I am relatively new to the realm of being a GM, with only about a year and a half under my belt, but I have had a realization recently that maybe other people haven’t had yet. I just finished watching an anime that I found while randomly going through titles on Hulu called “Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?” It is a good show, and I would recommend it, but that is not what I am talking about today. What I realized while watching the show is that a good campaign doesn’t have to be sprawling.
The show is set up in a way that is very reminiscent of a classic fantasy RPG, where the characters level up despite being real people, and adventuring is huge occupation in the show. While watching it I thought about what elements I could use in my RPG games, as I always do, and something hit me. Even though only one season of the show is out right now, it is very clear that it is being set up to last longer than just this one season, but it takes place in one city, and it’s accompanying mega-dungeon. This interested me because when I make long term campaigns, I usually make the adventurers go out and adventure, making a sprawling, albeit shallower world that the players exist in. The reason I would do this is because I thought it would feel redundant if I kept them in the same place, but I have come to realize that is not true. There are plenty of TV shows and movies where the characters will stay in the same place, but it doesn’t make them redundant, it makes them richer.
I may have been basing my decisions off the video games that I play, but just because they are games, doesn’t mean they should have the same worlds. Most video games show a journey, where the player starts in one place, and ends in another, but role playing games are different. Something a video game has to have that a movie or TV show doesn’t is the gameplay. The gameplay is something that is hard to maintain in a video game if you don’t keep moving forward. You may think this is the same when you play a role playing game, but it isn’t. Role playing games, in my opinion, should be more about the cooperative story telling than the gameplay. If my main concern were how it played I would be playing a wargame. When you look at it as more of a story than a game, it doesn’t seem weird to keep players all in one place.
For my next campaign, I am going to try something new. I am going to set it all in a single location, and not venture too far from it. I have tried having a home base, where every adventure starts, but I haven’t experimented with having the entirety of the story take place in a small area. I think that it would make the location much richer, and I think that having repeat locations may make the players more invested. Instead of asking what is around every time, they can remember where they have already been, and base their decisions off of that.