Campaign-Level Questions for a Solo Campaign

Building a Mystery

I drove to the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Milwaukee Wisconsin to attend the J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript exhibit. There’s only three more days to attend; here’s a link to the Eventbrite registration for the exhibit.

During that drive, I listened to Daydreaming about Dragons, Episode 96: Questions and Settings. In that episode Judd talked about campaign preparation, in particular asking open-ended questions regarding the campaign world.

Until hearing Judd say it, I only intuited this stuff. My realization during the private was that so long as I have questions about a campaign, I remain interested. Unanswered questions are the mystery, and once that’s gone in a story, I find my interest waning. After all, what more is there to learn?

This got me thinking about The Travels of Duinhir Tailwind campaign. That campaign is set in J.R.R. Tolkien 📖’s Third Age of Middle-Earth. As the player, I have questions for Duinhir:

  • How’s he going to get to Isengard?
  • What will Saruman do with the message?
  • What might Saruman want of Duinhir?

But as Loremaster, I realized I didn’t have all that many questions. In part because of the sense of completeness of the eventual story; Frodo and Gollum will destroy the One Ring.

When I finished that Daydreaming about Dragons episode, I started wondering…daydreaming in fact: what questions do I have about the campaign?

And in those early moments, I drew a blank. My subconscious had trapped me in the gravity well of Tolkien’s rich world and story. What more is there to tell?

Knowing that writing is a great way for me to think, I started writing this post knowing that it would help.

Loremaster Questions for the Travels of Duinhir Tailwind

  • How are the Rangers stretched thin?
  • Regarding the machinations of the Shadow, how does the people of Eriador’s ignorance manifest?
  • What events/situations might tie back to Saruman’s treachery?

With Strider Mode 📖 I have the open-ended Lore Table which I can ask for answers. However, I find those best for situations instead of the broader campaign questions.

In How are the Rangers…, I want to use this question as the thing that pulls at Duinhir; how he’s scampering from place to place. I’m not looking at what’s stretching them, but where are they feeling it.

With Regarding the machinations…, I want that to be the backdrop for seeing both beauty and ignorance. Of true gaiety at the cost of Duinhir’s ongoing efforts.

And in What events…, I find it fascinating to think of ways that Saruman is twisting situations as he plays his own side.

As part of my session procedures, I’ll plan to re-read these questions and amend or add more. The goal is to play to the surprise.