Preparing to run an online campaign

I mentioned running an online campaign for some of the folks in the D&D Critposting discord, and got a pretty positive response off the bat. It looks like I’ll have four players, and we recently started going over expectations for the campaign in a discord of my own. The pitch was this; the players will be on an airship, where they go hopping from location to location to raid Brestrel. it’s simple enough as a premise goes, manageable for me running an online game for the first time, and generally appealing to players looking to kick down the door and kill stuff.

The players, having agreed to this, immediately started running over different things they could do in the campaign. I asked if they were more focused on RP, focused on big and flashy combats, one to check out strongholds and have an impact on the world around them, etc. I wasn’t expecting them to building a pirate fleet, building strongholds in the cool abilities they get from them, and other shenanigans they were hoping to get into during the course of the campaign. I very much love the group of players I’m currently running the game for; I enjoy hanging out with them. My natural inclinations as the DM however don’t really accord with their tastes insofar as playing a campaign goes (or, they’re only showing up to be polite in the first place). They’re very passive, and it always seems like I have to pull teeth For them to tell me what it is they’re doing next. This campaign is a lot more spoonfed compared to my previous one; I was hoping to provide a sense of direction to players while giving them the chance to engage the world full of cool loot and dangerous monsters on their own terms.

I never got an answer as to what the players were hoping to tackle next until the day before the next session. The only exception was this; when pestering players yet again and the group chat, when I reminded them we were playing tomorrow someone will have a sudden unavailability. It was then that I found out we’d actually be playing that night, and even then hours I could’ve spent prepping for spent waiting for players to let me know what they were doing. I had rattled off a very long list of things the players could be doing, could’ve discovered they could’ve been doing had they asked. The players actually picked one of those things, and I began prepping for the next session.

Things are better now; I tossed a small handout in the chat describing the place to be going to next, and immediately started working on a dungeon. They spent the entirety of the last session in that dungeon, and it’s still not over yet! I self indulgently sprinkled some lore blurbs into a puzzle solution, which immediately got the players thinking. All in all, it’s actually going pretty well! I’d say this very last stretch of the campaign will close in a satisfying fashion.

That was still about five or six months of somewhat unpleasant DM work. I’ve enjoyed just about every session we’ve had, for the record. It’s just that the things going on behind the screen suffered for the reasons explained above. I’m happy I learned the lesson; my next kick starter is going to be for a mega dungeon adventure, and finally getting through my thick skull that different types of players have different tastes will assist that product design.

Anyways, back to the online campaign!

I pitched the campaign to them; jump around on airships from location to location, wrecking the enemy’s shit and collecting loot along the way. This sort of campaign would allow me to draw up more isolated encounters and dungeons, placing them as I wished without having to do a ton of prep work. That last bit is a lie, I force prep work on myself. Can’t help it. “This airship system isn’t good enough, time to change it.”

Ugh.

The players seemed pretty excited, so I began informing them of the world, doing a setting writeup, etc. I asked what they were looking to get out of the campaign; if what the OSR guys are saying is (half) true, there’s a greater diversity of playstyles nowadays. I asked if they were looking for storygaming, epic combats, having an impact on the world around them, etc. I also asked if customizing their ship was a part of the game they wanted to interact with. Look at me, figuring these things out ahead of time. This excited them; I set about writing up a second iteration of my airship rules, complete with patterns (styles of crafting the airships, conveying different bonuses on them), templates (special kinds of ships like ornithopters), etc. They were really excited by it! So excited, that they immediately set about planning a keep, pirate fleet, and eventual city-state.

These are the types of players I am naturally inclined towards. “We want to make a dent in the world.” Fuck yeah! They glommed onto the setting detail, had some requests of their own that we worked through, etc. I think this is going to turn out really well. First session is tomorrow; I’m excited!