~ Plato ~

400 is:

  • One-fifth the distance from 1st to 2nd level in D&D 3.x
  • One-ninth of an hour (in seconds)
  • The combined strength of 38 average men in Pathfinder
  • The length of a year, rounded up to the next whole hundred
  • A Lebanese Card Game

When I search my archived correspondence, the first mention of Campaign Mastery – the blog – that I can find is dated November 20, 2008. But the name and concept have roots that run much deeper. We knew as early as January 2008 that we were going to have a website named Campaign Mastery; it just took us that long to figure out what it was going to be.

I had already had a blog through the Yahoo 360 service. It was a more personal and perhaps typical blog (except perhaps that it went in for 5,000+ word posts), covering whatever was on my mind at the time – whether that be the cost of living in Sydney or devising new rules for AC in my Fumanor campaign, or whatever. By the time Yahoo shut down that service, some 6 months or so later, Johnn and I were already collaborating. I’d started by somewhat diffidently sending in a couple of reader’s tips to Roleplaying Tips and a brief article or two for Heather Grove’s Twilight Time, then an article or two for RPT, then some more articles. The feedback was encouraging and reader response was positive, and by the time 2009 had rolled around, it had reached the point where I would reply to virtually every issue of Johnn’s newsletter with a suggestion or two for extending or enhancing or adding a technique or twist to something that had appeared in that issue, most of which ended up as additional reader’s tips. All told, I had amassed 20-odd main article credits and was rapidly approaching three figures in published reader’s tips.

In 2008, at Johnn’s invitation, I had started work on an E-book, to be published by Johnn & I jointly through a website to be called Campaign Mastery. Originally intended to be a 20-page quickie, it reached 20 finished chapters in 71 pages, with another 42 chapters still waiting to be written. These were… no, I think I’ll keep the subject close to my chest. I’ll want to finish it someday…

400 is:

  • Just over the total hit points of two triceratops in D&D 3.x
  • The points cost of a City-sized 20d6 Explosive Killing Attack (about equivalent to 2 sticks of TNT), one use only, in Champions 5th Edition
  • The number of years since 1612, the year the first European colony was founded in Bermuda and American farmers began exporting Tobacco.
  • A model of Boeing 747
  • The number of silver pieces value of 4 platinum in D&D 3.x.

Anyway, the idea was that selected excerpts would appear as standalone articles on the website, up to half the book in fact, and the rest would be completely new material. Over the course of 2008, the concept evolved. Rather than writing the books and excerpting the material for blog posts, we decided that this approach was putting the cart before the horse; if we were to write e-book chapters as articles, and then compile them into eBooks, we could use feedback and comments to expand and improve the content. The ambition was to make the one set of words serve multiple functions. We’ve never gotten around to publishing those eBooks, but eventually it will happen.

There were seemingly-endless discussions of taxonomy (which wasn’t fully settled until February, 2009). Our business plans grew, and grew more convoluted. Over the period from the start of 2008 until the end of 2009, we designed and planned the creation of a publishing structure that was both complex and elegant. We had plans for the recruiting of additional staff, for operations as the publishers of game supplements by independent authors, for a series of books on the subject of Campaign Mastery which would join together to form a complete RPG How-to “Bible” of multiple volumes, for forums and game-aid software and, well, all sorts of things. All with one aim:

I was tired of looking for what would turn out to be another job lasting just a couple of years, and Johnn wanted to be able to give up his day job and do RPG stuff full-time.

400 is:

  • The base character points of a Very High-powered superhero or villain in Champions 5th Ed
  • The number of years in the Gregorian Calendar Cycle of 303 common years and 97 leap years
  • The value (in gp) of a herd of 40 cattle or a Heavy Warhorse in D&D 3.x
  • One-50th the number of NPCs I created using a random NPC generator I created for TORG
  • The number of parsecs to the Gum Nebula

It’s said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I have often joked that the RPG equivalents are ‘No planned adventure survives contact with the Players,’ and ‘No game supplement survives contact with the GM.’ To these maxims, I can now add a third and a fourth, also from personal experience: “No marketing plan survives contact with the customer,” and, “No business plan survives contact with the Real World.”

The plan we evolved was to deliver magazine-sized articles, between 1500 and 4500 words each, as blog posts, two a week – Johnn’s on one recurring, regular day, and mine half a week later. We would trade off as necessary. We wanted to avoid superficiality and create depth, value, and evergreen content, that could be edited, revised, and bundled into themed e-books. At the same time, we would be writing game supplements from scratch.

The first posts were intentionally brief; Johnn’s Cure DM Writer’s Block With A Map on November 29, 2008, his Maps Have Three Parts, part 1 on December 4th; his Races Should Make A Difference on December 6th; and my Spring Cleaning For Your Campaign on December 9th. These had a three-fold purpose: to establish that all our systems were functional, before they went public; to settle on our format and layout; and to ensure that when visitors arrived for the first time, they had something to read. There was no “this is our first blog post, yada-yada”, no beginning – we wanted Campaign Mastery to simply spring forth, fully-formed.

I’m not sure when we first started telling people that the blog existed, thereby taking it public for the first time, but I suspect it was either January 1, 2009 (a suitable date for beginnings) or December 25, 2008 (A Christmas present to both of us). But our first visitors arrived at the site on January 1 (we had a whole 6 of them that day) and our first comment, from Richard Whipple, was a couple of days later, on January 4th, in response to my article, ‘A Quality Of Spirit: Big Questions in RPGs’ from Dec 31st. The comment talks about the length of the article (long for a blog post), and mentions Plato and Socrates – so we were hitting our targets very quickly, and attracting thoughtful, substantative comment almost immediately. (In fact, we’ve had a lot of comments over the years – almost 3500 of them now, not counting the spam – and they have all been thoughtful, meaningful, contributions. Our commentators are the best! Of course, I’ve probably written close to 1500 of those as replies…)

400 is:

  • The number of kilos a character with STR 20 can dead-lift in Champions 5th Edition
  • The number of Gradians in a circle (I always thought of gradians as the percentage of a right angle, in high school)
  • The number of degrees Fahrenheit in 204.444°C
  • just under the average damage done by a volley of 89 arrows fired by longbow at human-sized targets in D&D 3.x
  • One percent of the estimated radius of the Milky Way (in light years)

More importantly, Campaign Mastery was being taken seriously, from day 1. We had instant credibility, something we would work hard to maintain in the years that followed.

We achieved our first significant milestone in November 2009 (100 posts) and our first really big milestone (100,000 hits) on July 5th, 2010, which we celebrated with an out-of-continuity special post. But both of these were perhaps more meaningful than we realized at the time; of all the blogs that get started, most will fold after ten or twenty posts, most of those left will not reach 50 posts, and so on. As the targets climb, the ranks of those who achieve them thin.

Compare those milestones with our more recent ones, described in the post 300, 550, 37, 40, 3300, 387 – Thank You! and you can see that CM has not only survived, it has prospered. And let’s not overlook that fantastic ENnie nomination, the results of which will start being announced this Saturday morning (Australian time).

400 is:

  • The price of a heavy repeating crossbow in D&D 3.x
  • The number of inches of Flight required to travel at Mach 4 in the Zenith-3 campaign
  • The average experience earned in 100 Champions Adventures (5th Edition) – at one a week, that’s almost 2 years of constant play
  • The number of military units (about 100 individuals in each) that took part in the big war that wrapped up my second Fumanor (D&D 3.x) campaign
  • The approximate number of adventures planned for my new Zenith-3: Earth Regency campaign

Real Life has taken a serious toll on that initial business plan. Originally planned to run over a 5-6 year period, here we are approaching the end of year three and most of it has been put on hold if not completely abandoned. There were three reasons for this.

My back had become an ongoing medical issue since 2004, but it was only in late 2010 that the condition was correctly diagnosed and determined to be a degenerative condition that limited my ability to work and function. Whereas I once enjoyed the capacity to devote around 125 hours a week to various projects, I was reduced in capacity to 8-12 hrs a week, and much of it at something less than 100% effectiveness. I had less time available to devote to the plan.

Johnn, at around the same time, began to experience the effects of burnout and over-commitment. He, too, was finding that he had less time available to devote to the plan, and much of it was at less than 100% effectiveness.

And then, just as we were about to complete revising the plans to take account of these circumstances, the whole thing got derailed by an unexpected opportunity, as the Assassin’s Amulet project emerged from more-or-less nowhere to monopolize much of our spare time.

That’s why there have been no Campaign Mastery e-books produced yet, and why the monster e-book that I mentioned back at the start hasn’t been worked on since 2009, and why I never got to finish the more recent eBook that I started – and why it’s taking so long to get the sequel to AA written. After all, while we had 3 main authors and an outside contributor or two on the first one, this time it’s just me – and one or two of those outside contributors.

To our credit, I think, even when the AA project was at its craziest, CM didn’t even bobble; it just kept right on ticking over, racking up article after article.

And, most importantly, 400 is:

  • The total number of posts here at Campaign Mastery!

Johnn has stepped aside in recent months – a decision made early this year but on the cards for much longer – to try and achieve those personal goals down another path. There’s no ill-will on either side; the split has been entirely amicable. I continue to wish him good fortune and once again thank him for his ongoing support, just as I continue to support Roleplaying Tips.

We set out to deliver something more substantial than most blogs (though, perhaps not more substantial than most gaming blogs :) ), and I think that our longevity is, in part, due to that intention. It also helps that when we were first starting, I drew up a long list of potential blog topics – ninety percent of which are still on standby, in the queue.

Plans for the future definitely still include those Campaign Mastery eBooks, and finishing the other eBooks I’ve mentioned in passing in this article (hopefully without giving too much away). They include the sequel to AA, which hopefully will be finished in a month or two at the latest (but don’t hold your breath waiting). There are also a few supplemental items for AA still to be finished as time allows. If time gets short, I May  have to cut CM back to one article a week, though I don’t want to do that unless I have to; regularity and dependability are a large part of the reason CM has been successful so far. But beyond all that is this:- Campaign Mastery will continue to do its best to repay your investment of the time spent reading it with something worth reading.

So that’s 400 posts done. Now, to start thinking of how to commemorate post number 500 – that’s a bit less than a year away… Any ideas?

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