Saturday, June 17, 2017

Making a D&D Campaign For Gamers: New Model Colony

I'm writing down my notes for the AD&D campaign. Here's what I'm doing so far:

  • Character Generation
    • Attributes: Roll 3d6 in order.
    • Races: Men only.
    • Classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief.
    • Alignment: No Evil characters.
    • Starting Spells (MU): Read Magic, then roll until you get three more 1st level spells.
    • Non-Standard Gear: Blackpowder firearms (flintlock smoothbore muskets and handguns), explosives, and Greek Fire are available for individuals.
  • Character Advancement
    • XP: Xp-for-Treasure counts only the value of treasure that's returned to town. Training rules and costs apply.
    • Spells (MU) & Items: Must be found, traded for, or research/crafted.
    • Alignment: This will be tracked, and if necessary adjusted.
  • Setting Notes
    • Colonial religion is Christian. All priests are male. All Clerics are priests (but not all priests are Clerics, or even spellcasters), because all Clerics are brothers of the Knights Templar.
    • The setting is virgin territory. No one knows anything about what's beyond a day's march by foot of the outer walls, or much of the waters beyond the immediate vicinity.
    • The colonial leaders are a quintet of Name Level NPCs; the colony is their Stronghold. PCs seeking training will, inevitably, need to approach them to attain it prior to reaching Name Level themselves.
    • The reason for the anachronistic firearms and ordinance is due to The Artificer, the leader of the ruling quintet, who is also the reason for why the colony exists at all. The personal weapons of The Artificer are known to be superior in all ways to what players' characters or their subordinates may acquire, due to witnesses testifying at seeing them used.
  • Campaign Notes
    • Exploration and expansion of the frontier is the core of the campaign. There are NO town adventures; "town" is a safe zone, which is why it is found only in Strongholds established by Name Level characters. Expansion of the frontier requires the exploration, pacification, and settlement by colonial leaders (i.e. Name Level characters). Only PCs may expand the frontier.
    • Expansion of playable character options requires that players--through play--fulfill certain requirements to unlock them for the campaign, and to disallow campaign events that would shut off access to those options. What is required to unlock an option can only be found during play, starting with if that option even exists.
    • Players may acquire ordinance (in the form of cannon) as their finances and relations with colonial authorities allow.
    • Players who lose a character to death either take over the slain man's highest-level henchman as his new man, or he re-rolls and starts over as a 1st level character should no henchman be available.
    • All setting mysteries can only be found, inquired, and ultimately solved in play during adventures.

Right off the bat, you can see that I'm not doing your bog-standard Pink Slime. Just the presence of firearms alone is sufficient to freak out many such people, and so is the imposition of a monotheistic religion and sex-specific requirements for a class. This is deliberate; I wanted something other than off-band Tolkien run through a blender (e.g. a typical Realms game). When I first did this using Mentzer Basic, I found that SJWs balked. Now that I know good and well as to why, I'm leaving it like this to filter them out and away from my table.

It was always something. "No elves? Fuck that." "Guns? What's wrong with you?" "I can't play a female Cleric of (insert crazy moon cult here)?" "Why aren't you using (current edition)?" Whatever the trigger was, it reliably revealed someone who was pozzed if not fully converged between their ears. (They also rarely read anything in SF/F before 1980. Sound familiar?) That's turned out to be a blessing. Now I can filter out people who can't be bothered to Git Gud and embrace the core of D&D: Adventure!

Note the lack of a Big Bad here. Or a plot. Or even a backstory. (It's this simple: You're the losers of the last big war, and you fled to this new world to start over. There's no going back; you make it here or you die.) That's me taking Ray Winnegar's advice, and never crafting more than I need right at the start to get going. As this is meant to be a hexcrawl, I find out what's there not long before players do; it's more fun for me that way. The "no town adventures" thing is me using the West Marches model. The final part, which will matter when I start looking for players, is the "Open Table" element; play sessions are more-or-less self-contained, as they comprise of whomever shows up, and characters can be locked out due to downtime requirements or being tied up with other PC groups (hence the need for time records).

I do know what is NOT out there: Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, Gnomes, and other Tolkien-derived Pink Slime favorites. (That means no Drow either.) I also have enough familiarity with my mythological sources to figure out how the monster palette works, and man that's going to be fun. (Hint: the Mech Pilots throwing Monster Manual entries at me are going to short-circuit.)

All I'm going to do after this is the immediate vicinity, close enough for starting characters to reach out to and delve but not so close that it's truly a day trip with no risk. It'll be enough to get the ball rolling, but that's all. Why? Because that is enough. Gamers gotta have a game to play, and in Dungeons & Dragons, that game is exploration and discovery.


  1. I love the respawn as henchman rule.

    1. It gives an added incentive to players to recruit henchmen and take good care of them.

  2. Running Mentzer Classic D&D with my son Bill from the age of 6, he immediately grasped the importance of retainers/henchmen and hirelings; his expedition to the Isle of Dread was literally a small army! And he embarked on a determined breeding programme to create more - by the time his original PC died a few weeks ago he was already a grandfather. :)

    I noticed there were a lot of things in Classic D&D Bill intuitively grasped, making his play typically much more skilled than that of older players trained on videogames. Retainers & hirelings, retreat, negotiation, territory development, dragon subdual & the acquisition of eggs for breeding...