Okay, so I am a relatively new GM. I've started running the Road Trip campaign for Monsters and Other Childish things for my group. I thought I'd run a one night one-shot Halloween themed campaign for their characters on, of course, Halloween.

So I have this idea, but I've never created a campaign, I've only ever used pre-made campaigns. So I'm just looking for tips on campaign creation.

My idea is for there to be the stereotypical town haunted house, only their town's haunted house is actually haunted. Potentially the house is haunted by an Excruciator, a monster that skins a person and lives in their skin feeding off the misery of people in tune with the other world. Perhaps with the Excruciator throwing a party for the kids parents and infecting them with Excruciator young.

While this is the basis of what I'm thinking of for my plot, I'm wonder if there are anythings I should consider creation-wise. Are there anythings you think that people tend to forget when making their own campaigns, any tips on running a self-made campaign? Any tips for my plot?

Sorry this is long.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this system agnostic, or do you have one in mind? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28 '11 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's for Monsters and Other Childish Things, which runs on the one roll engine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pokey
    Oct 28 '11 at 20:08

First, I would write a list of senses. You might not need to refer to the list during play because the act of writing them down will get them into memory.

  • Write down a list of smells for the house. Is it musty, mouldy, damp, smokey, rotten, damp woody?
  • Write down a list of feelings the characters might have. Do they get chills running down their spines, hairs standing up on the back of their neck, sweating palms, hearts thumping behind ribcages?
  • Write down a list of 'touch' words. Is the staircase dry, the kitchen surface gooey, the doorway cold marble, the carpet sticky etc.
  • Write a list of sounds. Are there creaks, whooshes of wind, crackle of flame, drip drip drip of a far off tap, buzz of electrics, wooomph of a fire starting up etc.

Then I would work out some story based helpers:

  • Ensure they have a goal. Why are they there? Why go into the house?
  • If there is a main villain, give them a goal to. What do they want? To be left alone? The souls of people? How do they get to that goal.
  • Make sure the goals of the players are in conflict with the bad guy.
  • I'd put in at least one little twist. Perhaps the monster is frightened and needs help or the house is trying to leave this world etc.
  • What happens at the end? What at the main possible outcomes? What sort of win/lose situations do you imagine?

If I were to run it, I'd make the whole town haunted except for "the haunted house". The haunted house actually just has an old man who hates ghosts living there and the rest of the town want you to kill him to they can move more ghosts in.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like that idea of the whole town being haunted rather than the Haunted House being haunted. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pokey
    Oct 31 '11 at 23:28

I think the main thing to think about when creating your own campaign is:

What happens if things don't go as planned?

You want to make sure that your campaign has various possible forks and outcomes. You want to avoid what is traditionally called "Railroading." What happens if the PCs decide to just kill everyone in the room? What happens if they decide to burn down the house before getting there? Think outside the box, and think of alternatives.

It helps to create back stories for all of the NPCs so you can sort of get an idea of how they would react on the fly. How did the Excruciator get there? Why is it's existence known or hidden? What has prevented the community from knocking down the house?

The more you think about the more you will be able to respond to unexpected PC behavior and keep the story flowing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for bringing this up. Looking back at my plot, it was kind of the PC have to do this so this happens, then they do x so y happens. I'll have to make it more choose your own adventure. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pokey
    Oct 31 '11 at 23:29

I'm new to DM'ing as well, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I am decidedly not an expert. With that in mind, I recommend reading Dave Chalker's The 5x5 Method and Mike Shea's The 5x5 Method for Antagonists.

In addition, I recently stumbled on a way to use tables of "random" encounters to respond to and highlight the the actions of the PCs. Some explanation is needed:

The campaign I'm running involves PCs traveling between various areas of a country. I thought it would be fun to have a handful of random encounters and skill challenges prepared that the PCs might encounter while traveling between towns in pursuit of the main story goal. Here are a few examples:

  • The group encounters a group of young boys, on the outskirts of some town, who tied a dog to a tree and are throwing rocks at it. Does the group save the dog?
  • A local prostitute harasses the fanciest-dressed PC as he passes through town. How does the PC ditch her?
  • The locals of Town X can't offer the adventurers fresh water because their well dried up. There are skill checks to enter the well, clear the blockage, escape once the water is flowing again, etc.

My plan was to make a table of my ten or twelve random encounters/skill challenges plus a few "Nothing happens" results and roll for which one to use when the PCs traveled between areas. My intention was for them to be random, but, to my surprise and enjoyment, the PCs' actions and interactions as they traveled made it obvious which encounter or skill challenge to use. For example:

  • One of the PCs made a big show of his wealth shortly after arriving in one town. I quickly decided that a prostitute witnessed that exchange and inserted the "prostitute skill challenge" I had prepared.
  • In one story-relevant encounter, the group tried to save, intimidate, and glean information from some foe, but one of the PCs killed it, much to the consternation of the others. On their next trip between areas, I introduced the PCs to the "abused dog" skill challenge as an opportunity for the offending PC to redeem himself.

I let the PCs' actions inspire whether and which one of my "random" encounters arised. In some cases, I've taken a basic, between-areas challenge and applied it to a battle where I wouldn't have expected it to work. I continue to add new challenges and encounters to the pool as I think of them.

If you keep these ideas vague enough, they're really adaptable and can be molded to meet almost any situation, planned or not.

For your haunted house campaign, you could create several haunted room scenarios and a variety of stakes, in two tables, to use when the party enters a room. Roll to find out what they encounter and what happens if they succeed/fail. If your experience is like mine, though, the choice of which "random" room to use and which "random" after-effect to apply, will become obvious, dictated by the actions and decisions of the PCs.

Best of luck in creating your campaign.


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