The Campaign Planning Form

A number of GMs out there in GURPS world aren’t using the Campaign Planning Form (CPF). I can’t imagine why. There’s a copy of it in every edition of GURPS Basic Set. You can download it for free. Why wouldn’t a GM use this handy form?

I’ve asked GMs who don’t use the CPF, “Why don’t you use the CPF?” The majority said simply, “I don’t like it.” Most add, “It doesn’t help.” Some complain that it is insufficient. A few have never seen it before.

In most cases, the GMs who reject the form seldom provide much framework for beginning players. This is usually because they discuss the campaign with the players before doing very much preparation. Since they work out the details of the CPF with the players, there’s no need to complete and post a CPF. (At least, not until there’s a new player. But many online games don’t seem to make it that far.)

The common approach really only works well with an established group of players. Online games can present difficulties for this method. Players come from all over the world and interact across time zones to communicate and play. It can be difficult to gather a group of people like this before the campaign begins, so the GM is often left communicating one-on-one with the players. This sometimes results in information being disseminated differently to each player. Occasionally the GM changes his mind about something or makes a decision while talking to one player and doesn’t think to inform other players of the result. Using the CPF (or something like it) solves most if not all the problem a GM runs into when communicating with potential players about a campaign. Done properly, the CPF becomes a centralized repository of basic information about the campaign and a guide for the creation of player characters.

Of course the CPF can’t answer every question. The tendency to nitpick, add details, or change rules is strong in most GURPS GMs and players. A static form cannot anticipate these things. The original CPF may be inadequate to the needs of the advanced GM and player. That’s one of the reasons Mook Wilson updated the CPF to a highly-detailed, multi-page version in his book, How to Be a GURPS GM. Maybe someday Steve jackson Games will release a free PDF of Mook’s version. (The book is well worth the money and should be in the collection of every GURPS GM.) Mook himself created a fillable PDF of the CPF, which can be downloaded from his excellent GURPS blog.

A final note: when I followed up my initial questions concerning the CPF with other GMs, many of them complained that it’s a horrible for campaign planning. “I need more than one page,” they complain. This was something of a surprise to me, as I never thought of actually beginning my campaign planning with the campaign planning form. Since it is called a “planning form,” I suppose it is understandable that a GM might become confused about the purpose of the form. The purpose of the CPF is to provide a quick way for players to understand your campaign and create a character. It’s usually the last thing I do, more of a “Campaign Advertising Form,” something for potential players to read and say, “This campaign is for me!” or even “This campaign sounds dumb, but at least the GM went through the trouble of making this magnificent CPF.”

If you’re a GURPS GM and you’re not using a campaign planning form, you’re doing it wrong.

 

Download GURPS Campaign Planning Form
CPF
Classic Version
CPF
Fillable PDF

(PS. I put an absurd number of links to the CPF in this article because a few people told me they could never find a download link. Yes, I know it’s bad web etiquette, or webiquette, or blogiquette. But now I’ll know if they were kidding.)

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