War of Ashes
Re-Scaling a Campaign
Table of Contents
Re-Scaling a Campaign
You have plenty of breathing room before the player characters start pushing the default limits through milestones. Still, if you play a continuing campaign for long enough, you'll end up with PCs that are vastly more powerful than when they started. A rule of thumb for this might be when all the PCs have either:
Doubled the total of their approach bonuses, from +9 (+3 +2 +2 +1 +1 +0 = +9) to +18.
Raised three or more of their approach bonuses to Superb (+5).
When this happens, it's time to think about what you need to do to maintain the group's interest, keep everyone challenged and engaged, and give the heroes a suitably epic story. Here are some ideas for gamemasters:
Retire the Campaign in Style: Maybe the campaign has reached its natural end, story-wise, and all you need to do is give the heroes a graceful exit, then play something new. If you decide that is the proper course, it remains for you to give your campaign a fitting ending, one that will provide a satisfying conclusion.
Look at the campaign aspects—they may have evolved in play—and the current PC aspects; think about the overarching plots and how they have developed; talk to your players. Use this to extrapolate what would be a fitting final scenario or story arc for the heroes, perhaps resolving some of the dramatic hooks embodied by their high concept and flaw aspects, giving them with a well-earned retirement—or even a heroic death.
Scale Forward—Take It Into the Future:Ice ages aren't known for their blinding speed or short duration, relatively speaking. You can move forward by years, decades, even centuries to show the impact of the heroes' actions on the world of Agaptus and the War of Ashes.
Even if somehow the heroes have managed to find a way to stop or reverse the climate effects, the world will continue to change in dramatic ways; perhaps the heroes retired after a job well done, only to be called to serve the greater good again; or they went deep into hiding after making too many enemies, but the consequences of their actions finally catch up with them.
This is a good time to adjust the cap on approach bonuses, refresh rate, number of stress boxes, and so forth, not only for PCs but also for the opposition. It's not just a matter of increasing the numbers either; re-scaling the campaign means changing the scope of the issues and adversaries.
Scale Wide—Play Factions:Perhaps instead of playing single characters, your group needs to start thinking in terms of power factions in Agaptus: noble houses, armies, religious orders, secret organizations, etc.
Thanks to the Bronze Rule, you can move to playing entire factions, either as extras for your charactersor as the characters themselves.
As a result, challenges, contests, and conflicts will be on a whole new scale, but here is the happy news: it doesn't change how they are resolved. We'll still use the same actions, aspects, stunts, stress tracks, and consequences we've been using all along.
After a lot of play and advancement, Kim's PCs have grown so much that it's time to rescale; the group discusses options and decides that it would be fun to move on to world-spanning plots. Each player gets to create a faction or detail one already created in play, negotiated with the GM to provide some balance.
Sharlene's character Rustica has become involved with a Scholar House in play, House Kalamus; this makes a fine faction.
Ian decides he wants to create a pirate—ahem, "freebooter"—league operating among the western islands with Ulf as its leader, and calls it "The Brotherhood of the Claw."
Ben, who plays Iva, would like to control the Virian Order; Kim says that's a bit much since she has plans for the Order, but suggests that he control the Stone-Seekers, which Ben agrees to.
Note that the original PCs don't have to be the official leaders of these factions, merely aligned with them. Another charm of this approach is that you can re-scale again later by picking umbrella organizations operating at yet a higher level.
For more ideas on creating and playing such wide-ranging entities, refer to Mark Diaz Truman's supplement "Factions," which can be downloaded free from evilhat.com.
Scale Down—Play the Little People: You can choose to scale down instead by playing the PCs' allies and supporters that have been created in the story. In this case, you're essentially creating them as your new player characters, and the former PCs are now high-powered allies that only appear occasionally. This option is very easy to use because the only thing you have to do is fill in new character sheets!
If Kim's group opted to scale down, Sharlene could play Rustica's research assistant, Ian could play one of Ulf's former sailors, and Ben could play Iva's fawn Kuri, grown up to an adventurous adolescent.
Scale Up—Play Gods: If you want to go big, you can always move on to play the deities of your setting. Like the faction option, this means moving challenges, contests, and conflicts to a new world-spanning scope, but one look at real-world mythologies will reassure you that divine plots can also be petty, silly, and absurd!