Saturday, April 25, 2015

Crossed Party Paths

Thank you, Maliloki, for asking a question yesterday that gives me an excuse to write this.

I have had three campaigns running in my world at the same time.  I still sort of do, but the online campaign's hiatus cruelly drags on.  Offline, I still have two running.  The question was, is it the same world for all parties?  And if not, is there a chance that the actions taken by one party will affect another?

My first party began in the town of Kolyeno in the county of Voronezh, Russia, on May 1, 1650.  It began there because that was the first part of my world that I mapped according to the principles my blog readers recognize (elevation, 20 miles per hex, etc.).  I began with Voronezh because it was flat steppeland, lightly populated and a long way from the ocean.  I felt, at the beginning of my mapping, that I should start deep inland, developing my skills as I moved outwards.

I know that in my book How to Run I proposed starting on an island or a peninsula.  I made that suggestion because I know most campaigners don't set out to make nit-picky maps based on the actual world's latitude and longitude.  A writer has to know the audience.

At the time of starting that campaign, eight years ago, I hardly had more of the world mapped than that tiny area of south European Russia.  Kolyeno is a tiny village of about 200 people, the right location to start a 1st level party.  In such a small village, their own, where they had friends and family, they weren't likely to be threatened until they took their first risks.  The choices the party made, combined with random events that involved the party indirectly, led them first towards China, then Persia and finally to Transylvania.  Throughout it all, it was their choice to stay or go.

The online campaign began within two weeks of a spontaneous idea I had in February, 2009.  I called it a 'stupid idea.'  It turned out to be somewhat better.  By 2009 I had four years of mapping under my belt and I had produced sufficient areas of the world to provide several options.  However, as I was working on advancing my trade system specifically for a start in Germany, I wanted to experiment with that.  Therefore, I offered the online players a choice of Mecklenburg, Saxony, Sudetenland, Vogtland, Erzgebirge, Bohemia, Moravia, Upper Austria and Bavaria.  The party ultimately went for the last option.  I rolled randomly for a center in Bavaria that wasn't Munich, Augsburg or Nuremberg (I did not want to start them in a big city) and got Dachau.  Yes, that same Dachau.

That location created the events that followed.  The choices the party made, combined with random events that involved the party indirectly, led them first towards Switzerland, then Cuxhaven (after a slight reboot) and finally to the Azov Sea.  Throughout it all, it was their choice to stay or go.

Of course these two campaigns were utterly unique, though they both started on the same date.  At the moment the First Party was in Kolyeno in Russia, the Second Party was waking up in Dachau, Germany.  When the year turned to 1651, the First Party was stumbling south through the desert east of the Caspian Sea, while the Second Party had just been freed from the hands of a bandit in northern Italy.

The Third Party began late in 2011.  Because I had done detailed maps of the area, and because that party did not care, it began in Kronstadt in Transylvania, again on May 1, 1650.  That party consisted of three persons who poked around the area a little before wandering generally southeast into Serbia, Kosovo and ultimately Albania.  When the year turned 1651 for them, Demifee had died and they had made their way to Amisos in northern Turkey.

Now, this is interesting.  In game time, the Third Party passed down the road from Amisos to Melitene before the Second Party, during January of 1651.  However, in real time, the Second Party had already been down that same road, in April of 1651.  Technically, after the Third Party in game time but the actual campaign took place in winter 2013/4.

If this doesn't fuck with your head, nothing will.

The Third Party never came to the little dungeon I set up for the Second Party (which they encountered on the way back to Amisos), for obvious reasons . . . I didn't need to!  As the Second Party came through, they came across the wounded Sphinx, who they saved, setting up a totally different adventure on the same ground.  Why wouldn't I?

Will these parties encounter each other?  Possibly.  For the next year, until Spring 1652, the First Party will be wandering around the northern Ural Mountains.  This because two members of the First Party pulled from a Deck of Many Things, earning the enmity of the same demon, then played stupidly playing with certain picture-portals in a dungeon (they were warned, seriously, that the pictures were EVIL), the demon grasped their souls and dumped them onto the first level of Hell.  Literally.  The rest of the party then went on a quest to get them out (the characters weren't dead, just trapped, a'la Theseus).  I doubt if the Second or Third parties will stumble across them, there, as 1651/52 plays out.

After that, the First Party settled in their Transylvania fief, only to spend the next year trying to wake up King Carol, the last king of the Avars, who slept for 900 years under a mountain in the Tatras between Slovakia and Galicia (Poland).  That is a whole other story.  For them, as I said on the previous post, it is now late 1653 . . . and for various reasons, they will soon be heading for Khorezm in Turkestan, to fight a big, big fight against an old enemy.

I expect that the Second Party, online, will be managing to keep alive in and around the Black Sea for all that time.

Meanwhile, the Third Party is returning these holy items to their origin.  I can't say yet where they will be, since the players only have some of this information . . . however, it looks like they will be crossing to Aria, in northwest Afghanistan, seeking knowledge.  Just now, they're involved in events in Egypt.

See, my world is so immense, so HUGE, that even if all three parties happened to be in the same place at the same time, it would probably be a big city - where they could easily not stumble across one another unless I arranged it.  Or, like the Second and Third parties both passing through Tokat, they would be there three months apart or more.

I don't have to take special steps to ensure they don't meet.  Though I do need to keep good records on the date.

Something made easy by the fact that my world uses the same calendar.


Do be sure and catch the newest post on my new cooking blog.


  1. When you say some of the party went on a quest to rescue others from Hell, was this something that played out in the remainder of a single session, or that took multiple sessions to complete? What did the players do while their characters were trapped?

  2. Remember that I often let my players run multiple people, main characters and henchmen.

    One of the trapped characters, Ivan, was henchman to Pikel, the player's main character. You might remember both those names from the mass combat. Ivan is still around, right now fighting more than a hundred orcs in the campaign (Pikel is hundreds of miles away, on a different quest).

    The other trapped character was a main character, Shalar, who was also in the mass combat. Shalar had a hench, Widda, who the player was able to run while Shalar was trapped in hell.

    We played the freeing of Shalar and Ivan for a whole winter; first, finding someone to teleport the party to the highest mountain in the Urals, where they determined there was a gateway into the Brass City (a sort of backdoor, avoiding Charon and the river Styx). The party popped into the brass city (they were level 5th to 7th) about 15 hexes from the building where Ivan and Shalar were being held, fought some minor devils and two big bone devils with the help of a 9th level paladin who volunteered to join them. The paladin died, they got Ivan and Shalar out . . . and then found themselves, in the winter, in the Ural Mountains.

    That is where they found the mastodon that they used to bash the goblins in the mass combat.

    They were gone from Transylvania for a year; when they got back, they found the goblins, hobgoblins and drow had built the fort they had to take down to reestablish their control over their small fief.

  3. A sort of tangent to having multiple parties in the same campaign world. What about within a single party, can you speak to managing multiple player characters or groups of PC's that have differing goals or agenda in game.

    If, for example, I could adjust the parameters Ivan and Shalar being trapped in hell to illustrate my question, where Ivan and Shalar had the oppertunity to attempt their own escape from hell. You would now have a party of 2 PC's on a quest to escape and at the same time the main party trying to break them out.

    Can you speak to techniques you employ while running to manage a situation where the party is split. I did something like this as of late and observed that I had both built or lost tension at my transition points -- pausing one group and restarting another. It was challenging and took me just beyond my comfort level as a DM.

    Also could you pass along which calendar (assuming its a digital one) that you have found best for logging campaign dates/notes?


  4. I'll settle in and write a post answering those questions in some hours, Barrow.

  5. Can't wait to read it, thank you.


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