Campaign Planning, Reusability, and Separation of Concern

Some important concepts from my work in computer software can definitely be applied to campaign planning. Let's talk about two of them.Image (cc) Tim ProbertSeparation of ConcernThink of any dungeon* you've seen - or have written - with a map of the layout, lists of encounters for each room, key items and notes on where they are hidden.  How many times have you, as GM, had to skip, rearrange, shuffle or rebuild parts in response to the party's actions? Exactly.Separating the elements means more flexibility.  Generally, the dungeon map doesn't care what monsters lie within and the monsters don't care what important treasures they guard. So if we plan loosely we can make it easier to change or add things on the fly.Let's say instead we have:a handful of dungeon* maps, with or without notes about key featuresa page of magical or plot related items and a list of - or means to generate - treasurea page for each faction/threat with a few common monsters, and some sketches of common encounters at various l

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Railroad / Sandbox / Other - The Third Alternative

Image (cc) Dean PetersThere is an age old argument for and against the "Railroad" and the "Sandbox" when it comes to RPG campaigns.Railroads are pre-set linear story paths that the players can break by deviating from them; this is the main criticism that tends to be levelled at traditional published adventures.Sandboxes are environments that let the plots be driven by the players; the GM leaves hooks and clues for them to find but the story follows the players' choices.But these aren't the only options, these are just the options that are easy to publish.Some people love a sandbox.  The Welsh Piper blog has some amazing hex map creation tools perfect for sandbox campaigns and hex crawls are an old-school D&D staple.  The counterpoint is that sandboxes can lack focus - this is one of the many things I agree with The Angry GM about.  Popular opinion is that a railroad is bad, but a railroad is easy to run for new GMs.  Until the players break it and you end up having to write your own ma

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On DMing, or How I Learned to Let Go and Embrace the Chaos

Image (cc) Kridily on DeviantArtDungeons & Dragons is a bad game.*  Bad naughty.  It's irresponsible in that it doesn't show us how to be Dungeon Masters - my favourite term for which is Apocalypse World's "MC" as we are, after all, Master of Ceremonies above all else.D&D teaches us to build encounters, but not how to build stories and worlds.  It teaches us to think in terms of probabilities and not stakes.  I learnt to DM on 4e and I've spent maybe a decade unlearning how it was presented to me then.  It took Stars Without Number and Dungeon World to open my eyes to how a game could be run.Embracing the ChaosThe adage "No plan survives contact with the players" is particularly true at our table it seems, but it's usually expressed as a negative.  Dungeon World says Play To Find Out What Happens and I decided to embrace the chaos and go with that in my homebrew Stars Without Number campaign. Let the players drive the story and I'll try to steer, or just sit back and watc

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