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  1. #1
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    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)



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    How do I run a campaign like this?

    So, I joined a group a group 5 months ago. They meet once a month, and the Dm will run a game if 3/4ths of the players can make a session. Before I joined they had a full 3 months of no playing because no one's schedules matched up. And since I've been with them, we've missed 3 months.

    That is ludicrous. But apparently this is becoming more common among the gaming friends I have online. Playing continual-story games where even if you get to play, someone's character is dragged around while the player isn't there, and people have to either 1) play the missing guy's PC, or 2) find some silly reason why he wasn't adventuring on session 3 of the dungeon and yet not eaten, and then when he gets back he's missed the Story Elements.

    Now, I had an idea of a way to run a game that might address this, however I feel sort of overwhelmed by the idea.

    The Concept

    Game Day is set in stone. It's say, every second and fourth weekend of the month, or whatever. Anyone who shows up that day gets to play.

    Adventures are structured to be 1-session length, so that if the players who were present for session 1 aren't there at session 2, then there's no story confusion. For this reason, the campaign's setting allows for many smaller stories. A colony on a lost continent, a Thieves guild, the town Watch, a monster hunter guild, something that permits short missions that anyone can complete, but that can build off one another.

    Everybody levels up whether they show up or not. The prize for showing up is getting to play that day, as opposed to xp.

    My Problem

    1) Balance. I have to be prepped so that if the Rogue and the Cleric show up that day, I have something for them to do that they can theoretically do that isn't either certain death or non-challenging it's insultingly boring.

    2) Adventure design. Since any number and combination of classes could show up, how do I design an adventure to accommodate this and write them so that they're both 1-session length and interesting/rewarding?

  2. #2
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    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

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    I'd run games so that at the beginning and end of the session the PCs are in a safe place like a town, or defensible ruins or something. That way any character not there the next week is just left at the safe place. so even if the PCs are in a dungeon at the end of a session they would retreat back to someplace safe and regroup for the next session.

    I would also have multiple potential plots going on. This way with different plots and different types of adventures attached to these plots players would have options on what to handle. Some would be combat heavy and others would be very combat light. I have found though that players can get really creative to deal with situations their characters are not built for.

    Best of luck!

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    I'd make it an urban campaign with the PCs a single unit - City Watch, Supers, Gumshoe, Theives Guild, Western Posse. Being urban gives lots of chances for downtime as the missing PCs either go home or go investigate something else.

    Also if a player is really active would they be allowed more than one character each on a different mission?
    Quote Originally Posted by IcyCool
    Man, given the average Int of an Otyugh, I can just see the boss monologue now...

    PCs: "Before we fight, why don't you tell us your master plan?"
    Otyugh: "I like poop."
    PCs: "Umm, what?"
    Otyugh: "Do you have poop?"

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    I generally dislike 'you're in the dungeon for weeks' type adventures, so the players would generally have a Home Base that they return to at the end of the adventure. In all honesty I'm leaning towards the Colony game, but will offer other options of that doesn't appeal.
    @S'mon, I am quite concerned with balance though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tonguez
    Also if a player is really active would they be allowed more than one character each on a different mission?
    As in, play two characters on the same session, or decide "should I bring my barbarian or my warlock today?" I'm quite happy with the latter.

    The former, I find it really slows things down, so what I would probably do would design a companion character that can be played easily. Someone with a very brief character sheet, no fiddly bits, that can fill a hole and be run by a player, but doesn't take up too much resources. (Ye olde healbot, or meatshield).

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    My communities:

    Quote Originally Posted by Rechan View Post
    @S'mon, I am quite concerned with balance though.
    Some solutions are

    (a) Let the players decide what challenges to take on, and
    (b) Schrodinger encounters, "1 Orc per PC present" sort of thing.
    (c) NPC Companions who fill in for absent PCs.

    But I tend to find if I have 6 players, and run fortnightly, my player group is pretty consistently 4-5 and nearly always in the 3-6 range.
    ***Henry/S'mon Super Quick d20 NPC Generation System*** The Gods of the Copybook Headings With Terror and Slaughter Return!

    eriktheguy, on S'mon's latest idea:
    There are 2 major problems with your idea:
    1: It is far too awesome
    2: see 1

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    Another way to deal with party/adventure balance is to do what a lot of old action-ey TV shows would do, and have a stable of possible characters where the players choose which group goes out adventuring each week.

    "Cobra captured Duke and they're holding him hostage under the polar ice caps? Good thing Snake Eyes, Lady Jane, and Shipwreck are here to run off and save him!"
    Life's a die and then you bitch.

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    I pretty much do it this way. I don't worry too much about balance, so the party may be underpowered or overpowered, though I may tweak things a bit. I often use 'Dungeon Delve' type design for adventures; 3 scene model with beginning, middle and end, playable in 1-2 sessions.

    I do strongly recommend sticking to a regular schedule, and not cancelling because of player absence. I'll run for 2-6 players.
    ***Henry/S'mon Super Quick d20 NPC Generation System*** The Gods of the Copybook Headings With Terror and Slaughter Return!

    eriktheguy, on S'mon's latest idea:
    There are 2 major problems with your idea:
    1: It is far too awesome
    2: see 1

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rechan View Post
    My Problem

    1) Balance. I have to be prepped so that if the Rogue and the Cleric show up that day, I have something for them to do that they can theoretically do that isn't either certain death or non-challenging it's insultingly boring.

    2) Adventure design. Since any number and combination of classes could show up, how do I design an adventure to accommodate this and write them so that they're both 1-session length and interesting/rewarding?
    I wouldn't worry much about balance. If the players are short-handed or missing a key role, they need to address that themselves or go into the adventure with the knowledge of what they are missing. Player problem solving is one of the keys to a sandbox game, as is the good sense to avoid or leave for later any encounters that they can't deal with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Agamon View Post
    I wouldn't worry much about balance. If the players are short-handed or missing a key role, they need to address that themselves or go into the adventure with the knowledge of what they are missing. Player problem solving is one of the keys to a sandbox game, as is the good sense to avoid or leave for later any encounters that they can't deal with.
    That really does not work.

    When I read your statement, I read "Write an adventure for 4 players, and if less than 4 show up, have the players deal with the discrepancy". Which does not work. If only the Cleric's player shows up, then he's not really going to be able to tackle an adventure that is balanced for 3 other people, regardless of class.

    So if only 1 person shows up, I have to have something for him to do. Hence, balance.
    Last edited by Rechan; Wednesday, 14th November, 2012 at 09:59 AM.

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    @Janx Thanks, that's part of what I'm trying to get at the heart of. Or at least, that deals with "How do I write an adveneture that lasts 1 session?"

    The problem expands to "How do I write 1-session adventures when I don't know how many, or what class, of PCs show up" but we're at least starting to get at it.

    One messy issue with the problem is how you gauge time. For instance, "How much can get done in an adventure where there's 1 player?" You gave the example of, in your group, of a combat taking an hour. Well it may go very fast if there's one PC and it's built to challenge only one player. So there's less formula, more "We'll just have to explore and see". Which means the guy might be going home early because I overestimated time.

    Sandbox vs. Story is really like Buffet vs. Mom's Dinner. Buffet gives lots of choices, meaning more work for the cook. Mom's Dinner means we are eating what Mom prepared, and she probably put a lot of work into it.
    The problem I see with the 'anyone who shows up' method is that it cuts into sandbox. With the 1 guy shows up situation, there's a finite number of things he can do because he doesn't have enough players to back him up. "I want to go explore the dangerous no-man's land by myself" is a sure way to get killed, so I have to tell the player no or let him get murdered (and I'm the type of DM who'd discourage a course of action before a mistake that'll get you killed, like exploring alone).

    So instead of Sandbox, it's more like giving them a choice of chores.

    What it sounds like I'm going to have to do is that I'm going to have to write about 10 adventures in advance, and sort them based on how "This adventure is for X players". As the campaign advances, and more is uncovered by previous adventures, then the possibility of what can be done opens up. If for instance players encounter a local tribe, then diplomatic or trade issues suddenly open up, or other misc "help those guys" become options.

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