Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Naming Your Campaign

I was chatting with Victor Raymond the other night and he noted how common it used to be to name one's campaign. You didn't ask your friends, "Hey, you want to go over to Bob's place and play D&D tonight?",  you said, "Hey, you want to go over to Bob's place and play in his Everwhen campaign tonight?" When I was younger, I remember the older guys used to talk this way and so it was something I consciously imitated. It made sense, too, since I'd always read about Gary Gygax's "Greyhawk campaign" and, much later, Ed Greenwood used to speak of "Forgotten Realms campaign" in the pages of Dragon. Plus, gamers were always saying stuff like, "In my Emaindor campaign, I don't allow Neutral-aligned clerics" or "In my Dark Realms campaign, I allow half-elves to take up any class."

Until Victor reminded me of this, I'd forgotten about this phenomenon, even thought I've actually talked about it before, if only obliquely. My gut instinct is that naming one's campaign is a way of clearly establishing it as its own unique thing. Sure, the referee may use the D&D rules, but those rules are subservient to the campaign itself, as imagined by the referee. So, if the referee doesn't like demihuman level limits or wants to introduce level 10 spells for magic-users, he does so and no one gives it much thought, because this is his campaign. I'm always gladdened when I see this tradition of old continued today. It's a small thing perhaps, but I like the practice of naming one's campaign and all that it implies.

33 comments:

  1. I find it interesting that using a website like Obsidian Portal pretty much requires you to name your campaign. It's not easy, especially since it's a decision you make up front and sets as much tone as any player's choice of class.

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  2. As DM and player always just said D&D. The campaign **world** almost always has a name, but nobody I know has ever called it anything but playing D&D.

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  3. I run a Midlands campaign, my own invention to stump the oldest D&D player since nothing I put in it has ever appeared in any other previous D&D asdventure. The inspiration, historical analog, and how the world is put together, are a trade secret. Ir is named aftrer the region, where the adventures are taking place.

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  4. I named my game setting-- Oubliette-- & we all call it "Oubliette."

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  5. Two years ago, when we started to play GURPS, it was "The GURPS night". Make sense, of course, because in Spain nobody plays GURPS.

    But one year later we played some more GURPS campaigns, and people started to name our principal campaign "Mystara campaign". An some friends use to say "Our Mystara campaign".

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  6. On an IRC channel I frequent that's a hub for game-finding, it's generally tradition to name one's campaign. We also follow the antics of each other's games, so hearing somebody bring up a reference to "The Atlantis Game" or "The Line" is not uncommon.

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  7. Funny you bring this up, as it's something I've been pondering over the last couple of days. I'm about to start running a play-by-blog sandbox Microlite74 campaign, and I'm totally stumped for a name! I'll figure something out, but it can be vexing, especially as a previous commenter stated, it's the kind of thing that can set the tone for the whole game.

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  8. I've been naming not just campaigns, but also giving a name to the session about to start, on my ever present "Trip Tickets" since I was a kid. I think it's another thing inspired by my lifelong love of Marvel Comics.

    My campaign might have a name like "Beyond Good and Evil" (my current KOTOR campaign is "Beyond Sith & Jedi") and the session might have a name like "Requiem for a Nights Journey" or something equally pretentious.

    My last AD&D campaign we called "The Night Below" pretty much because that is what the module campaign is called.

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  9. Great observation, there really is a power in naming something and it does jive with how I remember the older heads at the community center we played at 81-82 describing their campaigns. They always have

    Makes me wonder if I had never named the Hill Cantons if it would have had as much continuity and staying power; three years and two cities later it's still rolling. (Let alone it having named my blog).

    It fits also with something that Mike Morand had put out there on the OD&D board that you would often say "we are exploring such and such's world tonight" and not just playing D&D or what.

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  10. We never named our campaigns, it was just D&D.
    However, back in high school, at best D&D was seen as the ultimate in vagina-drying nerdiness and at worst Satan worship. So, instead of saying, "D&D tonight, Eddy's campaign." We would say, "We're driving drunk on Eddy's road tonight." Which was, oddly enough, way more socially acceptable.

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  11. Joe: I see you are from Oklahoma. It's a state law there that when you finish a whiskey bottle you dispose of it by throwing it out the pick up truck window and blasting it to bits with a rifle or shottie. So I can see the driving drunk thing as a good euphimism.

    In the early-mid 80's when I was a teen playing, there were plenty of very decent chicks playing D&D. We had nerd buddies who wouldn't be losing their virginities until well into their 20's who didn't have girlfriends period, but some of us less spazzy dudes had girlfriends who were very avid players with us.

    Outside of game shops (and actually, when I was in jr. high, the very dorky owner of my local game shop, who was in his 30's, was nailing a very good looking high school chick who came around to play now and again), at homes, it was all fairly co-ed. They weren't cheerleaders, but there were some very pretty punk, new wave, and pre-goth girls playing D&D back then.

    But the late 90's and nowadays? Yeah, that vagina drying thing.

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  12. I run a Midlands campaign

    As a Brit, that brings up some very odd images.

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  13. Preach on brother!

    Proud referee of the Majestic Wilderlands for 30 years.

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  14. Back when I was running an In Nomine game, I called the campaign "Victims Of Our Own Ontology," because I like to think I'm terribly clever.

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  15. @Joe - Wow. I am more depressed than ever to be a member of the Human species.

    I had the exact opposite experience from James (so what else is new - I seem to excel at opposite experiences).

    I don't think we started naming campaigns until the mid-to-late 80's. It was, "So back to our D&D game or are we playing Star Trek again tonight?"

    There was really only one GM among my buddies and I, me, so you didn't even need to denote whose campaign it was. It was ours. I was running it.

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  16. Kelvin, what sort of images does the Midlands campaign bring up? I know there is a region in the UK called, Midlands, but know nothing about it.

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  17. We typically don't necessarily set out to name our campaigns, they just tend to happen. Mostly it has to do with the setting like "Ravenloft" or "Planescape" though occasionally when using a generic setting it ends up being something vaguely descriptive of the generic setting or the main PCs like 'The Clerics', 'The Ogres', or 'Plague World'.

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  18. Did this practice really drop off? It seems to me like I hear people talking that way all the time. I definitely still like the practice.

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  19. We've only named our campaigns after the adventure we were running (if it had one) or not at all.

    We ALWAYS name our adventuring parties though. Always.

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  20. My multi-year Champions game was known as "our Fair City campaign".

    And my current Mutant Future game is half-known as "our Gone-Woe game" and the rest of the time as, "Hey, we killing mutants this weekend?"

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  21. Before official settings dominated the scene naming one's campaign was pretty much obligatory. I hardly know any DM who didn't name his game after either his homebrewed campaign world (Elder Lands) or at least the biggest city (Whitehaven), or his literary inspiration (Witchworld).

    For DMs that just used Greyhawk the game was called, "D&D". Judges Guild's Wilderlands were unknown in my neck of woods.
    But then Dragonlance happened, and the Forgotten Realms, followed by Ravenloft and more, and the campaigns became "official" and were named after their core setting box.

    Homebrewed campaign settings were out, and with them individual campaign names.
    Another reason why I like the OSR.

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  22. Mine is called 'Houses and Chisels'. That's what my grandfather called it when he couldn't come up with the term 'Dungeons and Dragons'. This happened a few years ago, so we were already in our mid 30s.

    My players call their adventuring group 'The Iron Chefs of D&D'.

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  23. In my old wargames club we generally referred to campaigns by just the gamemaster's name. It was only when we published, in a newsletter or APAzine that we actually came up with a formal name for the campaign (or adventure series), and then only when pressed. I've an old club newsletter somewhere that has a list of the approximately 30 active campaigns being run at the time. [Although the only name that I can recall is The Raid On The First Interdimensional Mana Bank (which I think was the third part of an epic adventure style campaign).]

    Although there was always the infamous Triskellion VII game, which was always going to be ready to play RSN. It never was, although the pile of general documentation was a good foot thick (typed A4) the last time I saw it. No doubt it has grown to several filing cabinets by now. Still waiting for the announcement as to when we can begin generating characters thirty years on...

    I think my main campaign never got a name attached to it. Nor my two dungeon campaigns. Or my space campaigns. My superhero campaigns were formally named after the comic book featuring the exploits of the player character group, which meant that some were known by several names as they had different groups operating in the same campaign.

    Thinking of which, I think my favourite naming convention was a Daredevil campaign I was in, where the adventures were actually a set of Saturday afternoon adventure serials starring Tubby Trenton (one of the PCs). After each adventure we'd name the actual episode along the lines of Tubby Trenton and The Nazi Mechamen From The Moon. Unfortunately somewhere around the 17th episode the writers of the series ended the franchise due to the death of the actor playing Tubby (in reality we totally missed all the clues in a published adventure which had a "if the players do not stop this from happening the world will end" and so the world ended - which by tradition had us all throwing our screwed-up character sheets at the gamemaster and never playing his Daredevil game ever again. Ah. Memories.

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  24. Oops. That should have been Tubby Trenton and the Nazi Mechanical Men From The Moon. Sorry.

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  25. We didn't do it back in the day, it was always "D&D" or whatever the game title was. Later on, we'd name it by the DM or the setting, and much more recently, it's been the campaign book, if there is one.

    I can think of only 2 times when we've named the group and campaign: one recent and one in 1985-86, and one in which the campaign got its own name.

    The use of Obsidian Portal and Yahoo groups has helped this along, as those need some kind of title.

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  26. I'm pretty sure gamers still name their campaigns today.

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  27. I've come upon a weird problem: my campaign is named something I didn't want the players to know. It reveals the big monster, and for that reason I just gave them the acronym: DitP. Now I'm thinking it could be more like a movie or book title, where you look around for references to the title because it's obviously important. Another way to handle the title is to make it clear what it means right away. Greyhawk is obviously about both Castle and City of Greyhawk. The film Flight of the Phoenix is an example of the former, where the meaning of the title becomes clear in the middle act.

    So I think I might just tell them anyhow.

    Also please note that the old goldenrod character sheets for 1E AD&D have a line for "campaign" where you're supposed to write the name of the campaign the character was played in. I don't know what this says about cross-pollination of characters; perhaps if the sheet had multiple lines we would have had confirmation that such was common practice but as it stands the single line doesn't tell us that the character was expected to exist in only one campaign ever.

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  28. At the London D&D Meetup where I DM we really have to name our campaigns, for identification purposes. I currently have two going, my 'Loudwater' Forgotten Realms campaign and my 'Southlands' Wilderlands campaign.

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  29. Hmm. I guess I'm kind of a mixed bag. I'm running three games at the moment. One's a pregen, so I'm not sure that counts (Skype Call of Cthulhu-Masks of Nyarlathotep).

    The long Star Wars Saga Edition campaign I've been running is called Anakin Takes a Bullet. It's an alternate universe campaign where during the podrace in Episode I, one of the Tusken Raider snipers actually shoots Anakin, killing him, rather than just grazing his racer...basically erasing the Skywalker family from the conventional timeline, and throwing it open for me to add an alternate history spin to the fall of the Republic. So that game clearly has a name.

    The other game is a 3.5 Midnight game (using the excellent FFG Dark Fantasy setting)...no name for that one, but I don't exactly call it the D&D game either, so I'm not sure where that fits.

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  30. Funny - we never did this, gaming in 77 through the 80s. It was just Steve's game or Rob's game or Dave's Runequest etc.

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  31. When I started gaming (late 80s), campaign naming wasn't exactly a convention, but a few years later I started to name all my then-short-lived campaigns to see if people could get more interested, and it seemed to work. Nowadays, the FIRST step of campaign planning is finding a good and sound name.

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  32. Kelvin, what sort of images does the Midlands campaign bring up? I know there is a region in the UK called, Midlands, but know nothing about it.

    There are lots of comedy clichés over here regarding the midlands. The funny accent, the urban blight, the way midlanders get angry when you say they're Northern, and so on. So when you say your campaign is called Midlands, all of that comes back, only wrapped up in fantasy gaming trappings.

    So in that context it's funny, and I mean no offence by it.

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  33. Naming a campaign is something that was widespread in the early days of gaming, and then apparently dropped off. I suspect that the early convention was due directly to Greyhawk and Blackmoor, and the later drop-off due to two things: first, as D&D became VERY popular, there was less communication about the norms of the RPG sub-culture (did Holmes or Moldvay Basic ever name campaigns? I should go check...), and second, because people adopted published settings for their own use, so they probably referred to their game as "Fred's Forgotten Realms" or the like.

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