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Eric Anderson
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I've never designed a campaign around a particular Player Character. My group almost never has 100% attendance, so it wouldn't work very well. We can routinely get any 5 or 6 of us together, but all 7 in the same place at the same time is an extreme rarity.
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Club Squirrel
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Carry on and shift the focus. Let the players think all the previous stuff around that character was a rouse. devil
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Mark Wilson
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I agree that a GM shouldn't start out with a plan to do this (with rare exceptions like Patrick's story previously). But even if it's not planned from the start, I do think there are times where a character's backstory and/or choices end up creating major arcs organically. I mean, it's a best practice to try to incorporate character-specific details into the story, is it not? So when you get a REALLY good hook from that, it's not a surprise that some GMs find themselves with one character whose existence is driving at least part of the story.

I've not had a campaign with a irreplaceable character. But I did have one who was a central figure in events of the plot, slightly moreso than the rest of the party. And it was because she left some holes for me to fill in her backstory that worked great with what I had planned anyway. And if we continue, her previous involvements would likely drive a lot of the new plot hooks. However, her player has said she might be done with the character. So. Presuming we pick back up sometime, I've debated asking her to play the character for a few sessions to push things off, then we find a narrative exit while she switches to a new character. Alternatively, her character becomes an NPC.

And if she had died? You just make it work. It's fiction, after all...there's always some plausible explanation.
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William Hostman
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pdzoch wrote:
A question suggested by

Joseph Hellar
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If you have designed your campaign around a particular Player character, what do you do if that particular player character dies (or the player leaves or changes characters)?

I don't do that kind of campaign building unless the character is an NPC... in which case, I can replace them.
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Roger Hobden
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I would never use such a concept.
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Dave Terhune
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This is a blatant example of frivolous geek gold spending.
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If I were to do that, it's because I only have one player. Under those circumstances, I might just call the campaign successfully concluded.

Somebody earlier mentioned a game with one player and multiple GMs. If you're interested in that sort of thing, check out Becoming: A Game of Heroism and Sacrifice. Neat premise, but I'll probably never actually play it.
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Paul Dale
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Just don't do it. A single point of failure in a campaign will fail. Murphy's Law and all.

Pauli
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Alain Curato
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skalchemist wrote:
In both cases, I think the only way for it to work in a way that satisfactorily represents the underlying genre/stories is for the main character to never "die", although they may get played by a new person over time (e.g. the Doctor's regenerations), and can have all kinds of other bad things happen to them.


I do agree.

I would also like to point out that "the central character" is not always "the hero". As Skalchemist said, Princess Leia is not Luke Skywalker, although she does her fair part of the job. Just like The Cheerleader in Heroes is not the most active character. The story can revolve around someone without this person doing everything Buffy-style.

Take King Arthur. He is a pivotal character in his tales, but he does not do much (someone playing him would seek and get a lot more to do). If he dies, the story ends. If someone rebels against him, that person is a traitor; if he gives up the Grail, the world is lost; his wife is a crucial character too. Yet it is not The Hero of each tale - the hero is Lancelot, Gauvain, Parsifal or someone else.
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William Hostman
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Karkared wrote:

Take King Arthur. He is a pivotal character in his tales, but he does not do much (someone playing him would seek and get a lot more to do). If he dies, the story ends. If someone rebels against him, that person is a traitor; if he gives up the Grail, the world is lost; his wife is a crucial character too. Yet it is not The Hero of each tale - the hero is Lancelot, Gauvain, Parsifal or someone else.


Arthur really is a poor choice to illustrate with... at least until after Mordred becomes disillusioned with his father over the Guen & Lance thing.

Unless the PC's are barons† or are table knights, Arthur is just set dressing.

†technically, all earls and dukes are also "barons," not just the cap-of-maintenance barons.

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aramis wrote:
Karkared wrote:

Take King Arthur. He is a pivotal character in his tales, but he does not do much (someone playing him would seek and get a lot more to do). If he dies, the story ends. If someone rebels against him, that person is a traitor; if he gives up the Grail, the world is lost; his wife is a crucial character too. Yet it is not The Hero of each tale - the hero is Lancelot, Gauvain, Parsifal or someone else.


Arthur really is a poor choice to illustrate with... at least until after Mordred becomes disillusioned with his father over the Guen & Lance thing.

Unless the PC's are barons† or are table knights, Arthur is just set dressing.


This is why I added : someone playing him would seek and get a lot more to do. cool
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William Hostman
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Karkared wrote:
aramis wrote:
Karkared wrote:

Take King Arthur. He is a pivotal character in his tales, but he does not do much (someone playing him would seek and get a lot more to do). If he dies, the story ends. If someone rebels against him, that person is a traitor; if he gives up the Grail, the world is lost; his wife is a crucial character too. Yet it is not The Hero of each tale - the hero is Lancelot, Gauvain, Parsifal or someone else.


Arthur really is a poor choice to illustrate with... at least until after Mordred becomes disillusioned with his father over the Guen & Lance thing.

Unless the PC's are barons† or are table knights, Arthur is just set dressing.


This is why I added : someone playing him would seek and get a lot more to do. cool


Arthur is almost completely irrelevant in the majority of the Arthurian Games.

He's not an important character. The setting works just fine with Uther. He's not even relevant to the adventures of Lancelot. If Arthur's a PC, it means the game's pure politics, and not really playing the Arthurian mythos.

A better example would be Captain Picard. He's playable - he's in almost every session, and active in many ways... But would be better off for story control as an NPC.
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john Whyte
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Okay for those of you who say you'd never do that, whilst I never start off planning to do it (except once right ) it can become problematic in the middle of a campaign. I will often find that I know what I want 'Step X' to be, I know it reveals plot/twist/BBEG/something. It's the hinge to the next step. And sometimes the best way is to reveal it through/to a specific PC.

It's those sessions that are the hardest for me, I want to keep the PC alive and I feel like all that work is wasted if they die, even if the campaign can continue.
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Doesn't seem like a good idea, so I wouldn't really do that.
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Benj Davis
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I wouldn't make it possible for the main character to die except in a suitably series-ending way.
Now, if the player went out of the picture, that would be more difficult.
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Interesting. While lots of people are saying its a bad idea, I tend to think that any game that becomes very centered around PCs to the point that their leaving has a good chance of derailing the game is almost certainly going to be a much better game than one that's not centered on the PCs to that point.

I'm curious, is the overall concept disliked, or just it being specifically 'ONE' PC? What if having ANY PC go would mess up the campaign?
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Hans Messersmith
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StormKnight wrote:
I'm curious, is the overall concept disliked, or just it being specifically 'ONE' PC? What if having ANY PC go would mess up the campaign?
I think that the original question was about planning a campaign around a PC.

But I think you make an important point, Bryan, that a PC can become crucial and darn near irreplaceable (temporarily or permanently) without planning, organically as the game is played. I've had this happen before. This can be through all kinds of time horizons:

* next session horizon: Derek can't make next session of Masks, but the whole point of the session was to get his character back out of the negative zone. what do we do?

* short term arc horizon: last two sessions we have been investigating a backstory element of Bob's character, but Bob's wife just had a baby and he won't be able to play for three months, what do we do?

* long term arc horizon: we have been playing for five sessions, and Monica's character's personal relationship with the local Duke NPC has become really important, its driving a bunch of what is happening. But Monica just got a new job and can't play anymore, what do we do?

I think that's a situation that comes up for nearly everyone who runs/plays games with any substantial "story" component (e.g. as opposed to strict dungeon crawls or whatever) regardless of whether you are working off a well thought through plot or things are just happening as they happen through improvisation. There really aren't good answers to it. In the very short term, I would usually try to postpone the game until the person can come back. But in any longer term situation, there is no way around the fact that the game will be less satisfying than it would have been with that character and player in the game.
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William Hostman
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StormKnight wrote:
Interesting. While lots of people are saying its a bad idea, I tend to think that any game that becomes very centered around PCs to the point that their leaving has a good chance of derailing the game is almost certainly going to be a much better game than one that's not centered on the PCs to that point.

I'm curious, is the overall concept disliked, or just it being specifically 'ONE' PC? What if having ANY PC go would mess up the campaign?


Let's clear up my view....

Group has PC's A, B, C, & D...

If the game is focused upon and around character A, then there's a huge issue if A dies or A's player quits, misses, or gets bored with the character. It also tends to demoralize the players of B, C, or D.

If the game is tightly tied to all four at once, and any one missing, it's also going to be an issue. Only now, it's about 16 times more likely to rise.

If the game is tightly tied to the group, but not to any particular character, that's pretty typical.

Now, it's fine to have a session or adventure tied to one PC, provided that PC's player is reliable, but not a campaign... unless that PC is really reliable and not a screen hog.
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Scott Johanson
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I've got a game world that's almost 30 years old at this point.

Campaigns I run take place (at least initially) in one area of this world at a certain time (Gap of 10-20 game years between campaigns). The campaign setting (usually) has an overarching plot. The characters all have (or get) hooks into this plot, but like an open world game (Elder Scrolls, et al), the players are free to ignore the plot or do something else. They do not depend on any one PC living/doing something by my design.

Unlike most open world games, the plot doesn't pause if the players get distracted. Bad things will happen (maybe not to them, but to NPC's, nations, etc). One recent campaign (covering 18 months in game, 2-3 years real life) the players didn't take the plot too seriously until their home Kingdom was conquered by Evil. By the end of the campaign, one PC had managed to make himself indispensible to winning for the good guys, by organizing a Grand Alliance and turning it into a new country.

The villian was defeated, and the Forces of Good strengthened enough so that the next campaign in the series (5th and (now) final saga) may finally see the final destruction of this villian, his realm, and his desire to enslave an entire continent (and later, the world). If not, future campaigns, no matter where and the focus, will feel the effects of that failure.

As a change of pace, the campaign I'm running now is set in a fairly static sandbox area - low population, low magic, lots of islands - a combination of Pirates of the Caribbean and Ancient Mediterranean. Full of swindlers, scoundrels, pirates, raiders, monsters and treasure, but no overarching plot.

Players have the choice to rise up and become great, or not. I don't plan to make the players heroic or irreplaceable, but there's room for the characters to do that through their own actions and deeds.
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