View Full Version : My campaign workbook

2007-04-13, 04:38 PM
First things first, since my players may occasionally browse this forum:

Stewie, Taylor, Harry, Guy, and Tim, Keep Out!

Everyone else is welcome.

I'm getting ready to start a new campaign. I'm going to be drawing from but heavily modifying Alderac Entertainments "World's Largest Dungeon" and will be going for a fairly straightforward Kick in the Door style game, getting back to our roots by playing a fairly simplistic fantasy game whereas most of our recent play has been high concept intrigue centric d20 modern. What I'm hoping for is to use this thread as a log and sounding board as I think about and plan for the upcoming campaign, hopefully it will be interesting enough to keep some of you engaged and coming back to offer help from time to time, and if not at least it will provide an ongoing record of my efforts.

The first thing I'm working on is an introductory letter for the players of the campaign, some thing that will in one fell swoop outline the procedures for character creation, the materials allowed, the basics of the campaign world, and perhaps most importantly the initial hook that brings their characters into the story. I've been rolling around thoughts on what needs to be included for a few weeks and am trying to kick out a draft right now.

Welcome to Dungeon Hack 2007!

Ok, so maybe most of you aren’t familiar with Dungeon Hack, but it sits near the top of my list of all time great adaptations of D&D for the PC. Published by SSI and TSR in 1993 Dungeon Hack was simple and straightforward, create a character descend into the dungeon defeat the monsters. This simple concept was exquisitely executed bringing the 2nd edition ruleset to life in brilliant CGI graphics. In our next campaign I want to emulate and pay homage to Dungeon Hack. The campaign will focus almost exclusively on the dungeon crawl, with as little or as much narrative story as you, the players, choose to indulge; adventure hooks, rumors and red herrings will be available throughout, though nothing more elaborate than kick in the door, kill the greenskins, and take their stuff will be essential to advance the plot. The purpose of this letter is to outline what to expect from the campaign and provide you with the knowledge you will need to make your characters.

The World:
For this campaign I have no vision for the world at large, and therefore it is completely malleable to your whim. We can find a place for anything you wish to see in the world that could be relevant to your character. You’re free to make up as much or as little detail about the world as you like if it helps you define your characters place in it or his attitudes and predilections. You say your cleric worships a god not described in the PHB, neat; tell me about the deity, what are his domains, his portfolio, what customs do his worshipers observe? For this campaign the world is largely a blank canvas for your imagination, feel free to create as little or as much as you like to help you with your character.

The Rules:
The following guidelines should provide you with all of the information you need to create your character.

Characters will be created using 30 point buy, the point buy rules are outlined on page ??? of the DMG.
You are free to use any of the base classes from the PHB or any of the books in the Complete series (yes that includes the quasi-asian ones that don’t fit in the traditional western fantasy paradigm), as well as any race from either the PHB or MM that can be played as an ECL 1 character.
I’m going to play fast and loose with spell and feat selection, so pretty much anything from the core books or the complete series will be fine, and I will consider other supplements you may want to use on a case by case basis, but I’ll probably give most things the thumbs up this time around.
Characters will receive maximum hp at 1st level and will roll the appropriate hit die at each subsequent level and add their constitution modifier.
Experience points will be earned at a reduced pace. This game will feature a great deal of combat and using the traditional system your characters would level up out of the scope of the game too quickly.
I have a few house rules we will be using for this campaign, their attached to the end of this letter, any new ones that are agreed upon during the course of play will be recorded and added to the list so players can refer to them as needed.
Characters are to begin at 1st level, with starting gold randomly determined by class.The Guidelines:
The above rules tell you what you need to do to make a character for this campaign, but they don’t offer much advice in the way of what you should do for your character, and your party as a whole to excel in this game. In order to do well and keep the game moving at a respectable pace it will be important to have a varied party covering all of the archetypal adventuring roles: Trapfinder, Warrior, Arcane Spellcaster, Divine Spellcaster. In a party of five players I don’t foresee any difficulty forming a party where everyone is able to play something they will enjoy while simultaneously filling all the necessary roles in the group. Another tip that may help you to succeed in this campaign is to create a racially diverse party, Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Half-elves, Halflings, and Half-orcs each bring something to the table that will be useful in the campaign so having a good mix among the party will be useful. One last tip I could give you is to purchase your starting equipment with dungeoneering in mind, think about food, light sources, tools, and anything else you will need to make your party as self sufficient as possible as you plumb the depths and caverns of this world.

And finally the hook:
While your character backgrounds are yours to determine all the characters have a single element in common: they’ve all answered the following advert, which was found pinned to walls of beerhalls, taverns, pubs and tacked to signposts throughout the known world:

Wanted: True Heroes!

Lord Penbrook Dunningham seeks qualified applicants to recover lost artifacts of great personal value to the Dunningham estate. Applicants need not be seasoned adventurers, but a lust for fortune, glory and the greater good is essential. Lord Dunningham values virtue, ambition and heroism amongst all those in his employ, and none who fail to meet his high standards will be selected for this perilous task. All those interested should send a letter by courier, payment on delivery, to Hollowhelm Keep to express your interest. Should you be selected travel to Hollowhelm will be arranged at no expense to you so that Lord Dunningham may conduct personal interviews.

So there's my pregame letter. What do you think? Did I leave out anything essential? Later this evening I may post again with how the initial session ought to progress and a few ideas for hooks I've been tossing around.

2007-04-13, 09:33 PM
Looks fine to me, I think Point Build rules are in the DMG, pages 19-21 or something (my version is 3.0).

You might want to consider using Grey Hawk as the Campaign Setting for this, as it provides at least some frame of reference for the players without being too restrictive as to what can be used. Even one shot hack capaigns benefit from context and Oerth is purposely built vague enough to handle any concept you or your players might have.

This sounds interesting to me and I look forward to reading some more about it.

2007-04-16, 01:39 PM
Thanks for the feedback, but I have no information on Oerth beyond that included in the PHB (namely deities), so its easier to start from scratch. Plus once the game gets rolling, as I hope you'll see from my comments going forward, the world at large will only matter insofar as it provides the players with a background.

So, for todays entry: Framing Devices.

For those of you who aren't familiar with World's Largest Dungeon from Alderac Entertainment, it is as its title says a very large dungeon. The intent is for player characters to enter at 1st level and become trapped in the dungeon and by the time the find their way out have achieved 20th level and encountered every kind of creature in the SRD. The Dungeon is devided inot 16 distinct sections each with its own theme and corresponding monsters. Its strong point is tons of kick in the door dungeon crawling adventure, what its light on is a reason for the PCs to be there in the first place. With that in mind I need a framing device to provide context and an impetus to keep the PCs moving through the dungeon and provide an avenue for unique encounters and new material.

With that in mind I've developed (and be developed I mean stole) an idea based around a "Tourneyment of Heroes" a competition to determine the course of history sponsored by powerful quasi-deific beings in an isolated pocket dimension. Adventuring parties have been coerced, shainghaied or enlisted into the contest by the patrons sponsoring the event. I imagine this being useful in several ways, one it allows me as the DM a tool to influence pacing, since the overall dungeon is a form of a race then if I feel the adventure or campaign is going to slowly I could put in an encounter with a rival party who's been making more progress than the PCs or something that just generally gently reminds them that its a contest and doddling has consequences. Additionally framing it as a contest with rules and such allow me to accomodate several common problems with Worlds Largest Dungeon, such as what happens if a player cannot attend a session, simple theirs a Penalty Box where adventurers who violate the rules must sit for an indeterminant amount of time in some form of interdimensional limbo, only to pop back into existance at the start of the next session. Also a lack of civilization is often cited as a problem in games of WLD, by using this framing conciet I have the opportunity to institute "checkpoints" between sections of the dungeon where there would be a safe place to rest and shop that the PCs can stay as long as they like, but staying also means giving up time in the competition. Also I see the checkpoints as a point when the PCs can choose they're route through the dungeon, a slower more CR appropriate route or a more deadly but quicker route through the dungeon kind of a "Double your peril, double your reward" situation.

If this concept sounds familiar, its a fairly common literary trope of the game that goes too far. The thought of framing a campaign this way first occured to me about a year ago when I saw it played out on an episode of the cartoon "Teen Titans" in which the characters were abducted in their sleep by a seemly innocuous benefactor who eventually proved to be a villian intent on stealing thier powers and abilities. In fact one of the prominant lines I intend to use in the first session is a direct theft from that very program "Welcome, champions all, to the Tourneyment of Heroes!" I don't think I'll play the villanous benefactor card in this campaign but the principle is the same. This plot was also played out in an episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine", in which the characters were forced to play the part of game pieces in a game played out between Quark and some visiting aliens. Also just last night I saw a television program that seems to have been inspired by this same narrative hook "Drive." So at least I know I'm not alone in utilizing this premise and should I run dry for ideas I have a few sources I can go to for inspiration.

2007-04-16, 03:44 PM
The first session, Setting the scene:

So the next thing that I need to consider, beyond continuing my transposition of the imposing WLD book into workable powerpoint presentations of map sections and making detailed encounter notes, is to think about setting the scene and getting the players into the dungeon quickly while still providing them with enough to help them understand whats going on and give them an impetus for moving through the dungeon.

To this end I think I want to make use of a bit of Dramatic Irony, where the players know what's coming but their characters are still in the dark. I want to spring the dungeon on their characters in an atypical fashion. Their characters know they've signed on to adventure for Lord Dunningham, and that it involves dungeon delvinbg but my plan is to throw them into the dungeon unannounced, litterally just waking up there after going to sleep in the inn. So how to set the scene before that? Well it is established in the pregame letter that Lork Dunningham conducted personal interviews, so I think I'll actually distribute a questionaire to the players and ask them to fill it out in character as they're answers to Lord Dunningham, this will both help me get an insight into thier characters and also fit well with the established story elements. Following that I believe Lord Dunningham (which is of course not his real name) will have arranged to have all those people selected (the party) to meet for supper in the hall of his keep to get to know one another and prepare to set out. Lord Dunningham will insist on a rousing party having invited the majority of his court and provided a huge meal and several varieities of entertainer. He will refuse to speak about their forthcoming missions until morning saying "There'll be pleanty of time for that tomorrow, for know have a drink and enjoy yourself"

After a long night of revelry that the PCs take as much enjoyment of as they feel their characters would they awaken in a dark room, those with darkvision can already see the humanoid statue in the center of the room, those without darkvision at first see nothing and then two glowing eyes (the statues) eventually light eminates up from the base of the pillar supporting the statue (which resembles the bust of a warforged, which don't exist in this world, on a pedastle). With the room lit the statue begins to move in a herky-jerky uncoordinated manner and speaks in a load boisterous voice (The kind you remember Stan Lee using from his voice-overs for the original Spiderman Cartoons "Welcome Back True-Believiers!" "Excelsior!" and all that lot). The statue, spreading his arms to the ceiling, says "Welcome, champions all, to the Tourneyment Of Heroes!" and bows as deeply as someone who ends at the waist can. "I am Veridian, I will be your coach and you will be a team. Ah, but a team needs a name! Consider this and when you are ready place your hands upon the pedastal and speak your team name together!" Having said all it seems he will say for now the statue slumps forward, seemingly lifeless once again.

This will probably leave the PC's disoriented still groggy from having just woken up and extremely confused about what is happening to them, it should make for interesting roleplaying moments as the PCs discuss the situation amongst themselves. If they investigate the room they find it to be a square room of worked stone with no doors or windows, a ceiling uniformly 8 feet above the floor which appears to have been meticuloulsy leveled, there are two magically hidden doors in this room that can be found with a DC 35 Search check which should be well beyond the reach of 1st level characters, or a detect magic spell, which is much more within their reach, however even knowing where the doors are won't help the PCs open them, only Veridian can help them with that. Veridian will not respond to any action the players take until all PCs have placed their hands upon the statue and spoken a single prase in unison, whatever prase that is shall become the "Team name" and dictate how Veridian referse to the PCs from here on.

With their team name determined Veridian will again begin to address them again "[Team name here], A truly heroic moniker! Welcome [Team name here], to the Tourneyment of Heroes! As your coach I will help you suceed in the tourney, but there are rules, rules you must discover for yourselves. You may each ask of me two questions, which I shall answer to the best of my ability. When ready place your hand upon the pedestal and speak your question clearly. When you are ready to begin each member of [Team name here] must place they're hand upon the pedestle and speak the words 'let the game begin'."

Veridian is very limited in the questions he can answer and at least a couple of times I intend for him to respond to the players queries with "I'm sorry, I do not have the answer to that question." I want discovery and understanding the game to be a major theme in the first section of the dungeon and the checkpoint that follows. I want to do this through bits and peices of evidence that someone else has come this way before (scraps of decayed gear, short notes, dried adventurer bones, perhaps a found journal, then slowly introduce other contemporary competitors, some friendly and others hostile, these other competitors may have other information about the dungeon or the tourneyment at large) I feel a bit of mystery can help motivate the players to overcome the next obstacle to get the next peice of the puzzle.

2007-04-20, 12:27 PM
Alright, for today I would like to discuss another element I'm adding to further the idea of the dungeon as a tournament, and also the theme of discovery and exploration I want to focus on for the first several sessions. Namely, the competition. If this is a tourney then my PCs must be competing against someone else, by adding other teams to the dungeon for the PCs to encounter occasionally as either foils, adversaries, allies. It will give me as DM an avenue to introduce new information, side quest hooks, or motivation to a party that's slowed its pace.

One idea that I really like is making one of the more frequently used adversaries a party of genuinely good guys, their honorable, likeable, and good intentioned, but they'll still do everything within the rules to ensure that they win and the PCs lose. I think this will create an interesting dichotomy and seeing how the two parties interect will be a lot of fun. Since my PCs are starting at 1st level and if the campaign keeps going they will reach 20th before its end, I will need to create 4 iterations of each opposition party to relfect their own journey through the labrynth and keep them on a level where they can continue to challenge the party.

I'll try to get some stats up for this first opposition party soon.

2007-04-20, 02:45 PM
Hmm...interesting set-up you have.

My initial fear when I began to review your content was that you were going to simply give up the roleplaying experience. I can say that foregoing roleplaying elements evetually makes a continuous "kick down the door" game monotonous. Luckily, it seems you are providing elements (Veridian and opposing teams) that will encourage social dynamic. If you have any others, I would definately include them, as it adds a bit of richness to the gaming experience. However, you current set-up contains sufficient material to keep the gaming interesting.

I do have one question, though: What are you going to do if/when PCs die? If you allow them to make new characters, you going to have a devil of a time rationalizing how those characters met up with the team (considering that they shouldn't technically belong to their old team). If you have some sort of resurrection effect readily available, then the thrill of risking one's character is lost. It's a tricky thing, it is.:smallbiggrin:

Overall, I think you have a very effective Arena-style campaign designed. Kudos.

2007-04-20, 03:22 PM
Hmm...interesting set-up you have.

My initial fear when I began to review your content was that you were going to simply give up the roleplaying experience. I can say that foregoing roleplaying elements evetually makes a continuous "kick down the door" game monotonous. Luckily, it seems you are providing elements (Veridian and opposing teams) that will encourage social dynamic. If you have any others, I would definately include them, as it adds a bit of richness to the gaming experience. However, you current set-up contains sufficient material to keep the gaming interesting.

I do have one question, though: What are you going to do if/when PCs die? If you allow them to make new characters, you going to have a devil of a time rationalizing how those characters met up with the team (considering that they shouldn't technically belong to their old team). If you have some sort of resurrection effect readily available, then the thrill of risking one's character is lost. It's a tricky thing, it is.:smallbiggrin:

Overall, I think you have a very effective Arena-style campaign designed. Kudos.
Thanks for the comments, I want there to be plenty of roleplaying available to the party when they want to do it, but make it tangential in such a way that its an added element and not the key to advancing the plot. I plan to do this through side quests and opportunities to interact with others in the dungeon, this includes Veridian, other Coaches, other competitors and denizens of the dungeon completely unaware of the tournament. I'll be soliciting feedback from my players at the end of each session to see if they're getting what they want out of the experience and modify the plan accordingly.

To address the resurrection concern: the Worlds Largest Dungeon as it is printed is designed as a large series of interconnected regions, and in the printed module moving from one region to the next is as simple as walking down one of many hallways connecting one region to the next. However, in my redition of this campaign I've set up each region of the dungeon as a completely isolated environment and in order to advance from one to the next a goal will have to be discovered and achieved, with that done the PCs would be able to magically travel to "The Checkpoint" I envision this as a place where the PCs can rest, shop, craft or do other non-adventuring type things, plus its a good place for me to introduce other recurring NPCs like a friendly tavern keeper who might be able to tell them a few tales about the last team to reach the checkpoint, or a tidbit about the next region of the dungeon they're about to enter. "The Checkpoint" provides a good opportunity to revive fallen characters or introduce new party members, however since each region of the dungeon could take several sessions to complete it does leave a player out for a good while, and I don't want to exclude them any longer than is possible. Another possiblity, if the player is interested, is monstrous PCs, who I have a much easier time explaining as typical dungeon population. Do you have any other possiblities or suggestions? I'm defintely open to new ideas.