Campaign Creation Part 1 – Finding Your Setting

Well hello there, thanks for dropping by… I’m the latest of
Lo’s recruits to the House’s staff – we’re going to need a bigger place very
soon. I’ve been asked to write a series of articles on, well, whatever I like.
But before I do that however, I should introduce myself. I’ve been a gamer for
a long time, a cynic for longer and an optimist for at least ten minutes. I’ve
run many (perhaps far too many) different RPGs in my time and played numerous
game systems, and changed armies in those game systems far more than my gaming
friends could possibly keep track of. My reason for this is narrative, the
background. The fluffy fluff, if you will. If I can’t engage with a story or a
setting, I lose interest and the models go sailing upon the Bay of e. That
doesn’t mean I give every single Space Marine a name and a voice in my head
(not every marine), but it means I
want there to be a reason they’re out there on that flat piece of wood against
the other player’s characters. The crux of it is that I like to tell stories, hear
stories being told, and to see them unfold in front of me. 
So, with this in mind, let us start at the beginning…
Its all very simple

My first series of posts is going to look at the basics (and
slightly more involved bits) of running a series of games in the form of a
campaign and the logistical issues found therein. We’ll look at everything from
creating your campaign, managing players and creating the games themselves. All
of this assumes that you have a group of people who when you ask the question “Urm, wanna play a campaign?” say yes.
On most occasions, they also will now expect that you’ll run it and have it
ready for them to pick holes within the coming 24 hours but it’s not quite that
easy. The first question you have to ask yourself, now that you’ve realised
you’re running it, is deciding if you are going to create your own or run an
existing campaign. For this article, I’m going to assume your creative juices
are flowing like special brew down a tramps throat and
you want to make something special happen. If you’re going to use an existing
campaign, the following articles are going to be more use to you directly but
the following might just give you an idea of a different slant you could put on
So, where and when is your campaign going to happen?
Depending on your game system this varies greatly in
complexity. If you’re playing a historical game (FOW etc), your areas are limited, but this is not a limitation. It’s a solid framework from
which you can work and plan out geographical areas of conflict. If your group
also plays that game regularly, you’ll probably have the terrain in place for
it and the forces each player has may dictate the time period too, but this just helps you set the scene. If you are
playing a non-historical game, you have a lot more scope but the margin for
error also increases.
Picking and creating your area of conflict
Its important to know the armies players are bringing before
you pick a location. Using the example of 40k, if all the players are
Imperials, no need for it to be set in the lap of the Chaos gods.
Alternatively, if they’re all Xenos, avoid Imperial worlds.
Much like an apparently moralistic NATO country seeking oil,
you need a reason for war to happen. Your best places to turn are the books
written on the universe by the creators as if you create something which sounds
cool to you, it might not to others and during the campaign the game’s creators
might just nullify your fluff with a release. I’m currently in the process of
creating a six-player, two-side 40k campaign for my gaming group (we will come
onto the managing the gamers in the next episode). The 40k universe has a lot
of history, I mean a LOT. The good thing about this is that there are plenty of
places for a bit of a fight to happen; the bad thing is that not many of the
planetary systems are detailed unless GW has done a campaign there. So with
that in mind, I’ve turned to the secondary form of their official canon – the
RPG games put out by Fantasy Flight Games (all of which are brilliant by the
way – except Only War, which is shite) (I mean, “Oooo, let’s play as guardsman against
a tyranid invasion
” – that’s only going to end one way). 
Once you’ve picked your place, think about the terrain you
have available to use. You can’t base it on a snowy world if everybody has the
green, green grass of home for their gaming tables. A particularly nice piece
of terrain you have access to might just be the inspiration for the final
battle of your campaign – maybe a key objective is there that needs to be
grabbed, or maybe that’s where the princess is to be rescued (unlikely, in 40k,
but still…Unless she is an alien, likely to kill you when you try to rescue her, with her four arms and
claws for hands… Now that’s a 40k princess right there!). Use what you know you
have available. Use the knowledge you have around you too – place names can
come from local, real life places just tarted up a bit to the universe of your
setting work great if you can’t find actual places in the canon.
Once you have a place and you know the players’ armies, all
you need to do is create a hook – a reason for them to be there. Depending on
how you feel, you might want to do a little narrative story to introduce the
campaign and bring the players in… I’ll leave you with a short introduction
I’ve used for a Dark Heresy RPG game, just to set the scene… 

The Calixus region is
under Imperial rule, but as any Imperial sector near the Halo Stars and the Eye
of Terror would be, it is not forgiving. Nevertheless, it is the sector in
which you have all been individually trained and have gained the skills to
date. It is at this point that we begin… 
Your inquisitor Gammis
Turek has asked you to watch over the upcoming planetary elections on the
planet of Sophano Tertius, which as the name suggests the third largest planet
in the Sophano system. The outgoing governor (Alexis Kalem, of the Kalem noble
house) was assassinated in a trade dispute by a rival noble house (the Gor
noble house), all of whom have been put to death by the arbiters of the planet.
This happened 19 days ago on the second of the month and the election is in
another 14 days. 
Inquisitor Turek
believes this to be an easy first assignment as any challenge to the Imperial
rule on the planet is met with swift retribution by the security council’s
leader, Horatio McCallister – a retired Imperial Guard company commander. As
such, the crime rate is low and the population are generally law abiding. Your
presence on the planet is to be used primarily as a show of support from the
Imperium to the planetary arbiters. You are to report back at the culmination
of the election and to only contact Turek if it is an urgent matter.
It is a planet used
frequently on trade routes for restocking of supplies due to the natural
opulence of food from the planets farming industries and this was the industry
of the two noble houses. Sixty per cent of the planet is water, with a further
thirty five per cent dedicated to farm land and only five per cent the
sprawling city port of Zimbra. Elections of the planetary governor occur every
four years, with the previous incumbent in his role for just over three years
in which no scandals or disasters occurred and the planet continued to trade
and serve the Imperium faithfully.
By coincidence, the
upcoming election falls three days after the seven-day summer harvest festival
on Sophano Tertius, where annual celebrations are planned at the city of Zimbra
which most inhabitants have been planning for throughout the previous year.
This brings travellers from nearby Imperial planets for both trade and
celebration, and is the small planet’s only real occasion. 
Each of you have been
given your dispatch orders and have boarded the imperial mining vessel Liparus
to meet with your new team for the first time. The Liparus is a large
freighter, even by Imperial standards with crew based in different areas of the
ship. You are all given quarters near the waste disposal and filtration units
as they were unsurprisingly unoccupied. The directions you are given to this
area are vague to say the least and after over half a day of travelling around
the ship’s corridors, you eventually arrive at your rooms. The two day journey
from Port Gavinus, a popular commercial shipping station in the Golgenna Reach,
to the farming world of Sophano Tertius does not require warp travel as it is
within the sector and would involve re-entry near an asteroid belt, but you are
made very aware by the few crew that you see during the voyage that this
enforced detour is slowing their delivery of cargo to the Drusus Marches, which
itself is just a short warp jump away. During the journey you take the
opportunity to familiarise yourselves with each other and exchange numerous
tales of your training and lives to date as there is very little else to do on
the ship. You receive an internal vox transmission from the bridge notifying
you that your drop point is now only two hours away and you are to make yourselves
ready to leave ‘as soon as possible’. 
Upon arriving at the
hanger bay, you find a disgruntled pilot stood in the loading bay of a relic of
a drop ship which dates from a bygone era. He beckons you aboard as you
approach, but moves quickly to the cockpit avoiding any dialogue and shuts the
door firmly behind him. Clearly he has some form of cameras in the storage area
as no sooner are your feet clear of the rear hatch, pneumatic hisses sound as
the door is swiftly closed and locked. You see a number of bench seats in a
small section of the cargo bay and quickly make your way there as the engines
begin to increase in volume. You stumble upon the pressurisation and oxygen
‘on’ switches for the hold on your way and quickly scramble to turn them on prior
to taking up your seats. The craft’s sudden acceleration sends you back into
your seats but the journey through to the planet’s system takes less than ten
minutes. A textbook landing with surprising grace is quickly followed by the
rear hatch door creaking open as the pneumatics are called into use again and
the pressurisation and oxygen supplies automatically click off. 
After the journey in
pitch darkness with only a number of red and green illuminated switches for
light, the brightness of the day on Sophano Tertius makes you cover your eyes
as you disembark into the port of Zimbra . It is a bright, humid day and the
elevated position of the landing pad gifts you a commanding view over the space
port and the city, which appears to sprawl in each direction. You collect you
belongings and disembark, heading along the gantry to the main complex when the
door opens and you are greeted by a man dressed in lavish clothes, with a big
grin on his face. “Welcome to Zimbra! A good journey I trust?”

Thanks for reading so far. Next time we’ll look at the
organisation and scheduling for a campaign, followed by mission creation and
finally putting it all together. Questions, comments, feedback all welcome! 
You can also follow my blog over at
for more details on my projects and campaign.

You may also like...