Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 10: Game Mastering / Game Mastering / Planning a Campaign


Source Core Rulebook pg. 484 4.0
The themes you choose for your campaign are what distinguish it from other campaigns. They include the major dramatic questions of your story and the repeated use of certain environments or creatures, and they can also include embracing a genre beyond traditional high fantasy. The themes you choose for your campaign also suggest storyline elements you might use.

A storyline’s themes usually relate to the backstories, motivations, and flaws of the player characters and villains. For example, if you’ve chosen revenge as one of the themes of your game, you might introduce a villain whose quest for revenge tears his life apart and causes tragic harm to those around him. If one of the player characters is a chaotic good believer in liberty and freedom, you might engage that character by pitting the group against slavers. Or, you might choose a theme of love, leading to nonplayer characters involved in doomed romances, seeking to regain lovers they have lost, or courting the player characters.

Using similar locations and related creatures helps you form connections between disparate adventures. The players feel like their characters are becoming experts negotiating with giants, navigating seaways, battling devils, exploring the planes, or dealing with whatever the recurring elements are. For example, you might have the players explore a frozen tundra early on, then later travel to an icy plane filled with more difficult challenges that can be overcome using knowledge they’ve previously developed. Likewise, hobgoblin soldiers may be tough enemies for your group at low levels, but as the PCs attain higher levels and the hobgoblins become mere minions of another creature, the players feel a sense of progression.

Pathfinder is a fantasy adventure game, but you can shift your campaign to include elements of other fictional genres. You might want to infuse your game a with a sense of horror, reduce the amount of magic and use slow advancement (page 509) to make it a tale of sword and sorcery, or turn magic into technology for a steampunk setting.