I recently blogged about how much I enjoy using the slow advancement track in my Borderland of Adventure campaign. However, using the slow advancement track (sadly) is not as simple as just plugging it into a normal campaign…
A slow advancement campaign is a different kind of beast to a normal campaign. Using the slow advancement track alters the playing experience in several fundamental ways. Diving into a slow advancement campaign without recognising and planning for this is a recipe for disaster. The GM should:
- Set Expectations: Your players are likely used to levelling pretty fast – perhaps every 2-3 sessions. With the slow advancement track, fast levelling is a thing of the past. You need to explain this to the players so they are ready for the experience. Depending on how long your campaign runs, the players may never reach 10th-level (or even 5th). Many players like to plan their characters out in advance. With this in mind, discuss how long the campaign will likely last and what level you see the PCs reaching before it ends. After all, a PC’s build may differ radically if the campaign is destined to never reach high levels.
- Focus on the Story: The PCs will not be advancing mechanically – levelling – as often. It’s therefore important they progress in other areas, so they have a sense of achievement and accomplishment. The overall story arc of the campaign is an excellent way of giving your players that sense of achievement. Defeating the kobolds threatening the nearby mine, thwarting an attempt to burn down a village or gaining a clue regarding the PCs’ shadowy enemy all provide a sense of real achievement. This is particularly true if the players can see how their actions and choices affect the overall campaign.
- Make the PCs Feel Special in Other Ways: Gold, XP and magic are only three kinds of reward you can bestow upon the PCs. Fame, recognition, titles, land or favours are all excellent rewards.
- Provide Special Items: Instead of having tons of magic items, perhaps one or more of the PCs gain certain weapons or items that are famous in their own right. Anyone can wield a +1 longsword, but only one person can wield Arnual’s Bane. Running a slow advancement campaign is a great excuse to design more unique treasures for your PCs.
The slow advancement track doesn’t suit everyone or every kind of game. It’s wildly unsuitable for short campaigns featuring only a few modules or one-shot adventures. It’s best suited for stable groups intent on long-term games ripe with story and character development. (For example, at the time of writing we’ve just completed our 80th session of the Borderland of Adventure campaign).
Help Fellow Gamers!
Have you any suggestions, hints or tips about how to use the slow advancement track? Let us know in the comments below and help your fellow GMs run a better campaign today!