Monday, May 21, 2012

The Majestic Wilderlands as a persistant campaign Part 2

In this post Brendan talks about Persistent Campaign Settings. This is part 2 on commenting and answering the questions he poises. 
Another potential issue is that such a setting could become too important. That is, a referee might be more cautious with trying new things, and might also become more sensitive to players that don't take the setting seriously.
One firm rule I established for myself is I will live with the consequences of the players action. I also tell the players that the inhabitants of the Majestic Wilderlands are every bit as "real" as they are. That they are not the first adventurers to trod it's soils nor will they be the last. That while they are free to try anything they want, I will be considering ALL the consequences of their actions and they should do so as well. That while the risk is great, players have had characters that fundamentally changed the course of the Majestic Wilderlands. And there were characters that met a ignoble demise.

One thing I did to help make things more fair was run campaigns where players were all members of a particular group. One important campaign where where the players were all members of the city guards. You know those weeny fighters that get the tar beat out of them by adventurers every time they visit the city. Now the shoe was on the other foot and boy the players came through. From the Knight Killer Crossbow to the Alert Stick, they came up with a variety of methods where low level fighters could handle adventuring parties far more experienced than themselves. Now the city guard are not the punching bags as they used to be and the players have a lot more respect.

As for players not taking things seriously, a lot of the Majestic Wilderlands is bog standard fantasy. Most of these players just wind up roleplaying themselves in the campaign. The only thing I insist on is that whatever happens is that they react as if they were really there and that they limit themselves to what their character would know. I rarely have trouble any players following these simple rules.
Certain kinds of games seem like they would work better with this kind of setting than others.
A designer would have to work hard not to make a fantasy RPG that wouldn't work with the Majestic Wilderlands. Generally RPGs that won't work with my campaign are those that are oriented to one specific setting. Even then if that setting assumption is close enough to the Majestic Wilderlands, like Harn and Harnmaster, then I can still use it. This is because of the long shadow of D&D and the fantasy tropes that it always had regardless of edition. Since the Majestic Wilderlands still has D&D tropes at it's heart, it works with a large number of Fantasy RPGs. I ran it using AD&D 1st, Fantasy Hero, Harnmaster, GURPS, D&D 3.0, and now Swords & Wizardry/MW Supplement.
I think it has been much more common recently to make campaign settings more disposable. I blame this partly on an embarrassment of riches;
Successful published settings are that way because they save referee time in preparing for a campaign and many of them have compelling backgrounds. Roleplaying games have been around long enough that we have a decent selection. Majestic Wilderlands is an example of this as it evolved out of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. The only difference between me and any other referee of fantasy RPGs is two things

1) 90% of the time I ran a fantasy roleplaying campaign I set it in the Majestic Wilderlands. The lone exception is Harn.

2) Anytime I need something truly different than how I setup the City-State of the Invincible Overlord, I took one of the "blank" region on my wilderlands map and put it down there. They are far enough apart that it wasn't hard in coming up with a plausible reason for the regions to co-exist.
The aspect of this that most intrigues me is how the remnants of one campaign (or group of players) could affecting other, future campaigns.
I make notes what each group has done. To be honest only the most significant changes, tend to persist so if you lose some the little details don't sweat. If anything the player will remind you the next campaign if you forgot something. For example the Council of Viridistan that rules the City-State of Viridistan. The time line is as follows

1) The Emperor is killed by the character Endless Star, a paladin of Mitra towards the end of the campaign. This was the college group mentioned earlier and took place around 1985

Then in 1986 or so, I ran a campaign using Fantasy Hero. Again with the college group with a few players that dropped out and some new players

2) One player puts on the Evil Orb, Crown, Specter of Might and kills the Clerics of Set that were ruling Viridstan. The other players manage to zap him with the Chromatic Crystal and got the regalia off of him. But now the party was faced with a city in chaos. So they split the chromatic crystal into seven pieces and gave one to each character and then established the Council of Viridistan to rule the city.

Campaign ends, but two players were unhappy with the ending the campaign and so fled the city along with their pieces of the crystal, to continue adventure.  Leaving two open seats on the Council but can't be filled because each councilor is required to have a piece of the Chromatic Crystal. Now flashforward 20+ years

3) A campaign using Swords and Wizardry revolves around the adventures of a Half-Viridian Fighter, a Elven Mountebank, and Human Thothian Mage, results in the players rescuing one of the Viridian Councilors, a former PC now NPC named Cathwar, aiding Council in achieving a decisive victory in the nearly 20 year long civil war, and recovering the two missing pieces of the Chromatic Crystal. The campaign ended with two of the players choosing to sit on the council.

This is an example of one of several sequences of how players effected the Majestic Wilderlands. The keys elements that made this work again is the willingness to go with whatever consequences that plausibly results from the players action, recording the highlights, and sticking to the same setting over a number of campaign.

Tomorrow Part 3

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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