Content of the article: "Campaign Starting Advice"
Hello all. I have done some DMing before, but not for a long time (over a decade). I'm currently designing a campaign to bring my old crew to 5e, and found I'm pretty rusty.
I've been designing my own world, and recently started writing the first quest. That led me here – and to the great resources you all recommend (thank you for that!) – and after spending a few weeks "sharpening my saw", I now have some concerns over how I'm planning to start the campaign.
First concern. Rather than starting the campaign in a casual style (the "you're at an inn" trope), I wanted to start in the middle of some action. A global "incident" kicks off the campaign. The characters, all strangers from different villages, are sent by their respective villages to a nearby city to find out what's going on. The campaign will officially start at a clearing (campsite) in the woods, where the characters run into each other, find they're on similar missions, and join up. Almost immediately after, a massive orc army is seen in the distance approaching quickly, forcing the players into hiding in a nearby cave, which is where play will pick up. My goal was to make the start of the campaign exciting, but now I'm worrying it's too "grand" of a start. Does anyone have any thoughts on starting the campaign this way?
Second concern. With an orc army fast approaching, and nowhere else to go, I need the characters to hide in a nearby cave. This seems railroady, but it's just to set up the story (I was aiming for a "characters get diverted from their original goal and wind up on a different path" situation). Once in the cave, the railroading ends, and the players have full agency. But now I'm concerned that forcing the action even once might be too much. Is this as bad as it feels?
(I could also make the orc army and cave hiding part of the initial narration, but I'm not sure if this is any better.)
I've now realized that my past DM style was excessively railroady, and I think I finally understand how to do it right. The rest of the quest was easy enough to fix – a couple of minor changes, and now it's largely in sandbox form. But now I'm questioning the very first act. I don't actually want the characters to visit the city right away – I wanted a high-pressure situation to divert them and thrust them right into an unexpected adventure in the wild.
So any thoughts?
- My Style of DMing (?)
- How can I handle setting up this plot hook without railroading the players towards a failure, or is this acceptable because the loss is not the player’s fault?
- Consider having a side campaign
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