Sunday, March 24, 2024

Thought: Players, not the GM, are Responsible for Campaign Continuity

Thought: Players, not the GM, are Responsible for Campaign Continuity
This last week (or so) I have noticed that I haven't slung dice since maybe before Thanksgiving(?), even if I had since then it definitely was last year, so like....WTF? Work has been keeping me busy, but that's like a M-F endeavor that so doesn't impede on the normal every-other-Friday night game.

Now I'm not calling out my GM, which I probably should......but I realized that I was getting a weak-ass fix by playing a turn-based "RPG" on my Xbox....it's more like sustenance-gaming, just enough to take off the edge of withdrawal. Kind of like a Vampire feeding off of cow's blood. Sure, it'll kind of get the job done, but just isn't the same.

Now as much as it might feel good to throw my GM under the bus for me not playing, and I'm only saying this for sake of my fellow players who I know read this, I should have options.....and one of those options is to once again pick up the GM shield again...

....so I have been thinking heavily about running a game again, but I haven't broached the subject with anyone until now (SURPRISE fuckers!, I mean fellow players who read this...)

As is (probably) natural, I've been thinking of my last campaign. It was a current-edition (low magic fantasy) HackMaster game set in the last-edition (High Magic fantasy) game world, with a plausible (if you take the last two national-level tournaments as cannon) backstory explaining the transition from magic-rich to magic-poor. I had a blog for the campaign which is somewhat broken as I had hosted portions, mostly graphics, on my own domain. I fixed part of it today, so if anyone is interested (https://garweezewurld.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-adventure-begins-16th-haarkiev.html).

The whole idea wasn't so much to keep an online journal for sharing, but to help me keep track of NPCs and past events. The blog really was too much work, mostly because of the graphics. I should have used something like Tiddlywiki instead.

Reviewing all this info I have come to what might be an unpopular opinion: It is not the responsibility of the GM to provide campaign continuity.

As the GM I want to create the game world and let the players loose in it. I decide some big-picture stuff that'll happen to the game world and as the players interact, if they change to course of things I'll adjust and if they don't well the big things still happen. As far as actual campaign continuity, well that's the player's responsibility. As the GM I put things together and the players do what they do. As they discover and interact with the world, the onus is on them to remember the NPCs and to enjoy or suffer the repercussions of their interactions.

It is also the responsibility of the players to "pass down" information to other players and other player characters. If there is a total party wipe (Total Party Kill) then I hope the players arranged for some manner of contingency. Henchmen or protégés need to be created before the PCs kick the bucket specifically so that campaign information doesn't die out. 

This why I like when GMs don't necessarily ensure the party knows exactly what they're fighting unless they've met one/some before. I think the whole aspect of exploration, in every sense of the word, is... underrepresented in a lot of games. The big strokes for sure, but the little things that would actually be new to the PCs.....not so much. I know it's more difficult for players to not go off of player knowledge, but when PCs encounter zombies (for example) for the 1st time, that should be a HOLY SHIT moment for them. Hell, even with the glut of video games, movies, and TV shows with zombies in them....can you imagine how freaked out you'd be in real life if you stumbled across some zombies?!

I like it when games have a mechanic for these first-time interactions with what should be some horrific/strange/otherworldly encounters. Subsequent times not so big of a deal and if the party can maintain that campaign continuity then maybe those subsequent PCs can not be as scared/subject to penalty.

As a GM one of the ways I've encouraged players to do this campaign continuity, maintenance really, is to provide some bonus XP for keeping campaign journals. In-game they are remittances "back home" to those henchmen or protégés and allow the transfer of XP from one PC to another. This is really a HackMaster (4th edition) concept, so I'm just giving the broad strokes. PCs can funnel XP to future PCs essentially through "adventuring through correspondence", allowing for these future PC to not have to start at 1st level.

Just some thoughts I'm tossing "out there" as I'm contemplating a new campaign when I pick up the mantle of GM once again.


  1. Oooo, looking forward to this. The GM has been nagging me to take up the mantle, but I'm not the Adobe master he is and I don't want to push everyone into Roll20 or some such online interface. Looking forward to this, Chris!

    1. I have a couple of minor technical issue to figure out, but should have word within the next few weeks.

  2. Your insights on campaign continuity are thought-provoking. It's refreshing to see a focus on player responsibility in maintaining the narrative fabric of the game world. Your use of a blog for campaign management is intriguing; it's a shame it became too labor-intensive. Have you considered using different tools or platforms for future campaigns? Looking forward to hearing more about your GM adventures!


    1. I have, but only for personal use in order to maintain my side of things.

  3. Ensuring the players have fallback characters is one thing I plan on doing in my own next campaign. I'm going to pull out the idea of the character tree from the 2nd Edition Dark Sun rules, and that should solve the issue. I've got a lot of work in front of me educating folks that haven't played versions of the game where henchmen and hirelings are actually important, so I'll try to combine these ideas.


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