Dungeons & Dragons Online

Advice on adventure/campaign idea: Literally railroading

Hey everybody!

I've had a campaign idea rattling around my head that I've bounced off a few of my prospective players with positive results. The problem is that I've had a hard time really focusing and developing the adventure from A to Z.

Elevator pitch: What if Willy Wonka gave up on his dreams and devoted his mind to ushering in a world changing wave of industrial revolution. He's old and wealthy beyond measure now; he has time to do what he'd always wanted but is far too old to go on tthe adventures he'd dreamed of. What he DOES have is an old train built in his youth and enough name recognition to attract a bunch of adventurers he can live vicariously through.

Additionally, players are presented with personal ad from a local newspaper as a character building prompt: "Whoever your character is, they're someone who would respond to this ad."


Brilliant inventor and father of modern industry, Crispin Crosswald, seeks traveling companions for the inaugural journey of the “Excelsior.” Long thought abandoned in the train yards of our city, Mr. Crosswald has restored the dormant engine to working order and endeavors to take it on an overdue outing across the railways of our fine country.

Those interested will find the Excelsior and Mr. Crosswald at 7am on Friday, at platform C7 of the Higgs Delivery Company’s freight yard in North Side.

(This is not an offer of employment by Crosswald Industries. Those intending to accompany Mr. Crosswald on his journey should not expect financial compensation for their time.)

The campaign/adventure centers around a train that starts its journey at the town the party gathers in and ends its journey at an unknown station somewhere at the end of the rail line. The train stops at stations and departs at regular intervals, regardless of the PCs being onboard or not.

A core element I've pitched to every prospective player I've spoken to is: "If you're not back on the train by the time it leaves the station? That's where your character leaves the story and you make a new one." (My pool of players has had issue with directing themselves unless given a clear, direct goal).

The plan is for ticking clock adventures to take place in 24-48 hour periods at each train stop that have a sufficient hook to draw the PCs in, but not be SO dire that the train can't leave without them if one or more of them don't make it back in time.

The series of adventures is meant to revolve around a grey depressing industrial revolution world with highlights of wonderment, whimsy and color found in the PC's adventures.

What I'm struggling with is actually filling in these train stops. I've got vague ideas, but so does everyone; I'd like to try and crystalize them. What I need is some sort of solid structural starting point (published adventures with some element of similar theme, general advice for the concept, DM prep advice that aligns with the issue, ect).

Thoughts and/or advice?

Even just the time to read is deeply appreciated!


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