Your Campaign Agenda => Best Campaign Ever Part II

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1008

There’s a moment mid-campaign when my inner voice screams out: “I’ve lost the plot! What the #@$% is going on? What the #@$% do I do now?” (Sorry, in-skull Johnn has a potty mouth.)

When I’m off the rails as a GM it’s panic time.

…Everything feels like it’s crap.

…The campaign’s falling to pieces.

…My players are going to leave because it’s so bad.

Dire thoughts come faster. Form a vortex. And the world grows dim….

In a recent Musing I suggested you form a clear vision of what your campaign could be and what would make it your best campaign ever.

Whether you’re mid-campaign or building a new one, let’s be proactive with our imminent existential campaign panic attack.

Your Campaign Agenda

Dungeon World has a pair of fantastic tools called Agenda and Principles.

Each guides you towards achieving your grand campaign vision.

Today I have a short challenge for you.

Let’s combo Dungeon World’s Agenda and Principles into a new GM Tool called your Campaign Agenda.

Think of your Campaign Agenda as a list of specific goals drawn from your Campaign Vision to make this your best campaign ever.

Before we dig into the specifics of how to do that, let’s look at the Dungeon World stuff first for inspiration.

GM Agenda

According to the Dungeon World SRD, “Your agenda makes up the things you aim to do at all times.”

  • Portray a fantastic world
  • Fill the characters’ lives with adventure
  • Play to find out what happens

I think these are fantastic guidelines. Even if the ideals do not appeal to everyone, I think the technique is solid:

Get clarity by writing down your campaign methodology.

GM Principles

These are additional directives to help steer you during design and improv.

According to the SRD, “Your principles are your guides. Often, when it’s time to make a move, you’ll already have an idea of what makes sense. Consider it in light of your principles and go with it, if it fits.”

  • Draw maps, leave blanks
  • Address the characters, not the players
  • Embrace the fantastic
  • Make a move that follows
  • Never speak the name of your move
  • Give every monster life
  • Name every person
  • Ask questions and use the answers
  • Be a fan of the characters
  • Think dangerous
  • Begin and end with the fiction
  • Think offscreen, too

You can read a brief description of what each item entails here.

Write Your Campaign Agenda

Let’s merge these two ideas and tie them to your campaign.

By creating a Campaign Agenda specific to you, your players, your vision, and your game, you’ll have a fantastic checklist to:

  • Help when the panic sets in
  • Guide your campaign design and prep
  • Guide your GMing and improv

I think a great Campaign Agenda involves 4-8 goals with a short example or description of what each goal means so we can orient ourselves fast when needed.

For example, RPT GM Manos sent me these for his campaign in response to the Campaign Vision tip:

My campaign can be perfect after I manage to:

  • Set the atmosphere of the adventure (it’s in the Underdark) better
  • Keep the pace of the adventure flowing
  • Introduce the BBEG so the PCs can know who they are after
  • Introduce some great NPCs

Your Campaign Agenda is both guidance for ideal GMing according to your style, and guidance on building your best campaign ever for your specific game.

Actions & Aspects

Here’s the challenge. Let’s take five minutes now to log a Campaign Agenda for ourselves.

Log 4-8 bullet points with brief descriptions that answer these two questions:

  • What actions can you take to bring your Campaign Vision to the table during gameplay?
  • What aspects of your GMing bring out the best campaign moments?

Here’s a first draft for Hobo Princes:

  • Give Evil the Upper Hand => Evil is winning in Duskfall…for now.
  • Make Life Hard => Duskfall needs heroes but trust comes slow. Average NPCs are tough.
  • Factions Create Conflict => Build ambitious factions. When in doubt make a bold Faction Move.
  • Build Spikes of Danger => Difficult adventure sites with great rewards.
  • Personalize Rewards => Transform +1s into meaningful boons. Powerful NPCs and Spikes of Danger have the best treasure.
  • Create the Fantastical => Make things wondrous, larger than life, a bit over the top.
  • Make a Move => If unsure, be aggressive with the milieu — NPCs, factions, environment. Create Events and Dilemmas for PCs to deal with.

Two Quick Tips

Start each agenda item with a verb. Give yourself clear guidance on an action you can take to run your best campaign ever.

Also, add only what needs reminding. Don’t include what you do naturally. I’m already a fan of the characters. I name every NPC. I want to stay inside the fiction as much as possible.

Let Me Know How It Goes

My Campaign Agenda helps me take action and focus on what I sometimes forget or neglect.

I will be playtesting it and letting you know if I have any additional tips or thoughts on this tool. If you take me up on the challenge, I’d love to see your Campaign Agenda. Email it to me when you have a chance.