Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Notes and comments on exploding Phandalin

The Lost Mine of Phandelver found in the 5e Starter Set is an excellent adventure and easily one of my top ten Dungeons and Dragons adventure of all time. But now it over with only a few loose ends not tied up as outlined in the previous post.

So what to do next?

I could design or re-purpose an existing purpose to make what I call an event adventure. like I do with the twice a month games at Gold Star Anime. Or I could just give the group a full dose of the Majestic Wilderlands.

One problem is that we would be starting in the middle of a campaign with established characters along with a total novice, Doug, and a relative newcomer Joshua. One thing I learned over the years that the best way to introduce newcomer to how I run the Majestic Wilderlands is to manipulate how they want to start out into a very basic straight forward situation.

This post is typical of how I start things out in a campaign. This one with two experienced characters +Tim Shorts+Dwayne Gillingham, and one novice +Ken H

With the J Squad at Gold Star Anime I can only play once or twice a month. So the campaign is more of a series of episodic adventures involving mega dungeons and killing thousands of orcs.

But you know what, fuck it. Both +Joshua Macy  and +Douglas Cole  are experienced roleplayers and published authors to boot. Douglas has plumbed the intricacies of grappling and totally revamped how it handled in GURPS. Joshua not only has played several sessions under me but also written not one but four RPGs that are highly evocative of their respective genres.

Pretty sure that they will be able to handle it.

I opted for a in media res introduction to their characters.

Also I proposed elements of their character background to them that would make them outsiders to the immediate region. This would make there out of game learning curve match their in-game learning curve. A variant of this was used by by M.A.R. Barker to introduce the details of his early Tekumel campaigns.

Now comes the part where I decide what to present and focus on. My view is that the Majestic Wilderlands is a living breathing world and I strive to present it such. However I don't have a use of a Holodeck or magical A.I. so I am forced to be selective about what to present. This is where the referee ingenuity gets pushed to the max in a a sandbox campaign.

You can't just present one aspect of the setting or its is little better than a railroad. You also need to work on things that are of potential interest to the players. This gets a little easier later as the campaign unfolds and the players develops plots, plans, and schemes involving their characters. However it is on  the referee to develop interesting things to start out with.

So with that in mind I fleshed out several items in my notes. I can't get into a whole lot of detail because this is the start of the campaign with many things left undiscovered.

  • The ongoing civil war in City-State
  • The orc infested Dearthwood and associated ruins i.e. dungeons
  • The dark storm of the paladin's vision that the factions of the civil war are ignoring.
For each I develop a timeline of events. This timeline is what would happen if the PCs did not exist. Furthermore it is only a plan, that gets altered in light of what the PCs do or don't do. For example the civil war timeline got a minor alteration to accounted for the fact that Elder Gisele is leaving Phandalin to talk to the surrounding village and possibly organize them. This resulted from the conversation that occurred between Sidwin, Carmina, and Gisele.

Not much happened in-game on the other two plot lines yet because only one game day passed last session. And likely the issues resulting of the civil war will be front and center.

The Civil War

By now I bet some of you are wondering about my warning about focusing on a single aspect of the setting and the fact that the first session started out with me putting the PCs right into the middle of it. 

First off some things no matters how you set it up is going to be loud, noisy, and at the center of attention the moment it occurs. A village rebelling is one those noisy events. The thing to remember it is plausible in the larger context of things. In this case it is barely over the line of plausibility. 

The focus of the first sessions has been getting through Phandelver and trying out 5e. While I set it in the Majestic Wilderlands it was with a light touch. However I did successfully established the following facts

  • Elder Gisele is a cleric of Mitra
  • Halia Thorton was a follower of Set
  • That the Tharian Horselords were the noble class i.e. Sir Varius of Highgarden
  • That Set and Mitra are rival religions.
  • That many of my details are based off of common fantasy stereotypes. 
In my opinion this was sufficient to allow the players to make informed choices for their characters. 

However the most important thing is that I established that I am willing to go with whatever the player decide even if it means a complete shift in what the campaign focuses on.

For example the Nomar campaign I ran a few years back had three major shifts in direction. Mercenary Band in the employ of a noble, Mercenary band in the employ of the Brotherhood of the Wyrm, to a group of friends building an inn in the wilderness.


So I prepared if the group walking into Phandalin, looking at the rebellion, say "Fuck it!" and continued down the road. 

The Forest of Dearthwood
Basically a big orc infested forest with dozens of elven ruins and other locales waiting to be explored. Along with a various groups attempting to clear it so it can be settled and domains carved out of it.

The Paladin's Vision
One trick to make a setting feel like a living breathing place is to have some diversity. While the civil war is the big noisy thing happening right now everybody's else life continues. Including what they are doing to realize their hopes, dreams, and goals. And apparently somebody's dreams is enough to have Veritas send a vision to one of his paladins.

Tim should have a lot of fun with this as this involve events that occurred in previous campaigns. Also it has been effected by what the PCs have done at different times over multiple campaigns. In a sense it is playtested and I seen how PCs react.

Other Stuff
All of the character have details that could spin the campaign in directions other than what I listed above. For example Sidwin, +Tim Shorts, character asked about returning to City-State. Vognur is a arcane knight developing his skills, Keyar is an elf passionate about restoring his people to glory.

I will keep you posted about how things develop.

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