Sunday, 5 June 2011

Hints for Homebrew: Campaign Characters



Campaign play represents an easy way to insert custom rules into an environment they're not normally used in, and is also a good opportunity to design a new character gradually and from the ground up, rather than doing everything in one go, which can add depth to the character and gives you more time to think. However, it's a very different design process. When designing a normal character they generally fall into being combat monsters or FOC-movers/supporters. Campaign characters have the potential to be both. Here are my hints:

1. Consider campaign type and length: The main campaign types are usually categorised as battle (loosely linked games), narrative (well-linked games with a substantial plot) and map (long-drawn out affairs utilising area control mechanics in some way). Campaign characters work best in the latter two, becoming more complex in longer campaigns, but that's not to say a very simple wargear system couldn't be implemented in the first one.

Battle Campaign: Inquisitor Varan Oclis bashes Daemons' heads in at the Eye of Terror. As he gets closer, his psychic potential becomes stronger but riskier to use. This character should start with good wargear and one power, gaining the ability to use more simultaneously as he progresses with modifiers to the Perils table.

Narrative Campaign: The campaign shows Varan Oclis at various stages of his life and how he got that winged snake and became awesome. In this case he starts with weakened stats and wargear, gaining more points to spend as he goes.

Map Campaign: Oclis leads his band of Exercitus crusaders to a hotly contested planet to claim it. Character evolution can be heavily open-ended here, perhaps with an abilities table like the one for Fantasy characters from WD351 or similar.

2. Be careful with stat boosts and wargear: It's all well and good gaining +1 Strength or Toughness once or twice, but all too often there is no cap on these apart from 10, which can create campaign Mary-Sues to out-Sue the Emperor himself. Aside from ascending to Daemonhood, physical-based stats should have a realistic limit, although skill-based ones like Weapon Skill or Initiative are fine.

Campaign exclusive wargear should be desirable without being too much of an advantage over others. If universal special rules are put on a table, the best ones should logically be as close to the top as possible. Avoid putting too good stuff on the number 7, and have the best stuff near 1-1 and 6-6 (assuming 2d6 here).

Example: After many hard-fought battles, Oclis can now move 12" as his now Monstrous Creature snake can carry him, has S10 default and can use 5 powers a turn, including the same one repeatedly, plus a Shadow Field that never breaks he pinched off some plot coupon Haemonculus. He's still an Independent Character.

3. Try not to over-emphasise on individual performance: A lot of campaign characters end up in the same niche, that of the combat monster character. This can create really two-dimensional characters, something that shouldn't be the overall aim of creating a campaign leader system. The 5th edition rulebook's incredibly dumbed-down and weak system divides skills into shooting, assault and fieldcraft. Something similar could be done for improvements, but adding generalship as an option, which could re-organise the chart or improve squad performance.

4. It's not as serious as normal characters, remember that!: With campaign characters there's less of an emphasis on balance and more on fun. Although you should remember to set limits, remember also to have fun with the system you devise. Don't be like the GW cover save system, have imagination with what abilities you want!

The Varan Oclis character was borrowed from Bryssling, in an attempt to make him more interesting than a Coteaz counts-as. The next hints article will probably be the old mainstay of the site, characters proper.

4 comments:

Atrotos said...

That's an excellent conversion Bryss.

I've never attempted to design a character over the course of an entire campaign. Experience (XP) and similar mechanics are awesome in theory but leads to difficult book-keeping.

Thus it's probably not the character design that needs commentary so much as the system by which a character or unit develops over time. That way there can be structure in campaigns that involve more than two or three people.

Has your experience with campaigns been a positive one? Around here drawn-out systems usually peter long before their conclusion. Gamers are a near-sighted lot.

Master Bryss said...

I've been able to run a four way quick and fast 500-750 map campaign and nearly finished it. I'm currently trying to devise an informal way of long-term campaigning that doesn't need to have regularity as much, which I see as the main obstacle here. This isn't going swimmingly, although I'm doing as much simplifying as I can.

I took ages to find the DA wings for the serpent. There was a moment where I was going to give in and say it leeches off psychic energy to teleport, but I really wanted a flying pet.

Master Bryss said...

I've been able to run a four way quick and fast 500-750 map campaign and nearly finished it. I'm currently trying to devise an informal way of long-term campaigning that doesn't need to have regularity as much, which I see as the main obstacle here. This isn't going swimmingly, although I'm doing as much simplifying as I can.

I took ages to find the DA wings for the serpent. There was a moment where I was going to give in and say it leeches off psychic energy to teleport, but I really wanted a flying pet.

shawn.abreu said...

I am currently writing an Ork versus Imperial Guard campaign, and have decided to not utilize specified characters. Instead, I have