Yesterday was the first meeting of my new Labyrinth Lord game, the one I’ve been harping on, creating a wiki for, and spent almost the last year-and-a-half writing notes for. It was this campaign that would feature Stonehell as the “tent pole dungeon” and whose geography would be based on the Outdoor Survival map. We’d be using Labyrinth Lord as the rules engine, but a modified version that included some of my homebrewed ideas that have appeared on this blog such as new classes, random tables and charts, and other bits of miscellanea that have accrued since this site first came into being. Yes, one could say that I had the lion’s share of background work completed for the game.
I trashed all of it 48 hours before the game began.
It started simply enough. A few days ago, I briefly mentioned the importance of finding (or rediscovering) my “referee voice”: that which makes my own game sessions unique from someone else’s. This got me thinking about what fires my imagination and stimulates my creative energies. As I pondered this, I realized that my likes and dislikes have changed over the years. I won’t say evolved, as that implies that they were once inferior to those I possess now, which is not the case. They’re merely different.
Unfortunately, my longtime campaign world is very much reflective of my older tastes. Having been my default homebrew world for more than a decade, it was a place greatly influenced by what I was playing and reading in the years prior to its creation. And while it remains a place close to my heart, it just wasn’t conducive to the elements that interest me at this period in my life. Certainly I could make them fit, but it would involve a great deal of smashing round pegs into square holes.
The other strike against my default campaign setting was that it was too easy. Not for the players and their characters, but for myself. I’m very much at ease in that world and running a game in that setting seemed lazy to me. The whole purpose of this new Labyrinth Lord campaign is to stretch my creative muscles and see what might develop as we examine a “history that could have been” of the game. That simply wasn’t going to occur using my established world. So Friday night, I threw the whole thing out the window and started anew. And, all praise to my players, they were crazy enough to go along with me.
When we sat down today to make up characters, I told them what was on my mind and left the final decision in their hands. If they wanted to go on with the campaign as promised, I would do so without as much as a look behind us. If they were willing to trust me and go along with this crazy scheme of an almost completely undefined world, however, they might find themselves in for a much better experience.
Here’s the kicker, though: I even threw out the planned rules.
OK, maybe not really, but I decide at the 11th hour to use the Original Edition Characters rules instead of straight Labyrinth Lord, effectively trimming the allowed character class list to five instead of my proposed nineteen (I threw halflings from the OE rules under the proverbial bus).
So that’s how yesterday saw me starting a new campaign with only an inkling of an idea, a handful of literary references to use to sell this crazy plot, and an introductory scenario that I started writing at 9 PM on Saturday night and finished an hour before the game.
You know what? I think I made the right call. Not only did the players not mind, but I feel 100% more secure and excited about future sessions. I’ve got a ton of work to do in the next two weeks before we meet again, but the prospects look good. Even the characters turned out to be pretty interesting (Note to self: when clerics make up a third of the party, the undead aren’t a big challenge).
I’ll be writing about this new campaign world in future posts. You’ll be learning about the campaign in real time along with me, because, right now, I’ve only got a few stray threads of ideas and a whole lot of good intentions. I aim to weave those all into something that challenges me as a referee, a designer, and, most importantly, as an entertainer. If my players are satisfied at the session’s end, I’ll consider myself a resounding success.