RPG Closet: Building a Better Dungeons and Dragons Campaign Part 2

Welcome back to the RPG Closet and my new series focused on Dungeons and Dragons Campaigns. My goal with this series is to give new and veteran Dungeon Masters some new tool and perspectives on how to create a new campaign for his players.

Part 1 of this series was created in video for our YouTube channel but 2019 is my year to get back the writing aspect of The Game Nexus. We spent 2018 almost exclusively creating Video Content and I want to get back to basics and give our community a reason to read content. Not only that but being a commuter for a better part of last year I realized that watching videos all the time was not only data intensive but unless I had a set of headphones at all time; not conducive to a public environment, like a bus full of people.

If you missed part 1 of this new RPG Closet series have a look below and get caught because we are diving into the second part NOW!

The cast for your new story

Like I mentioned in our last episode. I tend to do things backwards when it comes to creating my campaigns. After getting a sense of the style or tone of the campaign I then jump headlong into deciding who the characters and cast that will inhabit it. I equate this to making a movie and I am now casting my knew actors.

When I was first starting off playing role playing games I didn't put a lot of emphasis on NPC's instead focusing my energy on describing compelling monsters and environments. As I matured I realized that the monsters were just the backdrop and the players are what drove the experience at the table.

After watching the first season of The Walking Dead it really dawned on me that in order for a campaign to have some real meat on its bones I needed to put my energy into my cast.

The Character Sheet

Over the year in my gaming life I have always defaulted to the official character sheets for any game I have ever played. Pre dating that when I was really young I simply write my stats and abilities on lined paper ( Pre-access to printers and photocopiers)

Nowadays I have taken it up a notch...custom character sheets.

A recent exxample of a custom sheet design I have created.

The reason I like to create custom character sheets for my players is that I feel it gives me a chance to inject some visual reference to the game. The old school character sheets always had a spot for character portraits assuming that everyone who played Dungeons and Dragons were Elmore level of artist.

With new technology and the internet gamer's can now draw on a wealth of photo and art references to fuel their creative sparks when they are sitting at the table staring at their character sheets.

I am also very snobbish when it comes to the opinion I have on how best to lay out a bunch of numbers ad words ( spells, weapons, combat modifiers, skills, possessions etc.)

I am constantly tinkering with new ideas to find the perfect balance between overwhelming players with information and providing a beautiful art piece to stare at when the action has lulls.

Supporting Cast

Once your players have shaped their identity's in your new fantasy world its time to add in some supporting characters to interact with them. Now of course I don't mean crafting fleshed out identities for every person they could possible interact with in all your sessions but you should take some time and create some outstanding characters that the players may consistently run into over the course of your campaign.

Here is a list of recommended personality's you should take some time to create a profile for. NOTE: By profile I mean a small stat block of primary stats and abilities and a brief blurb about them and personality quirks.

1: Any Family members/Friends who influence the PC

2: Town vendors the PC's will consistently see ie. Supplies shop and weapon vendors

3: A town " Quest Vendor" or a central figure that the players help often with monster problems

4: A nemesis or villain that is a constant thorn in the players side ( this may not happen until after their first adventure or so)

5: A love interest ( use only if your players are mature enough to handle a side plot that involves romance in your campaign)

How you shape your supporting cast will probably evolve as your players continue on their journeys in your campaign but having a few ready to go at the start never hurts. Sometimes an entire session can be eaten up just interacting with some well developed characters that you have created.

The most important part about creating your supporting cast is making sure that you have a visual reference to go with them. Stat blocks and abilities are no good if you don't have a well thought out description. Draw from internet pictures or even movies that you have watched. Channel your creativity and use words that invoke strong visual images when the players meet them. Words that the players can reference are especially good like

"The weapon smith Garlg has a rough around the edges look about him and he clearly favors working over shaving as evidenced by his quarter inch coverage of stubble that compliments his crooked grin"

As you create any personality or significant character for your campaign be sure to archive them in a folder or a book somewhere in your tool kit. I cant count the times where I forgot a NPC's name and or spelling of said name during long breaks between sessions. Not only that but sometimes things that were said by the NPC that is important and you forget what was said due to the aforementioned time lapse between game sessions. It pays to be organized when running your campaign and archiving info and specifically character info is at the top of the list.

Well that wraps up this part of my ongoing " Building a better campaign" series on creating your key characters and personalitys. Make sure you subscribe to The Game Nexus and keep checking back as we keep going. Till next time!