The Immortals and Ending with the Beginning

Like many gamers when it comes to campaigns I’ve found that the majority tend to end not with a bang but a whimper. They fall apart due to scheduling issues or simply fizzle out when trying to continue on from after epic and satisfying story arc. It’s an issue that has been on my mind with the start of the new D&D campaign – how to end it?

At the moment, two sessions in we have yet to touch on any real plot, the mini-adventure has seen the players investigating an attack on an apparent merchant caravan and trying to rescue the lone survivor. While the adventure is really just aimed as an introduction to the game mechanics I have tried to drop in a few hooks here and there. The caravan was carrying a scroll inscribed with the symbol of one of the Immortals (that burned up before the PCs could retrieve it – yay for natural 1s on investigation attempts) and was being guarded by High Elves, which we established was unusual for the setting.

But where is it going? What is the point of this all? That’s the question that I’ve been wracking my brain with for the last few days. The obvious answer to that is the Fall of the Immortals, the rulers of the Empires in our as yet unnamed setting. We have already established that two of the characters are survivors of a previous rebellion, so it makes sense that they would have an interest in seeing the downfall of the tyrants.

It also fits with a number of standard fantasy tropes. Authoritarian empires? Check. Unknown heroes rising up? Check. Normally I wouldn’t lean so heavily on those tropes, at least not deliberately. However, in prepping for this campaign I’ve been going back to basics. The first of which is that D&D is best when it is tied to those tropes. Indeed from a gaming perspective, many of them originated with D&D (which itself lifted them from the established traditions of the fantasy genre, both Tolkien and its pulpier counterparts). Secondly, I am running a game for a group of mostly new players. Players who haven’t played through those tropes before and who certainly haven’t burned out on them.

So keeping with the basics we already have an ending – The Fall of the Immortals. Thanks to the fact that we established there to be multiple empires we even have our intermediate goals, taking down the first couple of Immortals before building up to the strongest of them. All that’s left to add is a touch of Fate, which I plan to introduce through a little bit of prophecy and a whole lot of dragon.

We are playing Dungeons & Dragons after all.

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Planning for the Nationals 1

The UK Student Nationals is an annual convention which brings together university gaming societies from across the country for a weekend of RPGs, board games, CCGs, wargames and LARPs in a semi-competitive manner. Players in the RPG categories play in two games, one on the Saturday before switching to a new game on the Sunday while the GMs (such as myself) run the same game over the two days. Last year I ran Corporation, a post-cyberpunk / sci-fi game for which I wrote an investigative murder mystery entitled the Morpheus Protocol, which is available in the Happyjacks Two Sides: One Epic Collection (see here for my post about that).

Nationals 2013 is the 15th – 17th March and once again I’ll be running rather than playing. Rather than stick to sci-fi however I’ll be running in the humour category, for which only one game could suffice. Demon Hunters, a comedy horror / urban fantasy game from the minds of Dead Gentlemen Productions. As I want the game to be as good as possible I’m already well into the planning for the game, which I’m aiming to chronicle in this series of posts. I’m breaking this down into three areas:

  • Scenario preparation
  • Character generation
  • Visual presentation

All of these are of course tightly woven together, especially the scenario and characters which need to be suitable for one another or else the game can easily stall due to a lack of appropriate skills / abilities. As part of this I’ve already run an initial playtest (post on that is to come) and aim to run at least one more before the Nationals itself.

It is the visual presentation, however, that I expect to spend a disproportionate amount of time on. While I want the game to shine on all levels the visual feel to the game is the aspect I am weakest at. At this point in my GMing career I have plenty of experience in planning adventures and writing characters, but not so much in making it look good. Inspired by posts made by Kimi (see here and here), one of the hosts of the Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, my aim is to create a presentation which grabs the players from the moment they sit down at the table. While I’m still working on exactly how to do that I’ve already started on the first step, commissioning a series of character portraits from a friend who is a professional artist, which I’ll post up here as I receive them.

So with a little over two months to go I’ve got a lot still to do but at least I already have a game which could be run without any further prep. Sure it would be rough at the edges but I’ve got time to make it shine. Can’t be too hard, can it?