“The” Checklist Campaign

Inspired by this post and this quote from Sean McCoy:

I feel like almost any game could be made better by taking the monster manual and just writing The before every monster.

Let’s combine a few thoughts:

1) Limits on a world are good. Not everyone can be a Jedi, there aren’t a million rings of power, and you can’t bend all the elements (unless you’re the Avatar). These limits define the world, like the wooden perimeter of a playground sandbox.

2) Limits on a campaign are good, especially when it comes to the duration of play. Playing the “forever game” dies out eventually and leaves everyone in sadness. To paraphrase Def Leppard: Better to burn the campaign up than slowly fade away.

3) Limits in monsters are good. In this case, limits produce variety (more on this soon). The number of campaigns that contain goblins in the beginning, middle, and end… Whew. 

4) Once upon a time there was “THE” Minotaur and “THE” Medusa. These monsters were singular and given the proper respect they deserved. Then the limits were broken by making the bullman a playable and killable race and the snakewoman part of some sort of odd caste system. The uniqueness and weight of both monsters were largely lost.

5) Once upon another time there was a board game called HeroQuest. In it, the Game Master, Zargon, played in opposition to the other players (The so-called heros), but was given a limited arsenal with which to defeat them. Each scenario contained how many monsters there were total in the dungeon. Zargon could then run the game more honestly, pushing the monsters’ capabilities to the limits and pointing to the dice, monster stats, and scenario booklet to justify the results of the game.

Let’s get to it. What does all of this mean?

“THE” Checklist Campaign

Step 1: Grab a fantasy book with a monster manual. 


Step 2: Add the word “The” in front of every monster entry. Do this also to encounter tables.

Examples: The Orc, The Dragon (Red), The Vampire.

Step 3: Add the following modifiers to any monster entries you choose. You only get one of each:

  1. Twins
  2. Triplets
  3. Gang
  4. Troupe
  5. Family
  6. Council

Examples: The Chimera twins, The Bugbear triplets, The Gargoyle family.

Step 4: When a monster entry is encountered or overcome, check that entry. When all entries are checked, the campaign draws to a close.

That’s it. That’s “The” Checklist Campaign. A campaign with limits to it’s world, contents, and duration.

Multiple monsters

During the campaign, the Game Master may wish to use multiple monster entries in a single encounter. In this case, make a Reaction Check to determine the shared reaction between the monsters.

  • 2 or less = Hostile
  • 3-5 = Negative
  • 6-8 = Uncertain
  • 9-11 = Positive
  • 12 = Enthusiastic

There are modifiers to this roll:

  • All monsters share a similar type or similar goals = +2
  • At least one monster is unsocial or unintelligent = -2
  • At least two monsters are Dragons = -6

If you roll doubles, the reaction is not shared by all monsters involved. Roll again for each monster.

Example: The GM wants The Red Dragon and The Goblin twins in the same encounter. They share a similar goal of collecting treasure (+2). Rolling a 7 and adding two, they share a positive reaction to each other. If double fours were rolled (an 8) and two added, only The Red Dragon would have a positive reaction. Rolling a 4 and adding two, The Goblin twins are uncertain about The Red Dragon. If the GM added the Blue Dragon to the mix, the reaction modifier total would -4. Dragons hate each other, a widely-known fact (See? Limits.).

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