Game: Campaign Planner
Publisher: Ronin Arts
Review Dated: 26th, October 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 5
Average Score: 5.00
A campaign planner is a good idea. Let’s take a step back there. A campaign planner is a framework, a set of notes, where a GM can marshal all their ideas. If you’ve made changes to the rules for gnomes, dropped a spell, added a new god and introduced a new common monster to your campaign then it’s convenient and wise to note all this down in one master file.
A campaign planner is a good idea because it organises changes, edits and tinkerings. When it comes to tinkering, roleplayers are ubermeisters. I use make shift campaign planners all the time. Aside from the players and the player characters, the most important element in my games are the NPCs and their factions. I need to keep record of who’s trying to achieve what, why and how. I need to know who knows who, who likes who, trusts who, distrusts who, will turn to in trouble and who will betray who if the going gets tough. The notes for all these relationships alone can quickly become a riotous mess.
The thing is that whenever I make a campaign planner, even when I’m especially strict and tidy about it, its always completely differently structured from the last one I made. If you’d asked me when I drew up my last campaign planner whether it would be possible to design a generic, one size fits all, campaign planner I would have responded with an empathic no.
I’ve read through this campaign planner from Ronin Arts a few times now. I’ve even tried to map current campaign notes to it. I still don’t think it’s possible to design a one size fits all campaign planner. If a campaign planner is there to bring order to the chaos then it is defeated the minute you need to note all the edits and changes made to the planner.
If it’s not possible to design a one size fits all campaign planner then it might just be possible to produce one that suits the most common “size” of campaign. In other words, a campaign planner designer could work out the most common way people are likely to play and run a game and cater to those needs. This is what Ronin Arts seem to have done with this PDF campaign planner. In many ways this approach seems to work.
The campaign planner starts as it means to go on. There’s space to note peoples’ names, whether you’re using a published campaign world (and if so, which) and whether you’re sticking to it. You’ve got three short lines to note down the campaign synopsis. There’s a box to record which published adventures you’ve used in the campaign and a line or two for the results. There’s a tall column, with rather more space, to scribble changes you’ve made to the published setting. The following page is divided into four; house rules for arcane magic, divine magic, combat and other. If this order of topics and available space seems to suit your GMing style then the chances are you’ll find the campaign planner valuable.
There’s a page to record the books you’re using to support the campaign and then a few pages to jot down comments and revisions to the standard d20 fantasy races. At four races per page there’s space enough to record the important changes and there are two left over sections for your own or third party races. There’s a similar deal for the standard fantasy classes.
So the campaign planner continues, noting which prestige classes are available (and where you got them from) and which spells aren’t. There’s equipment, events, space for deities, taverns, guilds, towns and NPCs.
There aren’t any maps in the campaign planner but there are shaded grey grids for you to draw your maps on. If you’re a cartographical talent then you’ll be able to sketch the outlines of your campaign world on one of them and smaller scale maps in others.
The campaign planner supports dungeons. Hmm. There’s a scratch of space to draw a dungeon outline in. There’s more room for encounter tables (1d20 based) and for favourite traps.
With a nod to the 101 series from Ronin Arts there’s a short section to record any legendary treasures or artifacts that might turn up in the game too.
I do think that many D&D players will find most of the campaign planner useful. It wasn’t a fluke that the RPG shot up the Best Seller charts at RPGNow when it was released. I don’t think I’d use the campaign planner as it is though, I might use it as some sort of checklist though.
I’ve seen PDF products that allowed the reader to actually type directly into them. If you had a paid-for copy of Adobe, one that lets you create PDFs, then you could save your campaign planner in nice, clean, computer type. If, like me, you can’t save PDFs then you could still print out clean copies of your campaign design. The PDF format suits the campaign planner well. You can print out as many copies as you need.
It’s horses for courses when it comes to this product. If you run a typical game – or what Ronin Arts reckon a typical game is – and if you like to use a lot of resources, tinker with rules, and could do with organising all this then the campaign planner could help.