Friday, February 6, 2009

New Campaign, Part I: Setting everything up

So over the past two weeks, I've decided to set up a campaign, using the Labyrinth Lord rules. One of the reasons why I settled on Labyrinth Lord was that it is available through game distributors - just like Points of Light, by Robert Conley - I also decided to use the Southlands as the "sandbox" for the campaign.

I wasn't sure about either of these choices - at least initially. Labyrinth Lord is Moldvay B/X - and I was brought up on Original D&D; Dan Proctor's rules were just enough different to have me double-checking things frequently as I was setting things up. Being an inveterate tinkerer, I found myself coming up with house rules almost instantaneously - for example, adding an Archer sub-class for fighters, making hit dice for thieves a D6 instead of a D4. But I decided to not mess with a lot of the rules - why bother players with a lot of fiddly changes which may or may not really add up later? This ran counter to my prior style of playing D&D; my old self would have wanted to use all of Paul Mason's "Designing a Quasi-Medieval Society for D&D" series from White Dwarf or The Perrin Conventions as a combat system. I also adapted some interesting additions from Brave Halfling Publishing and The Scribe of Orcus, including additional classes (though I did start off the campaign with just the "traditional four" - fighter, magic-user, cleric, and thief).

As for the setting, using the Southlands from Points of Light was fairly easy - even though it meant not coming up with my own setting, at least initially. Despite some fulminations on James Raggi's blog about such choices not being very creative, I went with the Southlands as a strategic choice. I'm the sort of referee who will tinker anyway, and tinker rather extensively, so it saved time and creative energy for me to focus elsewhere by adopting this relatively "normal fantasy" backdrop (weirdness can come later). This also applied to having places for adventurers to go, at least initially. I took advantage of material from Fight On! as well as White Dwarf for some "mini-dungeons" and related inspiration. What this did for me was to give me a campaign ready to go, pretty much out of the box. I therefore had much more creative energy to devote towards two things: stitching the various pieces together, and designing a mega-dungeon to go along with it all.

Some of my preparation ended up being very revealing. I was surprised at how much I wanted a decent looking map to use for reference. I downloaded the players's map for the Southlands from Goodman Games, printed it out, and promptly began to color in various terrain features using colored pencil. I then slipped it into a sheet protector, along with an enlarged map of Castle Westguard and environs. I also had to stop myself from pawing through the detritus of prior campaigns to find the right set of articles, additions, subtractions, etc. - the name of the game is playability. I remembered just how much I had gotten tired of lugging around a bunch of hardcovers to every game session, so keeping everything portable and minimal actually helped in maintaining momentum (and not get bogged down trying to create the "perfect campaign").

I'm still working on various aspects of the game, and expect that to continue. My first actual gaming session with my friend Adam was just as revealing as my own preparation - but that's for my next post.

Coming up: New Campaign, Part 2: Taking it out for a test-drive

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