Campaign Timeline

Overview: The One-Year Game

As specified in Campaign Creation, your FFZ campaign is expected to last about one year in actual, real-world time. While the specifics can, will, and should vary based on your own personal schedule and that of your players, FFZ wants to make it easy on you by providing a skeleton on which you can (if you'd like) hang your campaign.

The assumption of FFZ is that you play one campaign per year. You do this by playing three session per month, and you'd like to gain a level about once a month.

It should be noted that this campaign timeline may be assumed and referenced, but it is not enforced — it is a guideline, to help steer your hand as a GM, but it is not a requirement.

Adventures

The most basic "unit," each adventure should cover one self-contained story from beginning to end. This could be the characters confronting a particular enemy, or navigating a particular location, or dealing with a particular situation. Adventures are made up of about 3 sessions each, with each session advancing the plot of the adventure it is contained in.

For instance, one adventure could be "discover and eliminate the cause of the death of the grain merchants in town." As the sessions go on, the PC's learn about the deaths, discover what is behind these deaths, and bring the deaths to an end. After they do that, the adventure is over. They gain a level, and proceed onto the next adventure, largely based on their successes and failures in the last adventure. If, for instance, they failed to eliminate the murderer, perhaps the murderer escaped, and will menace the PC's in a future adventure.

Sessions

Adventures are made up of individual sessions at the table. Each session should primarily focus on advancing the adventure that it is in, with the end of each session bringing the PC's closer to the end of the adventure. This can be thought of with the story structure in place: the first session introduces the main conflict of the adventure, the second session ratchets up the tension and risk, and the third session climaxes, solving the main problem of the adventure.

Sessions themselves are made up of encounters and challenges, but these are generally very flexible in form and structure. It's mostly key simply to remember what the session itself is supposed to accomplish, and make sure the players get that. Using the example adventure above, the first session in it needs to accomplish making the PC's aware that murders are being committed, and that they are the ones who need to solve the problem. This might be quick and easy (their boss tells them to, or they take the mission from the clan board), but it could also be more involved, if you'd like (they only realize the deaths are happening after every grain merchant they go to has been killed somehow).

Individual sessions may focus a bit on a particular PC, as well. This focus, combined with the goal of each session, further links the PC to the ongoing campaign. For instance, the example adventure might be linked to a PC who has a merchant for a Support Character, or it might be created with an eye toward a PC who has a particular concern with wealth and money (perhaps their Feature is that they are quite proud of their family's wealth, and these murders show that their family's wealth is built on a foundation of corruption and greed). In the first session of the adventure, the PC is hooked via this connection. Or, perhaps, in the second session, it is used to increase the tension and pressure on this PC.

Generally, you should sprinkle these throughout the campaign. One session devoted to each character in each arc is the norm, and these sessions can advance the character's own Character Arc that the player defined for them.

Arcs

Each adventure tells a self-contained story, but the adventures within a given arc should be related to each other fairly directly, and should flow into each other smoothly. They may be in a similar location, revolve around a similar event, or follow a particular enemy or NPC. For instance, the adventure example above might relate to other adventures in the town, or along the merchant roads, or involving the murderers, or might simply be a series of mysteries the PC's solve.

Arcs have goals like sessions do, but the goals are broader. Within each arc, the common threads between adventures should reinforce some of the themes of the campaign, and should build up to the final confrontation. For example, the adventure above might feature in the first arc of a campaign that includes a lot of mystery, many urban adventures, or that plays with wealth as a central theme. It may appear in the second arc if the murders are related to the villain's ongoing plan in some indirect manner, perhaps eventually giving away that his lair is deep in the grain fields of the setting, where he hides in plain sight amongst townsfolk. It might appear in the third arc as the PC's get close to the villain, who starts perpetrating these murders to distract them from their goals.

Arcs give you plenty of time to introduce and develop the events of your campaign, so you shouldn't rush right out there with an arc's goal in an easy and direct manner. It should be a slower revelation, revealed only as relationship of the the adventures within each arc come to light. The players should discover this relationship, rather than having you tell them directly what it is. Give hints, and only be direct if it seems like the players already mostly understand, or if they're clearly entirely off base, by the last adventure in the arc. The other three adventures should be subtler.

Encounters

Each session should contain about 3 encounters. The true number will vary pretty wildly, and the types of encounters are entirely in your hands as the GM. You should feel free to change the type and nature of these on the fly as well. Some GMs even like determining their encounters randomly, from a list of potential encounters. This isn't necessarily a bad idea, but most GM's probably want a bit more control over their encounters.

When figuring out what encounters to use in your game, your first concern should be what would be fun to throw at the characters and their players. Challenge them with combats and mysteries and exploration, and link their characters to the encounter with a hook that tugs at their motives, goals, or other character traits. The basic unit of fun in an encounter is generally a player seeing their character in action, and you seeing how they solve the problems you present. Give them problems, and let them respond with their characters in action.

In the example adventure, your first session might include a social encounter with reticent town guards who don't want to divulge information, an exploration encounter in the graveyard where the grain merchant is buried, and a fight with undead in the graveyard, before finally uncovering the grave, and using a test to see what the characters discover from the merchant's corpse. A session revolving around exploring a set of ruins might simply be four combats against monsters that lurk in the ruins, with maybe an extended exploration conducted in the ruins.

Campaigns

Campaigns are the general sweep of the game, from levels 1-12, the complete tale. When thinking about your campaign, you generally need to address the villain (covered in the villains section), and think about the themes for your campaign (which can often come from the villain, but can also be imposed from the top down). The themes will be general, but they will be things you want to keep in mind when designing each adventure, to ensure that the adventure at least touches on the theme, just as it touches on the villain.

Timeline

  1. The Campaign
    1. Arc 1: The Start: The villain's plot is beginning.
      1. Adventure 1
        1. Session 1: Introduction: Let the characters meet and get a feel for their abilities.
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      2. Adventure 2
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      3. Adventure 3
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      4. Adventure 4
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
    2. Arc 2: The Rise: The villain's plot is reaching completion
      1. Adventure 5
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      2. Adventure 6
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      3. Adventure 7
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      4. Adventure 8
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
    3. Arc 3: The End: The villain's plot is ready to go off, and only the PC's can stop it.
      1. Adventure 9
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      2. Adventure 10
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      3. Adventure 11
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2
        3. Session 3
      4. Adventure 12: The Climax
        1. Session 1
        2. Session 2: Ramp Up: Isolate the major villain to set the stage for combat.
        3. Session 3: Climax: Fight the major villain, and end the Campaign.
    4. Denouement.
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