Vita est ludus
The thin line between fantasy and reality...













Campaign Survey

A fantasy campaign has a variety of components. Not all adventures within the campaign have all the components, and for a given campaign, some will be emphasized or deemphasized, based on players' likes and dislikes and the DM's preferences and ability. In order to make sure that you'll enjoy the adventures I craft, I want to know what you like and dislike.

In his "Up on a Soapbox" column in issue #274 of Dragon magazine, Gary Gygax lists the following aspects of a well-rounded campaign:

  • character assumption and portrayal
  • confrontation and combat
  • economics and commerce
  • exploration and discovery
  • personal relations and politics
  • problem solving and puzzles

It's hard to disagree with any of that. He does point out that although the DM should make all of those available, how important each aspect is in the campaign depends a lot on the players. I will do my best to do it all, but the better I know what you want, the better I can tailor the campaign to make it fun for everybody.

Therefore, I have prepared this survey to find out what you want out of my D&D campaign. Please fill it out and press the "SEND" button at the bottom to e-mail me the results.

E-mail address:

Why you role-play?

Your gaming style

What "style" of player are you? There is no "right" answer. Nor is any one style superior to any other. Everybody has some aspects of all the styles, but is stronger or weaker in each aspect. Rate yourselves for each style from 0 ("I have none of this in me at all") to 9 ("this describes my whole approach perfectly").

Role player: You come up with a character concept and fully flesh out the personality so that you can adopt the role of the person in the game. You invent a full history and make ability score, skill, and feat decisions that are not necessarily the "best" from a game mechanical viewpoint, but which "fit" the character.
Power Gamer: You love learning all the intricacies of the rules insofar as they pertain to character power and abilities. You carefully calculate how to squeeze out the best possible advantage to your character when assigning ability scores, learning skills and feats, and buying equipment, so as to maximize combat effectiveness, armor class, or whatever. You would never consider applying an ability point or skill point to something that was not "useful" to your character in the context of the rules.
Story Teller: Of course your character has a detailed personality and history, but what is really important is the "story" that could be written by someone watching her deeds. What happens between adventures is just as important as what happens while adventuring.

Do you have any elaboration or comments on this?

Preferred campaign style

What "style" of campaign do you enjoy? Again, there is no one "right" answer: you probably want some "appropriate" blend of all of the styles. Tell me what you like best and like least.

Combat: You love fights and battles. There's nothing more exciting than melee and missile tactics - feigns, critical hits, weapon specialization, disarms, flanking, whirlwind attacks, party battle coordination, and such.
NPC Interactions: You love interacting with other players and the DM, each acting in the role of their respective character. You want to role-play your character's Diplomacy, Bluff, and Gather Information skills; although the final result will hinge on a die role, you want your skill in role-playing to add positive (or negative) modifiers to the roll.
Politics and Intrigue: Your characters wheel and deal in the larger world. You want to understand and influence great events rather than being the pawn of others.
Puzzles: You want tricky puzzles for your characters to figure out that depend on your intelligence and analytical skill rather than resolving everything with dice.
Timing: How important is the passage of time? Does your character have a life between adventures? If you learn of an NPC's nefarious plans, does it matter if you take time off to do something unrelated; will you still be in time to foil them?

Do you have any elaboration or comments on this? If you like a "balanced" mixture, explain your concept of "balance".

Preferred adventuring environs

A world has many possible adventure themes and locales. Nobody likes every type of adventure equally. I list several adventure locales. Again, rate each from 0 through 9.

City: Skill: Gather Information
Dungeon: Trudge through an underground complex, avoiding traps, opening doors, slaying monsters, collecting loot. Skill: Knowledge (Dungeoneering)
Wilderness: You are outdoors, but there is no civilization anywhere near and certainly no roads. You are not just traveling from one point to another: real exploration is part of your job. Skill: Survival

Do you have any elaboration or comments on this?

Gary Gygax's survey

Starting in issue #279 of Dragon magazine, Gary Gygax listed 16 aspects of a role-playing game. Not all are equally appropriate or interesting to all genres, but all are aspects. Gary ran an on-line survey asking RPG players to rate them from 0 to 9 in importance, and also to suggest additional aspects. Gary found two of the suggestions important enough that he now includes them on his list. I list Gary's final 18 aspects here in survey form.

I'd like you to fill this out for me, so I can see what you find important or interesting. To give an example of what I expect, "Building" of keeps or strongholds has been available to player characters ever since V1. Some players want to have their characters take advantage of this option, whereas others are simply not interested. Gaining a land grant upon which to construct a keep is something which should be role-played, for those characters that want to build, but if none of the players finds this aspect of the game interesting, why should I bother? There is no right or wrong for any of these preferences: just tell me what you like.

Note that the little "explanations" of the aspects are Gary's own words, except for a couple which he simply didn't explain. I used my own words for those.

Building: Construction, land acquisition, and so on.
Business: An occupation aside from adventuring.
Character development: Detailing a character's history.
Combat: Fighting things.
Economics: Gaining money, buying and selling goods and services.
Environment: A game setting that provides both a sense of wonder and danger.
Exploration: Dungeons and for larger discovery.
Intrigue: Secret schemes, machinations, and clandestine affairs.
Politics: The complex of relations between people in a society.
Problem solving: Not knowing the answer up-front.
Questing: Having goals, possibly externally provided, that take many game sessions to resolve.
Random Chance: Encounters, resolution of combat, and so on.
Rewards System: In a game without an end, your character still needs to advance.
Role assumption: Staying "in character" in actions/thinking.
Roleplaying: Ditto, and speaking thus when playing.
Story: Backstory and in play.
Strategy: Having the option - and the need - to make plans to resolve anticipated encounters.
Theatrics: Occasional histrionics and sound effects.

Do you have any elaboration or comments on this? Any other aspects that are not covered?

Maturity Level

What level of "maturity" are you comfortable with in a D&D campaign? There are several facets to this question. Every player will have a different "comfort level" regarding what they are willing and interested in playing.

There is the question of Evil. I am not planning on allowing player characters to start out with an Evil component in their alignment. But, the whole tenor of the campaign could be Lighter or Darker

Issue #300 of Dragon magazine defined four levels of "Vileness" in a campaign. It's a continuum, of course, but the definitions are useful.

In a "Lighthearted Game", the players don't think much about good and evil. The players are the "good guys" and the foes are the "bad guys". The orcs aren't doing much of anything in particular, let alone evil acts; they're just attacking the party. Characters don't have sex (and aren't motivated by it). Everyone walks away from the gaming table having had a good time, but no one thinks about the implications of their actions.

In the "Standard Game", there is a clear division between good and evil. Creatures and characters might waylay travellers and steal from them, kill innocent townsfolk, enslave others, or even make sacrifices to evil gods. The reasons behind such actions are not usually explored. Players think about the implications of their actions, but normally don't have much to worry about, since their usual course is occupied primarily with fighting evil creatures.

In the "Mature Game", since everyone is old enough to see an R-rated movie and is willing to handle subject matter of a more adult nature, topics arise that are usually glossed over in other groups. Evil NPCs will be much more malevolent and corrupt. Characters have sex and can be motivated (or betrayed) by relationships that have nothing to do with "adventures". Villains rape and torture, and the worship of evil gods and such is no longer "behind the scenes".

In the "Vile Game", the players revel in darkness and the campaign is almost a horror game, rather than a fantasy game. No subject is taboo. The PCs might very well face off against a necrophiliac, sadist consort of a lich who uses sex as a reward for those who serve her needs. The malevolence of evil characters makes it hard to distinguish them from demons or similar beings.

Tell me your "comfort level" for campaign maturity, both in general, and in various specific aspects. Note that I have my own comfort level for each of these aspects which I will not exceed, but I'd rather not exceed your comfort level, should it be lower than my own. Usually. The following descriptions are all straight from the Dragon magazine article with only mild paraphrasing.

General Maturity Level: Based on the above descriptions of "maturity level", where do you think your preferred campaign would sit?
Player Characters: In a lighthearted game, the PCs come from all classes and races but don't think about alignment. The only thought they give to selecting a patron deity is which domains each provides. In a standard game, PCs will be good or neutral aligned members of all classes or races. In a mature game, PCs might be evil, or, more likely, may be formerly evil or members of traditionally evil races. In a vile game, PCs might play evil or even fiendish characters.
Adventures: In a lighthearted game, orcs attack the village and the PCs must go to the orcs' lair and put an end to their plans. In a standard game, the PCs find a temple to Gruumsh in the orc lair and free a number of prisoners who were about to be sacrificed to the evil deity. In a mature game, two of the female prisoners are pregnant after assaults and will give birth to half-orc children. In a vile game, the orc priests are saving the blood of many hundreds of sacrifices to make a blood golem or permanently summon a fiend.
NPCs: In a lighthearted game, the townsfolk are universally good, trustworthy people and the creatures the PCs meet on adventures are universally evil. In a standard game, NPCs run the gamut of good to evil, but the distinction is clear to the players. Villains are motivated by nothing more than power or greed. In a mature game, NPCs run the gamut of alignments, but the veneer of benevolence may hide a distasteful underside. Villains are motivated by base urges and perversions as well as power and greed. In a vile game, everyone has a dark or selfish side, and PCs learn to trust no one and suspect everyone. Trust and acceptance are rare commodities.
Slavery: In a lighthearted game, slavers and slavery are mentioned only in passing and as an obvious evil. In a standard game, slavers are villains and slavery is tolerated in only the most evil and corrupt societies. PCs are always in a position to bring it to an end, at least eventually. In a mature game, slavery is a common aspect of the game - one of many evils that some people choose to live with. It may be common in the PCs' society and be too big for them to ever do anything about. In a vile game, the PCs just might need to take and employ slaves of their own.
Torture: In a lighthearted game, the topic is avoided altogether: villains don't torture their victims and there are no torture chambers in the dungeons. In a standard game, PCs frequently find torture chambers in dungeons, and torture is often threatened or implied, but it happens "offstage". In a mature game, PCs might be tempted to use torture on their own to gain information, but they ususally fight - and resist - such impulses. They might watch helplessly as an NPC comrade is exposed to mild torture. In a vile game, a captured PC might undergo gruesome and horrific torture and might even use the same tactics herself. The world is a terrible place.
Rape: In a lighthearted game, the topic is avoided altogether. In a standard game, references to actions that happened in the distant past (such as the origin of the half-orc race) are the only time this topic might come up. In a mature game, PCs might track down a rapist, or such might be an implied threat for captured PCs (but it does not actually happen). In a vile game, an enemy or maniac might rape a PC. Characters who are not good aligned might threaten a captive with such in order to gain information.
Extreme Gore and Violence: In a lighthearted game, the game has little gore. When villains die, they simply fall down. When PCs take damage, they simply get hurt and lose hit points. In a standard game, a vivid description of violence now and then provides useful color, but gore is still avoided. In a mature game, descriptions of graphic violence are commonplace, both in and out of battle. In a vile game, most battles contain gruesome, realistic descriptions of the gore that happens. Occasionally, over-the-top, unrealistic amounts of gore accentuate a particularly important fight.
Sex and Lewdness: In a lighthearted game, the topic is avoided altogether and even romance is never mentioned except in the most superfluous ways. In a standard game, romance can be a motivator for both PCs and NPCs. The occasional (mildly) lewd comment, coming from an appropriate source, lends atmosphere. However, all sexual activity is "offstage". In a mature game, lust and sex are prime motives for characters. NPCs and PCs may indulge in sexual activity, described mildly by players and the DM. In a vile game, characters engage in all manner of sexual acts and discuss taboo subjects such as necrophilia and rape (activities that NPCs might well take part in). These acts might be more than simple flavor: they might be required in the use of certain spells, rituals, or magic items.

Do you have any elaboration or comments on this?

Campaign Detail

How much role-playing campaign detail are you interested in? There are many things which can be either simplified or elaborated. Simplification leads to faster game play, at the expense of making the campaign a Generic Fantasy Setting™, whereas elaboration can provide a much richer role-playing experience at the expense of more time spent doing the details.

Here are a few areas where the "richer role-playing experience" vs. "faster game-play" tradeoff occurs.

Language: Is there a "Common" tongue? It's hard to imagine that everybody in the universe speaks the same language, but it makes the game easier if you never need to worry about it. Of course, it does make the comprehend languages and tongues spells less than useful. Perhaps there are only regional languages. Or perhaps everybody speaks their regional language and some people speak a Common "trade language" as well.
Money: Are there Generic Universal Monetary Units™, also known as "gold pieces", or does this kingdom have Ducats and that one have Dinars?.
Upkeep: Characters have life styles ranging from frugal to extravagant. You can completely ignore this aspect of role-playing by saying "your expenses equal your income", you can assign a "monthly upkeep cost" based on lifestyle, a la the DMG, or you can role-play it all.

Do you have any elaboration or comments on this?


Finally, what else should I have asked? Is there anything else you want to tell me?

Now that my questions have directed your thinking on the subject, do you have any changes in your reasons for role-playing?

me the results of this survey!

Copyright © 2005 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com> Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.
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