Starting a Local/Small-Scale Campaign – Pt 2

by Gary Whitten

The first blog about this really focused on starting a setting but less so on the actual Local/Small Scale facets of it. That’s what we’ll cover here.

Keeping it Local

One of the challenges is to ensure that everything that your players need to have and do stays in the campaign area. This is where player buy-in can really help because we all know that players routinely throw GMs curves by going where you hadn’t planned for but you really don’t want them going outside the campaign scope. With legitimate buy-in from the players, they should avoid saying ‘Well, we need to go visit Loeni the Master Alewife’ , just because you happened to have a special keg of her spiced mead brought across the sea to the local pub for a mid-winter festival.

That being said, you need to have things make sense as well. With my Valley of Aesri campaign, I had made a potential mis-step by introducing a shortage of iron in the valley, which brought up imports and exports to and from the campaign area. Trade is a normal activity in most campaign settings but it’s often behind the scenes as one of those assumed activities like visiting the outhouse.

To ‘recover’ from this, I created the Inn of the Warm Hearth, which sits on the Beltest Road which runs roughly north-south between the Valley and several cities south and out of the campaign area. The Inn also operates the ferry over the Sast River which has its source in the Sliri mountains to the west and runs through the eastern half of the continent before reaching the sea in a large port city. Because of this key location, it’s in a perfect place to facilitate trade into and out of the campaign area, so I wrote the Inn to be conducive to trade with storage space, meeting rooms and a large carriage house for coaches and wagons.

Give Them a Purpose

If the party has a purpose and a role in the local area, there will be less reason for them to leave. One option would to be to have the party obtain a home base and run a combination LSSC/HBC. For example, in my campaign, which is a combination, the party got hold of an abandoned manor that that had been built by a master Dungeon Delver as a dungeoneering school. The party took over the place in fairly short order but it was in ruins and had an active dungeon beneath it. They’re now clearing out the dungeon while a staff they hired is recovering the manor from disrepair.

Another option is to have the party be the primary defense of the area, whether it’s official or otherwise. If you go with this route, you have many options in front of you for any kind of threat to the campaign area should be dealt with by the party. They would either do this directly or by acquiring the aid needed to do so. The options available to you in this situation are vast. Threats could include flooding, famine or other natural disasters; invasions or rogue beasts; diplomatic impasses or trade embargoes or even locating the Lord’s favorite hunting hound which got lost on his last expedition.

It Isn’t a Lifetime

As I mentioned in another entry, neither the LSSC nor the HBC is necessarily an infinite situation. If you and your party are ready for a change, start writing the necessary material to move the campaign in another direction.

You may go into the LSSC/HBC with a finite goal in mind such as ‘The party needs to stay in the region long enough to locate the long-lost Tiara of Civkoa which is needed to make peace between Seli and Werr’. In such a case, you’ll know when they’re getting close to their goal and can be ready with options and hooks for the next stage of the campaign.

And In Closing…

I hope that these two articles have helped you in some way or fashion. Whether they inspired you to create such a campaign, or just provided you with some cool ideas for your current campaign, I thank you for reading.

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All content Copyright 2009-2015 Gary Whitten