I tend to avoid talking about my campaign, as I’m not much into writing about my campaign. (In fact, I find that doing post-game recaps to be something of a chore, and yet can’t hand it off since I want to make sure important information gets recorded.) Obviously, I learn a lot about running D&D by actually doing it which turns into articles about what I’ve learned, what annoys me, and what advice I can give. In general, though, writing about my specific campaign tends to fall close enough to “let me tell you about my character” that I tend to let it go. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
However, inspired by a few recent Twitter conversations, I realize that there’s some value for me talking about my campaign, especially given my current setup. I won’t go adventure by adventure. I will, however, hit some of the important points of running the game in the hopes that it will help some of you run your own games.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to regular readers that I’m running D&D 4e. Most of the PCs are now 14th level, solidly within paragon tier. I skipped over most of 9th and 10th level in order to advance the plot (and give myself a break to graduate from grad school) but other than that we’ve been playing since June 22nd 2008, about two weeks after 4e came out, playing roughly bi-weekly ever since.
I play by RAW, with exactly two house rules: one concerning healing during a short rest, and the other a silly rule about not subduing using an Executioner’s Axe.
As planning commenced for the next campaign, Bartoneus and I realized we’d have a lot of players looking for games. We discussed a number of options for shared settings, shared players, shared characters, etc. Eventually, we decided that our two games would be set in the same world (in fact, mostly on the same continent), just hundreds of years separated from each other.
Bartoneus updated his campaign world from his college campaigns, and merged that with my desire to run a “Dark Ages”/horror-style game to create The Past, where my game is set. I built on that, adding the pieces that I wanted in my game. He advanced things a few hundred years for his own game (The Future), with the agreement that we didn’t want to depend on each other’s continuity to the extent that it would wreck what we wanted to do, and come up with some way to merge the two.
We have a few things planned to tie the games together (a time-traveling box has already made an appearance in my game) but it hasn’t really happened yet, despite vows by my players that they will wreck the past to screw over Bartoneus’s game.
If you ask nicely, maybe Bartoneus will tell you about his campaign.
With some very basic details of the setting in place, I told each player that they would be working for The Inquisition, a religious organization dedicated to controlling magic. Each player was to give me a favor that the Inquisition would grant them if they succeed in their mission. This let me build into the game a reason for them to go on various missions without needing to invent a motivation every time, as well as making backstories that I could work with later.
They started at level 1, mostly PHB classes and races (I allowed a MM race for the very first adventure) and allowed everything that came out, with plenty of opportunities for retraining and character swapping.
Characters and Players
Original recurring characters include:
- Gurias Stormborn, Eladrin Wizard/Spellstorm Mage, played by The O
- Glandrin Sunbeam, Elf Fighter/Warden/Swordmaster, played by Original Sultan
- Reschard Tam, Human Warlord/Twiceborn Leader, played by Dark Young
- Darian Shadowheart, Halfling Rogue/Shadow Assassin, played by DrScotto
- Light, Tiefling Warlock/Feytouched, played by Sion
- Nohrik, Dragonborn Paladin, played by Juan
- Alice Starr, Human Cleric (secretly a Cleric of Lolth), played by DarthCthulhu
- Terrlen Darkstalker, Shifter Barbarian/Bear Warrior, played by Blumpkin (who took over an NPC from H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth)
Alice betrayed the party and left, becoming a recurring villain. Terrlen and Darian generally stopped playing.
In paragon, the party was joined regularly by:
- Mielka Dawnhammer, Dwarf Cleric/Invoker/Divine Oracle, played by Geek’s Dream Girl
- Bael Corvus, Deva Avenger/Warlock/Student of Caiphon, played by The Main Event
- Raiden, Genasi Swordmage/Sword of Assault, played by holland3r
- Zigfried von Shattenwerk, Human Psion/Cerulean Adapt, played by DarthCthulhu
- Shen One-Eyed, Elf Assasin/Venomed Soul, played by Juan (after Nohrik died and his body was sucked into the Far Realm)
One thing you may notice by now is that it’s a lot of players and characters. This is true.
For a while, I tried to just schedule the game on a regular basis, and hope that enough people couldn’t make it to balance out, while enough people showed up to actually play. It kind of worked, but once we hit paragon and several players joined, I was having games of 8 players, which I absolutely hated running.
Thus, my solution was to create two, fluid groups, and start running almost every week. Group A is every other Saturday, Group B is every other Sunday, alternating between the two. People are not assigned to specific Groups: they can sign up for either one, but I try to split them to accommodate as many schedules as I can, and give preference to anyone who hasn’t played recently. I also cap the games at 5 or 6. Sometimes this means disappointing some players who could play, however, it seems to be the best solution so far.
Liberal use of teleportation circles and linked items is used to explain characters coming and going.
Campaign Planning And Organization
At first, Bartoneus and I shared a MediaWiki installed here on Critical Hits, which meant we had to avoid stepping on each others’ toes when making new pages and had limited functionality. Eventually, when our MediaWiki was hacked to heck multiple times, we abandoned it in favor of Obsidian Portal, which we should have just done in the first place. While we both still have a lot of work to do to move all the information over, it’s already been a big help. I’m especially happy with the interactive campaign map.
My paragon tier adventures have been mapped out using the 5×5 Method. It has worked out remarkably well, and at 14th/15th level, they are close to finishing off 2 out of the 5 plots, and decently advanced on all of them. For most adventures, I ask the party to choose which quest line to follow (while recapping every option.) After they pick (or if they’re indecisive, when I pick for them), I plan the adventure in an online document, outlining it and pasting in any monsters and other stats I want to use. For a while I was using GoogleDocs but have started using GoogleWave lately. When using GoogleWave, I often invite Bartoneus and ChattyDM to collaborate and give notes. I often spend a long time thinking of cool titles for adventures, though sometimes, the players advocate for certain titles.
As I mentioned, I feel like I’m starting to hit the exciting points as storylines and secrets start to pay off and major quests are completed. I also feel like I’m starting to hit my stride in running 4e, with few rules questions coming up during the game and planning being easy, allowing me more time to spend on the plot than on designing encounters. There’s still some issues- combat can still run pretty long and condition tracking is getting more and more important- yet, I remain confidant about running the game.
I expect it to last just about until 19th-20th level, and then continue onto epic. I have an idea for epic that builds on the previous storylines but is something different than the rest of the campaign. I would be surprised if I run all the way up to 30, though I hope to get to high epic before ending the game.
That’s the basics of my current campaign. Any questions? Was this helpful at all?