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© 1998-2001 Dru
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Keeping Campaign Records
On a shelf high in my
closet is a plastic bin filled with scraps of paper. I call it the Samru
Archive. The bin contains copies or originals of letters, diaries, notes,
scribbles, and other campaign detritus that I've collected from my players
over 10 years of running sequential AD&D campaigns on my world of
Our gaming group is
blessed with artists and writers who often pitch in to help a campaign,
providing character images and sketches, stories about characters' lives,
letters from the characters to NPCs, and even character-written private
diaries. But our contributions to games are cyclical ... sometimes we
flood the GM with stories and art, and other times a campaign goes by
with very little added to it.
As a GM, I prefer the
former. When players are actively contributing to a campaign, making it
richer and deeper with their interest and work, I know the campaign is
succeeding. When the players don't contribute, I know that they consider
the campaign just a pastime, and it hasn't captured their hearts yet.
But sometimes players
need a kick-start. As we grow older, we find that we have less time to
devote to roleplaying games—some of us have full-time jobs, some
of us have returned to school, some of us are juggling both school and
jobs, and one couple is expecting its first child. How can a GM encourage
such busy people to contribute to an RPG campaign in their few free hours?
One way is to offer
the players a reward for contributing to the campaign. I've been in and
run several games in which players who create a work of art, write a story
or poem, or write an adventure summary are rewarded with extra experience
points (or the specific game's equivalent) for their characters. The number
of points awarded should be large enough to motivate the player, but small
enough to keep a prolific writer or artist from creating a super-character
while the noncontributing player characters crawl along at a normal rate
of point accumulation.
In addition, the number
of points awarded may have to vary as the campaign ages; for example,
in Dungeons and Dragons, 100 experience points as a reward is very meaningful
at low levels, but trivial at high levels. The GM should keep game levels
in mind and adjust the point reward accordingly.
Furthermore, the GM
might want to vary the points awarded according to what kind of contribution
the player makes. I value adventure summaries. I can post them to my campaign
website and players can review them if they need to be reminded of a nonplayer
character's name or of a series of events that may tie in to a later adventure.
Artwork, poetry and fiction are great, too, but less immediately useful
to my campaign. As a result, I would offer more reward for adventure summaries
than for other works.
Good roleplayers can
also be encouraged to contribute to the campaign if the GM makes it clear
that their contributions can be "in character." Is a character
a rock star or minstrel? Encourage the player to write some songs the
character might sing. (Songs that ridicule the character's enemies are
often popular.) Does the character have nonplayer character relatives
or sweethearts? Encourage the player to write in-character letters to
them. (The GM should then write back in character to keep the correspondence
going!) Does the character have political ambitions? Encourage the player
to write up the character's political viewpoint as a pamphlet or recommendation
to city council, or create campaign materials for the character. (And
then the GM should give the player a chance to achieve—or fail—at
those political goals!)
can be written as straight narratives, but far more amusing is to have
them written as letters to a friend or as private journal entries. Encourage
players to write the summaries in character, perhaps magnifying the character's
own deeds and belittling the deeds of others ... or vice-versa, depending
on the character's personality. Other players love reading in-character
adventure descriptions and may decide to write their own in self-defense,
if the original is biased enough.
Finally, the GM should
make all of these materials available to the other players. Our gaming
group posts such materials to the web, where we can keep a running public
record of the campaign. I also keep my hard-copy Samru Archive for players
to dig through if they want. I know another group where the GM collects
such materials in a large notebook and permits players to take it home
and read through it when they want. Just
don't keep the art and stories and summaries private! The greatest rewards
for players are often simply the appreciative smiles and chuckles of their
friends as their work is shared through the group.
originally written February 25, 2000
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