Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Campaign Construction 102: Ground Rules

When designing a campaign there are a few basic ideas that you want to set aside in order to develop it as much as possible, this article attempts to bring several themes of these to light.

I believe that in previous articles I have mentioned briefly smidgeons of information about designing a campaign, well time to bring those concepts back.  When you are looking into creating your own campaign you can create it in one of three formats:  map based, missions tree, or free form.

Map based can be very organized and can really inspire people by its visual aspect as territories are conquered and brought into your control, a certain import can be felt as if all your battles have a purpose since they can see what is actually happening due to their actions on the battlefield.  Where a map based campaign can go wrong is that it can be confining depending on the rules, and in order to optimize a map campaign so that everyone can have fun and no one feels cheated (say for instance a very narrow victory might equal the opponent being tabled [I understand that Malifaux does not have this as a victory condition, but as best I can tell it is unique in that aspect] which can be very frustrating for the victor or opponent depending on the case).  The rules of a map campaign can also be frustrating in their complexity, and if one is not too careful could take way too much time to read so that only the author of the rules would have a clue as to how everything works, sometimes making people give up because they can't win due sheerly to misunderstandings or obscure rules.  I have seen some good map based campaign rules, namely the Aleph Sector Campaign's, and it really depends on how long you want your campaign to go for as well.  Aleph clearly had the long term in mind when they were planning, you might not want it to go on for years.

A tree based campaign is simple.  Of the three options it is the most clear and cut out, very difficult to confuse, and depending on your expectations you can get through an excellent campaign in a relatively short amount of time.  Because of how linear it is (xenos wins mission 1, imperial wins mission 2, and branching off from that) you can plan out how things are going to develop very easily and from a designer's perspective that can be paradise since you won't have to make annoying in case of clauses or exceptions for rules.  The problem with this method is that the campaign can begin to feel predictable and the story will follow a very linear path, and will likely only go in one of several directions that the tree would require it to go on, sort of like railroading.  Also designing all the missions and scenarios for a tree campaign can become an explosion of work and become overwhelming with just the sheer workload.

The final method for creating a campaign as I mentioned was the free form.  This is where you just create missions as things go on and develop the missions as the campaign develops so that there is no predeterminedness to it.  A map can be useful and appropriate in a free form campaign, however it does not act as a law in itself and is just a point of reference to help you picture the story and visualize everything that is happening.  Because of the very liberty of this style of campaign it really can be anything you want it to be, as detailed as you wish or as simple as you could ever want it to be.  Perhaps you will incorporate special rules to add to your normal battles and you keep track of your army rosters and characters and 'level' them up based on their performance, perhaps you have a story in the works throughout the campaign and everyone involved has to contribute and how the story is developing in words determines who will battle who and what the core themes of the missions will be, as opposed to being the reverse as the other two styles are more likely to be.  As it is one should be careful when doing a free form campaign because it can very easily get too complex or become difficult to maintain because of its lack of structure and after a while it may be difficult to maintain the willpower needed to keep thinking up new ideas since you are not setting any guidelines for yourself to fall upon if you need anything.  That said these can be very fun to participate in just because of their uniqueness, and likely you will remember a successful freeform campaign for a very long time.

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you're updating this blog again :)
    - Graven Games