Creating Your First Campaign

Last modified by Rob B on 2020/05/19 09:13

Not quite sure where to start with Campaigns? While Hero Lab Online provides prompting, the walk-through below may be helpful to first-time users. Keep in mind that while we’ve presented them in an order that we feel is common for the average user, none of these steps must be done in any particular order. We encourage you to follow our steps your first time through, before deciding on a path that best suits your preferred style.

Note! Before creating your first campaign, we highly recommend that you first familiarize yourself with the various concepts and terminology used by Campaign Theater. If you haven't yet done so, check out The Theater Metaphor Underlying Campaign Theater and Interface Basics. To learn more about the inner working of Hero Lab Online, check out our other helpful articles, as well.

Creating the Campaign

Once you've logged in to your account, there should be two tabs at the top of the screen: Characters and Campaigns. Click on the Campaigns tab to get started on our adventure.

Now that you've clicked on Campaigns, you should see a welcome message and a list of the campaigns you belong to. If you don't yet belong to any campaigns, prominent options to create a new campaign or join an existing one are presented in the middle of the page. If you do already belong to a campaign, including as a player, the prompts won't be shown. In this case, buttons labeled "Join" and "Create" can be used in the upper right corner. Choose the “Create” option to create a new campaign.



Next, you're prompted to enter the name of the campaign (which you can change later) and select the game system it will use (which cannot be changed after creation). Provide both pieces of information and click the button to add the campaign.

Congratulations! You've created your campaign, and it's time to start fleshing it out.

Campaign Overview

Your campaign is all set up, and now it’s time to explore! In the navigation panel on the left, various tabs provide access the different aspects of your campaign. The Campaign Overview is initially selected and that aspect appears in the main panel.


At the top within the main panel, some helpful prompts offer to take you to the various sections of the campaign, where you can set everything up incrementally.

In the header at the very top, next to the title of your campaign, you'll see an option to "Switch Campaigns". To the right of that is a button with an 'i' in a circle. 1589849446045-501.png This "info" button will appear throughout Campaign Theater, and clicking it will bring up invaluable help text to explain the fields and options shown on the screen. After you've completed this walk-through, the "info" buttons will always be there to guide you through the product.

The Campaign Overview can be edited by clicking the "Edit" button at the right, and entering the details of your campaign. The title can be revised, plus a capsule summary and/or detailed description of the campaign can be added at your discretion. Once you've entered a few bits of text, click the "Save" button located where the "Edit" button was previously.


As we continue to flesh out the new campaign, this walk-through will mostly follow the sequence recommended in the prompts at the top of the page, while also providing supplemental information to augment what's in the product. We'll cover configuring the campaign, creating supporting cast members, adding scene scripts, and inviting the players. Starting your first game session, and everything that takes place once the session has begun, are the subjects of other articles.

Campaign Settings

Configuring the campaign is an area that will offer more control options in the future, but there are a few important pieces here already.

At the top, you'll see a block entitled "Patron Content Sharing". If you have a Patron level account and wish to enable content sharing for your players, this is where you can toggle that on and off. Content sharing is required if you want to have players with Apprentice accounts join your campaign.

Beneath that is the "Character Options" block, where you'll find a summary of the options currently selected for the campaign and an "Edit Options" button. Clicking the button brings up a list of character creation options available for the game system and allows them to be customized. This list should match the options presented within each character. By configuring the options here, you establish two essential behaviors:

  • Whenever a new PC or supporting cast member is created within the campaign, it will begin with these options selected. This makes it easy to setup a single set of "default rules" and have it automatically applied at creation to all new characters for the sake of consistency.
  • All supporting cast members and PCs are compared against the character options you configure here. If a character has a different set of options, it will be flagged, allowing you to assess any deviations and adjudicate as you see fit.

Create Supporting Cast Members

Next up is creating the key NPCs that will appear in the campaign via the "Cast Members" tab on the left. Keep in mind that all NPCs are considered supporting cast members, while PCs are the "stars" of the production.

Supporting cast members include any NPCs that are expected to appear across multiple scenes during the campaign, such as the primary villain(s), quest givers, resource brokers, and notable shopkeepers. Recurring NPCs around town also make sense as supporting cast (e.g. city watch, cultists, temple guards, bandits, etc.).

There are an assortment of different ways that cast members can be created from scratch, with the exact list depending on the game system. You can also create a cast member by importing it from your collection of characters outside the campaign or pulling one from the Vault, such as an iconic character, a monster, or a standard template (e.g. cultist, bandit, etc.). If you bring a character in from outside the campaign, you can freely customize it further.

Introducing a new cast member is always achieved via the "Add" button in the upper right corner. The "Create New" option within the resulting menu provides a list of choices for different types of cast members.

For our walk-through, let's create a new "Basic NPC" and give it a name. Once created, the cast member appears in the main panel, where it can now be customized.


Clicking on the cast member brings up a statblock summary to preview the character. Clicking on one of the buttons at the right allows you to do the following with the cast member:

  • 1589864749151-900.png Loading the full character allows you to edit it just like a normal character. When you do choose this option, you leave the campaign display and switch to the character editing layout. You can get back to the campaign by using the browser's "Back" button or by clicking on the campaign name that appears at the top of the navigation panel on the left.
  • 1589864888036-845.png Editing the cast member properties brings up a form where you can tailor important aspects of the cast member, such as its name, allegiance, and uniqueness. Allegiance dictates whether the cast member defaults to being an ally, neutral, or an enemy when added to a script or the stage. Uniqueness controls whether the cast member is unique or can have multiples added in bulk to create a squad.
  • 1589864900423-178.png You can also perform various management actions on the cast member via the vertical ellipsis button, such as copying, moving, and trashing it.

Create Scene Scripts

Now that we've got a supporting cast member, let's switch to the "Scene Scripts" tab on the left. Scene scripts (or simply scripts) identify the cast members that will appear in a particular scene (aka encounter). They can also include notes relating to the scene, such as stage directions and tactics.1

The majority of cast members only appear within a single scene. To help with organization and avoid cluttering up the supporting cast pool unnecessarily, any cast member that appears only within a single scene can (and should) be created directly within the corresponding scene script. This handling is referred to as a "script-based" cast member or "script-only".

Supporting cast members can also be linked to scripts. Any character appearing in the list of recurring cast members can be linked to all the scripts where they will appear. Linking cast members to scripts is typically performed less frequently than creating the cast member directly within a script.

Let's look at an example. A scene with a goblin warrior and a goblin shaman would usually create the NPCs directly within the script instead of creating them outside the script as supporting cast members. However, if the shaman was expected to escape and appear in another scene, it should instead be modeled as a supporting cast member outside the script. The shaman can then be linked to the different scene scripts where it is expected to appear. More exceptions exist, and they will be explored in future articles.

Creating a new script is accomplished via the "Add" button in the upper right of the window or the the "Create Scene Script" prompt if there are no scripts yet. Go ahead and use one of these buttons to create a new script now. You'll be prompted for a name, after which you can officially create the script and then customize it.

The properties of the created script appear at the top and the list of cast members associated with the script below. The latter list always starts out empty, resulting in some helpful prompting to add cast members to the script.


Script properties are quite simple, consisting only of a name and an "auto-retire" toggle. When a script is set to auto-retire, its status is automatically set to "retired" whenever it is enacted on the stage. Retiring a script hides it from normal view, serving as a convenient, automatic cleanup operation when the scene is triggered.

Automatic retirement is ideally suited to unique scripts that you only plan to run once, such as most encounters in published adventures. Non-retiring scripts are best used when the script will likely be re-used, such as wandering monsters or patrols. You can even enact multiple reusable scripts at the same time to create flexible, ad hoc scenes.

Scripts also have a list of global cast members that are associated with (or linked to) the scene. Each of these cast members will be added to the stage whenever the script is enacted. As outlined above, cast members can be added directly within the script and linked to it, and both operations are achieved through the "Add" button in the upper right corner.

Now that we have our script, let's link the cast member we created earlier. In the lower "Script Cast" region, click on the "Add" button and choose the "Link Cast to Script" option - or use the "Link Cast to Script" prompt. The folder hierarchy for scripts is presented, from which you can select the cast member. You can also designate the initial placement of the cast member on the stage when the script is enacted (most cast members will appear on-camera) and specify a quantity appearing if the cast member is non-unique.


The cast member is now linked and will be added to the stage whenever this script is enacted.

Let's continue by creating a grunt trooper to accompany the linked cast member. Click again on the "Add" button, but this time choose the "Import from Vault" option. Select a creature from the list on the left and click "Create Character" on the right. If you want to add multiple, different creatures, you can select each of them in turn, clicking the "Create Character" button for each. When you are finished adding creatures, close the form.


The creature now appears in the list of cast members for the script, along with the same buttons you saw for cast members and the same behaviors for each. The first button lets you edit the creature. The second button allows you to customize how the creature is added to the stage when the script is enacted, such as setting the quantity, allegiance, and placement. The third button allows less common tasks, such as deletion.

Congratulations! Your first script is in place and ready to be enacted onto the stage.

Setting Up Players

Once you've become comfortable with creating the campaign, it's time to invite the players into the fray. This process is just a few, easy steps on the "PCs and Players" tab in the navigation pane on the left.

The first step is inviting the players by giving them an invitation code. You'll see a block entitled "Member Accounts" within the main panel. If you don’t yet have any players in your campaign, an option appears that prompts this operation. Once the first player is added, an "Invite" button appears in the upper right corner of the same region.


Clicking the button displays the unique invitation code for your campaign. All your players need is this simple 8-character code to join the campaign and get the party on its way!


Armed with the invitation code, each player needs to join the campaign. They accomplish this on the main Campaigns page where you first created the campaign. The only difference is that they choose the "Join" button instead of "Create" and then enter the code for your campaign.

When a player first joins a campaign, they begin in a suspended state. You'll need to approve the player to grant them access. This extra step is a safeguard against someone mistyping an invitation code or obtaining it inappropriately. The "Member Accounts" area where you clicked the "Invite" button shows each player that has joined the campaign and their current status. Clicking the vertical ellipsis button next to an account allows you to change that account's status.

Once approved, a player is fully integrated into the campaign and can get their character ready for play.

Note: A walk-through for players joining a campaign is also available.


1. Notes have not yet been implemented, but they are a core element of the Campaign Theater roadmap and will be added soon.

Lone Wolf Development, Inc.