Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reverse Dungeoneering #3 - How to Begin a Campaign

Improving your D&D experience. For Dungeons and Dragons Players and DMs.

A campaign has to begin somewhere (even if that somewhere takes place in the middle of nowhere). It all begins with that first step. Whether that first step is strategically placed or you just happen to lunge head first out of a window is all up to you. Some DMs and players find themselves in a situation where they aren't sure where to begin. With any luck, the text below should solve that dilemma.

For DMs

The threat (aka In Over Your Head):

Tarrasque is making his way to the kingdom!
This can be done in a subtle way to see how your players react to major threats or it can be used as a very blunt rush of adrenaline to start things off. It could become a recurring threat that the group has to escape from, the spark that sets off all the fireworks, or even an elaborate plot that the government initiated on their own kingdom to instigate a new group or law to suppress the common people.

The meeting (aka Mission Accepted):

Alpha. Assemble five teenagers with attitude!
It's possible the group is meeting up just as the campaign gets underway. A King or higher official may be in need of their services (most likely to figure out what to do on a Saturday night as that's always a dilemma) or maybe the group is waiting on the arrival of a certain somebody while sitting down at the local Tavern? There are plenty of ways to go about assembling the group and it's probably the most common way that a campaign begins.

The investigation (aka Bust out the Scooby Snacks):

The game is afoot!
A murder, a stolen item, or maybe it's someone pretending to be of the undead variety in a costume and the group has to seek help from the Globe Trotters or Don Knotts. Just like "The Threat" from earlier, this throws a sense of urgency into the mix which typically gets an interesting response from the players.

The trip (aka Into the Rabbit Hole):

Going on a Fiieeeeld Trip. A Fiieeeeld Trip.
It could be against their will as the group is plunged into a strange world where they come into contact with the Jabberwocky or something equally hideous like Ronald McDonald combined with Johnny Depp. It might be that the group needs something from another country or Kingdom. Either way, the crew gets to go somewhere they've never been before and it's up to you whether they go the scenic route or not.

The imprisonment (aka Powerless):

Don't drop the magical +2 soap.
The group's in chains without weapons or anyway to cast spells (and not a rogue to be found). I bring this example up because I wanted to point out how easily this could be considered "The meeting" if the group is introduced to one another as fellow prisoners or "The threat" if they're going to be executed soon.

For Players

Don't believe for a moment that the DM is the only one who can decide how a campaign should begin. As a D&D player, you have quite a few options going for you. Just so we're clear: none of these options involve ripping out the DM's heart and digesting it to take their power. Sorry for being a killjoy.

The suggestion:
You could politely recommend a starting point, event, or premise for a campaign to your DM. Sometimes that's all the DM needs to crank their brain into high gear and produce something interesting.

The backstory:
The actual background of your character might supply the DM with an idea or even shape the beginnings of the campaign to deeply involve your character in some way.

The accident:
I remember an occasion during my early days of DMing where I started a group in a lush forest and the first thing spoken by Mr. Particular was, "I'm so sick of starting in forests or taverns. Every DM does that." So I responded with, "Alright. You're in the middle of a desert without water or resources. Happy now?" I wouldn't actually recommend pulling off what I did back then but it's a prime example of how a campaign can start off in a way no one expected.

This is Kylak signing out to begin another adventure.


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