Monday, June 22, 2009

Starting a New Campaign

Since the launch of 4E, I've been a player. I've wanted to DM. 4E has made a number of adjustments that make it very easy for a DM to create balanced encounters without all the additional work. At the same time, the large number of published adventures provide me with even more material to draw from. In some way, waiting until not to start fleshing out the campaign is a major boon. I have a lot of material to draw from in building this new campaign.

I want my campaign to exist in a world of my creation. I've run campaigns in published worlds in the past as well as other worlds of my own creation, and I've always found that my own worlds were more fun for me. Published worlds require a lot of knowledge. Sure, you can make up your own stuff, but then why bother using a published world? However, my old campaign world really needed to be updated. I wanted to incorporate the new races in 4E into my world. I wanted to blend my pantheon of gods to the gods listed in the handbooks. I also wanted to update my world in terms of history. I've run other campaigns in Araya, and I wanted to add in some of those campaigns stories into my campaign as new tales and history.

I also needed to update the bad guys. Orcs have long been my staple. I love running orcs as bad guys. In my world, orcs have a rich history, a lot of interesting things involving orcs. Mostly it involves their creation, their coming into being. Being what it is, my world can easily adjust to fitting in new races where I want them. Changing history is easy in a home made world. Not like anyone but myself is really going to know I changed things.

Of course, this leads in to how I want my campaign to run. I've always been an epic campaign type of guy. I prefer long story arcs with a far reaching goal, lots of travel, and lots of adventure in far off places. I like it when characters have a central hub, something that draws them back to square one, but I like the idea of questing far and wide with an epic quest to keep your attention. The problem is, it can get tiresome. Epic quests really do usually have a lot of different plot lines that are so interwoven, it can get confusing if you don't pay attention. While this can be fun, I've done it more than I'd like. This leads me to the goal of building up smaller adventure series. The players starts in one location, and adventure there. Over the course of several adventures, they build up to the fight with the main villain. Plot lines won't be as long as they could get over 30 levels, but they can still be twisted. The players also get a chance to fight a big bad sooner, rather than building up the tension over 30 levels. Of course, their is something to be said about that final confrontation with big bad a level 30, but do we need to know for 30 levels who that bid evil guy is?

This leads into how everything will connect. Sure, Vecna is evil. We know that. I'm sure our characters know that. Vecna as the big bad evil dude sure would be fun, but does knowing that at level 1 really help us appreciate anything more at the final battle? I think not. Rather, going 20+ levels fighting big bad guys and more evil plots to finally come to the realization of who the big guy at the top really is would make it far more interesting. After all, Vecna being evil is a given, but that's not why the players should want to face him in battle. Suddenly, all the trouble they've faced for 20+ levels has a face behind it. Of course, this really doesn't provide how everything could connect without putting up a sign saying "you are fighting worshippers of Vecna!". Actually, it's rather simple. Not everything needs to be done by worshippers of Vecna.

I should point out now that I don't intend to use Vecna. It's just eaiser to use Vecna as the name of the big bad evil guy. Everyone know who Vecna is, and if you don't, well, I don't imagine you'd have read this far.

Anyways, as I was saying, the low levels, first to fifth, let's say, is involved with clearing out the local area of bandits. But these aren't normal bandits, but Black Coats from Cordrair. And they aren't just bandits. Some upstart young officers decided to take this opportunity to steal from merchants passing through the area. What are the Black Coats doing here? Hey! They've re-opened a mine in the mountains. Of course, once they know they've been discovered, they have to follow through with their orders: to prevent anyone from knowing. So they attack the town. Of course, the players are involved with each of these steps. The attack on the town is thwarted by the characters, but not before damage is done to towns folk. Finally, the players confront the Black Coat leaders, and kill them. This is the setup. Okay, it might not last till level 5, but it's a good start. But why would the Black Coats be stealing from a mine in Rinland? This leads the players to ask questions, and holds several different ways for them to go. Of course, the easy answer is that maybe the mine was reopened because a Cordrarian lord across the border needed the metal for the weapons and armor he's been paid to have his blacksmiths make. Who would pay him? Why? Or maybe it isn't a mine, maybe it's an ancient burial chamber. What were they looking for? Why?

Of course, the goal here is to provide them with several different directions they can take, each with a clear path to new adventure. I really want to provide my players with choice in deciding which way to go. I also want them to feel as if they are choosing an adventure, rather than me placing one in their lap or simply saying "Fetch."

The other thing I need to prepare is the equipment. Back in the good ole' days, I could bring along the handbooks, some papers, pens and pencils, and some dice, and it was fine. Combat was done by description, and sometimes a crude map. These days, I'm spoiled with numerous other options: miniatures, maps, and even 3D paper print-outs of dungeons and houses. But I'm not complaining. I love using that stuff. I love looking at a clean adventure, I love seeing the miniatures out on the table with little paper houses and the players seeing exactly where everything is. Sure, description is still important, but this way I can focus on the exciting bits rather than remind people once again that their are yes, indeed, thirty kobolds, and not thirteen, and that they are positioned in a certain way. And no, you can't attack that guy you just wanted because I didn't imagine him being there. Well, you get the picture.

I should include some pictures of everything I have. But my son is awake, and I need to attend to him.

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