Pre-Campaign Checklist => How to Escape Your Skull
Posted by: Jendor -- November 24, 2014


By Johnn Four

Everybody gets trapped in their own skull. We dream, and think, and dream some more. We develop something to the point we're ready to game it, and realize there's other people on the planet who might not like the same things we do.

Our players, for instance.

Save yourself a lot of headaches and heartaches by collaborating with your group a bit before you go too far down the hole. Get out of your own skull and build what others want to play too.

Here's a short list of questions you might ask over beers with your group. Pick and choose the questions you want, then get answers as soon as you can.


Who wants to play?
Who are the characters supposed to be?
Who is the villain?


What game system? What genre?
What's the theme, sub-genre, or flavor? What's the tone? Horror, comedy, gritty sword & sorcery?
What should the party composition be? What key character roles are needed?
What is going on that requires the characters' attention?
What happens if the characters do nothing?
What is your game pitch to entice the players?
What do you want to avoid? Behavior, situations, Bob for a character name


What world or universe? Published setting or homebrew? Is your homebrew ready for play?
Where will characters adventure? Should they prep for hot deserts, cold glaciers, sea battles?
Where will game sessions be held?
Where will the campaign ideally go? What's the critical path walkthrough?


What's the timeline and recent history?
When does the adventure start?
When will you play? When can everybody make it?


Why should the players get involved? What's their stake in it?
Why will this campaign be fun for you?
Why will this campaign be fun for each player?
Why will this campaign be cool for each character? (Tip: Ask players what they want)
Why should the party stick together?


How many players and characters? How many will show up each time, on average?
How much and what kind of contribution do you want from each player?
How does the party form? How do the characters trust each other?
How will character actions make a difference?
How deadly is the campaign? Should players expect frequent character deaths, or are the PCs protected by plot armor?
How does each PC fit into the plot? How would the campaign be different if a PC wasn't there?

How Much

How much time do you have to prep?
How much time do you and the others have to play?
How long do I want this campaign to last?
How much does everyone want to play this campaign?
How much shit and abuse will the GM screen take? (Joking. No, not really, have a thick screen. I'm speaking metaphorically here.)?

The longer you stay in your own skull, the bigger the gap will be between the other skulls in your game.

Get out there and ask your group some questions so you can make your next campaign the baddest, evilest, funnest campaign you've ever gamed.

Thanks to Alan Kellogg, Brent Newhall, Darren Priddy, Gavin Steele, James Young, Jesse Cohoon, Matt Ross, Nathan Meyer, Paul Kießhauer, Peter Maranci, Shannon Mac, and the Game Master Tips Group for supplying these fantastic questions.
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