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The Great Next Campaign Debate
Posted By Phil Vecchione On May 28, 2010 @ 4:00 am In GMing Advice | 2 Comments
Recently my game group celebrated the one year anniversary of my Corporation game. After some discussion we decided that we would take a break from Corporation and try out a “new” game. For me, as a GM, this is a very exciting moment, because a new game means that exciting time of learning a new system, coming up with details for the setting, and writing that first story arc. It is also a time filled with angst and swings of depression, as my group and I debate back and forth on what game we should play next.
This time it was no different. After some debate we came up with a game that we were all interested in playing. It was a process filled with negotiations, discussions, debates, and a few promises (of games I will run in the future). Since this challenge is one that every GM has or will face, I thought that I would step through how we chose our next campaign.
In the moments when my group has made the decision to start a new game, there is a flurry of ideas, as everyone breaks out their wish list of games that they would like to play. I am no different, I have a short list of games that as soon as my players are ready to play, I want to run. Many groups just sit down and toss out game names, until they come up with their new game.
As a Project Manager (and previously a software developer) by trade, I come at this with a bit of structure. I use three areas to help focus the list of games from every game under the sun, to a short list. Those areas are:
The first thing I ask my group, is to come up with a list of things that our next game must have. These are not specific games choices, but rather what elements within a game do people want to have and experience. It is fair to say something like, “No hit points like True20″.
These requirements will be used later to determine which games have what we are looking for. Games that fail to meet most of the requirements are not considered, and games that have many or all of the requirements are put on the short list.
Here are some of the requirements that we came up with in the last search:
In any group there are a some dynamics about your group that you need to keep in the back of your head while making your game selections. These assumptions are important to document. When they are not documented they tend to taint an individuals or group’s decisions, in ways that may not be clear. By understanding them, and discussing them, it helps to avoid confusion among the group.
Here are some of our assumptions:
Then there are things that limit choices. These are things that can be used along with the requirements to determine if a game is a good fit. The important part is to not only document the constraint, but also to understand the reason why. When everyone understands why something is a constraint, it becomes less arbitrary.
Here were some of our constraints:
So after listing out our requirements, assumptions, and constraints we started out with a pool of candidates:
The list was not too big, and after we started applying our requirements and constraints, the list started thin out.
After some healthy discussion, done totally by email, the list above was reduced to four finalists:
These were then discussed at length and everyone ranked the four in order of interest. Then there was some more discussion and…
We decided on In Nomine. Here is how In Nomine shakes out:
It took four days of online discussions, but the debates were kept calm, and in the end, everyone was interested in the final choice. So we are now in the early stages of putting together our new campaign and making characters.
So my system may be a bit formal, but it has been a system that has evolved out of my group for the past few years, and it has shown to be an effective way to reach a consensus. This system is based on identifying the group’s wants and needs, and then finding the games that best fit, rather than focusing on the games first. It has been my experience behind the screen and in the workplace that this kind of requirements focused approach yields the best results.
So how do you and your players come up with your new campaigns? Do you have a formula, is there a vote, a GM fiat?
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