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by Mike on 9 May 2021
What if your campaign jumped 14 months into the future? What if this happened in the middle of the session because of a single roll on a random table? Could you run with this or would it shatter your campaign?
This literally happened to me in my Numenera game. In the middle of a fight with a nasty creature, one of the characters activated a "mystery box" and, on a random roll, teleported himself and all of his companions 14 months into the future. In the middle of the session.
Did I panic? On yeah. But I also loved the idea. I had to make it work. I narrated what they saw, and, as soon as they discovered they'd jumped 14 months ahead. I said it was time for a break.
I needed that break. How was I going to keep going with an adventure that jumped ahead more than a year?
Luckily, the way I structure my campaigns supports such wild jumps. I don't build campaigns from the expected actions of the characters. I think of the world as an organic and evolving place. I build campaigns from the villains outward — from their goals and the steps they take to accomplish those goals. I knew who these villains were. I knew what they wanted. I knew what steps they were going to take.
And I moved those agendas ahead 14 months. The atmosphere of the planet slowly turned into methane. The town they considered defending has already been overrun. Their own home city is now occupied by armies of creatures only hinted at 14 months previously. Their quest NPC is dead. Their new quest NPC is an 800 year old grinning chrome skull.
In about ten minutes I jotted down the big changes occurring over the past 14 months. The whole campaign changed.
When we build an organic world, such a huge change isn't insurmountable. A lot of fixed adventures and campaigns built on required actions of the characters are too brittle to withstand such a huge change in the story. If we're constantly thinking about our campaign as a living world, when something like this happens, we can be ready to react.
This is, by far, the biggest change that's ever happened in one of my campaigns. By thinking of the world as an evolving place with actors, goals, and steps; I was able to keep things moving right along.
If your own campaign jumped 14 months in the future in the middle of a session, are you ready to leap ahead with it?
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