Campaign Lessons Courtesy of Spartacus

Today (and the bulk of yesterday), I spent watching Spartacus, a rousing good show with a surprising depth of intrigue, far more than I expected from glancing at the little blurb. I figured it was a series “inspired” by the like of Gladiator, and I wasn’t far wrong–at least on the surface. Once things get going, there is a lot of good stuff going on.

There are lessons to be learned by such a tight focus. Let’s hit a few things and all get used to the time change, shall we?

Keep the motivation strong. Our hero wants to survive to be reunited with his wife. That’s powerful mojo and something everyone can understand on some level if they’ve ever been apart from someone near and dear for any period of time.

Keep the cast tight. Have a handful of characters at any given time. Introduce one or two more each session, but make sure you never have more than a handful of “named NPCs” showing up in a given session. This allows the characters time to get to know the world around them and makes it feel more real. It may sound strange, but encountering with a few key characters resonates much better than a laundry list of  a dozen over a period of time.

Focus on the powerful scenes. Only open the parcels with the pretty packages, in other words, don’t have empty scenes. Make sure the scenes add something. For example, we don’t see every training session of our gladiator. Only the ones which extend the story or reveal character or add complications are worth their salt.

Keep beating them down. Don’t make things easy. Every time one good thing happens, make sure at least one or two more complications arise. Without struggle, there is no story. The same applies to adventure. If our heroes made a fortune in their last adventure, give them an ethical dilemma–do they spend it on women and wine or use it to aid an ally or, perhaps, an enemy arises jealous of our heroes newfound wealth and seeks to remove it from them.

Leave them wanting more. While one thread should be resolved, think of your game and its overarching story. Make certain there are loose threads popping up at every turn. Dangle them out there. Make them obvious. But restrain yourself from the big reveal until the next session. This ensures continued interest and heightens excitement.

Now, for the glory of Rome, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!

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