Building a Campaign from the Ground Up: Part 3

What up, DMs? It’s Wednesday and that means we’re hitting the creative books once again. For those of you that need to catch up, we’re working on our first encounter of our campaign. So far we’ve selected a story progression and began scratching the surface of how to get our adventurer’s started.  Last week’s post asked for some reader input that we’ll implement today. And, as promised, you can view the documents I’m starting to put together here[].

Down to business:

Thanks to the less than desired amount of feedback we have our veteran slave fleshed out and I’ve put together a character block for us to present the DM with:

Now, to me that isn’t quite enough info for the DM. Yes, the character block provides the necessary stats, information, etc. But I really want our campaign to be usable and brought to life by anybody. This requires the DM to role play the veteran slave. Unfortunately, fully characterizing an NPC isn’t everyone’s forte and the veteran slave might end up being a flat character that gets mauled in front of the adventurers with no emotions attached to the event. And that’s, well, boring.

As with writing a book, we want our adventurers to feel like they’re part of the campaign. We need to give them emotions, rip them apart, inspire them, and induce fear. In order to achieve this, characters can’t be flat and boring and essentially pointless. Every character has to affect the adventurers in some way.

Some DMs will be able to do this on their own—they’ll see the veteran slave and immediately delve into the creation tank of what her story is, her mannerism, etc. and will throw our work aside. Which is fine and good; but we still have to flesh out the veteran slave for those that wouldn’t do any of that on their own.

So, we’ve landed on Riku having a grim but determined outlook on life. Let’s look at how we’ll present this information to the DM. A short paragraph with some examples should do. This will get tacked on in the campaign’s DM guide right after we prompt them to role play Riku.

Riku is grim and determined.  She’s been one of SLAVER’s slaves for 2 years. She keeps this count on little cuts up her leg counting the full moons. She knows your enslaver’s name but not much else, what town you’re in, and that the general life as a slave entails terrible living conditions, starvation, and facing death every so often for the crowd’s entertainment. She’s survived the coliseum too many times to count; each fight as deadly as the next. She refuses to die; the dream of once again seeing her daughter and son driving her forth. She inspires the adventurer’s to not give up. That they can make it through whatever horror awaits them in the arena if they work together.  As the gate begins to open for their entry she praises a god.

The above gives the DM more to work with. If the players begin to poke and prod information out of the veteran slave, the DM knows how to answer any pertinent questions and very well should as this is the intro into the campaign. Riku also has a motivation, a reason to endure and fight on. If played out well enough, I think the adventurers would believe she is an important character and not suspect her imminent death. Hopefully, they’ll feel for her and her death will sting them.

We’ve found more questions for ourselves to answer; dirty details that need some fleshing out. Polls for the week:

Name of the town players are in.

Slaver’s name.

Let me know what you guys think for these in the comments section!

Now that we have Riku ready for the DM to use, let’s introduce our adventurer’s to their certain death.

                You and your chained companions step into the arena. The roaring crowd encompasses you; thousands of people cheering for your death. Riku stands tall, leading your group across the sand to the center. She looks over her shoulder with a reassuring grin, but the butterflies in your stomach refuse to settle.

                A booming voice echoes from every direction but you can’t quite make out what it said over the increased enthusiasm of the crowd. The gate in the wall in front of you opens and a Hill Giant  lumbers out.

                ‘By Pelor’s light…’ escapes Riku’s lips.

From here we start the encounter; which we still need to build. From last week, we’ve landed on the characters facing a Hill Giant in the arena. This is clearly a deadly scenario for our group of Level ones and that’s perfect. Now we have to guide our players through not dying. At the start, the adventurers are unarmed and I like the idea proposed of tools and such being spread around the arena floor. These can range from spears, rocks, etc.

We can’t run this encounter like a normal fight—our unarmed adventurers would die instantly. Instead we’re going to make this a guided encounter. What’s that? Think of it like that point in a video game where you have to smash buttons or something to survive. Like Arkham Origins when Killer Croc tries to snap off your face.

To keep it simple, I think 3 or 4 of these guided events will be enough to make the adventurers feel lucky they survived. I’m thinking something like this as our outline:

  1. Roll initiative.
  2. Hill Giant acts first on first round and grabs the other group of chained slaves. Murder them with style DM!
  3. Riku yells ‘We need to work together! You and you (DM points out two characters), grab some rocks so we can lure it. You and you (DM Points out two other Characters) grab that rope; we’ll try to trip it up. And You(DM points to a character) come grab a spear with me. We’ll slice his Achilles’ tendon so he can’t stand back up. (The amount of characters will vary obviously).
  4. Proceed through combat rounds. Riku can bark orders/complain/praise as the characters move through the motions. Have characters make –Charisma check for luring the Hill Giant with rocks, Dexterity checks for safely weaving the rope around the Hill Giants ankles. Strength /Wisdom check for severing the Hill Giants Achilles’ Tendon.
    1. Characters need to do this in correct order. They have to lure/distract the Hill Giant with rocks before its safe enough to tie up his ankles. The giant needs to trip before they can slice his tendon.
    2. If they fail a throw, they are allowed to attempt next combat turn, but every fail results in a penalty. Missed Lure/Distraction results in the giant proceeding with typical combat motions. Missed rope trip results in the attempting character to take 1d6 bludgeon damage (they get hit by the Hill Giants foot or something). Missed tendon slicing results in all players adjacent to the Hill Giant taking 1d6 Bludgeon damage pending a Dex Save and the Hill Giant getting back to his feet.
  5. Once characters successfully slice the Hill Giant’s tendon. He flails in pain (Dex. Save for all adjacent—1d4  bludgeon damage). All characters are moved away 5 feet from the Hill Giant. The Hill Giant grabs Vet Slave and you witness her scream to her bloody death as the Hill Giant kills her however DM sees fit.
  6. Adventurers continue encounter. The Hill Giant has a new movement of 5 feet and will attack anything that is adjacent to it. If any characters are adjacent to the Hill Giant at the end of a round, they have to make the same Dex. Save they made above.
  7. Adventurers can kill the Hill Giant with use of the items in the arena. Hill Giant Starts at 25 HP.
  8. If the Adventurer’s don’t attack the Hill Giant the crowd begins to boo and 6 Kobolds are released into the pit. If they kill the Kobolds and 2 more rounds go by without them attacking the Hill Giant, release 6 more Kobolds. Rinse, repeat.

This will be our ‘guided encounter’. I think it’s a good start as it allows the characters to interact in atypical fashion. From here, we’ll give the characters experience and post-fight have guards round them up to bring them to their slave quarters. The next step we’ll tackle next time.

Let me know your thoughts about this encounter and the start to our campaign. And don’t forget to make a suggestion/vote for our Poll Questions in the comments section. This week I’m looking for a NAME of the SLAVER and the CITY our adventurers are in. Next week we’ll take a look at where to head from here.

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