The story I have been told is that early adventure game campaigns featured adventuring parties of varying levels tromping across a small region pursuing their own interests, sending assassins after each other, and remaking local politics in their own pointy-hatted image. That sounds fun, but the realities of gaming for many modern people, myself included, often prevent a campaign that starts with a handful of rat-catchers and veterans to get there. A campaign format I would be interested in that could scratch that itch is what I have taken to calling the Every Corner campaign.
|box art by John Blanche|
First, the DM or the table designates about four to six major characters, the most interesting and powerful characters in a region-- names, classes, and one utmost desire. Your Aragorns, Gandalfs, and Saurons. In B/X terms, they're level 10-13. Then, they designate about double that number of intermediate characters: Theodins, Elronds, and Eowyns of level 5-9-- names and one utmost desire. By now, you should have a specific character as head of every important place and group in the land. Finally, come up with double that number of minor characters of level 2-4-- name and unique position in the world. Be sure to connect some of them as family, some as friends and lovers, etc.
These form the starting stable of PCs. Every interesting character in this region is playable from the onset, and the DM prepares a region that has challenges appropriate for all levels of play as well as procedures for domain management. It will probably come to pass that if a high-level character has some adventure they need to undertake, they will gather other characters around them. This can play like a normal adventuring party. Other times, a single player may schedule some time to pursue a PC's singular interest, and this can function like a limited Western Marches campaign.
Introducing level 1 characters should always be allowed, and if the DM has introduced NPCs of notable level, they should consider allowing them into the stable of potential PCs if their goals are clear enough for them to be interesting to play.
To try out how onerous or interesting this pitch would be, here's my outline for an Every Corner campaign set in Oylaosaga, which I generated in a recent blogpost.
- Oylao, dragon 13. Seeks to disassemble the March to his southeast.
- Emveu the Hateful Princess, gothic villain 10. Seeks to capture a dragon to again secure her rule.
- The Sister, dragon 11. Seeks to fully wake.
- Rizeuh, magic-user 12. Seeks to conquer monsters to secure the Sister's rule.
- Tecu the Miserable, cleric 10. Seeks a successor to guide the Enoidel People.
- Aurece, vampire 9. Seeks the love of Emveu. Mayor of a great March city.
- Udato, wemic 8. Seeks to exceed his mother in war. A nomad of the southern plains.
- Ilini, cleric 6. Seeks to redeem her pirate brother Ooska.
- I-u, magic-user 5. Seeks promises of protection for the Lake of Masks.
- Qage, lycanthrope 6. Seeks to control land west of the Shadow Mountains.
- Ousgo, fighter 8. High priest of the Raised Gardens. Seeks comfort above all.
- Uugen, fighter 6. Seeks the power to save his Enoidel people. Potentially a prophecied hero.
- Oezya, fighter 7. Seeks to cleanse the Old Capitol of monsters. State-made son of Oylao.
- Aande, thief 7. Seeks to bring her mother, Apava, back home safely to the Blue Mountains.
- Eisleer, thief 9. Seeks to control a prominent Marches mayor on behalf of the wizard Rizeuh, his father.
- Otere, magic-user 5. Seeks to make Odages Jungle independent.
- Autoq, cleric 4. Prophet of the faith of All-The-Sky-A-Rolling-Plain, going north to spread his message.
- Ioc, fighter 2. A warden and protector along the Abandoned Road of Tlen. State-made son of Oylao.
- Aliuh, magic-user 4. Lives in the Bog of the Sister as her honored half-sister.
- Ooska, thief 3. Slaver and smuggler connecting the Coast of Free Traders and the Trade Reserve.
- Aotzuza, magic-user 3. Passing herself off as a dragon apostle in teh Bog of Oylao.
- Eil, fighter 2. Waging a one-man war of revenge against partisans in the Child River.
- Ade, thief 4. Hunted for a secret she knows about the Fort Towns. State-made daughter of Oylao.
- Eucel, fighter 4. Seeking his fortune after living as a bandit in Sister's Hills. Old flame of the enchanter I-u.
- Apavu. cleric 2. Walks the Marches at night as a vigilante.
- Otedu, fighter 4. Trade Reserve. Guide and translator between plainsfolk and foreign traders.
- Usiji, cleric 3. Only survivor of a dark creeper attack in the Vassalwoods, wandering traumatized and alone.
- Uorus, magic-user 2. Vouchsafed Route. Escaped slave who knows the location of buried treasure.
- Einejex, magic-user 2. One of several minor apprentices to the great wizard Rizeuh.
- Atowisu, elf 3. Exiled plotter from beneath the earth, recently emerged from Ways of the Foreign Sky.
- Edi, dervish 2. Lifelong raider recently come into possession of a sword which speaks in his dreams.
- Adoin, cleric 3. Courtier advising the Hateful Princess. Daughter of the Sister, posing as a state-made daughter of Oylao.
- Uiskaas, bugbear 3. Witch-hunter and March celebrity. Secretly funds the partisan Qage.
- Okofa, thief 2. Relic-hunter and diver from the Bog of Oylao. Devout supporter of Otere.
- Igeud, magic-user 3. Exiled by her Enoidel people for making her trade as a poisoner.
- Oirelop, magic-user 4. Enoidel mystic and crab-rider. Believes himself the prophecied warrior Tecu claims to be.
- Yoso, fighter 4. Jolly murderer, lover of ale and dice. Old flame to Ilini, Otere, Einejex, Adoin, and Ooska.
This was fun, and coming up with characters like this with a full table of people could be even more fun. The next campaign I run, I will seriously consider doing something along these lines.