Today I learned about "Living Campaigns"

edited January 2012 in Story Games
Today I learned about the concept of Living Campaigns.

Although there are faults in the concept, the idea of a huge parallel campaign tickles my geeksense.
I am not sure I understand exactly how this works though. Does anyone here have any experience with a Living Campaign?

Living Greyhawk (2000–2008) A D&D campaign set in the original Dungeons and Dragons world of Greyhawk, this campaign was introduced at Gen Con 2000 in conjunction with the release of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons.[1] The real world was divided into 30 administrative regions, each one keyed to a specific region of the Greyhawk world (that is, France = Ekbir, Switzerland = Dullstrand, Australia = Perrenland, etc). Players could either play "Core " adventures that were available to all players worldwide or adventures that had been specifically created for their home region, but they could not play adventures written for other regions. (In order to play adventures from another Greyhawk region, the player was required to physically travel to the real-world area associated with that region.) The campaign was less popular than Living City, but still had over 15,000 players and over 1,000 adventures,[3] but with the advent of Fourth Edition rules, the campaign was drawn to a close in 2008 and replaced with the Living Forgotten Realms campaign.

Also: Living Divine Campaign
And Living forgottern realms.


  • edited January 2012
    There is surely someone more expert than I around here, but I played Living Greyhawk through maybe eight or ten mods before deciding it wasn't really my thing. I'm happy to answer questions, though.

    My mom played in all of those and I got to hear stuff about them from the beginning.

    Also, I wonder if the way that West End processed the results of TORG players counts as a living campaign. It's different, but related.
  • Second generation player?! Lucky you :-)

    It is not clear to me how all the different games are coordinated and how they influence one another and the world history.
  • I played some 4E Living Forgotten Realms.

    I don't think play influences the adventures that get written. You make a character using the universal guidelines, and you can play in any Living game that is playing an adventure your character hasn't already played. When you play an adventure, you get some reward at the end that will help you in later adventures in the same series. You can either play through the adventures that everybody has access to, or you can play adventures set in your particular region. If I remember correctly, there's not much in the way of adventures for Vancouver (Canada), but there's lots for the US just south of the border. The adventures all come from WotC, but there's guidelines for writing your own. I played one of those, the DM wrote it himself, and it was just as good or better.
  • I don't know how RPGA managed the overall campaign, but the regions were autonomously controled. There were three people each year (at least here in the Shieldlands, in LG) that worked to create the regional modules. Anyone who passed a test could run LG games (I think) and organize LG events, but had to do it through their online system. Each player gets a certificate for each mod they run through and the results of the game were returned to the RPGA. I don't know how decisions were made about the results that shaped the world going forward but it was supposed to be some kind of consensus of how the various groups handled the modules.

    Is that what you're asking about?
  • I mostly wonder how the individual decisions affected and fed back into the overall game.
    I am also wondering about the purpose of the regional split, what is it meant to achieve?

    I have the nagging feeling that I am seeing too much in this system, but the overall idea can have lots of potential.
  • There's at least one or two "living" indie games thingees that are at least in the conceptual stage. I talked with some other indie games folks about this at PAX Dev and just had another conversation about it last Tuesday. The possibilities are exciting!
  • Oh my, Jon, are we talking about living indie campaigns? Check this out, I'll run it one of these days. Also, my OSR D&D campaign is apparently a living one, as it now has a side office in Helsinki, where a friend runs "Fantasy Rumania" to my "Fantasy Holland" since the beginning of the year. Fully compatible and licenced, I assure you. I should start a franchise and see what it takes to compete with Living Forgotten Realms (or Living Planescape, which is what they'll surely start once 5th edition rolls out).
  • Posted By: ivanI mostly wonder how the individual decisions affected and fed back into the overall game.
    They don't, really.

    I've heard about some living campaigns in which aggregate outcomes (512 groups achieved the optional objective in room C, 282 did not) were incorporated into future modules, but that was pretty rare.
  • Huh. I thought that was just how it worked.
  • edited January 2012
    The original poster is correct in describing them as hugely-parallel -- there's essentially no meaningful feedback or crosstalk channels between instances of play. At least in my experience with RPGA etc.

    I think there may have been some efforts within the V:tM shared universe group Camarilla to pull off something like that, but I don't really know much about it.
  • There were some in leadership that tried to pull that off, but it failed - too many Antediluvians, not enough ghouls, if you take my meaning.
  • edited January 2012
    So, like, let's say there's an adventure called Ivan's Childhood (IA1), which has Ivan the NPC in it. If you kill Ivan, you get no rewards, but if you defeat the monsters you still get xp. If you rescue Ivan, you get a reward that says Ivan owes you a favour. If you let the bugbears take Ivan, you get a reward called Bugbear Favour. You can't get both rewards.

    Then when you play the sequel, Ivan's Revenge (IA2), different things happen based on what reward you got. So if Ivan owes you a favour, you show the DM your card and the DM says that Ivan tells you the red dragon's weakness so you can kill it easier. If you have the bugbear favour, three bugbears will fight the minotaur by your side. You can't get both rewards -- except if one PC played Ivan's Childhood and saved Ivan, and another PC played Ivan's Childhood at some other time, some other session, and his party gave Ivan to the bugbears.

    Either way, you still have to fight the minotaur and the red dragon. And occasionally, the adventure will put the NPC in danger, which I thought was funny because in a real campaign I'd actually care about him, but in this sort of game, the NPCs really mean nothing. Only quests count!

    What you do in the game has absolutely zero effect on the adventures that WotC releases, and no effect on the world or on subsequent adventures outside of what gear you buy or what magical items you find, except for rewards having minor effects in subsequent linked adventures. A series of linked adventures are usually designed (like those Pathfinder adventure paths) to take you from say 1st level to 5th level, or 7th level to 10th level, etc.

    But you could play any adventure in any order as long as your character was in the right level range.
  • Posted By: ivanI am also wondering about the purpose of the regional split, what is it meant to achieve?
    No idea. Maybe to encourage people to play when they travel?
  • edited January 2012
    In one adventure, the DM told us we had been guarding a caravan but had reached a town and our contract was up, so now we had no jobs.

    Then an orc came into town and proclaimed that some bad guys had decided to conquer the town. Everybody's job was now hereditary, and anybody who was unemployed would have to work in the mines. Since we were unemployed D&D characters, we decided to kick ass on the bad guys, instead of work in the mines.

    One of the other guys was playing a ranger and he used the power Hunter's Quarry all the time. So in the middle of the game I turned to him and said "For a guy who doesn't want to be a miner, you sure do quarry a lot!" And everybody groaned. That joke still makes me chuckle.
  • edited January 2012
    One problem that followed the "Living" games around (at slotted conventions and the like; I used to play the shit out of Living games back in high school/college at cons), aside from the fact that half the DMs were Total Shit while maybe 1/4 of them were (truly) Fucking Awesome, was the fact that it's still all about the EEPs (XP).

    So more often than not, in those games where the DM is total shit, we would have me and 4-5 other strangers having an ok-to-fun time. We come up with a way to get around some obstacles (read: battles) through roleplaying. The DM still "makes shit happen" so that we have to do the fights anyway. Because unless you overcome the enemy in battle, you don't get XP (or at least not nearly as much XP). In the end, it's all about the XP. The battle occurs, desire dies a little inside.

    And more often than not, in those games where the DM is decent or totally friggin awesome, we would have me and 4-5 other strangers having an awesome time, using roleplaying to have fun, overcome obstacles, have a grand old time. And then at least 1-2 big fights come up, where we know that we could continue to roleplay our way out of these encounters... but the players and DM all look at each other, sort of nod our heads slowly, and roleplay finding our way into at least the Big Battle anyway. Because again killing enemies in combat == more XP. In the end, it's all about the XP. The battle occurs, desire dies a little inside.

    That's historically the thing. I dunno what it's been like since maybe 3.0/3.5.

    I do know that Derek Guder wrote or architected out some of the rules for Living Dark Sun. And in it, he expressly combatted this very problem with a simple and breathtakingly blunt rules hack: There is no XP. If you participate in the scenario, it doesn't matter if you use combat, roleplay (talking, sneaky plans, etc) to overcome obstacles: If you make it to the end of the scenario, then every character gains a level. That's it. So it doesn't matter if you and your friends are having a fun-as-hell time getting into the skin of your character, if the game feels more natural to avoid some or many (or all!) of the plotted-out combats, and you do so creatively (and likely with skill checks etc), then congrats, "You have completed the scenario. Level up!"

    Here's what I think about Derek's Living Dark Sun leveling rule:

    (although, I have not seen it in play myself, and have not attended a 4e Dark Sun living game, so I cannot speak firsthand on it)

  • When 3e came out I played in Living Greyhawk. My issues were essentially the same as Andy's. The modules didn't have much more room in them for meaningful creativity and ingenuity by the players than your typical crpg. Listen to the boxed text, pull some levers, push some buttons, go through the required set piece encounters, get your cookie. I liked the idea of the Living Campaign but it really fell short of what I hoped it would be like.

    Oh, one more thing. Putting magic items and special achievements on paper certificates really seemed to bring out the worst in people.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneWhat you do in the game has absolutely zero effect on the adventures that WotC releases, and no effect on the world or on subsequent adventures
    I don't have specific examples at hand -- my mom died a year ago and she was my primary conduit to this info and my recruiter into that world, but I'm virtually certain that this is wrong at least on some scale, in Living Greyhawk. I'm very sure that the Shield Lands mods of one year directly and purposefully incorporated outcomes from the previous year's mods. But regions might have had great latitude in how they implemented that sort of thing and so experiences might vary wildly. it was still a dull experience due to the things Andy explains above, but I want to give them credit where it's due.
  • Posted By: Andy"You have completed the scenario. Level up!"
    Brutally good.
  • I read somewhere (wikipedia) that Games Workshop held official tournaments for their Tau (?) army release that, when tabulated, were then used to determine what "nations" grew and what shrank. Evidently the Tau doubled in territory.

    But that would be easier to adjudicate than a more narrative D&D adventure...

    I think it would be awesome to play in a nation-wide tournament RPG, maybe with each state representing some section of a fantasy nation, a specific space opera's planet (Burning Empires!), or some third thing that I can't think of at this moment.
  • There was some discussion of trying to organize a Big Campaign along those lines. I've tried it before, it's very difficult. Basically the issue is recruiting game organizers.
  • Weeks is probably right about Living Greyhawk. I only played 4E Living Forgotten Realms, never any 3.x games.

    It's possible player feedback or a good "home-made" DM adventure was submitted and published. I never heard about it but then I didn't play very long.
  • We're running a weekend-long Living Dungeon World campaign next month at OrcCon in Los Angeles. One of our goals from the beginning would be that what players do in one session absolutely has an effect on what might come next; in between games, GMs will do a bit of kibbutzing and catch each other up on what's been going on so far, so the next GMs can take it all into account.

    The final two concurrent sessions will also be taking place simultaneously in-game. What one party does can help or hinder the other, even though they're in separate locations and ultimately trying to accomplish separate goals.
  • I played a metric ton load of Living Forgotten Realms. (Over 100 games in 2010, for various and sundry reasons.) I can probably answer most questions about LFR. I have less experience with LG.

    Posted By: Johnstone
    I don't think play influences the adventures that get written.
    Mostly true, yeah. For some LFR modules, there were surveys at the end of the module to collect results, and based on the first month or so of play the global admins would make decisions about what actually happened in the world. This was communicated fairly poorly, so players of the campaign didn't really tend to feel like they were having an effect. There's one blog post about this here.

    I too have heard that LG was better about this. LG pushed much more authority down into the hands of the regional admins; they also had smaller regions than LFR. This tended to make the campaign feel more cohesive.

    Right, so regions. LG had this system where your characters only had so many time units per year, and it cost time units to play in a module. You the player were not allowed to repeat modules. It was cheaper to play modules in you the player's geographic region, to simulate the time taken by travel. Also, you generally had to physically travel to another region to play modules from that region.

    This made regions super-important. Also, admins for a region had the right to make rulings about players, tell you that your character had become unplayable because they'd turned evil, and so on. It also had the effect of limiting the rate at which players could consume content -- turns out that when you don't have those governors, someone obsessive will consume all the available modules very quickly and then complain about the lack of new material.

    LFR also had regions, but they were purely cosmetic. They've gotten rid of them as of the third year of the campaign.

    Level bumps: not popular with some people, but a good idea. LFR doesn't use them. Ashes of Athas, which is the quasi-official 4e Dark Sun Living Campaign, does.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenOh my, Jon, are we talking about livingindiecampaigns?
    Yeah, in these particular cases, I think we're mostly talking about designing indie games so that the "living" part is built into the game. So, like, in order to play you have to go online and find a record of somebody else's game, build on it through play, and then post the results online to share with others. Or you bring the living parts with you to the table when you bring your character or other materials to a meetup, and the group looks at what everybody brings and concocts a new adventure from there. That kind of thing. I would be surprised if something like that doesn't happen in the next couple of years.
  • Thanks to everyone for the explanations.

    I can see how in many ways it is an attempt to create a big offline World of Warcraft :-)

    I am now really interested in seeing how this could be done well. I can see wikis ad being instrumental for that.
    I can also see how Emily's Caravan would be a very very good starting point in doing that.

    (should this be a different thread?)
  • This seems like a good reason to get off my ass and finally join Story Games.

    I wanted to post that I can't really take credit for the Ashes of Athas "we're not going to bother tracking XP". I joined the campaign mid-way through it's first year, so most of that is on the guys who originally set it up: Teos Abadia, Chad Brown, Chris Sims, David Christ.

    The original model was "play 3 modules, level up." Since we had 3 mods per chapter and one new chapter at each big convention, that basically boiled down to "gain a level for each big chunk of story/convention you go to."

    That worked pretty well at first, but as the campaign went on, we had more disparity in levels between people who had played everything and people who simply didn't. So for the next several chapters, we're going to a model that's simply "This chapter is at level X - whether you played everything else or not, come to the table at level X."

    It does take a bit of the "I earned my levels" away from the game and there's some concern that people will just skip over stuff, but ultimately we're trying to make an interesting story here, so the most important reward for playing should be the playing itself, not the levels or treasure or whatever.

    I'm very much an organized play/living campaign outsider. I've done a wee bit of Living Forgotten Realms, but the complete lack of an over-arching story didn't really interest me, and I did it more to social with folks who were into it. Which is why I usually preferred running the adventures to playing them. So it's been a very interesting journey getting involved in an OP campaign that shared some of the strengths of those programs but only had a single, unified storyline.

    I'm obviously biased, but I think it's a really cool thing, and I definitely encourage people to check it out, think about it, and experiment with the basic idea in other forms. There is something really cool about having lots of people all play the same adventure and compare notes with how they got through stuff.

    And on the general topic of XP, anecdotally I know lots of folks who have basically brushed it aside in D&D. One of the most enjoyable D&D games I played in was run by Greg Bilsland and we basically fast-tracked leveling to a crazy degree. Basically, we'd have big marathon 8-hour gaming sessions and the plot would move us to a new important location once every 1-2 sessions - at which point we'd level up. It did mean that some things (like my attempt at alchemy) were pretty much ruined, but it also meant that since we knew we'd level when we advanced the story, we focused on that entirely.

    There were a number of fights that I remember we skipped entirely or backed away from because we knew that we didn't have to slog it out, and there wasn't any reason for our characters to jump into the fray.

    Lots of games have tried to get around that by saying stuff like "You get XP by getting around a problem, whether you killed the monsters or not" but I'm not sure if that's a forceful enough statement. Flat-out coming out and saying "XP has no connection to the individual fights, it's just linked to the overall story" really shifts your focus there.

    Definitely won't work in all groups or for all D&D games, but I think it's an interesting and important thing to notice: in any game, players will tend to focus on whatever mechanism you create to provide them with rewards.

    Give them more power for fighting things? They're going to fight things. Give them more for continuing the story? That's what they'll do.
  • The idea of a massive non-online multiplayer game sounds good in theory, but in practice, I think it has to be disappointing. The draw, for me, would be having my character's actions affect other players' campaigns. If the actions of your party don't affect what happens in your neighbor party's campaigns, then what's the point of playing in the same "living" setting? Just play by yourself and post the results to story games.
  • edited January 2012
    Have you guys had a look at Caravan? I am not saying it has to be *the model*, but it supports concurrent play spread over several locations, and locations are marked by the passage of characters. Every location is a wiki page that challenges your character, and challenges the player to add more creative elements and challenges for other players.

    UPDATE: Right, as someone pointed out many of these concepts were explored in this thread. Using a kind of dreamland meta-setting like in Sandman would allow many settings to coexist and to justify incoherence.
  • Big, interactive events where the results at one table affect those at another table, but the main core draw is (I think) playing with new people/old friends and playing the same thing.

    It basically evens out expectations so everyone's on the same page and you can (in theory) play with random strangers and you can compare notes with other people who played through the same adventures - and it's a little more consistent and unbiased than a home campaign might be.

    I really do think that an OP campaign is a slightly different way of playing an RPG. It's _complementary_ to the usual "play with your buddies" kind of game. I don't think it could ever replace it, but it's got a very different vibe to it, and I've had a complete blast playing with random strangers sometimes. There's definitely a very different dynamic.
  • edited January 2012
    Posted By: JDCorleyThere were some in leadership that tried to pull that off, but it failed - too many Antediluvians, not enough ghouls, if you take my meaning.
    Yeah, I'm still in the club-formerly-known-as-the-Camarilla and, much like other forms of organized play (from what I hear), the interaction of home games with national or global-level plots is minimal at best. You pretty much play your character locally in games the GM creates, maybe you visit other cities nearby playing the same character, which can be fairly cool. But you can only really interact with the "major plots" at the big conventions (with the exception of maybe one random person every now and then who gets lucky). There is a certain amount of networking that goes on for people who have the time to send craploads of e-mails and the resources to travel, such that their characters become well-known, but that's basically as tied-together as it typically gets.

    Now, what I'd REALLY like to see is a Living InSpectres campaign... :)
  • Please note, the Mud Dragon characters you create and play are legal at any and all Living Mud Dragon tables.
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