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Focus Your Campaign

by Mike on 10 July 2023

"Childe Roland to the dark tower came." - Robert Browning, 1852

Chapter 16 of Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master describes focusing your game around a single campaign hook and presenting this hook to your players during your session zero. Example hooks include:

Such focus clarifies the campaign and its goals to your players. It offers a clear sense of direction for both you and your players. You have a shining star by which to navigate the campaign.

The plot can still get complicated. There are still side quests. There are still twists and turns as the characters follow their path. Clarifying your campaign early doesn't tell you how the characters attempt to accomplish this goal. That happens as the campaign plays out.

Blow the Surprise

We're tempted to hold back the goal and theme of the campaign. This leads to a common problem: the GM sits back with all of the secrets of their rich campaign hidden behind their GM screen while players fumble around wondering what they're supposed to do. Don't hide your campaign's goal and drive. Spill the beans. Show them what they're in for. Let players build their characters knowing where they're headed. Every week they'll know what to do and where they're going.

Big Goals, Small Steps

Think about the goal of our campaign as a big shining north star with lots of potential adventures leading up to it. Each adventure takes small steps toward the big conclusion. Don't map out each step along the way. Focus on the very next one and keep that shining star in sight. None of the rest of the campaign matters compared to the next session you're going to run. That session is real. The rest are just ideas.

State the Goal, Not the Approach

When we're thinking about our campaign and its big central drive, don't think about how the characters will accomplish it. Build situations where we set up locations, inhabitants, and goals, and the characters choose their approach. Such a focus feels like railroading but it's not. We don't dictate the characters approach. We don't decide the outcome. We experience the story right alongside our players.

State the goal. Prep your next session. Let the characters choose their path.

Last Week's Lazy RPG Talk Show Topics

Each week I record an episode of the Lazy RPG Talk Show (also available as a podcast) in which I talk about all things in tabletop RPGs. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

Patreon Questions and Answers

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RPG Tips

Each week I think about what I learned in my last RPG session and write them up as D&D tips. Here are this week's tips:

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