With HBO’s Game of Thrones in full swing, the urge to run a campaign in Westeros -or a game that is as remorselessly gritty- is in the air… so here are a few tips to get you started!
Game of Thrones is a story that spans thousands of miles, crosses many climates, and demonstrates various social classes. When planning a campaign like this, come up with 2 or 3 different locations, and figure out some unique circumstances for your characters.
- The Wall – at Castle Black or any other of the Wall’s fortresses (I’m looking at you, Shadow Tower), a group of Crows begins journeying south to get new recruits for the coming winter.
- King’s Landing – perhaps a noblewoman and some of her lackeys are trying to accumulate power for their house.
- The Stormlands, The Reach, or The Westerlands – These are the only three of the seven kingdoms we haven’t really seen yet in the show, besides minor shots. This means their general feeling is open to lots of interpretation.
- Essos – There are many exotic locations on this continent -some we’ve seen in detail like Qarth and Meereen- but other cities like Braavos and Myr haven’t been well explored yet.
- Exploring the Unknown : Places like the Basilisk Isles, Sothoryos, or even the ruins of Valyria could bring new threats and mysteries. I’m thinking White Walkers..!
This is a tall order for most DMs and players, as some games tend to struggle for survival with just one cast of characters. One alternative is to have minor vignettes that start & finish your game. These should be RP heavy, and meant mainly for narrative purposes. Some of these characters may recur over & over again, and some might be one-scene only. These vignettes can be great for a climactic moment that isn’t in direct sight of any of the main cast of characters.
We’ve heard many tales from the history of the Game of Thrones universe. Any one of these events could have gone another way; altering the current state of Westeros. What if Rhaegar Targaryen had slain Robert Baratheon in the battle of the Trident, then, facing outrageous odds, fled with Lillian Stark to Essos? Eddard Stark might then have stormed King’s Landing. Did the Lannisters still betray the King? Will Eddard Stark take the throne? What kind of crazy effects will this have on the current day? What happens to characters like Jon Snow and the Stark family? What happens to the remaining Targaryens who weren’t slaughtered by Robert Baratheon and Tywin Lannister?
There is a Song of Ice and Fire RPG system, and although it’s a good adaptation in some ways, it’s clunky & heavy overall. My first choice would instead be something like D20 modern. It has a basic class system that can work for most hero types, it’s highly customizable, and nicely streamlined. The Dungeons & Dragons 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide has some alternative rules that lend themselves to this campaign; specifically the Honor System (DMG pg. 264), Alternative Healing Rules (DMG pg. 266), and Lingering Injuries (DMG pg. 272).
A few things I’d take from the Song of Ice and Fire RPG are the house-creation rules, and the mechanic for conversation duels, as it were. Creating a house with all the players around a table, and establishing where everyone’s lands are is so much fun! The conversation rules give a great foundation on how to handle arguments, debates, and manipulation. They also turn an important piece of narrative into essentially a game of rock, paper, scissors.
So there you have it! A few ideas to get your brain going. Let us know any tips you have for making a Game of Thrones campaign!