DMing 101 – The Campaign pt 2
Last week I said that we’d be looking at a ‘missing person’ storyline. When you begin writing your campaign, write down whatever key information springs to mind first, important scenes, people, things you may not want your players to know about yet. Once you’ve got those first few ideas, then put them into a rational order, because I can tell you before we begin, the order in which this article is published, is not the order it was written in!
Your opening scene should not require a great deal of effort on the part of the players. It should set up your story (in my case the missing person) and should begin to establish the world you’re living in, in my case a city called Station in the shadow of an abandoned space-port. Try not to over-do the exposition for your first scene, let the players interact with the people and places before they’ve even begun the quest proper. Let us begin:
You’ve responded to a public call-out by the governor of Station, Stew’t Idly. The request asked for people who were “thorough, discreet, and capable” to come to City Hall if they were interested in a job that pays well for high risk. The [five] of you are sat in the waiting room of his office while the secretary types away in the corner.
This is an opportunity for you players to introduce their characters in-game. Putting an NPC in the room also gives them the chance to get some early information, but of course, you shouldn’t give anything away that easily.
Talking to Sadira; If players are successful in talking information out of the tight-lipped secretary, they may learn that his Daughter has gone missing, her father refuses to support her excessively and insists that she “find her own path in life”. She has also been seen walking in and out of Maize Avenue.
When the Governor enters the room:
“Is this it? The governors daughter vanishes and the only people who spring to his wallet are [give an insulting description of the players, e.g. for for this group “Dorothy (Grace), Scarecrow (Sir Isaac), Tin Man (Frank), Cowardly Lion (Jack), and who are you? Are you here to represent the Lollipop Guild?(Jonathan)] And what are you going to do to find her? Please! Entertain me!”
Being mutually insulted in this way unifies the players, if only mildly. This also gives them a chance to advertise their skills, especially if they have already gained information from Sadira. Stew’t can only offer the group an address and the name of a few friends the group can talk to. After that it is down to the players to negotiate a reward for their services and begin following their leads.
Possible avenues of investigation
Each one of these methods of investigating Allysa’s disappearance is a scene unto itself, but not worth going into excessive amounts of detail. There’s little or no need for combat, and very little importance to each scene, but it is worth taking this time to try and build up certain visual and thematic aspects of the world you’re trying to convey. Have a short list of character names handy if you can’t make them up on-the-fly, for witnesses and other people the characters may meet. Also consider including a set of short descriptions of places and things players might see in Station.
Talk to witnesses/friends
Following the names given by Stew’t Idly, the players can discover:
– Allysa has been seen walking to and from Maize Avenue a few times a week. One man says “Desperate people do desperate things when money’s tight” before clamming up
– She attends night school to learn journalism, but hasn’t been in classes for two days
– Allysa has been seen in the company of a man, no-one seems to recognize him, but the relationship seems intimate
Investigate the house
Searching Allysa’s house players may find:
– A newspaper with the jobs page heavily annotated – Allysa is struggling for money. Examining closer will reveal a circled article asking for people who need money to attend a meeting at the Arlington Hotel to learn about “Fantastic Opportunities”
– Books on journalism, a camera, a notebook written in cipher. A knowledgeable player may know that the Station community college runs a journalism class.
– A keycard worn beyond recognition, half a logo is visible
Walking down Maize Avenue
Maize is an avenue of seedy dives, riddled with back alleys. Asking around will yield little more than nonplussed looks or the occasional “Yeah, I’ve seen her around.”
Keycard: If players have the keycard then a more thorough investigation will find a door in a back alley with a complete version of the logo. The door leads to a pump station, it turns out Allysa has been working a dangerous job to make ends meet and fund her studies. None of her co-workers have seen her for three days.
A small class in the local community college teaches journalism. The teacher knows Allysa but has not seen her in class for two days. Asking around campus, a few people will mention her need for money, and some big ‘story’ she was about to break.
Ciphered Journal: If players show the journal to the journalism teacher he’ll be able to decode it, or if players ask for information on ciphers then an intelligent player may be able to gain some information from it. The journal is all short notes about the Regency Corporation and a possible connection to disappearances. The last pages also talks about a meeting in the Arlington Hotel that took place the night before
The final scene should be dramatic, should often include combat (but not necessarily) and should always reveal some major part of your over arching plot.
The Arlington hotel seems to be closed down for maintenance, the doors are unattended and people in jumpsuits are cleaning. They politely ask the players to leave, advising them that they have missed the event of the previous night and that the Arlington are not taking on guests, and no one recognizes the girl.
– An intelligent or insightful player may deduce that the cleaners are likely erasing evidence of something far bigger than the disappearance of one person.
– If players leave on request they will be outside when they hear a gunshot around back. Getting to the back of the Arlington, the players find a man with a face wrapped in cloth pulling a body out of a van bearing the Regency logo. The cleaning crew emerge, guns drawn. The face-wrapped figure vanishes in the van, leaving the cleaning crew and players to fight.
– If the players are still inside when they hear a gunshot or if they challenge the cleaning crew about why they’re there, they draw guns and immediately attack the party. If the fight begins before the gunshot, it will be harder to hear.
– Any survivors can be interrogated. They don’t know where the abducted people go, they only erase the evidence. As for the man wrapped in cloth, they formerly thought he was a myth, a corporate assassin known only as Gorgon.
– If there are no survivors the group can attempt to track the van, or begin investigating Regency.
Governor Stew’t Idly – Self-proclaimed civic leader of Station.
Although he seized the position by questionable means, Stew’t has proven to be a capable, fair, and ruthless leader, and since obtaining the governorship has remained visibly and astutely incorrupt.
Personality – Brash, authoritative and casual.
Quests – Idly’s daughter is missing. For a long time he encouraged her to stand on her own feet, but recently she had been struggling to do so and had become somewhat rueful of her father’s unwillingness to share in his success.
Sadira Waltz – Secretary to the Governor
As the person who works closest to Governor Idly, Sadira has access to some very dangerous information.
Personality – Affected air of shallowness, stubborn, observant.
Real name unknown, Gorgon is a very large, broad shouldered man who keeps his head wrapped in cloth for unknown reasons. He never speaks.
Criminal type – Often found wherever there is trouble, but never actually caught in the act. Although he is clearly capable of fighting, Gorgon will flee the scene of the crime if he is disturbed and only fight if backed into a corner.
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So there is the beginning of a far bigger campaign, and oh yes, this campaign will get bigger. We have not heard the last of Sir Isaac, Grace, Frank, Jack, Jonathon or Gorgon for that matter. I still have a lot of material to go into, and this world will be my demonstration piece, but I claim no exclusive rights to it. A few of you have already asked me to run a game in it, and I say to you “piss off and do it yourselves!” Have fun with it! Also I’m busy, don’t know if you saw on our Facebook page, I’m busy testing the prototype of my very first game. Also why aren’t you capable of running your own game by now? What? Am I not doing my job right by now? Fine!
Anyway, DMing 101 is going on a hiatus for a couple of weeks, Thursday’s will be filled with Gamer Highlight; a few interviews from people with different views on gaming, not just mine, which is nice. Also Quotesfromthetabletop.net is an entire year old on Monday, and we will be making some rather cool changes! Go forth and enjoy some hilarious quotes and stories from the tabletops of geeks like us.