Campaign of the Month: September 2012
A Manifestation of Chaos
In the sections below I have laid out the rules that I use for my Pathfinder campaigns. For a few of the reasons below; I feel that it is necessary for all the players to be on the same page.
- Documentation of rules policies help all players assimulate into the group and demostrates rule transparency for all group members.
- The core rules are designed to allow multiple Dungeon Masters to preside within the same campaign. The core rules establish a universal set of guidelines for dungeon masters on some of the more open-ended rules for the D&D Game and any rule improvements/clairifications that we have made over the course of playing the ruleset. This allows the campaign to maintain Rule and Campaign continuity. It also helps to prevent dungeon master or story-line burnout. In my group the core rules supersedes any of the published rules for the D&D game.
Personal Guidelines for Members:
All of us have gamed for some time, and even though it would seem simple that adults should behave as adults; that is not always the reality. All we really ask is that if you’re going to play in our group, please try to follow the golden rule and please be mindful of the six items below.
- It’s just a game and a piece of paper.
- Please call, e-mail, or text if you cannot make it or will be late. (We understand that things come up; we really do, just let us know).
- Cell-phones need to be turned to silent and any calls that need to be made or received are to be done away from the table. We prefer that texting at the table be kept to a minimum.
- The group will set an official start time and day, ending time varies but not wildly. Currently our game plays 2 (Sometimes 3) Sunday’s a month, We have a target goal of 30 sessions a year, and through out this campaign we have met that goal. Currently our start time is at 3 pm and we generally play until around 10 pm. We keep the schedule fluid to adapt to the needs of the players; we do try to schedule the session dates out at least 2 sessions in advance.
- The attending members, if asked to will stay and help clean up the gaming area.
- Session MVP – at the end of the gaming session the players may choose the player character whose character best contribution to that night’s session. MVP status may be determined for most any reason the players see fit. (The DM receives no vote on this; however the DM may rescind the award if he feels it is being abused). Players receive ONE Player Reward Point per MVP vote they get.
Player Character Privileges:
- You have the privilege to roll your own stats, to hit rolls, damage rolls, most saving throws, and most skill checks. (Certain checks need to be made by the DM in order to minimize meta-gaming.
- Player characters also may run their own henchmen provided they run them fairly.
Rules for Dungeon Masters:
Our game has a really unique and ambitious DM System, I am the primary DM, however I have a number of players whom are also good DM’s, so we take full advantage of that by using our core rules/unified system, so that each DM can preside over the current campaign. This has several benefits but the primary benefits are rule and campaign stability.
- It is up to the group as to how many characters go on an adventure and what classes will make up that group. However no player can run more than one character (plus henchmen if they are available). If the party feels that they need more help it is up to them and the DM to find a solution. (A few suggestions would be NPC’s, mercenaries, or hirelings.)
- The Dungeon Master is not allowed to run player characters during the adventures he is presiding over.
- Guest Dungeon Masters must follow and enforce all of the gaming group core rules.
- The DM decides any and all bonuses/penalties to experience points, although if the player inquires about the reasons for a bonus or penalty; the DM should be able to explain such decisions.
- Persons wishing to DM for this group must have at least 1 year of playing time with this group.
- In the event that there are several DM’s rotating adventures for the group a DM’s decision from one adventure cannot be rescinded by a different DM. The DM that made the decision has authority over the matter. Examples of this are but are not limited to, if a player character receives an experience point penalty or bonus, wishes, curses, the cost of a special item, etc. This insures that the DM’s are not played against one another or that the players cannot wait for “the so called easy-going DM” to make the decisions.
- The Dungeon Masters rulings are final, if there is a problem with a ruling in game it may be brought to the attention of the DM but when he makes the call, that is the call, after the game if the subject merits discussion it will be added to the forums for discussion on non-gametime and the issue will be resolved in the minutes of the next session.
Challenging a Dungeon Master’s Decision:
This group has put a lot of time and effort into studying and comprehending the rules of the game. Even with the many steps we have taken to minimize bad rulings, you must realize that bad calls may happen from time to time; not even someone as brilliant as myself could possible memorize every rule for the Pathfinder edition. As frustrating as a bad ruling is for a player or the DM himself, it becomes much more frustrating for a DM; when his players seem to question him on every ruling, or constantly seek to twist every rule or situation to whatever favors the PC’s the most at that moment.
This type of rules lawyering is detrimental not only to the DM, (as it undermines his authority) but to the game as a whole. I can tell you from personal experience there is nothing that kills a gaming session quicker than a prolonged in game rules debate. Our group does not mind if a player has a question or concern about a rule, if this comes up during the game just let the DM and other players know that you have a question and we will discuss it. The way it normally goes is that we spend a few minutes talking about it and the DM makes a “Game time” ruling and we go on from there.
At the end of the gaming session any rulings that the group has questions or concerns about will be added to the rules queries section of the minutes to be addressed prior to the start of the next session. The group members will then have until the next gaming session to research it thoroughly. We use the portal forums to discuss these concerns so that the minutes are kept to a manageable amount of time. During the minutes any outstanding rule questions will be resolved for how our group wants to handle that situation from that point on.
Expectations of Group Members:
Our group is an older and mature group of friends, who all have busy lives outside of the game. We place a premium on our free time and what we choose to do with our free time. We try to set a high standard to make the game enjoyable and fair for everyone; part of this requires that every member be held to the same standard procedures. While the requirements are essential to everyone’s enjoyment of the game, we also put a lot of extra effort into the game and encourage, support, and reward participation and input on all levels from members. We envision that the best experience is constructed through mutual effort: cooperation, creativity, and development. However, we are all busy and the game’s primary purpose is for the relaxation and enjoyment of its members. The purpose of the extra effort is to enhance an experience, not to burden our lives with more responsibilities
Required: (when we ask you to do this, we really mean do it as soon as possible):
- Post Character Sheets: Members must keep a copy of his character sheet up to date with the DM and here on the portal. This sheet really only needs to be e-mailed and posted at each level. I do not expect or require that it be updated every session, but in case of absence it is encouraged that the sheet be updated so that the player who is playing your character has the most current information at hand.
- Use “The Only Sheet:” To maintain consistency and ease organization, we require that you use “The Only Sheet,” which is an Excel based character sheet. It is not an arduous process, and The Only Sheet has a macro that creates an HTML version of your sheet which can then easily be cut and pasted to your character’s portal site in less than 5 minutes. If for some reason YOU absolutely cannot use TOS, then you will be expected to meet the criteria of having an up to date electronic character sheet with me and on the portal with a sheet of your choice.
- Develop a Biography: Each character you create should also have a brief biography. A DM will be able to help players who need ideas, but the biography should be at least a paragraph long and explain the basic background of the character. This goes on the portal site for your character.
- Minutes: Players are required to participate in and, at times, record minutes. Recording minutes includes noting the pre-game group discussion as well as telling important storyline events that unfold during the game. Although the task of recording minutes usually falls to a player who volunteers, the DM may require a player to do this in the absence of volunteers. (At our current number of members, the worst case scenario is that you may be asked to do minutes 3 to 4 times a year).
Optional (when we ask you to do this, we mean only if you feel like it):
- Visit Forums: Many group discussions have to be resolved via the web site, because there is not enough time before the game to hash out every aspect of a complex problem. We would encourage regularly visiting the forum section of the portal site to stay aware of group discussions.
- Web Business: Participation in keeping the portal website up-to-date can be a time-consuming task, and any help from players in posting the adventure log, pictures, and overall maintenance is appreciated. If we come up with a better way to present the information, we may ask for help with updating to a new style. These tasks are optional.
- Try DMing: While players are not required to DM, anyone who has been a part of the group for a year can arrange to DM a few sessions. This makes it more fun for everyone who regularly DMs, and usually being the DM is just as fun as well—though more challenging.
- Refreshments: We don’t require people to supply food or drinks or share what they bring, but usually a spirit of generosity prevails, particularly with the beverages.
- Brainstorming: We like to generate new content for the game and web, and anyone willing to roll up their sleeves and generate new content will find ample opportunity to use their skills. Sometimes we even get together to discuss ways we would like to alter the look or content of the portal site. These meetings are optional.
- Try Something: On sporadic, unusual occasions, the DM will get a hankering and be prompted to want to try something for a future game session that may require some extra preparation from players. These tasks are not required, but there may have a lull while the events related to the side tasks unfold.
- Have Fun: Sometimes we will try to arrange a group event, such as a board game or movie. Any player retains good standing without being a part of such events.
The following procedures have been implemented, to cut down the amount of wasted time during the gaming session. Group positions are handled by volunteer, with a PRP incentive, if there is a lack of volunteers (has never happened) then the position will be assigned and rotated so that each group member will perform each position at least once before they are assigned it again.
- The DM will record the group members hit points, armor classes and curative spells to make combat run more smoothly.
- The group will ask for / elect a minute’s recorder and an inventory recorder before the session starts. The elected players / volunters will keep these positions until the start of the next adventure.
- The minute’s recorder takes down pertinent information for the gaming session. This includes the date of the session, time began and ended, group members in attendance, members late or absent, Group business: present and future, the results of votes, rules clarifications, standing policies, and a summary of what happened in game during the session. This is to be typed up and distributed to me before the next gaming session. I will then put it on the portal so all can access it.
- The inventory recorder keeps track of all the treasure found during the adventure (this sheet is handed to the DM at the conclusion of the adventure.) The inventory recorder also sets up the marching order and a guard duty roster before play begins. The inventory recorder / myself also keeps track of all items possessed by the group and updates it on a perpetual method.
- Out of initiative rolls and saving throws will be done in an orderly fashion as determined by the DM. Failure to adhere to this may force the DM to arbitrarily decide that you fail the roll. (Note: One warning will be given.)
- Anything that is rolled for on the percentile dice. Will be rolled for with a tens dice (if you do not have a tens dice I will provide one for you.)
- If a character breaks a law, such as killing a bartender in a bar room fight; I suggest using the article Crime and Punishment in Dragon Magazine #136, or the section on crime in the Hackmaster DM’s Guide.
Experience Point Incentives:
Experience point incentives are offered to those members who performed services for the group such as party record-keeping, typing things up, providing a place to play, bringing food and soda to the game for others to consume, etc. It is the consensus of the group that such incentives encourage the spirit of camaraderie and volunteerism. Group positions are detailed in Group Procedures. It should be noted that if a player is exceptionally good at a certain position then the group may petition the DM that said player should be allowed to retain the position indefinitely. (If the DM grants an experience point bonus for group positions it should never exceed more than 10% of the experience point gain for the gaming session).
DM Experience Points:
When a person DM’s a session they will receieve the base amount of xp for that session as well as the average of the in game bonus xp awarded. The DM is not eligible for out of game bonus xp that is related to DM’ing or MVP PRP. A DM may still receieve out of game bonus xp for group and portal projects.
Absent Player(s) Experience Points:
Normally, when a player misses, that persons character half of the base xp for the session. This has not been a big deal because at low levels missing a PC in a group this size usually does not have a lot of ramifications. As a group increases in level; the ramifications of when a PC is missing increases. In many cases, the ramifications are disproportionately against the group.
We are all going to miss from time to time. I do not want to start legislating xp based on the type of excuse, we are all grown men. I hope that all of us have the understanding that when we committed to this group, that we made a commitment to not only the game but to each other as well. Our standards for quality have been set high to provide a better and realer game that all of us have been striving for however, in some cases there does have to be some suspension of disbelief, in order not to get bogged down.
Death is part of the game. No doubt whenever a PC dies in hands other than that PC’s originating player, the originating player is going to potentially feel like had he been there it would have been different. That feeling is natural and in many cases not unwarranted. Creating a PC is a personal process that may involve a lot of work. Truthfully, no one should know your PC as well as you. Trusting your creation to another is perhaps the highest compliment that you can pay to your fellow group members. That being said, if a player is not comfortable with a another player running his PC than that should not be taken as a slight it should be looked at as an opportunity to man up your game until that player trusts you to run his PC.
Here are phases to address this scenario:
- The Players must individually decide if they want their PC to be available when they are not present.
- In order to be played at all the PC’s character sheet must be up to date and ready to go.
- The player should choose from the options of having another member of the group play his PC, having the DM play their PC or not having their PC played at all. This choice should be on record and in no case will the PC be passed off to someone not approved to play it.
Absent Player Policy:
- If a PC is ran in absentia by another player, then the absent player receives 90% XP with the remainder 10% going to the player who assisted as bonus XP to their character.
- If the PC is run in absentia by DM, then the absent player’s PC receives 80% XP.
- If the PC is not run, then the absent player’s PC receives 50% XP. In this case XP is not taken from the group for the absent player’s XP. I do this because if someone has to miss – it is usually because “they have to miss” – A person should not be punished for responsibilities outside of the game.
It should be mentioned that the DM is a busy guy and that the PC more likely would be less effective in his hands than another players. Also of note: at higher levels with higher level encounters, a few 50% sessions could potentially result in a level difference.
The hardest part of this is the out of combat, in character decisions, all we can do is try to be true to what we believe that the character would actually do based on his past actions.
We try not to have to do this but sometimes real life happens and it is unavoidable. The Group does have a standing policy to cancel a session if half the group or more cannot make the session.
Recruiting Group Members:
There comes a time in any gaming group where member attrition takes its toll and new members must be inducted to keep the group viable. There are many opinions as to what the perfect number of players for a group is. I tend to like larger groups for many reasons. (It gives the players a little more leeway to experiment with class/race options, someone can miss a session without having the game canceled for everyone, and it allows the players more resources to complete the adventure). Group size is a matter of group choice however for my groups I like to have a minimum of 5 players plus a Dungeon Master, to a maximum of 8 players plus a Dungeon Master.
Even though it is a game; the truth is, a group must have standards as to whom they will game with and whom they will not. Nothing and I mean nothing is more disruptive to a gaming group than members who do not get along or cannot work together. Second to personal compatibility is a willingness to put the interest of the group ahead of the interest of the individual. (These are first and foremost what we look for when we recruit a potential member).
An ideal recruit should also meet the following criteria:
- Be recommended to the group by an existing group member. (There are times we also recruit by advertisement).
- Over the age of 25 (preferably in late-twenties to mid thirties)
We give new members up to a 4 session trial period. Then take a vote on the candidate’s membership, simple majority determines the outcome. In the result of a tie, I will make the decision.
We are aware that there may be times where a group member’s real life gets too busy to attend the game but the circumstances causing the member’s absence are expected/known to be temporary. In such cases the member goes on “Hiatus” – His character is placed on NPC Status and will generally written out of the storyline with a side arc. Hiatus generally involves time periods ranging from 1 to 4 months. At the end of the 4th month the member and I will talk about whether they expect to be able to return or not.
During Hiatus, I will then take over the maintenance of the character and will make all decisions regarding that character (I will of course do so in the best interest of the character and if the member on hiatus is able to provide input; said input will be honored. A Character on Hiatus earns 100% of the base xp and gold that the other players earn during this time.
Withdrawing from the Group:
We all have responsibilities in the real world and sometimes those responsibilities leave no time for gaming. Our group realizes that it is inevitable; that a time will come, when a member must willingly leave the group. A group member, who leaves in good standing with the group, is always more than welcome to rejoin the group if they are able to.