DM Story: The Day the Barbarian Lost His Head

This story takes place some 15ish years ago. It is also a collection of stories from the same campaign adventure. Enjoy!

I was running City of the Spider Queen for my game group, the one that I’d been running for since back in the 2nd Edition days.

Do you all know those games where everything is going well and people are taking the game seriously and everyone’s having a good time? You know those same times where somebody says something funny and it turns into a total comedy hour? Yeah, that’s what happened here.

Story 1:

So the party is lacking in the ability to get things appraised, and the Cleric decides to use an ability she has to cast a select arcane spell to cast find familiar.

She gets: a celestial hedgehog that happens to have a fairly high appraisal skill. The problem is, under rules for familiars and speaking with animals, animals tend to appraise things from their point of view. That means that human appraisal values don’t really mean much to them. When asked to appraise a valuable piece of artwork, I decided that the hedgehog would appraise things based on its value in barrels of nuts.

I thought it was clever. My player thought it was hilarious.

Story 2:

We had a new player join us, can’t remember who he was other than a mutual friend of some of the other players. He decides that he wants to play, but he wants to play a barbarian because he thought Conan was cool. Okay, fine. When asked to engage, he did what he thought a barbarian was supposed to do, which was run right out in front of everyone. In a normal combat situation, that wouldn’t be a terrible idea. The problem was, he played his character like he was an idiot. Although he was not an idiot. Therefore, his character died. A lot. His character died so often, and was brought back by the party so often, that I decided that his god, Tempus, the Lord of Battle, gave him a “Frequent Die-ers Card” which granted every 10th death a free resurrection spell. This got a good laugh from the party, for obvious reasons.

His 10th death? The party saw a balor guarding the entrance to a cave that they needed to go into. For those that are unaware, these particular demons carry a very large great sword that has the ability to cut the head off of anyone that it crits on. The party began formulating a plan to take on the creature when the barbarian’s player tells me he just charges the balor. I look at him. I look at the party. I look back at him.

“Okay. He gets an opportunity attack against you. Also, since you are charging, you get a +2 to attack and a -2 to AC.” (Remember: 3rd Edition)

“That’s fine. I can waste him.”

The party proceeds to groan. I tell them I am rolling in the open for this one. The balor threatens a crit on a 19-20. The barbarian’s AC? 18. The balor’s bonus to hit stuff? +19. Therefore, according to 3rd Edition rules, If my first roll to hit him is a 19 or 20, as long as I don’t roll a 1 on a subsequent roll to confirm the critical, I automatically lob off his head. This is why the party is groaning.

I roll onto the table. It comes up: a NATURAL 20. People, I can’t make this up. I roll the second roll. 19. I describe as the barbarian screams a death cry, charging up to the balor. I also then describe the Baylor casually turning and flicking his sword at the barbarian whose head lops off and rolls back towards the party. Combat ensues.

Story 3:

The party has just finished defeating Hydra. One of the players, a wizard I believe, knows that parts of a Hydra are good for certain spell components. Therefore, the wizard starts digging into the Hydra for parts. One of the player’s character is very engrossed in the new magic items they had found. He fails his spot check to see the wizard preparing to prank him.

The real world, the player who is getting pranked has his nose in a book trying to look up the properties of a new magic item he acquired and wasn’t really paying attention.

After the wizard makes a crack about swimming in the hydra’s innards being like “warm spaghetti” (becoming a long-time running gag), he pops up over the side of the Hydra wearing its dead head on his own, rolling high to make a convincing hydra roar.

I ask the player who’s nose had been in a book to make another spot check. He looks up at me and rolls.

“Uhhh…what am I rolling for? I’m by the Hydra body, right?”

“You’ll see. Just roll.”

Heroes and gets a rather low roll. I describe how he sees movement out of the corner of his eye. He turns and looks and sees a hydra head coming over the edge of the body. I asked him what he does. He launches a dagger. A magical dagger. The wizard gets hit. Hilarity ensues, with the new phrase “Hey look guys, I’m a hydra!” entering our vernacular for years to come.

This was a great campaign, as I remember it, and I’m sad to say that I haven’t spoken to those guys in over a decade. And so it goes, I guess.

Well, I hope you enjoyed these DM stories! Until next time, dear readers!

How To DM: Fighting on the Fly

This week’s How-To post is by my good friend yourdorkmaterials

So. You’ve meticulously planned your big boss fight, carefully balanced your CR’s and come up with cool, integral roles tailored beautifully for each player. It’s going to be epic! Aaaaannnd…two players can’t show. Or the wizard goes down early. Or what was supposed to be a running battle turns into a stubborn slug-fest to the death. 

We’ve all had this happen, and – for me – it’s one of the most challenging aspects of DMing to deal with. 

So let’s talk about tips on how to adjust our combat encounters on the fly in this week’s How To DM!

Manage the Damage: I use the average damage provided in the stat blocks for big fights. It dramatically speeds up combat and lets me manage how much damage I’m putting out each round (especially critical hit damage.)

Build a Weak Wave: Build a wave of weaker enemies to shave off some of those Moon Druid/Bear Barbarian hit points. Those players tend to be overly confident (for good reason) and tend to be less worried about combat initially. I might plan on a weak wave reducing their HP by 30%. Once they reach that total, you can always have them “fail a morale check” and retreat. Need some more damage? Bring them in as reinforcements or have them rally.

PCs Don’t Have to Know the Roll: I roll everything openly at my table. I always hated it when I figured out the DM was letting up to save us. They don’t have to know what those extra rolls are for; and they make players more nervous as the combat wears on. For example, if they’re fighting something that has a chance to give them a disease, I make those saves for them without telling them specifically what they’re for. Players tend to get really nervous, really quick when they’re making “mystery saves”. I find it makes them invest more in the fight.

Take ‘Em Alive: Let enemies grapple. If you’re using optional combat rules from the DMD (which I do), let your enemies trip them, shove them prone, or disarm them. This gives you “attacks” to use that don’t necessarily cause damage. I always bring this up in Session 0 and ultimately allow the players to decide which optional rules they want to include, but – anything they can do, their enemies can do!

Give Them Their Clues: If your Big Bad Evils fly, maybe foreshadow that a bit. One time, I had a flying enemy swoop in, fail a grapple check, and fly off before the player really knew what was happening. He was more than a little freaked out. If they need to use fire to stop the enemy from regenerating, find a way to give subtle hints about that weakness (and then make sure they have a way of using that information in case the wizards/sorcerers are down or absent).

What tips, tricks and advice do you folks have? Put them in the comments below, so we can all share in the info. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week for another installment on How To DM!

Miniature Painting Spotlight: Finally!

So, dear readers, I finally got some painting done. Of course, some of that painting was done today, thus my late post.

This isn’t going to be a long post, but it will have some cool things I’ve been working on.

First, another dear restoration project.

Finally done!

Next is a Wizard of Thay that I am working on for my Tuesday game (Shhhh… don’t tell them!)

Note that both of these miniatures are, in fact, metal and end up looking a tad different than the plastic or resin miniatures.

Speaking of, here’s the tiefling that I’ve been working on.

As you can see, I have the coat pretty much done. I wanted to the inside of his lapels a different color, gold or copper. Not sure yet.

Next week I will be featuring a couple of miniatures painted by a friend of mine. I don’t make any claims about being an expert painter, although I take pride in my work and think I do a fairly good job. After all, I have had a few people have me do commissions for them. But this guy? This guy makes my work look like garbage! Not going to lie, I’m kind of jealous and have asked him to teach me his ways. Once I have learned them, I will, in turn, teach you all that I have. Sharing is caring and all that.

Until next time, dear readers, keep painting and keep playing!

Feel free to link a picture of your miniature that you’ve been working on in the comments!

Sunday Highlights: Assault on Caer Dineval

It just came to my attention that I mis-scheduled this post today, so it’s late. That said, here it is:

We last left our intrepid band of heroes in Targos, having just disposed of Sephek and Torga, had headed off to Bryn Shander to sell loot and gear up for their next task: going to Caer Dineval to check up on Cora the innkeeper’s (The Buried Treasure in Bremen) son, on their way up to Kelvin’s Cairn to rescue the husband (Garret) of the scrimshander (Keegan) in Targos.

The party arrived in Caer Dineval, not sure where to begin. Deciding that, since the inn had been out of business for the better part of two years, that the Uphill Climb Tavern would be their best bet.

The innkeeper, named Roark, told them that he had no rooms to let, but that they may be able to get lodging up at the Caer (the keep) further up the road in town.

After a short discussion, the party headed up the road.

The uninviting and squat keep stood further up on the hill, overlooking the bay. Walking up to the portcullis, they heard a shout from above asking their business. When the party stated their wish to see the Speaker, they were turned away, saying that he was too ill to be seen. When they said that they had a healer with them, the inhabitants balked, yelling about “heathen remedies.”

Deciding that something was definitely amiss, the party pretended to leave and walked around the east side of the keep, and with the Monk’s shape water ability, they walked up a set of snowy stairs to the battlements above. Seeing nobody in the courtyard, and a tower to their immediate north and south, they decided to enter into the south tower, where they were attacked by barely-competent men and women wearing robes and wielding scimitars and wearing a strange crystal around their necks!

The battle raged, and were soon joined by similarly dressed people coming from the north tower, and then from the stairs in the south tower, as well as the south west tower, and an additional force of two spellcasters from the northwest towers (the party holding the line in and by the southeast tower), with the fallen turning to solid ice statues. After a relatively easy battle between the groups, the party stood, triumphant, with a captured prisoner: Huarwar, the wayward son of Cora the innkeeper. Binding and gagging him, the party knocked him unconscious and left him in a pile of boxes to be retrieved later on.

Entering into the courtyard, the party made a plan to enter the main keep, which they did in short order, meeting a young servant girl, who seemed reluctant to help for fear of someone by the name of Kadroth and Avarice, both tieflings, with Avarice being albino. They asked her to point the way to Kadroth, which she did, and point out where the speaker was being held.

The party went first to Kadroth’s office, running into another of the robed men, whom they dispatched with no difficulty (and who also turned into an ice statue), but not before he alerted Kadroth of their presence. Kadroth came out of his appropriated office, only to be seen wearing the infamous necklace, and was cut down. Kadroth, curiously, did not turn into a statue, although he wore the same crystal.

Kadroth

Heading up to the room where the Speaker was being held, they burst into the room to find the Speaker on the chamber pot, and his jailer standing watch over the room. The party eliminated the guard, and let the Speaker finish his…business…before asking him about his captors. Finding out that the cult members (for that was what they were) were of Levistus, one of the Dukes of the Nine Hells, and were holding several of his servants hostage down in the cistern. Additionally, they heard of a n old soothsayer inside that may also be part of the cult.

Finding out this, the party headed downstairs and into the trap door into the cistern. Not finding much, they found a small alcove where they found a shrine to Levistus. Heading to an adjacent room, the party found an albino tiefling studying over some books, who told them simply, without looking up “Get out. Now.”

The party ignored her and engaged her in conversation. Apparently glad to have Kadroth eliminated, she attempted to make a deal with the party to help her find the Lost Netherese City of Ythryn in exchange for a share of the treasure found there. The party declined, asking her what reason they shouldn’t kill her and just take everything they find, where she turned around holding a staff of frost aimed at them.

Both sides, deciding to cut their losses, the party made her give her word that she would not return to Caer Dineval, although she refused to agree to leaving Ten Towns. The party allowed her to leave, having no more use of Caer Dineval with her cult-members having been decimated.

After rescuing the cold and hungry servants, the party went off to find the soothsayer, who greeted them, knowing her own life was coming to an end, knowing her fate in the Nine Hells, and yet wanting another group to succeed. She spoke of one named Xardorok Sunblight, a duergar warlord, who was preparing some sort of terrible fate for the people of Ten Towns. After giving them the information, she died, and that of old age.

The Cult Soothsayer

Not knowing what she was talking about, the party informed the Speaker of the success of their winning his freedom, and prepared to leave.

Miniature Painting Spotlight: 10/25/2020

Hello, dear readers. Today’s miniature painting spotlight is brought to you by “Unfinished Works”. Unfinished works, were all I’ve done is prime some stuff and paint little else.

In all seriousness I started painting again, but realized a lot of what I needed to paint needed priming first. Remember when I told you that Dungeons & Dragons miniatures aren’t the only thing I paint? Well guess what, I’ve got some inclusions there.

First in our list is Xanathar. I’ve been trying to get this stupid miniature primed for some time now. Unfortunately, I keep finding places where I’ve missed priming. But on a larger mini, I’m not totally surprised about this. I’ll get him all primed before I truly start on him. The biggest problem, as I’ve told you before, is having to paint the inside of his mouth before I could glue on his lips and teeth. Well, I got that done and glued on his lips and teeth. Additionally, I have painted and assembled the base to his miniature.

I’m very satisfied with how it turned out.

Here he is, just sitting on top of his stand:

As you may be able to tell, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the process, I used liquid green stuff to fill in the gaps around his lips. It’s a little messy, but I got the spots filled in.

Next on our list is one of my restoration projects. You may remember her.

Well, I had a harder time than I had previously thought I would in finding the specific type of green that matches her cloak. It took me two tries but I did get it and I’ve started to restore the back where it was particularly chipped. The staff is already looking very good.

Ashley of our D&D miniatures, is a tiefling warlock that I began. Mostly, I painted his chest hands and tail. He is, of course, largely unfinished, but that won’t last the week.

Lastly, is my attempt at painting my battle tech miniatures of course, they are all plastic and need primer. That’s perfectly fine, but there are a lot of nooks, crannies, and crevices. they send it up being a much more daunting task than I expected, and will likely be using spray primer next time. Priming these things by hand has become the bane of my existence. Thankfully, I’m doing my learning on the two miniatures that came with the starter set. They will likely just augment my normal neck forces so it’s not too big of a deal. That said, I sat next to it and unpainted/primed miniature so that you can see the difference between prime and unprimed in the greys.

If you can’t tell, The one on the left is the one that has been primed. You may be able to notice all the crevices that are still the same color as the one on the right. Part of the problem, was that I didn’t follow my own advice. I forgot to wash the mini before I painted. It’s an important step, but even people who have an idea of what they’re doing can screw up and skip a step once in awhile.

Well, that’s what I got this week. I know you may have wished for more, but so did I. Next week I should have the tiefling done, and my restoration projects completed.

Until next time, dear readers.

DM Stories: My Discord Group and Clarshh’s Sepulchre, a.k.a. How Elren Befriended “Benjamin”

I have a wonderful Discord group that meets (now) on Sunday evenings after I get back from Adventurers League. A big thanks to @Momo (Claa P. Trap), @Bisharp (Elren), @DoctorIcky (Momon), @Lurker (Vin Smoke), and @Legion (Calla), you guys are absolutely awesome. Claa and Calla do not appear in this story as they came in later.

The group began in a small town (in a homebrew world), getting recruited by an Arcane, a blue giant that specialized in magic and magical items. Their job: be caravan guards and delve into a lost sepulchre of a deceased cult leader to acquire a cube of force that Sereen (the name of the Arcane) already had a buyer for.

Sereen was a weird dude…

Once the party arrived at the small abandoned hamlet where the entraunce to the tomb was supposed to lay, the party got to work looking for the items that the clues pointed to.

The party investigated around the town. They found some monsters, destroyed them, and found some answers to some of the clues. All good. All ordinary.

Cool puzzle solving part of this adventure

Until the bathhouse. That stupid bathhouse.

So, there I was, describing this, and I ask for a Wisdom (Perception) check. This was to see if anyone noticed the spider caught in the furthest ceramic tub.

Elren (played by @bisharp, one of the very first players I recruited for this campaign, if not the first; thanks buddy!), saw it. Being a wood elf, he has an… affinity for nature. Sure, he was a monk, but still, a wood elf.

The aasimar rogue (@Lurker) and the wizard (@DoctorIcky) said to kill it with fire and the bathhouse with it.

What was it, you ask?

Well, what I thought I described was:

Picture is property of owner’s. All rights reserved.

But Elren said something to the effect of, “Oh, leave him be. You’re scaring him.”

I asked @bisharp to roll a Wisdom (Handle Animal) and set the DC stupid high for a group of level ones.

It’s at this time I should mention a house/table rule of mine: A roll of a Nat 1, regardless of anything else, ALWAYS fails, and usually (okay, almost always) results in something bad happening, while a roll of a Nat 20, regardless of anything, is ALWAYS a success, with something awesome happening. It is my belief that anyone, regardless of skill, can mess something up or do something awesome by blind luck/misfortune.

Can you guess what that elf rolled?

No?

A NATURAL STUPID 20.

Remember how I described it?

This is what it turned into:

Image belongs to Lucas the Spider. All rights reserved.

And Elren named him Benjamin.

Oooooooooooof course he did.

Of note, later, when the party was in an escapable deathtrap, with a ceiling slowly falling (and partly due to the player being bad at puzzles) yells, “Run Benjamin! Save yourself!!!” The party was thrilled at that one.

But, Benjamin had won over their hearts. Especially when he pulled a…

Image from “Home Alone,” and property of its owner. All rights reserved.

…and saved the party. Go team Benjamin, and go Exploding Rats Party (the name of their band)!

Until next time, dear readers…

How to DM: Creating Memorable Villains

What do you think of when you hear names like, Cruella DeVille, Melificent, Jafar, Scar (other than I can only seem to think of things Disney rolled out…)? They are memorable villains! Who can forget how awesome that fight between Prince Philip and Melificent was when she turned into a dragon? Who can forget the epic fight between an all-powerful sorcerer and a simple rogue? Who, in their right mind, can forget the voice of Jeremy Iron as Scar, his claws in that of Mufasa, leaning in and saying “Long live the king…” while throwing Mufasa to his death?!

What was it about these horrible people that made them so memorable? They had depth and motive. Melificent was evil, but wronged for not being invited to the party for baby Aurora. Jafar was eager to take power over the sultan and take the throne for himself. Scar was similarly motivated, but desired the rulership of the Pridelands to be the ultimate revenge for his brother taking what he believed to be his birthright.

So, how do you build these villains?

Remember how we were building the adventure? Let’s go back there. Let’s say that our adventure is exploring a dungeon with a long buried treasure. Of course there’s going to be plenty of monster encounters, traps, puzzles, etc…You’re an expert now in building encounters, right? Right! But what’s guarding the final treasure room?

This encounter is what is commonly referred to as a BBEG: Big Bad Evil Guy. Of course it doesn’t have to be a guy, but this is the term generally used. The BBEG is the “final boss” of the adventure. In our adventure, depending on the level of the party, it could be as simple as a mummy, or maybe as dangerous as a lich or demilich! The sky’s the limit on this.

One of my favorite movies is The Incredibles. The final villain in the first movie is absolutely awesome, if you think about it. It’s a kid who felt wronged and hurt, who turned that hurt into anger and revenge. His whole goal was to eliminate Mr. Incredible. Also, if you look at it, Mr. Incredible was responsible for creating Syndrome!

Let’s dissect this further. Syndrome obviously had an intimate relationship with Mirage, who turned on him when Mr. Incredible threatened to kill her during his capture. This shows the ruthlessness of Syndrome even in his personal relationships when it comes to his revenge plans. Further, you can see how Syndrome, although he makes the occasional blunder (like making the robot AI too smart), he shows himself to be an insanely smart villain. He planned and executed the death of several of the super heroes. He lured Mr. Incredible to his capture. His technology sales created a mass fortune, enough that he purchased an island, built a huge and elaborate base, and had a personal army/security force at his beck and call.

Then there are his flaws: he believed his plan unstoppable. He monologues enough to nearly be defeated by Mr. Incredible. His arrogance at his belief that his technology was enough to do what superheroes could do. These are all flaws, and some of them fatal.

There’s another school of thought on villains. That of the good guy who is following a path because he truly believes what he is doing is right. I’m not talking about that evil witch “Professor” Umbridge of the Harry Potter universe. She was absolute evil incarnate, and frankly, worse of a villain than that of Voldemort. Fight me if you think I’m wrong. No, I’m talking about those antagonists that believe whose goals are directly opposed to that of the protagonist, but who, themselves, are not “bad guys.” These are awesome and memorable antagonists, because it combines the need to ensure the party’s goals, with the moral and ethical dilemma of defeating a good person. Why are their goals different? Who knows. Maybe it’s a Boromir situation, in which they are taunted by the magical artifact.

Sometimes, and this is a great adventure and even campaign plot, the party are inadvertently the bad guys! One of my favorite episodes of Puffin Forrest involves the party working for a mysterious person, who has tasked them with finding some magic crystals. The only problem? This figure was the BBEG, and the party was inadvertantly putting together his ability to rise to power again!

Then there is this story (beware, wall of text):

I know it’s a little blurry, but hopefully you get the idea. Sometimes the BBEG can be the best good guy.

Personally, I love these kinds of BBEG. The ones you think, “Hmm, I think he has a point…”

When I play video games, especially the ones like Mass Effect or Fable, or even the Fallout series, when I play an evil character, they always have a single virtue (conversely my good characters have a flaw; for example, my good character had a wife in every town, where my evil character was faithful to his wife: Lady Grey). This helps give more depth to the villain.

The other thing I give my villains is a memorable “voice.” Maybe it’s an accent or way of speaking when I, as the DM, speak for him. Maybe he’s got the accent of a Bond Villain. Maybe he’s more “Dr. Evil.” Whatever the case, make your villain’s dialogue unique.

One Villain, the Emperor from my (in)famous pirate campaign was voiced by the player who played him. Beforehand, however, we discussed his cadence, his speech pattern, all of these things when he unmasked himself as the primary villain of the campaign (sort of). Great villain.

So, go out, make a villain, and make him/her awesome!

Until next time, dear readers!

Sunday Game: Rime of the Frost Maiden; Finding Sephek

The ranger, realizing that the creature in the water was a plesiosaurus, quaffed one of his potions of animal friendship and began speaking with it. It responded with a polite “Hello!”

After a short discussion, the party found that this talking plesiosaur was ensorcelled to become sentient by a druid who’s instructions were to terrorize the people of Bremen or else become a dumb creature once again. After some cajoling and convincing, the party managed to convince him that the effect of the spell was permanent and that he did not have to prey on the people of Bremen.

Finding that he did not have a name, the party decided to name him Bob, which he decided was a great name, not having had one before.

Bob towed them back towards Bremen and was asked to wait so they could introduce him to a new friend. Getting Tali, the half-elf whom the journal was for, the party introduced them, much to Tali’s pleasure.

Heading back to the inn, the party found that Sephek asked about them and checked out with the rest of the merchants he travelled with. The ranger attempted to track him, but lost the tracks on the edge of town.

Deciding to rest, the party stayed overnight, and left the next day, heading to Targos and hoping to find evidence of Sephek’s whereabouts.

Arriving in Targos, the party quickly located Torga and her retinue. They found that she and her crew were leaving in the morning.

To kill time, the party decided to partake in a local festival called Liar’s Night. The contest was one of a pumpkin carving contest, of which the monk won with a traditional jack-o’-lantern design. The ensuing chaos over the loss of a ring garnered everyone with a ring that, when worn, imbues the weather with a translucent mask in the design of their pumpkins.

The festivities concluded, the party decided to check out Torga and found that she was a most unsavory character, who engaged in extortion, blackmail, protect rackets, and even murder for hire. The party decided that she, too, should meet her end, and therefore would eliminate all of her retinue.

Setting up an ambush at the fork in the road, a blizzard fell upon the area. The dogsled teams of Torga came into view, led by Sephek himself! The party let loose with a heavy barrage of attacks.

The battle was hard fought, with the balance of advantage teetering one way then the next. After the fall of Torga, Sephek too was soon killed. The remaining four guards followed soon after.

After looting the bodies and disposing of the same, the party took the sleds and dogs, and headed towards Brynn Shander, selling them and splitting the loot.

Deciding not to stay long, the party set their sights onto Caer Dineval, the town on the way to Caer Konig, where they had a search for a missing husband.

Will they find him? What will happen along the way?

Join us next Monday, dear readers, to find out!

Short Announcement

So here’s the deal: I have Multiple Sclerosis. Today has been…challenging and I haven’t been able to finish my posts. Yeah, I know, but I’m symptomatic as all can be, and my pain levels are through the roof.

I am sorry that I couldn’t get content out. I should be good by Monday.

I appreciate your understanding in this time.

Until tomorrow dear readers.

DM How To: Campaign Building

Last week we talked about plot hooks. Remember that post. It becomes important.

Start with building a home base. Usually it’s best to make this a small to medium village where you can flush out a number of NPCs and build out an area from there. All the characters should have a reason for being here. Maybe they are from the area and are starting their adventuring career from here. Maybe they are new adventurers who happen to be passing through. No matter the case, the starting area should have some basic things: and in where they can stay or some other similar place, a general good store where they can purchase adventuring supplies (they don’t have to be able to get everything there necessarily, they just have to be able to get the basics at the least), and usually a blacksmith where they can purchase weapons and/or armor.Now, this is the most common way of doing this, but there’s no reason why you can’t start them in a large metropolis, or a larger town. Additionally, you could start them off as travelers on the road in the middle of a wilderness, or in some harsher environment, like a desert or tundra and their first goal is to find civilization and survive. Just remember, that their home base, wherever it may be, is going to be the basis for where the party will return in between adventures.

Next you want to focus on building your adventures while seating in campaign events. Maybe your campaign is focused on the return of an ancient and powerful dragon. Your first adventure may only have some kind of reference to said dragon or its return. Maybe it’s a kobold cult dedicated to this dragon. Maybe they simply find a shrine or inscription vaguely relating to the return of this dragon. Whatever the case may be, you start seeding in campaign events or minor plot points early, and continue to do so in greater and more blatant numbers as your campaign progresses.

As we talk about campaign progression, is worth noting that many campaigns tend to fizzle out around the tier 3 mark, between 11th and 16th level. Not many campaigns go into the higher levels. Plan your campaigns based on how far and what level you want your adventures to be when the campaign ends. Do you want your campaign to take them all the way to 20th level? This is a daunting task but is very doable. It just takes careful planning.It is always helpful, just like doing so for adventures, to do a rough flow chart or outline for the general direction you want the the campaign to go. Again, don’t forget to plant seeds for your plot as it is being revealed.Next, create a local region. After you have created the home base, you want a local region where, either them majority of the campaign, or the entire campaign, take place. Doing a bit of cartography helps in this. Maybe there is a large forest where the elf kingdom lay. Maybe there is a mountain range where, in our earlier example, the ancient dragon is supposed to be summoned from. Whatever You choose, make sure that you flush it out just enough to give it some structure. If you know exactly what adventures the party will encounter, as well as the level progression you expect, either by milestone leveling or by experience points (this is where doing a flowchart and/or an outline really helps), You can divide the areas out by level. Just remember, players make the decisions for the characters. This is where you’re amazing plot hooks come in, drawing them into the story and keeping them on track within the areas for their own levels. Of course, we don’t want to railroad our players. Maybe we want to give options to where certain adventures can take place. This is why we flesh out the region just enough to give it some structure, but leave us with some flexibility as to where certain events can take place.

Campaign Events

The Dungeon Master guide, as it should, has a lot of good ideas for major campaign events. They refer to them as world – shaking events. It is a good idea to check out that section of chapter one. One of their major recommendations is to have three good campaign shaking events. I highly recommend that you read that section. It should be noted that the campaign does not have to be just about the story you have crafted. Character backgrounds, when provided, offer great opportunities for character development as well as campaign development. Maybe the party has decided they don’t have the strength or power to defeat the big bad evil guy (BBEG). Using the characters backgrounds you can craft adventures that help them gain the power, or maybe find legendary weapons or artifacts, that will help them in defeating the BBEG. Maybe The characters themselves just gain a bit of depth during these adventures. Having your players create a good structure for their backgrounds really helps out here. The podcast/show critical role does a very good job for this in their first season. As a result of the character development, each character also gets an ending/epilogue.

All Good Things Come To An End

It is my belief, that secretly, in the depths of every dungeon master (at least, the very good ones) wants each character to have their “happily ever after.” Of course, campaign events and bad rolls can lead to character death. That said, for the most part, with the exception of a total party wipe out, the individual characters, as well as the party as a whole, should have a nice wrap up with their characters epilogue. These do not have to be elaborate, although they can be, but should provide some sort of satisfying conclusion to the campaign and campaign events. This usually is done by each player, as well as with significant input and inclusion with, the dungeon master.

Well, that’s my counsel and advice on building a campaign. Do you think I missed something? Let me know in the comments below. Is there a topic you would like me to cover, again, let me know in the comments! 

Next week, we will discuss creating memorable villians!

Until tomorrow readers.