Campaign Planning

Played Skogenby with some friends over the weekend and it was a huge hit. I just might have to make a campaign of it. One thing I am wondering about is how y’all structure your campaigns to both be well thought-out and planned, as well as flexible enough to handle some of the random stuff that TB can throw at you.

Torchbearer adventures seem to require a fairly substantial amount of planning ahead. You need a dungeon, or at least a terrifying wilderness, with existing challenges, monsters, obstacles to let the game run smoothly. But the game also has some element of unpredictability. You roll a town disaster and suddenly the home base for this adventure is savaged by goblins, or your enemy shows up, or or or, and it all begs to be inserted into the campaign because some level of unpredictability and procedural fun is great. So as a GM, how do you both set up a well-structured adventure, but also roll with the punches and expect the unexpected?

On a related note, it’s sort of vague, but what’s a good length for one “adventure”? Skogenby is designed to be brief, it only took a session. I have a location I’m working on that is probably only a session worth of content, but it will give the characters leads to another, larger dungeon. Is it kosher to count these as a single adventure taken together, even if they are stopping in town in between? I mostly ask because I want to get the pacing for winter right. Winter after three sessions seems silly.

Love to hear thoughts. Thanks!

Hey there. I’m happy to hear your group enjoyed Skogenby!

To give you an idea, Skogenby generally takes 1 or 2 sessions. Under the House of the Three Squires often takes 3 or 4 sessions. Generally somewhere between 3 and 5 areas seems to be about what most groups end up tackling in a session.

I will also note that Skogenby and Squires tend to be pretty “hand-holdy” when it comes to obstacles. When I’m running, I generally don’t come up with obstacles in advance. I have my map, challenges/problems and monsters, but come up with obstacles on the fly (using the Abilities & Skills Factors) when the players describe what their characters are doing and I call for a test.

As for planning, I tend to do it in bursts. I’ll make my map and figure out the problems therein and then play it out for a few sessions before going back to do more work. I’ll have an overall big picture, which I use as a touchstone, but I don’t want to plan too far ahead because I only want to work on stuff I know I’ll use.

And to be honest, a lot of times I just grab my favorite old TSR or OSR modules and crib from them. For instance, not too long ago I needed a goblin cave, so I sliced off the goblin-hobgoblin-ogre complex from the Caves of Chaos in Keep on the Borderlands and ran it as a standalone dungeon. I made a few tweaks (for example, my goblins – while still lying, murderous creatures – obsessively make sublime clockwork gewgaws, so I added a workshop to the complex), but otherwise just translated it on the fly.

I use to write a dungeon during the week, some larger than others, and have another one started. By the time they end the last dungeons they have enough situations to solve for me to have time for the next one (not counting the fact that they might need to return to the same dungeon one day).

Also Town phase can take a long time as well, time you can use to pre-roll town events and come up with something before they hit the road again. Remember that adventurers are troublemakers by nature and if you play with your setting as a living, breathing world, they will start to accumulate new enemies, new dangers and ultimately new adventures themselves, so you can always use some of that.

Also a “trick” I have as a GM is: when you’re out of good ideas, place the characters in the s**tiest situation you can come up with. But try to avoid time constraints. If the problem is difficult enough they’ll start planning, and you’ll have enough time to think ahead, generate cool tests that give you leave to set up a long term situation and will take a big piece of the session, meaning that you can take time to prepare for the next one.

Stay cool :cool:


The main thread of our campaign has become the lich they awoke, failed to banish, and then stole its spellbook from the first dungeon.

I ask the players for an element for each dungeon — it’s been undead, town, bandits and dwarven stone so far.

It wasn’t a failure it was a tactical withdrawal :wink:

“The tactics are right behind us and closing!”