A few days ago, while entertaining the idea of running a Mage: the Awakening 2e game, I asked a local RPG facebook group if they were interested in reading a blog about designing a campaign. The response was very positive, and so I find myself putting my money where my mouth is.
And so here we are.
In this series I’ll try to be as methodical as possible, breaking down my own personal thought processes as I build a Mage: the Awakening Campagin from scratch. Take note that I’ll be focusing mainly on the stuff that will apply regardless of game, so don’t worry about running into too much game-specific jargon. Also this series will deal with custom campaigns, as opposed to running adventure modules.
Anyway, without any further delay, let’s get started.
Establish Your Foundations
The first part about planning any campaign is often already established way ahead of any deep thinking. These will appear very obvious, but it helps to keep them in mind all the same. Let’s go over the basic questions:
What game / system are you running? Often this question is answered way ahead of any kind of planning, unless you’re the type who comes up with a story first and then looks for a matching system later.
What is the setting like? It’s one thing to say that you’re playing D&D, and other to say that you’re playing through the Curse of Strahd Hardback adventure. This is important because while a game’s setting might be huge, the GM cherry picks which parts of the setting to highlight.
What (if any) modifications or houserules are you applying? I’m not so hot on modifications myself, but if you’re applying them to your game, then make sure to note them and inform your players.
What are you looking to get out of the game? If there’s a time to be honest with yourself, this would be it. Understanding your motivations for running a game help a lot in guiding your decisions. If you’re in it for a tactical challenge, then own it. Likewise if you’re looking to tell a story of intrigue and manipulation, then go whole hog into it as well.
Who are you running it for? A game consists of you, and your player’s inputs. Without them, you’re pretty much left putting together a game for some strange unknown future. The reason why I feel that it’s important to know your players is that you can tailor the game to their interests while still being true to your enjoyment as defined in the prior question.
Now that we’ve gone through that exercise, let me go ahead an answer my own questions:
What game am I running? Mage: the Awakening, 2nd Edition
What is the setting like? A world of darkness take on Chicago, the Windy City. A place whose history of organized crime and corruption has been glorified to an ideal. The times have changed, but the hearts of those who live there haven’t.
Any modifications or houserules? Nope, running this one pure vanilla, although I’ll be creating a new set of Mage NPCS as opposed to the ones in the World of Darkness: Chicago book.
What am I looking to get out of the game? A memorable campaign that draws parallels between organized crime with magic. Both are dangerous activities, conducted by clandestine operatives with arcane organizations and severe loyalties who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to get a leg up in their world.
Who are you running it for? My home group of players are a wide spread of personalities who have a penchant for clever (if ruthless) solutions of both the social and physical nature. Given the setting, I’m hoping to give them plenty of opportunities to pull off great “Gotcha!” moments and occasionally indulge in the darker side of their Obsessions… all while fearing for their lives.
Now that we’ve gotten the easy stuff out of the way, our next entry will deal with Themes and Moods in your campaign, and how to use them.