View Full Version : (First time DM) Trying to keep an extraplanar campaign from being linear/forced

2011-09-09, 02:29 PM
Alright everyone, I'm in a bit of a predicament with my current campaign idea. I'm very fond of the basic concept, but am struggling with how to make sure it doesn't feel like a series of "Oh, good, you got that magic item. Now go grab this other mcguffin..." quests.

The basic idea for the start of the campaign is that the entire party, having not met before, is going to be summoned/planar bound to another plane of existence. There, they will meet an incredibly startled and slightly frightened gnome. This gnome will eventually explain that they are on a plane that was created by a Genesis spell by his master, and that he is just an apprentice wizard. He had gone there to train, and as part of his training, was bound to the plane, unable to leave until he was adept enough to meet his rather powerful masters expectations.The master wizard then proceeded to disappear/kick the bucket. The goofy, likable little apprentice is now stuck on this plane, and has been experimenting with all manner of magic he didn't really understand in the desperate hope that he might be able to bring someone there to aid him. Having now unintentionally bound the party, he will send them on a quest to other planes of existence, searching for the magical components/keys/whatnot he needs to cast a spell he found in his masters notes that he thinks might be powerful enough to free him.

Here's the kicker: The adorable little gnome wizard is not actually an adorable little gnome wizard. He's the BBEG, a malevolent arcanist that was essentially trying to make himself a god. Ages ago, a party of adventurers bound him to the plane. He is trying to trick the party into collecting something...either keys of some kind, or perhaps artifacts that belonged to the party that originally bound him...in order to break free. If he succeeds, the remainder of the campaign will be based around trying to defeat this guy.

Any thoughts on the concept? The game will only be running from now until December. Pathfinder rules, if that matters. Some things I'm trying to figure out:

What to make them get to free the wizard? Why were they specifically summoned? (All of them are from the Material Plane) How to not make it ridiculously forced?

I was also considering integrating something like a paladinish guardian cult that, at first, the party would think was evil/despotic for trying to stop them, then realize they have to side with them if the wizard does break free.

Thanks in advance for any and all help!

2011-09-09, 02:31 PM
I should have been more clear about the plane they start on. The plane they initially get summoned to is populated only by this little gnome guy. Little gnome guy sends them to other planes, because the keys/items are scattered around other planes of existence.

I'm thinking the justification for this is that basically, because everyone is forgetting this BBEG ever existed except for the "cult," no one has paid any attention to this mini-plane for a long time, and the enchantments on it are weakening. That's why he's powerful enough to do bursts of magic, like bringing the people there and flinging them haphazardly through the multiverse, but not powerful enough to do any genuine control or to free himself, or even manifest his real body.

2011-09-09, 02:56 PM
It sounds interesting...but to avoid the railroading really doesn't work with that style. While a lot of people call linear stories railroads, a railroad is a tool used by a DM to enforce a story the PCs aren't interested in. By this I mean, if the party were to be sent off to grab Macguffin A in castle A, but turn around to explore, you have a choice. A railroading DM would suddenly reveal that this is the plane of Fire. What's that? You don't have fire resist? Well, back to castle A!

By this I mean, having a set story in mind isn't a bad thing, as long as your players know that's what they're in for. Just tell them this is a prebuilt storyline. Most players will be okay with this. (In my experience. I don't know your players, of course.)

2011-09-09, 02:59 PM
Well the easiest solution is to give them an item that lets them decide which plane they are going to. There you go. Don't let them use it to go back to the Material Plane, but let them gather the artifacts/macguffins in any order they choose, and let them pick their own route to get to these items.

2011-09-09, 03:04 PM
Definitely good idea about letting them choose what plane to go to, I'll figure out a way to make that the case. Also, I like what you said about railroading being forcing them into doing something they dont want to, Winds...all of them have given me pretty solid back stories, and I noticed that all of them have an unusually good motivation for NOT wanting to be yanked off into the ether (they did know what they were in for in that regard, so I guess it just so happened that they all decided to take that stance). For instance, the party Cavalier is sworn to protect her younger brother, the crown prince, who is currently rather heavily threatened. If phrased correctly, and if the gnome seems trustworthy enough, maybe they'll all just decide that it really was an accident, and that it's their own choice to do these tasks, making it more cooperative than making him the "questgiver."

2011-09-11, 03:59 PM
I've given some more consideration to it...feeling much better. First session is Wednesday. Anyone have any other advice?

2011-09-12, 06:44 PM
Planar campaigns are a lot more fun if you're not a yokel. It gets old, the feeling that your character is a gawking tourist. Give them the option to have a place among the planes.
Got an itinerant rogue who is a bit of a hobo/smuggler? Well let him smuggle stuff between planes and be a suave traveller of the multi-verse.
The princess? Oh they're a small kingdom in the plane of fire. Give her 5 fire res and say call it a day.
Two of the players have divine powers? They're infernals from the department of death and taxes in the fourth circle. If the players have to see the wrong side of a circle of protection, give them the full experience.
If you're playing a planar campaign, its a great opportunity to go nuts with this kind of thing. I recommend it.

As for linearity, it's not a bad thing as long as you are adaptable. An outline is good. Don't be afraid of linearity, especially when you are starting out. Having a plot and forcing a plot (like say forcing the group to play out your 300 page novel) are to really different things.

2011-09-12, 10:23 PM
Planar campaigns are a lot more fun if you're not a yokel.
Th' phrase is "berk" or "clueless" 'round these parts, coney. :smallwink:

(I think I did that right. It's been a while.)