Hey ChicagoWiz, how's that new approach to DM'ing working out?

So about a year ago, I posted "Restarting my AD&D campaign - doing it differently" as a rant against myself about how I'd run my campaign previously. How grindy it was. How hopeless it was. I vowed to not do that again, but to learn the lesson of "make each game meaningful", especially since we play only about once every four to six weeks. 

Never again!
So how's that working out?

Well, today, I sent my players a quick "Enonia Bard's Tales" email and reviewed what they accomplished in one season gametime (I track calendars by "seasons" and they just completed the summer season.)
  • Thanks to you guys, the orcs were punched right in the face with Roehm and Reynald retaking the fort at the old Dale Woods Inn location. 
  • The ruined Monastery of St. Eggyx was cleansed of Chaos when you all killed Tsalazar Rho and closed the portal.
  • You freed Sir Ynivax and many troops from the northern Keep/Gate of Irecia. 
  • You traveled up to the area of Yew and freed prisoners captured by the "Dark Riders" and orcs from the Shrine of Meesha.
  • You've traveled quite a bit around Enonia, going south a couple of days, going north almost 8 days. 
  • You've found intrigue with the Light Bringers, a group associated with the Church of the Light. You've arrested two of their leaders, and found there might be more going on with them. 
  • A couple of you found further mysteries with news that trolls are raiding an iron mine, about two days south of Enonia.
  • The worship of two forgotten gods, Tangadorin and Meesha, have become much more visible and attracted more attention, both good and bad.
None of these were trivial either, full of danger and almost-deaths and one very popular PC's demise.

Now what do I mean by meaningful? Well, not every game ended in monty-hauls and level-ups. Ups and downs. Mysteries and doors opened. But in putting together the world maps, and starting up my own wargames within the Lands, and expanding the scope of what the players are seeing, they've responded by really digging in and getting involved. And it's really wonderful to see.

I've got at least one 6th level character now, three or four 4th level and the rest are making their way up to "Hero" level. Since adopting MAR Barker's "influence" approach to levels as much as XP marks levels, several of the PCs have started to invest in the groups they are associated with. The maps are inviting players to explore the world around them, as are events that drive them to these same places.

As for me, I'm having fun with the wargames, with increasing the depth of what is going on.

And I haven't even touched on my online game in the same campaign world. I'll save that for a future blog post.

TL;DR - ChicagoWiz was an idiot. Now, he's less of an idiot and people are having more fun and more impact on the world. ChicagoWiz still wants to win the lottery so he can retire and game a lot more.


  1. A devout man said his prayers every night, always ending with "...and please God, help me win the Lottery. Amen." Every night. At the ripe old age of 87 he passed on to his reward, and upon meeting God said "What happened with the Lottery?"
    God replied "Couldn't you meet me halfway? Buy a ticket once in a while!" Are you buying tickets once in a while?

  2. What's up with Barkers "Influence" system? I wonder if I've ever heard of that before.

  3. @Lloyd - I do, not often enough, but I do. The lottery fairy doesn't like me.

  4. @Andreas - Humza K asked the same thing on G+, so I'm going to copy/paste the answer here:

    I mentioned it here briefly (http://chgowiz-games.blogspot.com/2015/07/restarting-my-ad-campaign-doing-it.html):
    My rule of thumb is geared towards something that Jeff Berry/Chrine said during GaryCon this past April 2015... that the EPT campaign he'd been in didn't revolve just around the concept of advancement based only on monsters killed and treasure kept, but also revolved around how the players worked themselves into various organizations and power structures within the world. If someone has been affecting things for their chosen religion, or for their city, or is known throughout a region, they're not "2nd level" anymore, no matter what the spreadsheets say.

    I have a mental rule of thumb now, that I'd like to see advancement every 2 to 3 games, but that also means the players have to be doing things commensurate to their level. So if Jorann, the 5th level cleric, goes on a kobold bashing expedition, he might end up just HP/GP for XP. But if my 1st level characters are taking on orcs and the Chaos-afflicted goblins right out of the gate, and they survive a couple of sessions, they're going to 2nd level. They've done more than most other folks and are now seen as "those damn pesky adventurers!"

    I also talked about it in this OD&D forum post:

    The approach has worked well, but has also brought new opportunities... "Oh, you are a 6th level priest now? I have an assignment for you.. take care of this problem." Said the high priest of the temple to one of my PCs. :)

  5. The influence concept sounds like an interesting approach, Michael, and one that seems well-suited to EPT's rich cultural background, cliquish cults, and esoteric imperial traditions. Have you found that you've had to modify/change your approach to how detailed your campaign's background is, in order to make the leverage for influence more "earned" or "real" in play?


  6. Hi Allan, great question. The answer is "yes" and "no".

    Yes, to some extent, with the clerics especially. For those clerics of established churches, I've had a hierarchy and history and details building since 2009. I am still a fan of "JIT" preparing, but I have enough of the frame to add the walls and details when I need to with their increasing levels. For the "forgotten gods", they learn more about their god and his powers as they increase, allowing me to add as we go.

    For the other classes, like fighters, it's been less of the organization and more of the influence and fame they command in their area of the campaign. I went back to what "Hero" and "Superhero" concepts of OD&D and considered what they would mean in my campaign. A Hero is know regionally, within the Duchy, perhaps. Someone of 8th level at Superhero status is known throughout the lands and commands much fame and influence. A 10th and above level would be equivalent of a Duke or just under the King.

    Some players care about this, so I devote more attention to them in those regards, others do not, they just like having more hp and better odds in battle.


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