In a post last month on attacks of opportunity, Phil proposed having the players decide where the campaign begins, and what it’s about.

That’s a neat idea. If you used it, what would you have to change about your approach to GMing?

The basic idea is this: you lay down the map for your setting, and the players decide where they want the campaign to take place. Then you throw some adventure/campaign hooks out for discussion, and they pick the one that sounds the most interesting to them.

So there are two physical elements here, as well as one metagame element: a map of the setting, and an assortment of pre-written adventure hooks (the physical elements); plus a willingness to roll with the players’ collective decision (the metagame element).

The Map: Most published settings come with one or more maps, and most homebrewers map their worlds — this one shouldn’t be a problem. But which map do you use? The Forgotten Realms setting (D&D), for example, has large-scale world maps that cover vast swaths of Faerûn, as well as more detailed regional maps in each supplement. I think allowing for the widest range of choices possible — using the world maps, in other words — is more in the spirit of this idea, but for one reason or another you might prefer to narrow things down a bit initially.

If you’ve got the luxury of having world and regional maps, and you happen to have the regional map for the area that the players choose, then you could do a second round and pick the exact spot where the PCs start out. (And if you’re playing a real-world game, whether modern or historical, the sky’s the limit as far as map resources go!)

The Adventure Hooks: Do you need to write X number of hooks for every region on the map? Not really, no. Published settings tend to include adventure hooks, often keyed to different regions (as Phil pointed out in his post) — if yours does this, you’re good to go. There are also plenty of products out there that list setting-neutral hooks (like the Seeds line from Expeditious Retreat Press), and many games come with a list of these built-in.

Should you pick a few likely hooks before the players decide on a region? This sounds like a good idea, at least for most groups. In the spirit of the “map to campaign” idea, though, you could also leave this wide open — even to the point of asking the players what they’d like the campaign to involve, with no pre-written hooks in mind at all.

Rolling With It: Unlike the “traditional” approach, where the GM has a campaign in mind and the players don’t necessarily have a whole lot of input at the outset, this idea revolves around player choice. So while you won’t have creative control over the framework for the campaign, you’ll also have a group of players that’s guaranteed to be interested in the game — because they came up with it! You’ll also have a group of characters that are built with this campaign in mind, and that have connections to the starting region and to each other (which is one of the biggest benefits of this approach).

On the micro level, you’ll need to be able to suggest or not suggest hooks based on the area that the players choose on the map (or tweak the hooks you had in mind). On the macro level, you’ll need to look at the campaign as a blank slate — which could be pretty scary, depending on what you’re used to doing.

Overall, I think this is a nifty idea, and I’d like to give it a shot sometime. Have you tried this approach, or a similar one? Did I cover the basics as far as things to keep in mind, or did I leave something out?

(This post also ties into two previous topics on TT: “Collaborative PC Creation” and “More Fun, Less Work.” If the “map to campaign” approach sounds interesting, you might want to check out those two posts as well.)