You know what was awesome? The hero shot from Avengers: Endgame. Just look at all those larger-than-life heroes charging across the battlefield. After approximately three thousand films and nine decades of my life, I finally got to see all my favorite characters battling a goddamn alien army in order to save multiple timelines and parallel realities.

But you know what else was awesome? Peter Parker bumming around New York and doing flips on request.

I’m dipping into the Marvel well because today’s comic isn’t really about adorable critter campaigns (although those can be a lot of fun). What I’m really talking about is your campaign’s scope. Whether it’s the world-shaking plot of a BBEG or the relationships between deities in your local pantheon, there’s a tendency among GMs and world builders to start at the grandest scale. It’s only natural to try and top the last campaign by going big. The instinct to improve on your previous work is the hallmark of a good creative, and shooting for bigger and better seems like a natural route. But remember that Endgame was the culmination of a (very) long arc. Peter Parker’s character building montage came at the beginning of his story.

What does any of this have to do with your campaign? Simply this: Go ahead and figure out your cosmic-scale bullshit, but then put it aside. You won’t need it for months and months of game time. Instead, begin by concentrating on the first town. The first inn. The first quest line. This is often called the “bullseye method,” and it’s more akin to the way your players will actually experience the setting. The idea is to flesh out that first circle of the bullseye—the place where the party will actually spend most of their time. You can always expand out afterwards, but you need to establish your world and the characters’ place in it now. 

That’s why it’s satisfying to watch Peter Parker being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man before we see him carrying the cosmic football. There’s just as much drama to be had in going to prom as in saving the galaxy. And to my way of thinking, you need the former before you earn the latter.

So how about it, worldbuilders? Do you prefer starting small, or would you rather skip the small-time stuff and save the multiverse from day one? Let’s hear all about your well-scoped campaign settings down in the comments!


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