Building a Campaign from the Ground Up Part 4

Parts 1, 2, 3

Folks, here we are once again. Wednesday; the day of that glorious mid work week hump. A day we can all take a breather and begin focusing on the fun things in life. Unless you’re lucky and enjoy work; then oooohh gooood foor you.

Anyways, last week we went over my coined ‘guided encounter’. We took our adventurers and threw them up against impossible odds. But we did so in a nice controlled environment. Whether or not it actually plays out safely is up in the air. The Hill Giant encounter looks good on paper, but that means nothing. I mean, half the time I DM my players take me off script the second they sit down. I do plan on play testing the encounter at some point and by all means feel free to try it yourselves and let me know how it goes. It’d be really bad if our first encounter successfully killed everyone to play it.

Last week I asked your opinions on a few key pieces of information. The slaver’s name and the city our adventurers are in. I got more input than last week which makes me happy 😀 and as a result we concluded with Janu Vadanov and the city Kielthrek’s Toe. It’s a combination of two great ideas and even if we don’t delve into the background of the city beyond the following, it gives the place a history. This is key.

Kielthrek’s Toe:

A city port located at the base of Mount Kielthrek in the center of the Windrun Plains. Legend says the mountain was once a giant demigod who fell in battle on the Plains. His Patron took pity and turned him to earth to last for eternity.

Credit to u/Artisan_Mechanicum !

Writers, and DMs of course, can tend to get stuck in this world building state. Now, don’t get me wrong, world building is a TON of fun! Heck, it’s the best part of being a writer and is the main reason I do it. The problem is that it can end up being a huge road block. It’s so fun that you end up getting too lost in it, like Leonardo in Inception.

World building is great and by all means dabble around as much as you can; but for us it’s not the end goal. The end goal is to build our campaign. From a writing perspective, I’ve learned that a lot of the world building is more for my own use than for my end goal. I have thousands of words and documents on Queen City and its inhabitants, but fact is the majority of it will never be used. It will never need to be. Maybe I’ll work some bits in here or there or have some extra Easter Eggs-which I fully intend on doing- but even at that it’s not needed. And even more so, we’re trying to guide a DM here not fully confine their creativity.

So, lesson of the day: Don’t over build. Your characters are going to throw a wrench in your plans, the DM using your campaign is not going to like A, B, and C, and change it anyways, so there’s no reason to spend endless hours of world building into it. Then again, if world building is your thing, go buck wild. What do I know anyways?

When we left off, our adventurers survived a round in the arena and were escorted back to their quarters/holding cells. I’m picturing a Gladiator esc set-up. So they’re locked up in a cell with nothing but each other to talk to and the nearby slaves in disbelief they returned; most slaves don’t. In fact it’s so rare that they’re honored with Janu’s presence. Lucky them.

This seems like a good opportunity to let the characters talk a little more. Maybe they’ll chat about the battle or their backgrounds. If the DM can, they should try to get them bonding with one another and prod them into playing their characters. After enough time, Janu should arrive.

As you sit amongst your fellow slaves, the exhaustion of battle settling in, four guards make their way to the front of your cell. Soon after, a man in the finest clothes donning a pristine mithril mask makes his way in front of your bars and looks you over. You notice the many scars along his arms and imagine there’s much more hidden under his outfit.

“A fine showing out there. I’m not sure what to make of it. I lost my best gladiator, but it appears I’ve got (#of Players) better. I don’t know if I should be happy you made me lots of money, or worried you proved so strong.” Your owner paces back and forth in front of the cell. “You had a fine showing. You will enter the arena again tomorrow. I expect you to win.”

Now, I think is a good time to prompt the DM to pause. Allow the players to interact with Janu if they choose. We’ll also have to provide our DM with another blurb describing Janu and such. This will go above the above in the final product. But I’m thinking something along the lines of:

Role Playing Janu Vadanov

Janu Vadanov is an Eladrin Fiend-Pact Hexblade famed for his cruel, wavy, greatsword-pactblade “Sindr”. He used to be a slave himself and bears the scars and burns of a long and violent career—though he hides much of his background behind a mask of the purest mithril in the guise of a perfect, beautiful, Elf.

In desperation he turned to any power to leave his old life behind. Once he got some power, he wanted all of it. And now he is the very thing he spent so many years despising.

Janu speaks calm and collectedly. He gives a lot of thought to what he says. Janu will not answer too many questions the adventurers ask him—they’re lowly slaves after all—but he will tell them what city they’re in. He won’t describe it. If they ask about him, he says that he’s their master and that’s all they need to know. If they prod him too much about stuff, he’ll have the guards give them a good hit to quiet them (1d4) damage.

Janu will tell them about the arena and how battling there is an honor.

Thank to u/Phosis21 for that great character creation. The above two pieces should give the DM a good starting point.  Janu is their owner and we have to make sure he acts like it, but at the time we need to make sure he gives the players some useful interaction. I can see it being a fine line to walk. Let me know what you guys think about what I’ve come up with above.

From here, I think it’s safe to give the players a rest. Not sure if it should be short or long. They’re slaves so they don’t have much to do, but they’re slaves so how much actual rest do they get.  Our Weekly Poll. How much rest do the adventurers get? And after resting we need to progress the story further. I think the best way to do this is to move the characters along with slave life. After their rest they’ll have a meal/recess time.  This will be our opportunity to show them their chance of escaping. But how do we present this idea? That’s our second poll of the week. Remember, we have to relay the information of a possible way to jump the shards. But will it be from eavesdropping? Or will some shady character come up and tell them? Or, some kind of God is just like, ‘JUMP SHARDS!’.  Submit your thoughts in the comment section.

That’s it for this week. Be sure to check out the GoogleDoc for the in progress write up of the campaign. I plan to start adding more this week (important characters, and whatever).  As always, your feedback is much appreciated and let me know what’s on your mind in the comments.

-The Planeswalker of Your Heart –wrong game, but deal with it.

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