Since the successful launch of the Pathfinder “Legacy” campaign much has happened. In this post I hope I can provide some insight into my thoughts about pathfinder and specifically this game. I also just put down some general thoughts as well.
Background: As a player and GM I have about 20 years of RP’ing experience, I’ve read hundreds of fantasy novels and I’ve played in D&D from original through the current versions, and of course pathfinder. In this genre, there is little that I haven’t experienced and also there aren’t many classes that I haven’t explored. I’m excited to GM a new campaign for my friends, and I hope to make it a fun experience for all who play.
Goal: I believe campaigns should have a goal. I see no advantage to GM’ing these characters past level 20, first because I want to keep within the existing pathfinder rules and second because it becomes exceedingly difficult to challenge high level characters beyond 20. Mainly though, the reason I want to end this campaign at 20 is because I would like to make this game generational. The one thing that I haven’t really had the pleasure of doing in a RP setting is to play the sons/daughters, grandsons/grandaughters of existing 1st round heroes. So the campaign goal is to flesh out the world for future generations of characters. This means that the characters will meet definite and meaningful endings or become NPC’s at 20th level, should they survive to the end.
My thoughts on creating a vibrant and interactive world:
So, one may notice that many of the NPCs have pictures or names that spring an instant image of a TV or movie character. This is fully intentional on my part. I may take some criticism for this, but it has a reason. When I say an NPCs name, I want an instant image and even attitude to be triggered in the players head. I want to be able to play all the great mind tricks that go along with auto-association. For example, commander bond. Everyone immediately pictures their memories of James Bond and all the badassery associated with that character. I really don’t need to spend the next 10 minutes explaining what the characters moods and feelings are, and if I choose, at that moment, I can have him plotting a hidden agenda because 95% of the time I can predict what the player is thinking about the NPC, and so I can get away with much more plot misdirection. I feel, strongly, that tension between players and between NPCs is what creates excitement. It’s difficult to maintain a high level of plot tension if you are constantly explaining who people are. So many of the NPCs will be based on highly recognizable characters in modern cinema or other popular media. Another great example, one that we used in game, is if I say the cleric of caiden calian (spelling) looks like John Candy, the whole room giggles. I don’t even have to say what he is doing and the mood is already lightened, and the fact that he worships a god who became a god while he was drunk further enhances comic element of the character name. At the same time, even if a player was half listening to my description, I can 95% gaurantee that every PC will remember who the cleric of caiden calian is without ever repeating it again a single time. So this is intentional and is fully a function of my style of GM’ing and will be hallmark for this campaing world.
My thoughts on game progress:
I’ve had a dud or two games. It sucks. I hate when challenges are so easy the group burns through it. I would rather have frustrated PC’s than bored PC’s. I’ve had a few nights where I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, I’ve written myself a do-better-letter on each occasion. I find that having sometimes 7-8 players is a difficult situation to GM. I think I may have to change a few things on my approach to larger group sessions.
On a positive note, there have been at least a dozen very strong sessions which inspired characters on to further action for themselves. I’m all about characters getting ideas and running with them. The more they want to do, the better I feel about the job I’ve done as a GM. If someone grows stagnant, it implies that I haven’t developed a good enough story for them, and this has happened here and there at points. Again, usually in larger group sessions where it becomes difficult to focus in on a particular player. Still, the high points and low points of this campaign have been a step above my average campaigns, and that is how you know you have something good.
I have 3-4 players who have played in over 25 gaming sessions, and I have 3-4 players who have played in 7-10 gaming sessions. I’ve solved the level disparity by instituting the “no child left behind act” which allows players behind to level their character to whatever the highest level character in the group is. However, I stopped this at level 6. I feel that 6th level characters will most likely survive encounters, even if they can’t be as helpful as the 10th level guys we have that have attended every game. I think it’s also fair that the guys who put in relentless amounts of game time, cause each session has been 10-12 hours during recent sessions, deserve to feel rewarded for their efforts, I think all my PC’s would agree that this is fine. I’ve made arrangements to game with individuals interested in catching themselves up to the forward few. This is how I will handle progression for characters going forward beyond 6th level, so that people don’t get robbed of their “I feel I earned my stripes” experience, which I always enjoy as a player, I never enjoy taking levels for free, I mean it feels good at the time, but then at the end of the character you look back and go… I haven’t really done this. I really want people to feel they’ve earned their stripes. I had an unwritten rule about leveling every 3 gaming sessions, which still pretty much holds true, but now it’s just based off the slow experience progress table. Still, some people just play a ton more than others and have leveled as a result. I’m not disappointed with that at all. It just creates additional challenges in large group settings.
Fresh new maps, tons of things to discover, and I love how they leave things vaguish. You can fill in the blanks however you want. I’ve chosen to set the history of my world based off of a great 8 year campaign that we ran in regular D&D and my memories of that game, and then I’ve added a few story twists based off of the history of the existing PC’s. So, basically what this means is that I have an idea of the political structure, albiet a loose one, and I have some guiding plotlines that help me answer the PC’s questions about where they are going as they discover things about their own personal demons. After that, I just care about providing a high level of adventure. This adventure that I like my players to experience is mostly uninterfered with by the gods. The plot has had some fantastic twists which I will elaborate on in further posts.
Focusing here on Pathfinder as a setting, one of my PC’s (Bryan) is a fabulous reference for the GM, I love having a gamer who is a bookworm and knows the setting and has read pretty much all of the materials released, I definately appreciate being able to shoot out a direct question and get a “Pathfinder Sage” response. Really, my assistant GM for this campaign. It’s great, I then take that “Sage Info” and I form a GM thought on how I want to treat that in the instance the information is being used. So, personal thanks to Bryan for helping me with the finer details of the world. It’s just awesome.
Second, player interest. Personal thanks to Nick for setting up this portal site. Great GM help here to make all the information public and provide a FAQ for our campaign, maybe for the year or two to come while I will continue to run this campaign. It’s already a pretty nice reference for NPCS, shared loot, and character description. I’ll be adding story element to that list here shortly so that we have a kept history of this campaign and knowledge of how our world has changed as it revolves around our PC’s.
3rd, player dedication. All the players who make time to play in the game. Obviously, you make the magic happen, and I’m very thankful you come to play when you can. It’s great, I’ll try to do the best I can GM’ing.
This is just something new. Most of my players have epic achievements in 3.5 and this is just a new chapter in their RP’ing careers and I hope it will be something that can be looked back upon fondly when we’re finished. Storyline will be added here and then going forward.