A campaign is the overall container for all that happens to the characters and generally revolve around a consistent cast of characters and their various heroic adventures. It may also revolve around a single long-term and difficult arc through different sets of characters trying to achieve the same goal. it encompasses all of the time you’ve sat at a table playing this particular game — every story, arc and subplot; every session, scenario, and scene. Technically, there’s no upper limit to how long a campaign can be or how many stories it can tell.
A scenario is how the story points from the narrative constructs are manifest in the game. Each scenario may take one or more sessions to complete. Scenarios for a given arc or subplot tend to have a lot of functional parts that may go something like the 5 Act Story Structure, although for a single stand-alone adventure for a short subplot these acts may be very compressed or some parts even may be skipped altogether.
Here is a small sample scenario list for the Save the Vale arc, which does not include any subplots, using the 5 Act Structure aiming for 20 scenarios:
- Intro (life in the Vale as normal)
- establish setting and attach the PC’s to the setting, perhaps a subsistence subplot to get things started and their roles in the setting cemented and attach characters to an NPC(s)
- Another similar adventure which ends with the dragon and its minions attacking the vale
- Raising Tension (pursuing threat, but not completely understanding it yet)
- Research dragon and minions to find a way to stop them
- Fight against minions and their plotting
- Find out Innkeeper’s father has the info needed to find a minor artifact, but realize he has been kidnapped by a cultist loyal to the dragons
- Rising Action
- Recover the Innkeeper’s grandfather who has needed info while dealing with attacks from the dragon and minions, and other related threats
- Gather resources or allies to defeat the dragon
- Gain the minor artifact, but at the end it is stolen.
- They have to make a deal with the dragon who had it stolen to either get it back or find another way; Journey to the dragon’s lair
- Defeat dragon and minions
- Recovering from the battle and dealing with the fallout
- New threat or arc
Each time you meet to play is a session which typically consists of 1 scenario and more than one scene.
Each session you meet to play a given scenario is filled with scenes which are specific places, moments, or directed action. Here is a sample scene list for the Dragon and Its Minions Attack as a scenario:
- (at Inn) recovering from a recent mission and discussing what to do next. Talk with their favorite innkeeper and gather info, hear that the dragon and its minions have been more active, start thinking about their next job
- (in city) information gathering for work and shopping,
- (mayor’s office) arranging their next job
- (in Vale – combat) Dragon and minions attack the Vale and Inn, PC’s try to stop the minions, Dragon and minions eventually leave
- (in Vale – assist) PC’s help Vale and inn recover from attack
- (at Inn) PC’s agree that they need to stop the dragon menace;
This looks like it will probably take 2 sessions or 1 really long session to complete.