During this pandemic season, a lot of people are taking their games online in roll20 or Fantasy grounds. Some of these will be regular groups who cannot meet up just moving their campaign online. Other people are reaching out to join online games with people they have never played with before.
If you are in that latter group you probably don’t want to launch into a multi-year sprawling campaign. This is where the micro-campaign or campaign seed comes into its own.
There are two great formats for this.
The GRAmel model provides an introduction to a setting, a collection of setting specific monsters, so key NPCs, maybe some new equipment or magical items and any setting specific house rules. The third part is the a detailed multi-part adventure to showcase some or all of the above.
That package then forms about 30 to 40 pages. Enough to read through in an afternoon. The provided adventure is good for a few sessions and after that you can start to do your own world building to make the micro-setting your own.
The GRAmel versions are designed for their own RPG [Adventurers!] but there is no reason not to apply the same idea to Rolemaster or Space Master. It is only a document format afterall.
Within Without Beyond
The second option is called WWB and I believe originated with Warhammer WFRP. A world is described in terms of:
- The Enemy Within
- The Enemy Without
- The Enemy Beyond
In fantasy settings particularly a characters access to information about the world can be extremely limited. This format works by explaining the characters view of the world and then describing the internal threats from within their own society or culture.
The Enemy Without are threats from beyond the physical borders. They could massed armies on the borders, or political threats from rivals or invading tribes of fantastical beasts.
The Enemy Beyond is where magical or divine threats are described. Those mad cultists trying to bring dark gods back, just for a laugh, or the alignment of stars that are going to set free the devoured of worlds.
A fourth section in this format is a list of Adventure Ideas. These ideas make use of the internal and external threats to create adventure hooks that you can expand upon.
The GRAmel method is by far the more accessible. It is one step short of pick up and play. You do need to at least read it. Beyond that you have an adventure to run there and then and all the tools needed to make it work seemlessly.
The second method is one that has greater longevity. You could not possibly interweave every thread into a starting adventure without overwhelming new players and characters. What you can do is plant seeds that you can develop later and keep slowly building the complexity of the game world. You could choose just one element for your first foray into the campaign and as the characters world view expands you bring more elements into the mix.
I cannot say which is better. I don’t believe one is better than the other. I personally prefer the GRAmel method. They are more fun to plan and write for yourself. Most people can write that potted summary of their new fantasy world. It doesn’t have to a massive campaign setting source book. Just enough to set the tone. Once you have that you swap to making monsters, then NPCs and magic items.
This method is great fun to create. Nothing is overwhelming or to time consuming. You get to hop from one thing to another as your whim takes you.
If you prefer your fantasy more epic and sweeping, then I guess that the Enemy method is going to be more your style.
If you have time to kill, why not try making a micro setting. See if you enjoy it?