Do You Get Bored Of Your Campaigns?

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1156

What’s the purpose of a campaign?

My answer:

To finish it.

No joke.

Other factors rank high too:

  • Tell a long-form story
  • Keep the adventure going with beloved characters
  • Have more fun at every game!

My apex, though, is to finish the dang thing.

Else, feelings of a story unfinished. An open loop that nags.

I’m sure it’s the same with players.

I’ve suffered many unfinished campaigns. On both sides of the screen.

What caused their curtail?

  1. Bored => I could imagine no exciting future gameplay for it
  2. Unprepared => Rather, I prepared the wrong stuff!
  3. Complexity => Too much information, too many threads, and not enough vision or direction

Let’s talk today about #1: boredom and two ways on how to defeat it.

The 3 Act Structure

Before I embark on an adventure or campaign, I break it down into three parts:

  1. Beginning
  2. Middle
  3. End

Just like any great story.

Thus, three acts.

But how does this common story structure cure boredom?

Create Your Milestone Seeds

For each act — which I call Milestones in my Adventure Building Master Game Plan — I define three things:

  1. Reward => What’s the ultimate treasure or boon here for players?
  2. Conflict => What fun and deadly threat blocks the Reward?
  3. Location => What spectacular location can we craft?

Without such a plan, my vision remains amorphous.

So these bare essentials keep me excited. I now know what to look forward to in each Milestone.

Create Character Arcs

Players interface with your story via their PCs.

Therefore, great characters = great stories.

So we plan a story arc for each player character.

Guess what the bare essentials of each arc are?

That’s right!

  • Cool Reward
  • Scary Conflict
  • Spectacular Location

I also need a common thread, or Story Layer, for each arc so I can spawn encounters or sprinkle Story Layer sparkles into encounters during sessions.

For example, a murder mystery Character Arc. The arc ends when the player has figured out who murdered their character’s father and brought that villain to justice.

Advance each character’s arc with Loopy Planning once a session and your players will be pounding on your table to play.

Scale Up Your Scope

If the scale of the ultimate challenge you design for each Milestone does not jive with the party power level, it gets boring.

Challenge makes Rewards worth earning. But why keep playing when it’s too tough or too easy?

So the scope of Danger each act represents must scale with the PCs.

You can do this via Location.

You not only make each Location bigger in size, but the party Stakes must grow too.

One of my favourite campaigns started with the players owning and defending an inn — a mere building, but oh so treasured by the group.

Next tier, the characters faced foes who threatened not just their inn, but the whole city too.

In the finale, the party fended off fiends threatening the inn, city and world through ascension.

From neighbourhood thugs to crime lords to champions of the gods.

Each increase in scale gave me new inspiration, refreshed creative opportunities, and a way to keep challenging the evolving party.

Note that I’m not talking about encounter balance here. I serve up a mix of easy encounters and deadly encounters, as per my Spikes of Danger method.

Instead, I’m talking about keeping your campaign exciting to your players — and you — by making large enough containers to hold your big ideas for each new Milestone.

It’s Your Turn

A compelling story motivates you to get past the pit of dashed hopes and keep you on the path to a legendary campaign finale. To do that, we craft Milestones and Character Arcs that keep us excited as well as our players.