Homebrew Pre-Campaign Handouts
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  1. #1
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    Pre-Campaign Handouts

    Usually when I start a campaign, I tell the players what the campaign's main thrust is, and then put together a huge document detailing every race and class, the deities, the setting history, new class options, a primer on all the locations, new backgrounds, and whatever else I can think of. These things wind up being around 40-70 pages, and maybe one player will actually skim the thing.

    A recent Matt Colville video mentioned handouts, and how they should be 1 or 2 pages and only touch on basics. With my new campaign starting in around 3 weeks or so, I decided to take that into consideration. I wrote around 2 pages of material, and thought it looked a bit wall of text-y, so I added a bunch of art and, when it was done, it was 4 pages long. And, lo and behold, every player read it - and it changed how some of them approached their characters!

    The last page of the document details the 10 major noble houses in the setting. This made one player change her mind on her PC, and she is now playing a noble. Two other players are already nobles (it's what prompted me to make the list in the first place) and are already looking over the list and scheming - which is nice, and fits the tone of the setting. My fourth player read the fluff text on the "hidden fortress of Quasqeton" and has got it in his head that he needs to find the place, even if it derails my campaign - and has no idea that the module we'll be running, "in Search of the Unknown" has any connection. (Good times!)

    Anyways. Let's use this thread to share ideas on what should be in a campaign handout, what doesn't need to be there, and what our own campaign handouts look like. As for mine - I'll gladly post it, but the art I used for my handout amongst friends has no permissions and I'm not sure if it's kosher to post here. I'll dig up the artists names first before posting, at the very least.
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  2. #2
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    There are the basics, of course. Races/classes permitted or excluded. Starting level (it isn't always 1st level). Any extras the characters might get (more money, a Feat at level 1, extra equipment, etc.). Where they'll start, and as much or the world background as you feel they might need. And, for myself, a MAP! Or maybe more than one map (world, kingdom, starting city, etc.).

    Also, the theme of the adventure(s), if there is one. You don't want everyone showing up with a spell caster if magic is forbidden!

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    Titan (Lvl 27)



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    My assumption is that players will never read anything I prepare for them in this regard. (I know I won't read it, so I do not expect that of others.)

    So instead I just tell them anything they need to know which I keep to a bare minimum, then do a Character Creation Rules thread. The Character Creation Rules thread lists the setting, starting level, legal source books, available races, ability score generation method, starting equipment, and any variant or house rules in effect for that campaign.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Laprade View Post
    There are the basics, of course. Races/classes permitted or excluded. Starting level (it isn't always 1st level). Any extras the characters might get (more money, a Feat at level 1, extra equipment, etc.). Where they'll start, and as much or the world background as you feel they might need. And, for myself, a MAP! Or maybe more than one map (world, kingdom, starting city, etc.).

    Also, the theme of the adventure(s), if there is one. You don't want everyone showing up with a spell caster if magic is forbidden!
    Oo. A map is a good one! Usually I just give the players a physical copy of the map a few sessions in - with inaccuracies built in and waaaaay too many coffee stains and whatnot.
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  5. #5
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    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)



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    I love making player handouts! Colville is right, they should be short and sweet. Mine tend to run closer to 4-8 pages, but over the years I've been making them shorter and shorter, as I learn what players actually care about.

    Since we're sharing, here are some of my campaign-intro handouts:

    The last campaign I ran was Monster Town: MonsterTown Intro. During the first session, in order to set the tone, I had each player fill out an Entry Form.

    The previous campaign I ran was the Holdenshire Chronicles (available from EN Publishing!): Holdenshire Chronicles Intro. I also created a handout for the broader campaign world, the Enchanted Kingdoms, but told the players that they really only had to read page 3 ("Magic" and "Races").

    The campaign before that was Princes of the Apocalypse: PotA Campaign Intro. (As an aside, I find it interesting that most of the House Rules in that document did not survive contact with the enemy.)

    The first campaign handout I made was for an M&M game called SAGA; it's actually not a PDF but a web page.

    The next campaign I intend to run is Pirates & Privateers: P&P Handout. Finally, down to one page!!!
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by 77IM View Post

    The previous campaign I ran was the Holdenshire Chronicles (available from EN Publishing!): Holdenshire Chronicles Intro. I also created a handout for the broader campaign world, the Enchanted Kingdoms, but told the players that they really only had to read page 3 ("Magic" and "Races").
    The Map in the Holdenshire Intro is gorgeous!
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  7. #7
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    Thanks! I didn't make that, though. It's lifted from the adventure.

    It's a pretty great little campaign and I'd like to run it again some day (we finished Act I with a TPK...).

  8. #8
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    This week I made a Ghosts of Saltmarsh handout. At the start of the campaign, I only gave players pages 1-2, because the rest wasn't done yet. Now it's up to 6 pages, but to be fair, half of that is art.
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  9. #9
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    I once tailored handouts to each player. They all thought they had the same handout until one of them mentioned something the others did not have on their sheet. I think it was the name of a contact in the town that would help them. I also had a map for each of them with extra information for what each PC may know. Some of the things overlapped and others never came into play, but it turned out to be a great moment.

    I think the handout was 1 page with half the page being the map. The information was a paragraph of the campaign and 7-10 bullet points with cool information.

  10. #10
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    Greater Elemental (Lvl 23)

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    Quote Originally Posted by iserith View Post
    My assumption is that players will never read anything I prepare for them in this regard. (I know I won't read it, so I do not expect that of others.)
    That's been my experience as well. They will never read it. If they do read it, they will never remember or reference it, and 90% of the time, it gets tossed into a folder or the back is used to track HP and treasure on.

    Part of the reason I have abandoned homebrew worlds was watching hours of work go into documents for players who just wanted to adventure and didn't give two craps if it was on Faerun, Ebberon, or my homebrew setting.
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