Role-Playing Games

Musings on all things related to RPGs

In the beginning…

I played my first RPG game in the late ’70’s and it was, of course, Dungeons & Dragons. The red box set. My friend had the game and, with the rest of our gang, we started battling monsters and saving townsfolk. We then quickly moved to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. We even played Runequest and Stormbringer. It was glorious. It was fun.

Now I get to share the adventures with my family, my son in particular. And this blog will (hopefully) chronicle our journey together through Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, and other RPGs. It truly seems they’re making a comeback. The tried-and-true, pencil & paper, tabletop RPGs. There are so many different kinds of RPGs, and different settings, available. I believe there is something for everyone.

This isn’t to take away from VTT sites like Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, and the myriad resources now available to DMs and players alike. I hope to use them myself. When I do, I will let you know about my experiences, both good and bad.

And without further ado, let me tell you about this campaign I’m starting to create for my son and his friends…

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It’s time for a small terminology change: chapters. I’m constructing ‘chapters’ to the campaign story. We will RP each ‘chapter’ in one or more gaming sessions, or just sessions. Within each ‘chapter’, there will be 1 or more combat encounters, or just encounters.

This campaign will have many chapters. These chapters, for the most part, will be in support of the main quest story line. I plan on developing some side-quests for this campaign, therefore they’ll have their own chapters, too.

Each chapter, again primarily, will be to move the main story forward, or backward as the situation warrants. Therefore each chapter will have 1 or more encounters. An encounter will be an opportunity for the party to interact with the world around them. This could take the form of combat, but it could be just about anything.

Each chapter will have 1 or more sessions. I’m loosely planning on each gaming session to round about 4 hours. If we complete a chapter within that time frame: great. If we don’t, that’s great too.

And, in terms of preparation, I’m about 1 chapter ahead of the party. Meaning, we plan to start the next chapter this week because I have it planned and detailed enough to support a gaming session. However, I also have the next chapter broadly defined. My goal is to have the next chapter planned and detailed enough for the next session 1 month after the completion of the ‘current’ chapter.

That’s it for now. I’m busy creating hand-outs for my PCs and me for our next session.

Campaign Kick-Off…

…is tonight! Characters will be generated tonight!

Admittedly, I don’t have the entire campaign defined. I had always planned on creating/defining ‘on the fly’, staying 1 to 2 encounters ahead of the PCs. But I’m at point where we can do the character-rolling session. This session kicks off the campaign.

The next encounter is about 75% defined; the general plan is defined. I need to fill in some blanks, define some specifics, and prepare for PC-madness.

However, tonight: we’ll go over what is and what isn’t allowed for the PCs; we’ll go over the backstory and why the PCs are taking on this adventure; we’ll define PC backstories; we’ll start the campaign at the Inn of the Dripping Dagger.

I’ll also introduce the PCs to the campaign blog, too.

Let’s have some fun!

Holiday Season is upon us…

Life, Reasons, and the Holiday Season has greatly diminished my progress to date. Couple that with vacillations on the setting and timeframe of my Campaign and you know why I haven’t recently generated any posts. However, I have a slight reprieve until after New Years and this now my plan:

  • Character Rolling Session on 6 January
  • Initial Encounter on 3 February
    • Generally defined by 6 January
    • Fully defined by 20 January

Going forward I’m going to use “2e” Forgotten Realms Map (The Atlas), backed with information from the Forgotten Realms Wiki, to source my locations and encounters. I will be using the 5e Rule set, to include Monster stats, when running the campaign.

Additionally, because I will be using the Forgotten Realms calendar as a campaign component, the setting will start 1372 DR, 1 Nightal. When it makes sense, I will be using local weather conditions for the various encounters.

When it comes to the various encounters my original goal was to be 2 encounters ahead of the currently ‘active’ encounter. I have already failed to meet that goal. Therefore I’m planning on being 1 encounter ahead of the ‘active’ encounter.

Campaign Notes

From what I have defined, I will share: The initial encounter will start in Waterdeep, but will continue in the Mahir Jungle.

It is during the Character Rolling Session, Encounter 00 will take place. I will introduce the party to the back story. I will enlighten them as to why they are partaking in this grand adventure. The back story will deposit them in from of the Inn of the Dripping Dagger, in Waterdeep. From there they will begin the campaign-proper.

Stay tuned…

One step forward; two steps back

With the backstory completed (I might even pare it down), I turned my attention to mapping out the Main Quest. I was immediately struck with the “grandness” of my grand plan: would I be able to accurately portray the myriad locations I have planned? I think the short answer is: No.

OK, full-disclosure: The adventure is going to start in Waterdeep…in an Inn. Yes it’s cliched. Yes it’s been done a hundred million times. But my adventurers are new. So I want to give them the “full” experience.

I then mapped out the backstory; coming up with a baseline for travel by horseback. I then started scouting locations a suitable distance from the starting point. I thought about having the next step in their quest take place in Taoshin, of Kara-Tur. I went to the Forgotten Realms Wiki and was immediately disappointed. I expanded the region search and was presented with a map. I had hope. However, I have my self-imposed constraint to make each location/encounter “accurate” according to common lore/canon. I needed to find more information on Kara-Tur. With Wizards of the Coast not producing anything “current” (as in for 5e), I started to doubt my grand plan. I started considering paring down the scale of my adventure.

I haven’t completely given up hope on Kara-Tur. However, until I get more confidence (read: information), I’m going to select my next 2 locations within Faerûn. There is enough real estate to meet all of my encounter-related conditions.

One other thing: I’m shooting for our first session to take place in December. The adventure is going to take place in Ukatar (November); I’ll be keeping track of adventure time because it’s going to factor into the encounters.

Backstory Complete

I completed the first draft of my campaign’s backstory, the impetus for our intrepid party’s adventure. And, according to the Tome of Adventure Design that’s the first thing that needs to be completed. It has a list of 9 items that make up a “Masterpiece Adventure”. And that is precisely my aim with this new campaign/adventure.

Coincidentally the next item on the list is: Location. And that’s the next item on my internal list. However I don’t have a single location to define. This adventure is going to span the known Forgotten Realms. Whether revealed or not, the initial location is Waterdeep. And, depending on the choices and successes of the party, the final location is/might be/could be Goldenfields.

Main Quest

I have to map out the locations for the main quest. These will be the points between A (Waterdeep) and Z (Goldenfields) should the party stick solely to the Main Quest. And in my loose notes I want to try every kind of encounter: city, dungeon, forest, castle, temple, on the sea, under the sea, etc. And, if possible, different seasons.

Note: Just because I say I want to do it, doesn’t mean I’ll actually do it. I’m battling time and, eventually, party interest and enthusiasm. My first rule is: keep the adventurers engaged.

For each main quest location I’ll be answering these questions:

  • Why is the party here?
  • Where are they going next?
  • How will they accomplish this?
  • What are the ramifications for not going?

There may be more questions, hopefully not fewer.

Side Quests

After I get the Main Quest locations mapped out, I’ll start considering the addition of Side Quest locations. This also requires I define some Side Quests.

I haven’t spent time thinking about the Side Quests other than I want to tie them into the Player Character’s background and/or motivations. I feel I can setup some inter-party conflict with the Side Quests.

I’ll need to be mindful on “degree of difficulty” and ability to reintegrate into the Main Quest for each Side Quest. While Player Character death is always possible, I’d rather it didn’t happen in a Side Quest. But it could happen.


I’m already gathering some resources for the location maps I’m going to need. I’m also considering using map tiles and miniatures. I haven’t decided on the specific execution of these ideas though. I have a feeling I’m going to experience some “perfect is the enemy of good enough” moments.

Once I start sorting and deciding on maps I’ll post a link to the resource(s).


This is a new element for me. For this I have zero experience. However, I’ve been really lucky in finding some play lists in Spotify. I have also found some ‘dark ambient’ music producers. I have a feeling this aspect of the campaign definition is going to be time consuming; I need to not overthink the music.

I’m planning on creating my own play list with the music I want to play. I want each piece to set the mood, enhance the encounter. I also need to find some ‘filler’ pieces that can be played when the party is in between encounters.

Under Construction

Inspiration strikes at odd times.

I’ve been working on the campaign, but I’ve also been working on a “campaign-related” blog/website. It seemed like a natural extension to this site. However I could have also been inspired by other folks. For example: Blaine Pardoe is chronicling his D&D Campaign. I’m excited to follow his and his adventurer’s progress. (I found his site by way of the Google+ Community: G+ Tabletop Roleplaying Games).

My self-imposed goal is to have the companion site “read” like a fantasy adventure story/novel. The plan is to update the campaign site shortly after the RL (real life) sessions. I’m excited for it for 2 reasons: 1) friends and other interested folks can follow the adventure, and 2) my son will have a permanent record of this adventure he’s about to undertake.

I will share: working on the companion site has really helped me define the campaign backstory. I’m really excited about that (don’t let me fool you; I’m excited about all the things I create).

Until next time…

Scouting Locations

I now have a Goal, with Motivations, I can use to define the party’s Mission for this adventure. I’m very excited about the selection. Additionally, after I have some more details on the Mission, I’ll finally be able to ‘name’ the campaign. Plus, I’m going to start mapping out the over-arching narrative, figuratively and literally, over the coming days, weeks.

My current plan is to start scouting locations in the Forgotten Realms. I want to also pay attention to the distances and modes of travel. Sometimes we’ll be able to ‘role play’ through the traveling. Other times the party will have activities with which to engage.

I readily recognize the enormity of the task before me. That’s why I’m going to map out, at a high-level, the entirety of the campaign, locations and notes. And, instead of diving into the details of each encounter, I will focus on 2-3 encounters at a time. My goal: have up to 2 encounters ready to go while the party works through in a session or more.

There are numerous resources available to help with locations and maps. I have my handy-dandy The Forgotten Realms Atlas. That’s my ‘go to’ resource. There’s also a Forgotten Realms Wiki. I recently learned about Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. It’s the latest information on the Realms tailored for Dungeons & Dragons 5e.

I will use those for my “Big Picture” location scouting. I will be looking for various terrains and regions as each bring their own unique encounter opportunities.

When it comes time to pick more detailed maps I’m going to first look at Dyson’s Dodecahedron. The gentleman behind the site has a wealth of maps, many of which are freely available to use. After that, “Google’s my friend”, and I’ll peruse the Google+ Communities. I’m not worried about these maps.


Developing Campaign Narrative

Tonight I created 3 different high-level goals, along with their motivations. I will run each of them past some folks for their opinion, to see if I have a good starting hook, with potential for more discoveries. Once I select one, I’ll continue to define and fill-out the narrative. This narrative will drive the locations the party will have to visit. Well, ‘have to’ is a strong proposition; ‘strongly encouraged to’ is probably more accurate. I say this, because from this central narrative I will be plotting and inserting side-quests. There’s no telling what the party will do.

Here’s my technique, if you’re interested:

I kept it very low-tech: just a text file and text editor. I used the following format:

Goal: [single sentence description]
Motivation: [paragraph that sets the party in motion]
[notes to myself]

Essentially the Goal and Motivation are in-game content that will be shared with the party. The notes are out-of-game content not shared with the party.

Having a clear Goal allows me to introduce situations that either support it or undermine it. <insert evil laughter here>


Creating an Adventure

I’ve started thinking about a campaign, an adventure, I want to create for my son and his friends. In the past I always loved creating the dungeons for my friends to explore. I have a feeling this time will be different.

I plan on using ideas from the many books I’ve read, the many movies & TV shows I’ve watched, the many games (video, board, card, and other RPGs) I’ve played, to craft an Epic Adventure replete with conflict-inducing side quests. I also plan on sharing the completed product. But that’s a long way off.

I already have some things sorted out: it’s going to take place in the Forgotten Realms; the adventure will start in Waterdeep; the adventure will span the known world; the adventure will span seasons; the adventure will span many ‘real life’ sessions.

Right now it will be a party of three: my son, his friend, and my son-in-law. Over time I hope to be able to add more players, however those 3 will be the nucleus of the group. While it’s not yet scheduled, I know our 1st session is going to be spent rolling up characters. At this time I will instruct them to form a tight relationship between the three: 3 brothers, 3 best friends; 3 cousins; a mixture of the 3. I’m also going to steer them towards more traditional races: human, elven, dwarven, halflings, etc. I’m also going to encourage them to come up with a (plausible) backstory. With any hope I’ll teach them how to Role Play and, for me, it starts with the backstory.

I also have some loose notes on a few things with which the party will be subjected. I mentioned to my son, “the campaign will be a mix of Indiana Jones, Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter, Call of Chthulu, Conan, Dr Who; it will have combat, conflict, puzzles, and traps; it will span regions and seasons; it will take place in buildings, in dungeons, in forests, at sea, under the sea, and everywhere in between.” I think his interest is piqued. One of the first things I thought of was the ‘opening sequence’, if you will. This will be the thing, or set of events, the kicks off the adventure. If I can get enough of the adventure defined, I might initiate it during our 1st session. Maybe.

However I still have many things to do and define. The most important thing, for me, is the over-arching narrative. What is the adventure this party will experience? Why are they going on this adventure? I really need to define this Big Goal. Once I have it defined I can then lay the locations and side quests on it as if it were a skeleton.

Additionally, I’ve reached out to the Google+ Community “G+ Tabletop Roleplaying Games” for advice and resources for creating this adventure. I’ve had some excellent suggestions and I’ll be sharing them as I use them. One thing I didn’t mention but will do here: I plan on using tile sets and miniatures. Back in my day we had miniatures but we didn’t use them. I think they’re a valuable tool for the players. And, I plan on using context-appropriate background music. This is definitely a first for me and I’m excited to see where it goes.

That’s all I can share at the moment.

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