Going Epic (2 of 4) – Keys to Building, Playing and Ending the Epic Story
Yesterday we discussed how to get started off on the right foot with your campaign to arrive at an epic campaign. In particular, we went over the importance of building a skeletal framework for your story goals, getting to the epic finale.
Today we’re going to put a little flesh on that skeleton by giving another bullet point:
ESTABLISH JUSTIFIABLE GOALS
(or those without history are doomed to repeat themselves)
After you’ve constructed your loose framework, a GM needs to determine what the goals of his villains are going to be. Is your villain bent on revenge? Maybe world domination? If so, it’s important to start smaller, like controlling the highways through bands of thugs that generate revenue for the villain and his armies. A GM setting out the right goals for his villain may very well find the plot of their story writing itself. This is all part of building a history for your antagonists, which will help to guide their actions and master plan, affecting the lives of the characters as a result.
These are good points to keep recorded and fall back on when plots get complicated or motivations muddled. They may change depending on what the characters do, but looking back to these principal goals will keep the Villain’s actions logical, which becomes very important when you try to throw a plot twist in here or there.
Additionally, I’ve found it helpful as a GM to sit down with players to establish character goals. This helps to figure out what they want to get out of the game as a player and as a character, and can help you to find a way to let them tell their story. Even if minimal, every character should have some sort of story to tell when building the epic campaign. Epic campaigns take time to play, and no one wants to play with a two dimensional cardboard cutout of a fighter, even if they’re used to it. Characters without backstory might have a few shining moments that define them, but are likely to be similiar to every other character of the same race and class. This is especially so in some editions that don’t allow the rules to signficantly differentiate the character from another of the same type.
Building your campaign to address player goals (sometimes by creating character specific problems that the entire party can then help solve) creates situations where each player can shine. In my current campaign, the story was built around resolving different dilemmas that were specific to each character. The problems were global and personal, so the entire party could participate, but one or two characters got their chance to shine at some step along the way. The players appreciated the attention, and grew their characters all the more for the appreciation of their part of the story. Just remember to give everyone equal time in the spotlight, or you might see a little resentment from those waiting for their turn to shine.
Next time, we’re going to address the nature of villains and henchmen, and how to make player’s seethe when you mention their names… I have to admit, this is one of my specialties.
If you missed it, here is part one.