Campaign Qualities Are Like Feats For Game Worlds

FantasyCraft Cover

FantasyCraft Cover

I’m flipping through FantasyCraft, a new d20 OGL RPG from Crafty Games. The first place I always go to in such books is the game master section. And amongst the 80 pages or so that brim with great tips and advice in FantasyCraft, I home in on the world building section.

There I stumble on Campaign Qualities, which are like feats but for game worlds and campaigns. These are great! I love this idea. Here’s the section introduction from the game:

“No two fantasy worlds are the same — some are dominated by evil powers, others feature wild and terrible magic, and still others feature god-forsaken populations living and dying in brutal strife. The default Fantasy Craft rules are perfect for most fantasy gaming “out of the box” but when you’re looking for something a little different, or if your world diverges from traditional fantasy gaming, consider adding campaign qualities. These optional rules alter the system in small or dramatic ways to fit your world and vision. Everything from character creation to combat to magic and Alignment can be tweaked, granting absolute control over your game.”

This reminds me of a campaign I created one time where evil received +1 during darkness and good received +1 during daylight. There was backstory to all this, but that’s what it all boiled down to.

Examples of Campaign Qualities are:

  • Code of Honor – PCs have some behavior rules to abide by (“never strike an unarmed foe”) or risk losing points off the game’s Reputation mechanic. This is great for world builders as it allows GMs to bring their fluff into the realm of crunch when desired.
  • Miracles – Alignments grant fantastic powers.
  • Non-Scaling NPCs – The world has a set pecking order and if the heroes survive long enough, they’ll eventually reach the top. Every NPC and monster’s Threat Level is set when it’s introduced and never changes.

What makes one fantasy milieu different than another?

Think about the books you read and movies you watch. Sometimes the settings in them seem to suffer from Star Trek knuckle forehead syndrome – the worlds have a couple of differences but they’re just cosmetic.

Other times though, you feel like you’ve travelled to and experienced a wonderfully different place.

Part of the reason is detail. But another part of the equation is the meta rules, or qualities, of the milieu. A few basic qualities are different from other fictional universes, and when you extrapolate these into ramifications of game world, daily life, stories told, and encounters run, you get a strong feeling you’re in a fresh, new and interesting game environment.

For example, if being good or evil grants fantastic powers under certain conditions, then it makes life difficult for the fence sitters and ambivalent. Competition for survival would squeeze neutrals to the edge because they are at a disadvantage. So what would a world be like where strong faith of one sort or another is regularly rewarded with miracles?

Grow your own list of world feats

After you finish your next fantasy book or movie, take a few minutes to reflect on the setting and what made it different. Make notes on the meta rules you perceive operated in that universe. Grow this list over time and then tap it next game world you design or campaign environment you build.

Temporary Qualities bend reality

Another neat thing FantasyCraft does with Campaign Qualities is offer permanent and temporary varieties. The temporary Qualities are excellent tools for making encounters, locations, and sequences feel and play different. You’re doing more here than just making trees purple or running water uphill. You’re changing gameplay at the character level. You’re changing the in-game reality for characters and how they interface with the rules and giving them new options and conequences to weigh.

A classic example is the old D&D module Dungeonland. The PCs are shrunk down to smurf size. Suddenly everything old and boring is new and challenging for awhile. Temporary Qualities can help you bring wonder back into your games.

6 ways to use world feats or Campaign Qualities

  1. Change the rules of engagement. Switch up standard employer quests by using temporary world feats to make old challenges seem new again. For example, stake the heroes’ reputation on the outcome or in the way they achieve their goal.
  2. City building. A tricky part of world building is making cities feel unique. Solve this by using Campaign Qualities to create special local realities that impact all aspects of your cities.
  3. Relics. What more could a relic ask for than to change reality? Give magic items new meta-level powers and ditch the +1.
  4. Outer planes. Make the esoteric corners of your universe different by operating with different rules.
  5. Holidays. Instead of a parade, layer on a world feat to give these events more meaning and get the players asking you if it’s Christmas yet.
  6. Gods. Next time a god walks the earth you can change the nature of reality for awhile to make the event epic.

Want to learn more about Fantasy Craft? Read on…

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