Monday, February 25, 2013

Making a Good Player's Guide for Your Campaign

Have you ever tried to start a new campaign with certain ideas that you wanted to see, then your players constantly ask to play things that would make no sense in the setting that you are using or would not match the original idea for the campaign you had in mind?

If you're willing to do a little extra work, you can curtail this somewhat by creating a "player's guide" for your group that will present them the basics of the setting, what stuff is common, and some of your expectations for the campaign that you want to run.

While I haven't used a player's guide for the last few campaigns that I've run (mainly because I didn't have the time to create one before-hand because of school), I'm still a huge supporter of the idea and I thought that I'd give some advice on how to construct one of these player's guides and what should and should not be in it.

First, you need to give a simple overview of the region or setting that you will be using for the game. The overview should cover the basic level of knowledge someone in the game world would have about the area. Also, it should be only about 2 to 3 pages long because the longer the section is, your players will be less likely to actually read it.

Second, give them another simple overview about the races and ethnic groups that inhabit the area and how the work. This is where you can drop hints about which races are the most appropriate for the game and which ones aren't. For example, lets say you really don't see halflings playing a large role in the setting, you could have a sentence in the halfling section saying, "Halflings are a very rare sight in the region." I suggest this section be about 1 to 2 pages in length.

Third, present the basic information for the starting town or area of the campaign. If you are beginning the campaign in a trading town located on an intersection of four major trade routes, give the players a basic map of the town and an overview of both it and the immediate surrounding area. This will give those who have decided to be from the town the information they will need and give those who will be from somewhere else some ideas about why they are at the town. I think a good length for this section is probably 2 to 3 pages at the most.

Fourth, present a basic overview of the different house rules that you will be using for the campaign. Make all of the rules clear and understandable and give a quick, short reasoning on why you are doing it this way or why you have added this rule. This section will probably be the longest and should be placed at the back of the guide.

Finally, I would suggest putting the guide into a thin, three-ring binder with dividers separating each section. The reason for this is it allows you to add more information to the guide when you need to. For example, let's say I'm setting a campaign in the land of Varisia from the Pathfinder setting of Golarion and one of my players wants to play a Shoanti barbarian. Well, I can go to the Varisia: Birthplace of Legend PDF, print out the section on the Shoanti, and insert that into that player's guide so he will have more information about his character's ethnic group. Also, putting the guides into thin binders give the player some place to put there character sheets and notes for the game.

Like I said before, player's guides can be incredibly useful tools for your campaigns. While they ask for a bit more work from you, they can also possibly save you some time in the future since some of the basic setting info and details will be in the guide.