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Writing a One-Page Campaign Guide

by Mike on 13 December 2021

When you're getting ready to run a new campaign, write up a single-page guide for your players to get them on board with the campaign and steer your campaign in the right direction.

For a video on this topic, see my Writing a Single Page D&D Campaign Guide YouTube video.

This single-page guide has many advantages:

This article breaks down the details of a single-page campaign guide and goes hand-in-hand with the idea of running a session zero. Here are a handful of one-page campaign guide examples:

Patrons of Sly Flourish get access to the Word template used to format these one-page campaign guides.

Keep It to One Page

We're going to be tempted to write out a big campaign bible for our game. Avoid that temptation. We're all busy. Our players are busy. The longer the guide, the less likely players read it. Even if you must include supplemental information, write up a single page guide covering everything the players should understand about the campaign. Keeping it down to a single page makes it far more digestable than a longer campaign guide.

The Campaign's Pitch

Hook the players with an evocative pitch. What is the single-sentence or short paragraph drawing them into the world? Make the pitch specific enough that the players understand the role of their characters in the campaign. As much as we don't want to reveal surprises, avoid being so vague that no one understands what it's actually about.

Examples from the WOTC hardcover adventures include:

What is the single-sentense hook grabbing onto your players' imaginations and drawing them into your campaign? Write that down first in your one-page campaign guide and then fill in a short paragraph on the theme of the campaign.

The Truths of the Campaign

What are the six truths of your campaign setting it apart from all other campaigns and worlds the players have played? These truths are known to the characters in the world. They're not secrets. These six truths help players understand how this campaign differs from others and helps them begin to scope out their characters.

You don't always need six. Shorter campaigns might only have two or three. You get to choose how many but don't go beyond six.

Here are five example truths for my Rime of the Frostmaiden campaign:

These truths refine the concept of the campaign in the players' minds. It shows them what matters, what's important, and what sort of character fits best.

Potential Factions or Patrons

If you enjoy starting your campaign focused around a patron or faction, offer up to three choices for potential patrons or factions. These patrons or factions connect the characters together and give them a clear source for the quests that drive the rest of the campaign. Being able to choose which patron or faction they prefer gives the players agency over the campaign. These choices come out in your session zero with the agreement that the group together determines one primary patron or faction.

Character Creation Guidelines & Houserules

Offer guidelines for character creation. What sources are allowed? What ability score generation method do you use? Do you have any important houserules the players should know about?

Most important, what key theme or bond should players wire into their character to connect them together and focus them on the campaign's theme?

Here's an example from my Eberron Second Mourning Campaign One-pager:

"You seek to travel with your band of companions, in cooperation, to prevent the second Mourning."

Note the reinforcement of cooperation. No loner edge-lords thank you very much.

Safety Tools and Themes

As part of our contract with our players we can describe our campaign's safety tools. I prefer a mix of "lines and veils" with descriptions of some expected lines and veils for this campaign along with a version of the X card I call "pause for a minute". The discussion of safety tools is an open conversation piece, of course, and can get further refined during your session zero. Update the guide with the players' described lines and veils as well and resend it out to the group so everyone is clear.

A Single Page to Steer the Campaign

One-page campaign guides help steer your entire campaign. Mixed with a solid session zero, they ensure players play characters focused on the campaign's themes, are built with the right drivers in their backgrounds, and join together in cooperation to engage in high adventures.

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This work includes material taken from by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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