Our most recent D&D campaign ended last week so I thought that I would take this opportunity to look back on the campaign that was and see how it all went down. It was the third campaign that I have run with this group of players and I feel that it went pretty well. In some ways it was very similar to others that I have run, and in other aspects it was very different. I enjoyed it and I think that the players did as well, so I guess that it can be considered a success.
The campaign ran for 34 adventures spread out over around nine months, we played pretty much every week and each session lasted about three to three and a half hours. That’s a substantial amount of dungeons and dragons and allowed a lot of time for both character and plot development, though I’m not sure that we reached our potential in either realm. There were two major reasons for this and both of them were deliberate on my part. The first of which was that I decided going into things that I was going to make this game a bit more lethal than some I have run in the past. I’ve never been a cupcake DM and have certainly slaughtered my share of PC’s, but based on the type of world that the game was set in I felt that the environment should be particularly harsh and challenging. The end result was the death of five PC’s (which actually isn’t all that bad, though also many near deaths along the way), and another who was retired about half the way through the campaign. There were five players in the game and a total of 11 PC’s. No one was resurrected, death was final. I have to say that I like what death brings to the table. When the PC’s know that the chance of death is real it makes surviving that much more rewarding and that is a real nice gaming experience as far as I am concerned. I wanted to have that in the game, but it also has the negative experience of preventing some long term plots from developing. The fact is that many quests are character driven and when characters are coming through a revolving door they frequently have entirely new agendas than their predecessors. It sort of made it tough to move forward some plots. On the other hand it sort of pushed the spotlight to some NPC’s that were continually featured since the theatre of operations for the campaign was a relatively small area that was constantly departed from and revisisted.
The second aspect of the campaign was that it was a very open ended world. I took a couple of weeks to create a world and figure out what was happening in it, I did this before knowing what type of PC’s were going to be adventuring it. I wanted to have an actual living and moving world that the PC’s were dropped into and had to react to, rather than having a world that was built to facilitate their adventuring needs. Things went on that the PC’s never knew about, when they left certain areas events occurred and moved forward without them. I wanted it to be open ended and give them a chance to pursue what their characters wanted to do, which they did. I would not go so far as to say that they were lawful, but they were not nearly as chaotic as I suspected that they may have been given the loose constrains of the environment. The world was essentially a frontier region that the civilized arm of the human kingdom was expanding into. There were nonhumans (primarily orcs) native to the region that did not like this presence encroaching on their land. This was the area that the PC’s were dropped into. There was also a long standing pagan type god native to the region that was beginning to reawaken, with all the new life in the area feeding into his power. The land to the far south through the mountains was thoroughly unexplored. There were two primary human settlements in the area, one of which would be overrun before the campaign ended.
With eleven PC’s in the game most classes were covered at one time or another. Let’s see if I can remember them; two rogues (one had some fighter), two clerics, a duskblade, a hexblade, a ranger, a barbarian, a druid, a sorcerer, and a wizard. One of the rogues died on the second adventure. The Ranger made it to the highest level, getting all the way to 9th level.
On a selfish level I feel that this campaign was a great exercise for me as a Dungeon Master since I was constantly kept on my toes. It was a lot of fun trying to stay a step or two ahead of them, only to find out that I was walking down the wrong path. In the end I did get a little burnt out and it did not end nearly as well as I was hoping. But I still had a blast the whole time.