Rubicon Campaign Blog – Part I
Goal: The goal of this blog is to record the process of writing and running a Warhammer 40,000 campaign for both better understanding by myself of what worked and what did not, as well as perhaps to help give ideas to others who wish to run a campaign.
This blog links to the main campaign website which can be found at http://40k.chrisnye.net
This blog focuses for the most part entirely on the mechanical and administrative aspect of running a campaign and not on the fiction which is already on the website linked above.
Background: I started playing Warhammer in 1998. My very first 40k army was the Dark Angels, mainly due to the fact that the Space Marines came in the starter box back then (as they always have) and I liked the look of them the best based solely off of codex-art.
I participated heavily in competitive tournament play from 1999 until 2006. From 2006 on, I shifted mainly from tournament play to a more casual narrative-based style of playing.
In 1999 I ran a small Warhammer Fantasy league which grew over the years to include 25 people. We played around with various campaign systems and it was not uncommon for there to be side campaign groups running along with the main league portion.
The Rubicon Campaign is the eighth full campaign that I have run spanning longer than a couple of months. It mixes a narrative campaign with a league format to keep track of leaderboards.
The first thing that I had to identify was what type of campaign would this be and what would the focus point be? Map campaigns are a lot of fun but are best run with a small group of players that can get together regularly. It only takes a couple of players quitting to derail a map campaign and this is something that has plagued most of the map campaigns that I have ever been a part of, regardless of how strong it starts out.
I came down to wanting something that was flexible enough to handle an unknown number of players, but which wouldn’t break if people dropped out. As such, Rubicon was born into a narrative format that would take inspiration from Forge World’s works to include the Badab wars and the fantasy campaign Tamurkahn.
It spans six chapters, and I only know the bare outline of the story, leaving the rest to be filled in by the players that participate. (the fiction and background can be found on the campaign website).
What I identified long ago as being very important was to not try and have everything laid out in perfect detail. That’s just simply too much work and can get overwhelming. I let my work write itself as it goes along and I take inspiration from the events as they occur.
The league rules are as such where the players will play in one scheduled game per month (chapter) and then a second battle with everyone present during a campaign day.
Players win CAMPAIGN POINTS which helps determine which faction is winning.
The advantage to this system is that it lets people schedule games when they can on their own time. Also with the factions, it means that if a player quits, that the campaign is not derailed, because the factions have multiple players in them.
The disadvantage of this system is that it puts a lot of work on the administrator (myself), and that if the factions are not balanced properly, the campaign can get out of hand quickly for one faction.
Things To Consider When Starting
The most important aspect I feel in any gaming event is to identify your players and set the tone of the event from the beginning. If the event is meant to be very competitive, let that be known ahead of time. This campaign the focus was on hard lists but not over the top competitive ones. To date, this policy has worked very well as most players can identify what a tournament list looks like as compared to a solid campaign list without needing a comprehensive set of comp rules to quantify it for them.
Next is to identify a solid end date. Open-ended campaigns are a lot of fun and I’ve never finished one in my life, nor have I ever known anyone to have done so. If that is your goal then have at it, but most campaigns I feel benefit from a starting point and an ending point that is definitive.
Another thing to consider is a central point of information. For me that is my website. It allows players to view standings and rules at anytime that they want.
Keep a structure of direction at hand so that you know what you will need to provide as the campaign progresses.
Example: For the end of Chapter 1 there will be special scenarios that I have written that incorporate Killteam battles and a big battle over a main communications hub. I know that I will need a large structure that counts as three buildings. This means ahead of time that I know I need to assemble one of these, and as we have a fairly large group, the group itself will probably need a couple of these structures to accommodate multiple games.
In the future there will be a trench table as well as the interior of a starship and a city battle featuring large city walls. These things will need crafted and planned for ahead of time.
A good campaign is something that will be remembered for years afterward. It takes some planning, some work from those running it, and a flexible system that can accommodate player schedules.
As the weeks and months go on I will be highlighting some of the hobby projects here that will be a part of the campaign as a whole.
My next project is for Chapter II in January, which features the trench terrain. I need to get the trench set from GW painted up and the planetary tiles finished so that I have a good representation of the world for the players to view.