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  1. #1
    One Awesome Dude hotspike18's Avatar
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    DM Workshop - Best Adventure Hook/Campaign Premise

    Hey there everybody!

    I thought that in the interest of keeping the D&D forum alive here on LO I'd start a sort of DM suggestion thread so that others can hear some of your best ideas for a really interesting adventure hook or perhaps the starting plot manuever that gets your PC's into a year long epic battle campaign! Whatever your specialty, type it up and post it here so we can talk about it or shameless steal it for our next campaign.

    Sorry to leave you with no example, I'll take the next day or two and try to think of my own best hook or special quest, etc.

    Cheers guys (and ladies of course )


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    Benevolent Dictator CaptainSarathai's Avatar
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    I guess I could kick this off, despite not having played the game in ages.

    -As a player and as a DM, I have always been tired of the standard "Ok, so you're in an Inn" starting position. My personal best was starting one of my players in a coffin and presumed dead.

    -I am known for writing very different campaigns from the usual "Ok hero, go save the world". I enjoy writing novels, so my imagination is vast, and I like to let my players enjoy the sandbox. I always had a few quests pre-prepped for each campaign, with a very loose geography, so that anywhere the players went, they met with the storyline. My campaigns have included:
    :: Feudal Japan setting, like MTG Kamigawa, where Ogres had made a pact with dark gods. Made extensive use of the Guild options in the back of 3.5PHB-2. Each player had a noble house to aid them.
    :: Pirate campaign, with rules for fighting aboard ships. The players were left to pillage and plunder to their hearts' content until they came across a book. As it was, the Gods of Light and Dark were embroiled in a war to retrieve the book. The players were offered the chance to live eternally as scions of evil, or to have their crooked pasts wiped clean. They are killed, and in the afterlife they are declared captains of ships within their chosen god's fleet. Players made the choice secretly, and the final battle was a massive, party-splitting war.
    :: A steampunk campaign, where the players are agents for a "master race" created by selective breeding of humans over the span of hundreds of years. This master race lives aboard vast dirigibles, and interacts with mankind below through subtle methods. Their careful intervention has kept technology locked in the Victorian ages, although it is actually the 1930-40s.

    I loved 3.5 because it had very open rules which allowed you to create new rules to go along with it. Gunpowder featured heavily in my campaigns, so much so that in the latter campaign, the players hardly ever fought in hand-to-hand.
    Pts Values for AoS here!

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  4. #3
    One Awesome Dude hotspike18's Avatar
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    Admittedly, I've only started about three campaigns and they were usually short one-off adventures or simply campaigns that got abandoned in favor of real life or some other (cooler) idea. So, that said this is probably fairly cliche (pretend I typed up a fancy 'e' there).

    My most creative idea was a homebrew campaign but using a hook/start-up I had seen elsewhere. I started it off by each adventurer recieving an invitation to basically an Adventurer Fair/Carnival (I called it the Parade of Heroes). It sounds pretty typical but it provides a lot of opportunities for flavor. You can include games, many many characters that you can bring back later, some basic games/skill contests to help teach new players gently how to play, and it's an easy way to throw different random PC's together without stressing about background interaction. In the campaign I ran I had a small arena competition, skill contests, exotic shops and items for sale, and I had a team based adventurer competition where each team had a brief contract to fulfill together and if they succeeded they moved up in the competition - I used the various 'contracts' as a way for players to window shop for who they wanted to work for and what kind of campaign they wanted - so that after the carnival was over they could get various job offers and choose where they wanted to go (serving the 'good' church, becoming mercenaries, working as for-hire-adventurers, whatever.) And during the jobs you can assign them different locations to go to so that they can get a sort of tour of your homebrew world and get a sense of the feel/flavor and you can see what they like, etc.

    Somewhat sadly, the campaign didn't get all too far before we abandoned it, but I ended up liking the start of it, I think it was very helpful to me as a newer DM.

    (And a special thx to CaptainSarathai for getting us started off, it took me a while to think over my last few D&D experiences - and the coffin sounds intriguing, how does the player proceed from there??? And that pirate campaign sounds awesome, a naval/ship based campaign is definitely on my 'To-Do List.')

    EDIT: As I was pondering some more I remembered my next plan, has anyone here played Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? I'm totally planning to steal the beginning of that and use it for a campaign, one of the coolest game introduction/tutorials I've ever seen.
    Last edited by hotspike18; April 23rd, 2010 at 19:49.

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    Benevolent Dictator CaptainSarathai's Avatar
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    My campaigns are all very influenced by Gothic Horror. It was the fighter who started in the coffin. The coffin was in the back of an abandoned wagon, on it's way to the cemetery before the horse had taken to wandering. The character strength-checked his way out and found himself in an empty field. A crossroads led to a nearby town, with one character met along the way, and the rest of the party being met in the town. Why he was in a coffin was a quest lead-in, as even he couldn't remember how he got there.
    Pts Values for AoS here!

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    One Awesome Dude hotspike18's Avatar
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    I hope the mods don't mind but I wanted to give this thread a bump - I think there are a lot of D&Ders out there on LO that we aren't reaching and I selfishly believe this topic is worth pursuing, I think it could be a great exchange of ideas and creativity.

    So, let's get those campaign/adventure hooks out there guys (and ladies of course)!!
    Last edited by hotspike18; June 3rd, 2010 at 06:06.

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    One Awesome Dude hotspike18's Avatar
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    Double post/Epic fail.
    Last edited by hotspike18; June 3rd, 2010 at 21:29.
    "If you can wait til I get home, then I swear we can make this last."

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    High Priest of LO Nagash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotspike18 View Post
    Double post/Epic fail.
    Hehehe

    I'm a DM too I'm pretty new to D&D (a year or something like that) but I have played other RPG games for quite long. I would gladly share ideas, since I am currently designing an adventure with alot of inspiration from H.P.Lovecraft. I will try to base it around a NPC that has seen the "visions", being part of the "Old" in his dreams, similar to The Shadow Out of Time.

    However, now I'm subscribed to this thread which allows me to get email notifications if someone adds good content. Good thread idea, btw!


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    Senior Member Intrepid's Avatar
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    "You all meet in a bar and decide to form an adventuring group!" Introductions can be the hardest part of GM'ing. I like to use coincidence to avoid such stale scenarios. When I last GM'd Dark Heresy, it focused on one of the PCs (an assassin) who was doing 'cleanup' work after a major cult had been shut down. Seems a few bad guys were missed in the initial purge and the assassin had to deputize everybody in what remained of a large town to finish the job. Coincidentally, 'everybody' meant the other PCs who were present for their own reasons, plus a couple obligatory redshirts. Subsequent story arcs involved the other PCs, so that every one got to be the center of a story that revolved around and helped flesh out their own character.

    In fact, the next time I GM Pathfinder/D&D I think I'll mock the 'you all meet in a bar' intro by having the new adventure group meet in jail. The rogue had sticky fingers, the fighter disturbed the peace, the mage for pyromancy inside city limits and the paladin for...umm...loitering! Then orks overrun the town before any of them can make bail and off we go.
    "My tanks have names, my men have numbers." -Col. Edmund Grahvess, 23rd Kronecker Prison Guard

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    Actually, my favorite approach to starting a campaign is one I learned from Fear the Boot. It's called the Party Template. It's basically exactly what it sounds like. As the DM you write several different "groups" that already have a way that they fit in the story. The characters choose the template that they want. They then write characters that fit the template. They still make their own characters, but by the time you start the story they are already connected and together. Because of the inherent restriction of choosing at least some of their backstory for them, I give them certain benefits for each template, like extra feats, stat bonuses, skill bonuses, etc.

    For example, I wrote a party template that was entirely wizards and sorcerers. The story behind it was that the party had met when they were employed as enforcers by the local magocracy. They got free equipment, the ability to wear leather armor without penalty, and the martial weapon proficiency to make up for the heavy restrictions I placed on their characters.

    On campaign settings, I've only really got two worlds.

    My favorite is Newerth. (PS, if any of you play HoN, yes, it is a sore spot. I wrote it before they did. Be quiet.) It is based off Greyhawk but takes place after the fulfilment of the Boccobian prophecy of the death of magic. People left Oerth with the help of the gods to avoid the prophecy. The campaign is split into three adventure paths.

    The first focuses on the beginning of the world, only a few decades after the emigration from Oerth, and introduces the idea that Heroes are specifically linked to the moon and the stars because Heroes represent a Light in the Darkness. They meet beings that are actually the avatars of constellations and are the first people in the new world given the destiny of Heroes. They also meet avatars of constellations that have died or haven't been born yet. These constellations tend to be selfish and are portrayed as enemies because they want to "kill" the current constellations, but the point of the campaign is that change comes, and even if it doesn't seem better at first it will always turn out right.

    The second path focuses on Wee-Jas, and how when all the other Gods left Oerth she refused to leave. Despite this, her followers still pray to her. Here I set forth the actual metaphysical science of divine magic, clerical domains, and faith and belief and how they affect the God in question. The premise of the adventure is based on the science and if I detailed it here it would be a big ol' wall of text, but basically because Wee-Jas isn't there and her followers still worship her there is a hole in the way divine magic works and so energy is slowly being drained from the world. This one occurs in a middle period, probably most closely related to the time right before the Renaissance exploded.

    The third, which I am currently writing in the hopes that it will finally fire up my group and teach them how to focus, is also steampunk. It is heavily influenced by the old game Arcanum, but instead of focusing on the inherent differences of science and magic it focuses on how they work together. It is also influenced by the webcomic Girl Genius, Shadowrun, and the game Dragon Age: Origins. The setting is a city that has grown to span half a continent. It is ruled by the Duskmages, a group of wizards and sorcerers that believe religion is old fashioned and that the only way for the world to keep growing is for them to oust the gods.

    My favorite is one that I never got to fully play. It happens on a world separate from the Newerth campaign.

    The other world I have is a little world that experiences earthquakes every set number of millenia. The earthquakes swallow the buildings of the previous civilization. This has continued for so long that dungeons are pretty much everywhere, and archaeology is one of the most dominant parts of the economy. It is partly for this reason that freelance adventurers are outlaws, and only government paid dungeoneers are allowed to explore dungeons that haven't been opened to the public yet. The party, while illegally doing some trouble-shooting for a mining town haunted by earth elements, discovers a magical crystal matrix with sentience. The matrix, calling itself "The Memory of the Earth" reveals that the next apocalyptic earthquake is due to happen in ten years. The party is surprised to learn this, and are even more surprised to be caught by the Dungeoneers, who apparently have been keeping their knowledge of the earthquakes to themselves. The party learns that the global government has control of several wizards able to jump multiple people and objects a short distance through time and space. They plan on using this power to jump their infrastructure past the earthquake, leaving millions to die but able to build a new world according to their vision. The party has to master this same power and find a way to entrust it with the Memory of the Earth to save the lives of the people in their society.

    There you go. There are my stories. I'm interested in hearing what everyone else has, especially after seeing the cool ideas that have already been posted.

  11. #10
    One Awesome Dude hotspike18's Avatar
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    @ Intrepid - After running my first couple of games that is the approach I started using, basically slowly working in each character into the narrative. I started with one or two who might be easily connected and then worked in the others through their own short introductory sessions until all the characters met, and had a reason to stick together at least for the forseeable future. And ironically enough my next campaign will start in jail! Although this is based more on the Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion game - in the game your character gets wrapped up into the future of the kingdom, because during an assassination attempt on the monarchy, they use the cell your character occupies as the entrance to a secret passage, they have to bring you along so that you don't tell anyone about your cell or what you saw. (Highly highly recommend this game to anyone who likes D&D!)

    @ VenDraciese - Doing a group 'template' is one of the things I was also considering for a new campaign - although I was thinking more along the lines of a 'stealth' group using the skill oriented classes with only one or two outliers. I'd probably disallow fighters and barbarians and only say that one party member could be a 'heavy' spellcaster. Your campaign premises seem pretty creative, kudos. I also like the last campaign premise the most, although I would have to say that I would have a hard time trusting a sentient crystal! Have you tried looking into the Eberron Campaign Setting? It's got some steampunk elements in it for sure, and you could probably just use some of the newer mechanics and then tweak the history/setting or create your own that might help give it more of a conventional steampunk feel - as I think one of Eberron's weaknesses was that it didn't really fit anywhere (sort of a jack of all trades, master of none syndrome).
    "If you can wait til I get home, then I swear we can make this last."

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