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ptath
2012-05-09, 03:08 PM
Group Background:
Iíve ended up as the DM for my geographically remote group of friends. Iíve run a few one-off scenarios in 4e and 3.5 that went relatively well. My players are all either new players with a handful of sessions under their belts or slightly experienced players whoíve done -/+1 campaign several years ago.

Weíre planning to start playing on a regular basis next month using the 3.5 D&D rules. As weíre all geographically distant from each other, weíll be utilizing the Wizards of the coast Virtual Tabletop for map and token purposes and either Google+ Hangouts or Ventrillo (voice-over-IP chat program) for audio/visual communication.

The Plan:
I work full-time and have a long commute. Iím a new professional, so I donít have piles of money to spend on Ebay or Half-Price Books. As such, I donít have any present 3.5 campaigns on hand to read and run for my players. What I do have is a large number of shorter 3.5 adventures that Iíve started (loosely) stringing together to create the overall campaign.

Adventures list:
Lvl 1: The Burning Plague by Miguel Duran
Lvl 2: The Secret of the Windswept Wall by Eric Haddock
Lvl 3: Somethingís Cooking
Lvl 4: Bad Light by Owen K. C. Stephens
Lvl 5: Base of Operations by Ed Stark
Lvl 6: The Ghosts of Aniel by Stephen Kenson
Lvl 7: Haskenís Manor by Scott Borcius and Mark A. Jindra
Lvl 8: An Eye for an Eye by Monte Cook

Source: http://www.dungeonmastering.com/campaigns-adventures/83-free-dd-adventures

Assistance, Please:
Iíve had trouble in the past getting everyone really enthused with the game. I have players who love the smashy-smashy combat bits and others who get bored with those and just want to get on to the roleplaying. As such, Iím working hard to really involve my players in the planning process as a way to build-up anticipation for our sessions and itís definitely working. Everyone is really excited and weíre having a chat session this weekend to work on everyoneís characters.

Where I need help is in building the introductory session (it will not be an adaptation of a pre-made adventure) and in building the overall story plot and End-Game scenario.

The Story:
The party is a hodge-podge: a fighter, a sorcerer, a paladin, a barbarian, and possibly a druid (thereís also one other person who may or may not be joining). Theyíve all been arrested and thrown into prison (save, perhaps the paly) and have the choice to either (1) work for a Mysterious Benefactor or (2) Rot in Prison/Be Executed. They chose option 1.

The Mysterious Benefactor is either a wealthy merchant or a member of the nobility with his own reasons for selecting each party member to serve him. Adventures 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7 are Benefactor missions. 3 and 6 will be centered on specific players (lots of elves and half-elves in this group). 8 will be the Enemy's retaltion of their Benefactor missions. After that, Iím not sure yet. I haven't even figured out who the Enemy is going to be.

The Introduction:
The first session starts with the players (1) awakening en route to prison, (2) in prison when we start, or (3) insert option here. The Mysterious Benefactor is testing them Ė if they can escape, theyíve passed his first test and he appears to make them their offer they can't (and won't) refuse.

The prison is in the middle of a lake, which sits at the feet of a fairly tall mountain range. The land around the lake is forested. The prison itself is a tower on the west end of a courtyard. Boats for transferring good, guards, and prisoners dock at the south end of the courtyard.

There are four levels in the prison plus a drainage system underneath that runs the full length of the courtyard. The levels are: drainage system (sewers which allow for passage from the sub-basement to the courtyard), sub-basement (cells), basement (guards quarters), main hall (entrance, dining), and second floor (Captainís quarters, could be a research/alchemists lab).

My design for the prison is based on what Iíve made thus far in the Virtual Tabletop. I can change or adapt things as needed.

So.

Thoughts? Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.

Yitzi
2012-05-09, 08:23 PM
For the first adventure, you don't want a case where they have to actually escape...if they escape on their own, they have no reason to listen to this "benefactor". My advice would be to have the first "adventure" be a single encounter, perhaps a bunch of bullies pick on the characters. (Or on some of them, and then the others come to their rescue; determine based on the characters' personalities whether they would in fact come to help.) After they beat off the bullies, the benefactor is impressed and offers them the deal. But if you want something more involved that can work too...make sure it doesn't end up with them not needing to take the offer, though.

As for the overall plot and the endgame, I'd say that that's really the essence of the campaign, and in order for it to be your campaign you have to decide on that. The best advice I can give is to forget for a moment it's a D&D campaign, and just write the outline for a story whose plot matches what you have so far and is of the right scale (e.g. 5th level characters shouldn't be fighting for the fate of the world), and then use that for your campaign.

ptath
2012-05-09, 08:36 PM
Hmm, good ideas! I've been pondering a "I will have Revenge on my Enemy" scenario, a "He Kidnapped My Daughter!", or a "Stop the Evil-doer taking over the town/city/country." I'll start drafting some outlines, see what makes sense.

For the intro session, what if they fight their way out of the tower (or crawl through the sewer) only to end up surrounded by guards in the courtyard in a "You really thought you could escape?" One of those "You sneeze and 50 arrows go up your nose" moments.

I don't want to drop the prison scenario too quickly. One of my players proposed it and all the others immediately went "Ooo, I wanna do that!" I know that the DM gets final say but given how previous sessions have gone, I don't want to toss anything that gets every single one of them excited.

Ooo, random thought -- maybe they'd escape only to learn they had a geas or spell laid on them that compelled them to assist the Mysterious Benefactor. A compulsion or a degenerative spell laid on them by the Big Bad. The Benefactor could have the means to remove it after gathering components X,Y, and Z or have it be a "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". That kind of blackmail could turn unpleasant though...

Thanks so much! Any tips on picking the type/number of guards and monsters for session 1?

Yitzi
2012-05-09, 10:10 PM
For the intro session, what if they fight their way out of the tower (or crawl through the sewer) only to end up surrounded by guards in the courtyard in a "You really thought you could escape?" One of those "You sneeze and 50 arrows go up your nose" moments.

If they try to fight their way out, and then at the end the guards show up anyway, and then the benefactor shows up...I suspect that would feel very railroad-ish, which you do not want.


I don't want to drop the prison scenario too quickly. One of my players proposed it and all the others immediately went "Ooo, I wanna do that!"

Yes, that is definitely a good reason to keep it...here's an idea: The benefactor doesn't have enough sway to actually get them out of prison, but he can help them escape by bribing a few key guards...of course, this means that they not only have to watch out for enemies due to what they do for the benefactor, but also the police who want to toss them back in prison. (If there's a paladin, there'd better be some reason that it's ok to associate with them. I'd advise saying that they're in prison on trumped-up charges by a corrupt nobleman; you can then either make that nobleman be the benefactor (who set up the situation specifically to get their assistance; make sure you know how he'll react to all the likely reactions when they find out), or the corrupt nobleman is associated with (or even the same as) the enemy, leading to a more personal and satisfying conclusion when they finally beat him.)


Thanks so much! Any tips on picking the type/number of guards and monsters for session 1?

I'd say that for guards you probably want mainly warriors, with race proportional to the general area. Include a few elite guards with PC class levels as semi-bosses or bosses.

ptath
2012-05-09, 11:16 PM
Yes, that is definitely a good reason to keep it...here's an idea: The benefactor doesn't have enough sway to actually get them out of prison, but he can help them escape by bribing a few key guards...of course, this means that they not only have to watch out for enemies due to what they do for the benefactor, but also the police who want to toss them back in prison. (If there's a paladin, there'd better be some reason that it's ok to associate with them. I'd advise saying that they're in prison on trumped-up charges by a corrupt nobleman; you can then either make that nobleman be the benefactor (who set up the situation specifically to get their assistance; make sure you know how he'll react to all the likely reactions when they find out), or the corrupt nobleman is associated with (or even the same as) the enemy, leading to a more personal and satisfying conclusion when they finally beat him.)

I was already leaning towards trumped-up charged -- forgot to mention that! I'll be able to nail down who issued the charges after this weekend once everyone has a vague understanding about their backstory.


I'd say that for guards you probably want mainly warriors, with race proportional to the general area. Include a few elite guards with PC class levels as semi-bosses or bosses.

Excellent. How do I figure out how many units to use? I don't want to get everything right and then Zerg-rush them by accident.