A Seed: Nothing Much to See, But Full of Potential!
I have a large garden, and I use mostly seeds to grow my vegetables. It takes more work to start with a seed compared to going to the gardening store to buy grown plants. For me, it’s more than economy, but seeds are pennies on the dollar compared to purchased plants. It is the amazing process of seeing something grow from a seed to a full grown, fruit producing plant. The tomatoes are twice as sweet because I grew them. More importantly, it forces me to compost and manage my soil during the non-growing season.
Gaming campaigns are much like gardens. You can easily buy a campaign set and pre-made everything. There is a huge supple of modules, supplements, and other gaming products. With no effort, except for reading the basic adventure (and some game masters don’t even do that), a game can be run. If the players hate it, the GM can blame the product or the system. When you run an official product, anyone has access to secret information, and there is no player influence on the world. These materials are fully fleshed out, so many times it’s far better than the average game master can produce on their own.
When a campaign is grown from a game master’s concept, it’s like growing a plant from a seed. More than that, the game master has an intuitive understanding of the world and can make adjustments based on players’ action or inaction. Player characters become interesting and three dimensional, towns become pageants, and common encounters become full fledged epics. When the game is personal to the game master, it takes on a complete feel and makes each adventure part of an important story. I dare say, when done right, there is NO comparison in the entertainment factor. A great RPG is more immersive than any video game, and more interactive than any movie.
Yes, not every game compares to “Game of Thrones,” but this gives my player character a better than likely chance I’ll be able to play him next week too! D&D, Star Wars, Fate, and many other systems allow individuals to affect the story and allow for the ridiculous and stupid. Fortunately or unfortunately, the dice create a random factor that even the Game Master can’t fully control, so stories are not controlled by what would be the most dramatic ending. This is the factor that makes gaming far superior to most forms of entertainment, every outcome is a surprise!
I do know many good game masters that take commercial products and take what they like and throw away what they hate. Then, with that wealth of great information, maps, NPCs, etc., a good game master can make it their own. Sometimes this takes more work than writing the whole thing yourself. The pay off is big! Now available to the game master is unlimited towns, cities, illustrations, just a ton of really well made materials. The seed, or the campaign concept, needs to come from the Game Master, and then players are able to completely immerse themselves in their player characters and the world around them.