Saturday’s session went well. It was a fairly standard rout-the-baddies scenario, with an extra layer of justice on top, as the head baddie had purloined a valuable piece of party treasure a few sessions before. Said baddie then holed up in a mountain stronghold with some surly flunkies. But the party was having none of it, and took it upon themselves to right the wrong.
This session concluded a chapter of the campaign, which I had planned beforehand. As a special reward, I had intended to offer the party its choice from a few benefits, to help frame their accomplishments in the terms of the campaign. You know how it goes — rewards are good and endogenous rewards are best. A little reskinning of some backgrounds shaped up as the following options:
Book One Conclusion: Marks of Prestige
Marque of Jandamere: As the bearer of a Marque of Jandamere, you inspire people to think the best of you. You are welcome in high society, and people assume you have the right to be wherever you are. The common folk make every effort to accommodate you and avoid your displeasure, and other people of high birth treat you as a member of the same social sphere. You can secure an audience with a local noble if you need to.
An Eye for the Land: Having liaised with the original folk of the region, you have earned an excellent intuition for the land, and you can always recall the general layout of terrain, settlements, and other features around you. In addition, you can find food and fresh water for yourself and up to five other people each day, provided that the land offers berries, small game, water, and so forth.
Prince-Bishop’s Sigil: You receive shelter and succor from members of the Church Militant and those who are sympathetic to their aims. You can gain aid from temples and other religious communities in the Prince-Bishop’s service. This help comes in the form of shelter and meals, and healing when appropriate, as well as occasionally risky assistance, such as a band of monks rallying to your side in a fight, or the residents of a cloister helping to hide you when you are being hunted unjustly.
(The middle one is struck through because the players never got around to meeting that faction. But the remaining two still offered a choice, and you can see that they’re all modeled on the backgrounds system.)
Responding to Feedback
As good players do, however, they threw a subtle but excellent monkeywrench into my plans. As they were scourging the mountain stronghold, one of the players casually commented that not only were they getting their treasure back, they were going to get the whole damned mountain fortress as well.
So at the end of the session, I tossed that into the mix. The players could have one of the previous benefits, or, hell yeah, they could have the stronghold. It would be (at least initially) a non-revenue-generating territory, but it would be a “home base” nonetheless and one that they could develop to reflect their ownership.
What that meant for me was that I needed to rework how I would present the ongoing campaign. Previously, it had been constructed as a political thriller, in which the players’ characters moved as agents of influence from location to location in pursuit of artifacts and evidence. A secret faction of rebel nobility had been active, and the players had exposed them, making for the “blow up the Death Star” arc of chapter one. All very cool and satisfying, but now, with the players having a home base, I’ll have to retool much of the campaign and bring relevant events to the players, instead of moving the players to the events. I’ll have to change some of the events proper, too, but that’s fine, because overall, I get a lot out of the deal (assuming they choose to take ownership of the stronghold as their reward).
- I get to keep reusing the same map. My group is geographically scattered and plays via roll20, so getting more use out of the same virtual tabletop map helps me control my production costs. Maybe I’m secretly a producer at heart….
- A “home base” creates relatedness, as it gives the players a place in the world they can genuinely call their own.
- It’s a location that can create rewards but also conflicts. That is, it should generate some ongoing benefits and positive relationships, but those relationships can also inspire new things for players to do and problems to solve.
- It remains tied to the politics of the region, so the main campaign themes and antagonists remain intact. I have to adjust how the players come in contact with them, but none of the planning needs to be discarded.
But most importantly
- It was a player suggestion, and a really good one, so the players are even more invested in the progress of the campaign.
So that’s the case for improvising and a willingness to change campaign direction based on player input. We’ll see how it shapes up from here.