- How to conclude consequences
- How to prepare each individual game session
- How to let your campaign world organically grow
- How to seemlessly add to your setting
The planted campaign will give you not only tons and tons of material to run your game for years for only a few minutes preparation time per session (and a one-time investment of a few hours), but also an enormous range of flexibility to work with. In this part of the article series, I will highlight to you the different techniques you can use to expand, remix, and manipulate your campaign for maximum profit.
Let’s start with the pivot of all this: The consequences. This is the “few minutes preparation time” I named earlier, and also the heart of your campaign’s life. In order to successfully prepare the current next session, you only have to follow these easy pieces of advice:
- Take Notes: Note down everything that happens during your session. Usually, it’s no problem to do this retroactively right after you have ended a session, but you might also want to try getting most facts down while playing already. Note down everything that might be important, but each note itself can be a very rough outline to act as a reminder. If you want to be doubly sure, ask your players to verify your notes so that all of you are on the same page. For me, these session notes usually include 3-7 entries (one short sentence each).
- Evaluate Your Notes: Go through your notes and mark every entry that is likely to have consequences; that is, elements that probably have some kind of influence on an Entity or its plans.
- Rethink Their Plans: Now, for every Entity, consider each of the marked notes and reflect what kind of impact (if any) the event has on the Entity. I usually create a Consequences document for each session (eventually providing me with a thorough overview of the complete campaign as well), where I list each Entity affected by last session’s proceedings as a headline. Beneath this headline, I put a couple of bullet items containing the conclusions the Entity draws from the event together with changes to their immediate or long-term agenda.
- Update Your Document(s): The last step of your preparation includes updating your other documents to reflect the notes in your Consequences document. I usually only update my Gunmen list, but you can update Entity Cards, the Relationship Grid or the Plotmap as well, if you like to. I go through all Consequences and copy everything that could possibly happen to the PCs onto the Gunmen list so that I can confront my players with the consequences of their characters’ actions.
- Use It: During play, I occasionally refer to my Consequences document (to get a general overview of an Entity’s current state of knowledge), but mostly I just work with the Gunmen that I trigger sooner or later to have my players feel the aftermath of their decisions. Of course, none of this is cast in stone, and the PCs will always be able to mitigate or prevent any of these consequences to happen.
Although this is a step that does not take much time and creates a document that you will only refer to every once in a while, it is also one of the most important steps in this campaigning technique as well. It is the centerpiece that will breathe life into any confrontation between PCs and setting, and will give rise to hours and hours of fun play.
Should you be interested in actual play examples, then look forward to the upcoming article on that.
A great strength I see in the campaign plantation system is the ability to seamlessly add into the structure. I purposefully avoid the term add-on, because just like with digital games, an add-on would simply be additional content, while add-ins in modular games are additions that don’t stand on their own, but recontextualize every other game element, thus adding not only a new piece, but a new dimension of content.
With this kind of campaign, you can achieve very much the same. At any point can you introduce a new Entity to the game world and suddenly have a great variety of new content. Every other Entity will probably have or seek some kind of relation to the new Entity, possibly even changing their whole agendas to incorporate the changed circumstances.
For example, let’s say a golden dragon suddenly comes to the city and builds an aerie on top of the city hall, holding court there. This would probably change the approach to things for a lot of people, including the PCs. By simply introducing one new Entity, you can create a plethora of new plot seeds to work into your setting, thus enriching and revitalizing everything experienced thus far.
Of course, add-ins can not only be used to spark new interest in your Entities; you are even able to incorporate cool elements from movies, books, or other games you came across seamlessly into your setting, with everything reacting naturally. Just proceed as you normally do with your consequences, this time taking the new Entity into account (which of course has an agenda and a personality itself). You can even color your game according to the holidays (an old wizard sharing gifts with everyone, or a suddenly appearing haunted house are the first things that spontaneously come to my mind) and have your players experience something entirely new occasionally.
Similar to introducing new Entities, you can always have global events occur that force everyone in your game world to adapt. This is a more radical approach to add-in to your game, as it can change the whole mood and theme of the setting, but also guarantees the highest degree of variation. It also almost ensures your players will interact with the changed circumstances, thus providing a great pacing tool as well.
For example, some global events I have used to spice up play in my campaigns have been
- a chemical spill that infected everyone in a whole city neighborhood (which quickly was closed off as a quarantine area)
- A city-wide vision of the Great Flood that distressed the city hundreds of years ago
- A strict condemnation of all magic users, together with a curfew for everyone
These all have proven to be valuable milestones in the history of the game world, with the players witnessing (or even causing) them.
Depending how much you trust your players and how much you value random improvisational input, you can even get really crazy with adding-in to you game.
For example, in one of the games I run we use a set of tarot-like divination cards (which are a merchandise in-world product of the RPG) that I take and hand each player a random selection of two of these. The player then chooses one to keep (after getting access to the interpretation book) and can use their kept card at any point in time during play. This forces me to incorporate the divinated element right into the game. I enjoy this kind of random input, as it gives the players a GM-like power at their disposal, whose final interpretation is still up to me. Also it forces me to think outside the box and shake things up whenever the players like to. This, by the way, is how the city-shaking vision of the Great Flood came to pass.
Thank you for reading this series of articles. I hope you enjoyed them, and probably they help you have more fun with your campaigns. What’s up next is probably a couple of follow-up appendices covering edge cases or presenting actual play accounts of my Plantation System. If you like to, leave me a comment about what you think.