Page 1

A model campaign system

To those who do not know, Poptropica is an online, browser-based
adventure game for kids. I recommend it highly as a way to strengthen
campaign design and GMing skill.

Poptropica is divided into around 30 or so 'islands' (only about 15 islands
when I started playing in 2008!). Each island is a separate themed
campaign that has a definitive end.

The islands are varied; but often completion of the island requires completion
of certain tasks; the tasks may unlock further necessary tasks, but there is
no clear or direct chain of events, meaning that there is no correct order,
or 'way' to beat the island. Furthermore, tasks are usually unveiled by
speaking to NPCs on the island.

For example, I will reference the plotline of 'Early Poptropica'.

a) Speak to Settlers -> discover the overall plot and task : find the pig, the flag,
and the water bucket.

b) Go underground main street -> obtain the pig.

c) Go into the clouds above Poptropica Towers -> Discover that there is something
up there, but that a guard requires his lost golden egg to let you pass.

d) Go underground P Towers -> Find a golden egg. -> unlocks e

e) Go into the cloud area -> Find water bucket and jetpack -> unlocks f

f) Fly up to Water Tank and retrieve flag.

The player may complete these events in any order, but e must come after d,
and f must come after e. The best experience occurs when a is completed first.

Campaigns that are modeled around this tend to be very rewarding for the players.
Rather than a secure 'railroad', in which players often feel like they are watching
the GM's, and not their, story unfold, this model can best be described as such:

    The rail road is broken into pieces scattered across a city. The players must
    find the pieces and reassemble the rails themselves, but based on who they
    meet in the city, what they see, what order they find the pieces in, and how
    they assemble the railroad, their experience will be unique and their own.

However, if such a plot can be accomplished in a video game like Poptropica,
then why play it out over a tabletop?

There are several things to add to this model; things that Poptropica, nor any
game, can do.

1) Social interaction : The players can befriend and talk to NPCs, who will judge
    them based on the way they present themselves, and act accordingly.

2) Freedom : Removing the word 'must' from the indented text above. Players
    may choose not to take up the quest, in which case the GM creates a new
    storyline based on their actions, following the principles of "Reuse, Recycle, and

3) Time and Response : The world around the characters is not static, it is ever-changing.
    As the players are playing, the GM is subtly making updates to his world. When the players
    finish a task, they may find that things have changed. In some cases, these changes
    happened simply because the world progressed the way it would if it was a real world,
    or because the players' actions catalyzed a change.