When planning a future campaign, you may want to sell your campaign idea to your players. When you sell players on your campaign premise, they will buy in early on, and be excited to play in your game. You get the players’ brains churning with ideas and enthusiasm about the game long before rolling a single die. The rest of the article will talk about why you should pitch your ideas. You’ll learn how to pitch them in a simple yet evocative format with a campaign handout.
The Campaign Handout
The campaign handout is your opportunity to introduce the new campaign. The handout has two central purposes: information and marketing. Most importantly, your campaign handout should be short. I’d recommend 1-2 pages. Don’t make your players read a novel before they get to play your game. If you lore dump on your players, you are just as likely to put them asleep as you are to generate the hype that we are going for. Focus on the actionable information. What might matter to their characters in sessions zero and one? As your players explore your world, you can introduce more lore.
You want to provide your players with enough information to get started in the world. Provide information to help them create their characters and understand their immediate environment. Mike Shea from Sly Flourish recommends sharing six truths about your campaign in his book Return of the Lazy DM. According to Mike, the six truths are facts that separate your campaign from all other possible campaigns the players have previously played. Six is a reasonable number to manage and digest for your players. But, you can use more or less if you think its best for your game. Here are a few considerations to get your player’s started:
- Any race, class, background additions or restrictions.
- Homebrew rules, or rules variants that would impact character performance (and character design).
- Any campaign backstory that the characters would know about (truths).
- Basic information about the area where the characters are starting (locations, prominent NPCs, recent events or rumors).
When it comes to marketing, you want to create that sense of excitement around your upcoming game. You should offer hints about what’s to come to hook the player’s for their first adventures. A good sales pitch will evoke a sense of wonder in the world and the looming dangers that threaten it. This is where the sales pitch comes in.
Pitch your Campaign
Your campaign pitch should be the first section of your handout. This is your chance to market the campaign, and get people interested. Once you have piqued their interest, then you can share the other important starting information.
In business, there is something called an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short speech used to catch the interest of your prospective customer. The speech is usually between 30 to 60 seconds long (about the length of an elevator ride). Your campaign pitch should also be brief. Since this will be in a written format, a single paragraph is all you need. There are four components of your pitch to consider:
- Identify your goal
- Describe the campaign you are pitching
- Communicate your campaigns unique selling proposition
- Engage the readers with a question or call to action
Identify Your Goal
Start by identifying the objective of your pitch. This can be something generic as: generate hype around my campaign. Or you can focus on something more specific. For example, you could emphasize the kingdom building aspects of the campaign.
Describe the Campaign
Once you have your goal, you can use the first two sentences of your paragraph budget to describe your campaign. Highlight the aspects of your game that you want to emphasize to your players. If you are playing a swashbuckling campaign, use the words swashbuckling. If you are playing in a magitech world, use descriptors to convey that. Try to be evocative yet terse with your description.
Communicate Your Unique Selling Proposition
Unique selling propositions distinguish the products to the customer. Essentially, why should the customer by your product and not another? What are you offering the customer that is unique and valuable to them. One of Amazon’s unique selling propositions was that they were one of the first e-commerce retailers to offer free shipping. And when that became an internet standard, they innovated again. They offered free 2-day shipping with a Amazon Prime account. Those propositions enticed a lot of customers to shop at Amazon. They get their products delivered to them free of charge and fast (minus their membership fee).
When it comes to your campaign, your unique selling proposition comes from one of two places. Either your world is unique or your story set-up within the world is unique. A unique world offers different dimensions and/or constraints in which the players will interact in the world. This affects what types of stories they may tell. For example, if your campaign takes place on Athas from D&D’s Dark Sun campaign, your players will have a different experience than playing on Eberron. A unique story set up helps frame the actions and stories that the players will be thrust in. For example, if the gods have recently been killed, what’s the fallout from that? Do other entities try to take their place? What happens to the religious hierarchies in the world? Do clerics and paladins that worshipped those gods lose their powers?
Once you’ve decided on your unique selling proposition, make sure its highlighted in your elevator pitch. Again, you only need a single sentence or two. This is the spark that sets off the gunpowder. You want your players imaginations to run wild with ideas once they understand the unique aspect of your game.
Hook them with a Call to Action
After you have describe your world and distinguish why its unique, its time to reel your players in. The last part of your elevator pitch is the call to action. You want to engage your reading audience for the final time by drawing them into the world. You can do this by asking a open ended question. Inform them there is conflict brewing within your campaign. Make a call for heroes to do something about it. Then, ask if they are ready to be those heroes.
Example Campaign Pitch: Dark Sun
Athas is a hot, arid planet covered in a vast expanse of sand dunes, parched salt flats, rocky badlands, and worse. Life on Athas is difficult and brutal. Raiders, slavers and unspeakable monsters with psionic powers overrun the badlands. The city-states are small dots of civilization in an otherwise inhospitable world. The use of arcane magic in past wars is responsible for defiling Athas to the wasteland it is today. The sorcerer-kings are terrible defilers of immense arcane power. They use their power to rule the city-states with tyrannical dispositions. Do you have what it takes to survive in the land of the dark sun, or will you be another nameless casualty lost to the sands of time?
The campaign handout is a valuable document to have for your game. Start with a strong pitch, and you’ll build hype around your forthcoming campaign. The handout helps sets expectations about the style of game you are going to run. It offers a preview to your players about what is to come. It also gives your players valuable information about the world around the characters.
Keep your handout short (1-2 pages) to increase the likelihood your players will read it. It helps you distill the most important aspects of your campaign down into clear ideas. A short document keeps you from spending valuable DM preparation time on a lengthy reference document. With the right balance, you’ll have an informative piece of marketing that will help your game get off to a strong start.
Art Credit: Ede László