Thursday, September 4, 2014

K35 - A character sheet for a campaign

In this post, I present some ideas on sandboxing that I tried in my Reclaiming Khazad-dum campaign and report on how it went. 

The Gist

I made a character sheet for the campaign and I gave campaign points for the players to shape the campaign to their liking. 

The motivations

There are a few:
  1. It feels like personal awards are not always appropriate as most PCs are well into the 300 points range, yet I want to give awards for good play.
  2. I want the players to approach the Reclaiming part as a complex problem with lots of fire to put out, and complete freedom to decide how to go about it.
  3. I enjoy having dice tell me which way things are going to go.

The Character Sheet (after the session)

The sheet once embedded looks terrible, so here is a link to it.

Reclaiming Khazad-dum [-42]
Campaign Sheet

Enemies, annoyances and Perils [-47]

Curse of Khazad-dum CR15 rival [-30]
The Hunters CR15 hunter [-15]
The Snagahai Kingdom CR9 rivals [-5]
The Pudding CR6 rivals [0]
Drolf CR9 watcher [0]
Ancestors CR4 hunter [-1]

Dependents [-67]

Silver Attack CR9 friend [-10]
Adarcer Attack CR9 Acquaintance [-5]
Mithril Attack CR9 friend [-10]
Bronze Attack CR9 friend [-10]
Deema, the bride CR9 loved one [-30]
Ancestors CR6 Acquaintance [-2]

Patrons [25]

Queen Ngai CR12 Minimal Intervention, Dream [10]
Thorin III CR9 [20]
King Trandhuil CR6 Minimal Intervention [5]

Allies [35]

Silver Attack CR15 Elite [9]
Adarcer Attack CR9 [4]
Mithril Attack CR15 [6]
Bronze Attack CR15 Smaller unit [3]

Gesdrek, Loremaster CR12 Lore and stuff [6]
Goldo, Engineer CR15 Engineering too. [3]
Tov, drummer CR12 [4]


  • Where is the food?
  • Where is the spoil?
  • We want no part in dealing with the dead.


  • There is a big Snagai kingdom made of “food” orcs
  • The tomb of the Balrog should be investigated
  • The reliability of the Adarcer is spotty at best
  • The king will be pissed if he learns about Deema (the bride)
  • There is a gold mine on the 4th deep
  • The Cold forges are somewhere deep in Khazad-dum

Collective Level Knowledge [5]

  • Level 4 (AK-9) [1]
    • East Eyes Hall
    • Secret passage North
    • Crypts (North)
    • Deema’s crypt (and surrounding)
    • Gate to Snagai Kingdom
  • Level 2 (AK-9) [1]
    • Rising Hall
    • Marzabul Stairs
  • Level 1 (AK-10) [2]
    • East Gate
    • Hall of trees
    • Hatchet dwelling
    • Crossing to the city (foot bridge)
    • Secret passage to the 4th deep
  • Deep 4 (AK-9) [1]
    • Gold mines advanced post

How does this translates to a campaign?

Perils are the same as an enemy for a character. They have level of threat and frequency of activation. When an episode begins, I secretly rolls against all perils to determine what the episode will be about or complicated by. Dependents are groups of people (in this case the military sub-units), which may require intervention to keep in good order. Allies are just that, except that the military sub-units also are allies. Their frequency of appearance determine whether they can be used to perform an operation during the episode. In that case that they aren't, they can be compelled to do so in game, but usually at a cost. For example, if the Silver-Attack is not available because it is committed to defending the 1st Deep, they can be replaced by another unit but this will take some time and a suitable replacement must be available. 

I also grant an average Area Knowledge to the entire military unit. The unit can then be mined for information if the PC fall short. For example, the viceroy may wonder whether there are any dry cistern on the 2nd level which could be used as a jail. 

How can it be changed during normal play?

Normally, by doing stuff. If you want to make a unit less of a dependent, have it to rest, or train, or get replenished. The GM will in consequence grant some campaign points to reflect this action. If the PC defeat the Hunters such that they can't attack anymore, I'll grant campaign points to reduce their frequency.

A metagaming exercise

I asked my players to spend 10 cps and gave them the option of getting more disads to trade against other advantages. There was no limit to what they could do. We had a great discussion during a live session as to different strategy to Reclaim Khazad-dum.  Getting rid of the curse turned out to be too expensive, so they left it alone. It will have to be done in game. They, however, wiped the looming threat of a treacherous commander (Drolf) and the Black Pudding that they freed but didn't kill in the last chapter. They paid to make the Bronze-Attack more available, and the Adarcer less likely to be needy. To subsidize all this, they decreased the frequency of appearance of Patron King Thrandhuil (whom they think of as a jerk, which he is) so that 5 more cps could be shifted.  Distressingly, they paid off the threat of outbreak of the undead ancestors which I was planning to have fun with. But hey, plenty o'fish in that sea.

The result is a campaign tailored to better to what they think will be fun, but still a hard uphill battle as the tally is still -42 cps. 

Last word

We have a session following this metagaming session and I generated a situation using a bunch of dice rolls. The sheet will shift up and down to reflect what they choose to do, and manage to accomplish. Stay posted for the session report! 

I'm thinking of switching Area Knowledge to a single skill with default for each floor which can be bought as technique. I also think that there is an issue with the way dependent are priced (I'm looking at you, Deema the Bride).

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