DM: "OK, you're all sitting in the tavern when..."
Players: "Oh no, not another tavern scenario! We're tired of those! We want something different!"
If this sounds like your latest gaming session, Creative Campaigning can help: This book is loaded with ideas and suggestions that will make even the most jaded players sit up and pay attention. Everything from alternate settings to variant rules to really strange adventures is included.
Put your gaming back on track for outstanding heroic adventure!
DMGR5: Creative Campaigning (1993), by Tony Pryor, Tony Herring, Jonathan Tweet, and Norm Ritchie, is the fifth book in the prestige Dungeon Master's Guide Rules series for second edition AD&D. It was published in January 1993.
Continuing with the DMGRs. As with the previous four DMGR releases, this one is published as a prestige leatherette book. The DMGR books covered a lot of different topics. Creative Campaigning is presented mainly as a GM advice book, which makes it a nice complement to TSR's previous GM advice book, DMGR1: Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide (1990).
That said, there's a lot of variety within the book too. Tony Pryor writes about fantasy campaigns that don't fit the Medieval Europe norm, as well as single-class campaigns, single-race campaigns, Lost Worlds, and other unusual setups. Tony Herring talks about outlining adventures and offers up story seeds for three adventures and a random encounter generator. Jonathan Tweet covers a variety of topics including variant rules for ability checks and proficiencies, tricky ways to use old monsters and treasure, advice for freestyle gaming where the party isn't actually together, and suggestions on dealing with different sorts of players and different sorts of games, including convention play. Finally, Norm Ritchie gives an overview of the main TSR campaign worlds and also provides details on the "medieval mindset."
Overall, the book is a bit of a hodge-podge, but at least four of the seven chapters - totaling a bit more than half the book - focus on GMing advice, as promised.
About Non-Medieval Worlds. Prior to the 90s, D&D had focused on pseudo-medieval fantasy worlds. However, by 1993, TSR had already kicked off the HR series (1992-1994) with books on the vikings, Charlemagne's paladins, the Celts, and the Elizabethan age. It's rather surprising that Creative Campaigning doesn't reference those other books - even though it includes sections on the Celts and the cavalier era of The Three Musketeers. However, that's probably representative of TSR's size at the time.
The discussion of Lost Worlds campaigns as an alternative to medieval settings is reminiscent of work that David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay did on pulp D&D modules in the early 80s -- starting with X1: "The Isle of Dread" (1981). The pulp influence of D&D had notably faded in the 90s prior to this book.
About Variant Rules. Gary Gygax had never been that fond of variant rules. Thus, it's somewhat surprising to see them appear in Jonathan Tweet's section of the book. D&D would embrace variant rules even more fully in a few years with the publications of the Player's Options books (1995-96) for AD&D 2.5e.
About Freestyle Play. There's little doubt that Jonathan Tweet's chapter on "freestyle play" is the most innovative part of this book. He admits that his audience doesn't include all roleplayers: "Players who enjoy freestyle gaming, however, are more interested in character development and the creation of a good story."
The ideas that Tweet espouses about cliffhangers, innovative GMing styles, and more foreshadow the increased focus on story in RPGs of the 00s, particularly in the indie community. That's no surprise, as Tweet foreshadowed the indie industry in his own releases like Ars Magica (1987), Over the Edge (1992), and Everway (1995) as well.
About Player Types. DMGR1: Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide contained one of TSR's earliest looks at player types. It's interesting to see Tweet return to the same ground here, highlighting "power gamers," "puzzle solvers," "roleplayers," and "campaign historians." We again don't see the more complex and considered organizational schemes of recent years, but it's obvious that the hobby has been thinking about some of the same topics for years.
Tweet also highlights the fact that GMs now have to think about female players for one of the first times ever. This was in part due to the general maturation of the hobby, but also thanks to the influx of females which appeared as a result of White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade (1991) and the vampire LARPs that followed. Ironically, those games were at least an indirect outgrowth of Jonathan Tweet's first work in the industry, since Vampire was the work of Tweet's former RPG design partner, Mark Rein*Hagen.
About the Grand Tour. The tour of campaign worlds toward the end of Creating Campaigning highlights the settings that TSR was focusing on in 1993: Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms (including Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur, and Maztica), Greyhawk, Ravenloft, and Spelljammer. It had often been said that TSR had too many campaign worlds in the 90s, and this outline highlights that observation pretty clearly.
Ironically, the Dragonlance, Greyhawk, and Spelljammer lines would all be dead by the end of the year - but TSR would quickly discover new lines to replace them.
About the Medieval Mindset. TSR's support for an "authentic" medieval setting that closes out this book was part of a surprisingly concerted effort to create a Middle Ages setting for D&D that also got attention in DMGR2: The Castle Guide (1990) and DMGR3: Arms and Equipment Guide (1991).
About the Creators. As with some of the other DMGR books, this one was put together by a disparate group of talented individuals. Pryor was the most prolific, but this was his only work for TSR in 1993, probably because he was then co-authoring the small press Metascape (1993) SF RPG.
Herring had been writing for TSR for a few years, mostly for the Marvel Super-Heroes RPG; this was one of his last RPG products, alongside the PG2: Player's Guide to the Forgotten Realms Campaign (1993) book, later that year.
Tweet, as already noted, had considerable influence on the proto-indie field of the 80s and 90s, but he was also freelancing for companies like Avalon Hill and TSR before he became the head of RPG development for Wizards of the Coast in June 1994.
Finally, Ritchie produced just a couple of RPG books, his other one in 1993 being GA1: "The Murky Depth" (1993).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.