Apr 25, 2011

BOA: Setting up a Campaign

As I have been writing about in the last few blogposts then I'm slowly gearing up for a Book of the Arbitrator campaign game. In so doing, I've had a couple of ideas and general musings on how I wanted to run this here campaign. The deal is that - unlike Combat Squads - that Book of the Arbitrator will quickly be brought down by any powergamer who's looking for loopholes. Furthermore, BOA is about playing out a story (narrative gaming, if you fancy) rather than a set piece "my guys vs. your guys" type of deal. And finally, BOA was designed with an Arbitrator in mind...

And this is where things start to get a bit difficult. Getting two people to meet is rather easy; you invite and the other accept/decline, you meet up and hey presto - game on! However, rounding up three to four people then it becomes a jugggling disaster as you attempt to get four or more individual calendars in synch. And if you've ever tried to play a Necromunda campaign then you'll know how quickly it bogs down whenever two or three people don't show for the weekly match-up; someone needs to skip a game, others will keep fighting against each other and not much fun is had by all.

Inspired, again, by the great minds over at Tales from the Maelstrom I decided to set up this campaign in the following manner; player controlled groups; email/blog correspondance and finally set-piece battles. The following will explain what I'm waffling about.

Player Controlled Groups
Rather than using the normal method of having a fixed gang per player I'm going to set up 'shop' for all of the factions involved; stating what they have avaiable from the get go (henchmen, vehicles, territories etc.) and setting the scene in general. Each player will then become the Faction Commander for one such faction, called the primary faction.

Each player must then create one main character for their chosen primary faction, and one character for all other factions in the campaign.

The Arbitrator then sets up scenarios according to his narrative; pitting Faction A vs. Faction B in an ambush scenario of sorts and explains the overview to all players involved in the campaign. The Faction Commanders from both sides will then join the battle, taking their part as either Faction A or B, with additional players that show up, bringing along their character for either faction and will then have control over a number of troops for that faction. The scenario is then played, fun is had by all and at the end, all characters that were involved gain an experience boost.

This setup not only allows for multiplayer games to go along easily, but will also make it more of a breeze to organize games as well as setting up a narrative against only a single faction without diminishing the gaming experience for the players in the campaign as they are all able to take part with their characters.

The Short Version
Each player chooses a faction for which they become Faction Commanders. This faction is then their Primary Faction and they should always be the commander for said faction whenever they turn up in the campaign.

Each player creates a main character for their primary faction and a character for all other factions.

The Arbitrator then sets up the scenario and briefs the players, game date is set and players show up on the day. Fun is had and the Arbitrator can now continue developing the story.

Email & Blog Correspondence
This is more of a simple reminder for any budding campaign organizer; use the modern technology! In this case it means that I'm going to gather up emails from any player who wants to join the campaign and conduct any campaign manouvres per Email ahead of actual playtime.

This allows for the Arbitrator to easily brief players and give them an overview of the next Scenario as well as getting ideas on what happens in between games for each faction; setting the wheels in motion as it were.

Finally, I intend to use this blog as a vessel for the campaign (which will get a name anytime soon); with short newsflashes, updates and battlereports - sharing the fun not only to the players but also to the players.

Set Piece Battles
Rather than using the scenario tables from Book of the Arbitrator, then each scenario is going to be tailor made to the manouvres of each faction and will have a narrative written beforehand - allowing for the players to get a general idea of what's going to happen; arrange secret objectives and random encounters ahead of schedule.

Personally I normally just jot down a basic objective for the sides involved, throw in som secondary objectives and then stop there. To me it works, because it allows for some on-the-spot changes and random events ("What if, all of a sudden, an ancient Robot is reactivated and starts going on a rampage?!") as well as keeping the narrative relatively open. The best thing to do is to write so that you do not end up writing yourself into a corner. Gamers will be gamers and will make a mockery of your best laid plans; so count on them messing up your scenario by doing something you hadn't considered and just roll with it.

An off-shoot from this is to create small story archs for a Saturdays worth of gaming; write a small adventure of 3 - 5 scenarios in a ladder format (as explained in various Warhammer 40.000 books) that the players can play through in the course of a single days gaming - or over the course of multiple nights; just like any other RPG.

Summing Up
So, there's a lot of ideas swimming around in this here noggin' of mine; too many for any mortal man to get to complete terms with. The blog here helps me put various ideas into perspective and hopefully get some feedback from the wide world; which in the end will help me finalize my ideas and put them in one of a dozen or so booklets that I'm writing up. Dear me.

Anyway, for this campaign I'm going to supply all the miniatures from the get go, as well as the scenery and what have you. All it really needs to kick-off is a couple of players interested in trying something new. Oh, and a name... and some factions...

Stay tuned!

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