Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Out On Campaign?

This is a piece of a big idea my brain is chewing on right now, but I think there's at least something I can share right now.

I don't know how many people read this anymore, but a few months ago I posted the basic outline of my big idea here. For those who don't follow links, my idea is that a roleplaying game can be separated out into a number of separate levels. The System (the rules of the game), the Setting (the physical location of adventures), and the Campaign (What the characters are expected to do in play). If you want to be a stickler, you can even add a level below the Campaign which is the Adventure (specific scenario), but that's only useful in certain contexts.

My rant in the link above was mostly about how I felt sort of cheated by gaming products which use the word "setting" in their descriptions, but instead mostly speak to the Campaign level rather than my (more neutral) definition of Setting.

As I was working on explicating this idea, I had something of a realization: Successful gaming products are the ones that reach down to the Campaign level in some fashion.

Let's take the most popular and recognizable RPG out there: Dungeons & Dragons. The basic rulebooks touch on System, Setting and Campaign. They are rulebooks, so of course they provide System. They also communicate Setting through race and class choices and a pseudo-medieval equipment list. They answer the question of Campaign through details like reward structures (XP for killing monsters/gathering loot) and advancement benefits (hit points and combat powers are common gains when leveling up).

This is why you can say "Let's play D&D" and it's a meaningful statement.

It also explains why GURPS has not been as successful as some other games on the market. The basic rulebooks are full of System and only System. Their Setting books are largely Setting, leaving Campaign level alone. While there are those who love GURPS for this reason, it does stand in the way of broad market success.

Looking at this sort of model as a designer is actually kind of fun. But as a publisher, I've got to ask "Have the products I've published sufficiently addressed the Campaign level? How much work am I making the GM do before they play my game?"

While a couple of tweaks to the rules of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road have suggested themselves since I released it, I can't help but wonder if the book's  Narrator advice needs punching up as well. Or maybe something more than that.

I don't know how many people actually read this anymore, but comments are welcome.

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