have done things differently? Perhaps you just struggle with putting your ideas onto paper and into a playable format? As someone who has ran a lot of campaigns,I have learned a few tactics that work for me in making sure my campaigns are satisfying for both the players and myself. The following series of articles, are some ways that will hopefully help get you past the initial concept phase and into an epic adventure that players will be telling their grandchildren about.     


First impressions are everything, or so they say. This is no different in regards to your campaign. This is why having a good introduction is so important. Not only does this set the tone for your campaign, but it provides the players an upfront look at what they can expect from your campaign. You don’t want your players to sit down to a Dungeons & Dragons game expecting to play the classic fantasy heroes, only to find out that you are actually running a kobold only campaign (although, I would totally play that…). The point I am trying to make is, let the players have a taste of your epic story. This allows  them to become “pre-invested” before they ever make a character. Here is an example:


You will be starting out in a world that has become overrun by the undead. A mad necromancer, in his lust for power, created an undead army that had the ability to create other undead by infecting others. Because of this, his undead army became so large that he could no longer control it and the undead ended up killing him. Even worse, it kept spreading. It has been 100 years since the incident and you will be playing as someone who was either born into this apocalyptic world or has dealt with its hardships for all these years. However, there may be hope. After returning from an adventure deep within the mountains of Gorn, a man said that he came across a plant that he had never seen before. After being bitten and infected, he ate some of the plant in desperation. He is now alive and well and perhaps may have stumbled upon a cure for this deadly curse. Only problem is, he doesn’t remember what happened after he ate the plant. Furthermore, it was located in the deepest depths of the mountains, untouched by light and filled with abominations that can only spawn from the deepest and darkest recesses of this world.  Do you dare risk it all in an attempt to save the world?  You’re damn right you do…


The players have gained a few things from this paragraph. The story will most likely be on the darker side, filled with undead and abominations and leave little room for traveling in an open world. Now, if a player wants to play a ranger, he or she knows not to put forests as their favored terrain. They also have an idea of what kind of equipment they should buy at character creation and perhaps even a spark of inspiration for their character’s background. This also creates an opportunity for you to insert a major antagonist that the characters may not realize: the mad necromancer. Maybe he is now a powerful undead or a lich?  


Introductions can be tricky. I like to think of them as a tool for acclimating your characters and players into your campaign and setting. Some people want a lot of information and others may not want or need as much. The important thing to remember is that the goal of the introduction is to establish a hook while giving some basic information. The example I used above is a simple zombie apocalypse concept, but with my own twist added to it. I would encourage any of you with an idea for a campaign sitting in your brain to start by writing an introduction. Put your own twist on it and make it appeal to you. If you get stuck, try to think about your world and what the characters should know about it or something unique about it. You don’t need to give them their quest up front like I did. If you can make the transition into your setting easier for them, then it makes your job that much easier (and more enjoyable).

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it helps get you started on your next great adventure.  Stay tuned for the next part: Establishments and Backgrounds and always remember, if you’re having fun, you’re doing it right!     



Q. What if I don’t want my group to know this much up front?

A. The characters in your campaign are more than likely going to know the world they live in. You don’t have to give away important plot points, but they should have a general knowledge of the areas they are from. Maybe they heard stories of these places from bards, books, merchants, and so on. Remember, the characters have to have a reason for adventuring, and being familiar with the place, or at least hearing about it, helps create that player/character connection.  

Q.  What should I avoid when writing an intro?

A. I am no expert when it comes to writing, (far from it) but in my humble opinion you do not want to give away any major plot points. I know this sounds obvious, but certain information can lead to players catching on to things quicker than you want them to. For instance, in the example above, let’s say I wanted the underground caves to be inhabited by a demon lord or that the person who found the plant was forced to lure people into said demon lord’s trap. Any mention of these things would instantly put the players and characters on edge and that makes them more aware of what may come. Then again, maybe in my history I have taught myself to become too vague…   

Q. Why are you breaking this into parts?

A.  Because I have a tendency to lose control of my thoughts and thus write rather long articles. I don’t want to overwhelm the reader with pages of info. Rather, my hope is that together we will both work step by step (or part by part) and create a campaign together.  

Q.  Is there somewhere I could go to see some examples of this process in practice? Maybe over the course of an entire weekend dedicated to tabletop gaming? Could there maybe be some fantastically talented game designers and podcast hosts at this same weekend so that I can socialize with them and actually play games with them?

A. Absolutely! It’s called AcadeCon and it’s happening November 11th through 13th this year at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton Ohio. Check out the website here for all the info and ticket sales. 



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1 comment

    • Richard Kreutz-Landry on August 4, 2016 at 12:23 pm
    • Reply

    Looking forward to the rest of these articles. It’s so easy for a campaign to go stagnant or wander off into oblivion.

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