So I wanted to say how I usually start my campaign off because I think it’s quite effective for a few reasons. 1: It places the players in a mix of familiar and unfamiliar. 2: It’s a pretty simple introduction to combat and decision making for new players (as well as RP). 3: It helps to set the tone and themes of the setting/campaign. 4: It avoids the “okay now what do you do?” Without saying “there’s a mysterious man in the corner that only you can see”. 5: It is a way of starting in a tavern that isn’t boring or repetitive.
So I start at the Cliffside Inn. An inn along the side of a winding mountain road that overlooks the valley below. The sky is gray and the late autumn breeze is cold. The inn is a small building with smoke coming from the chimney and a sign blowing in the wind showing it’s name. Inside it is dark and mostly lit by the fire. (I always give my players a reason to be at the inn, most often they have received letters by a mysterious stranger that wants them to meet which is later connected to a character in the plot, sometimes one character knows them and the other doesn’t). I let them walk up and I describe the reaction of most patrons, most often this is fear or unease. All except the bartender who is jovial with crooked yellow teeth. Other patrons include 3 hunters, a tongueless bard playing a violin, and a couple with a small baby. In the back is the innkeepers niece cooking. The second floor is where the rooms are, the interior is small and dim. I have the players role initiative to see who walks in first. They may do what ever they want, I let them order drinks and meet each other and when I feel it’s appropriate I start the next part.
At that point five men dressed in black with hoods and cowls wielding hand crossbows and daggers burst into the room and start yelling for everyone to “get on the fucking ground!” (I use the bandit stat block but give them hand crossbows and daggers instead). They are not here to kill anyone only to rob the inn and it’s patrons but they won’t hesitate if they’re threatened. How the players react from then on is up to them:
Some results I’ve had: – The players slaughter the bandits and both the bard and innkeeper are killed in crossfire. They take some alcohol and the leave after the warlock uses illusions to scare bandits but also causes the peasants to assume him to be a Demon of the valley. – A TPK, no one died but everyone fell unconscious. The bandits kidnapped one of the PCs and the other two tracked them down the next day it was a cool kind of chase. – The players start to comply until one of them starts to talk back and is dragged out to the cliffside to be thrown over. The rest of them intervene.
Here’s why I like this start and how it follows the guidelines I started with: 1: Starts with something familiar, an inn with drinks and a bard (how most games start). Unfamiliar because it’s out along the road not in a starting town, and the attack has never been expected before by my groups. 2: The fight is simple but not necessarily easy. It can really go either way so I like that there isn’t a definite conclusion. Also offers quite a few opportunities to role play before the encounter (which can be resolved without fighting although it’s difficult). 3: It helps to establish the setting. It’s isolated and low magic, rural and brutal. There are no guards around to help the players or stop them doing whatever they please. They are on their own. The people are poor, simple, and weary of dangerous adventurers. One of the major themes of the campaign is the strong preying on the weak. And I also like to show that the world is real and the players are not always the agents of action. 4: They can’t be like “what do we do now” because they’re forced to react to a situation. Usually I have where they are going and why worked out with them in session zero so they just have the road after that. 5: So far no two groups have reacted the exact same way to the encounter, characters, or each other.
Sorry if this is long, tell me what you guys think of it. I hope this can maybe help someone out.
- Tall Tavern Tales: A series of one shots connected by a future tavern
- The ranger deals 40 damage a turn and the bard feels underpowered so doesn’t participate in the session – help!
- Should encounters be leveled up with the players?
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "How I start my campaign (and why I like it)" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- My (almost) 3 years long campaign entered hiatus last night. Looking for advice on what to do next.
- Volcano Adventure – Full adventure/Dungeon for level 4-6 Parties
- Thundertree homebrew advice needed
- How to creatively resurrect a player from a Ring of Mind Shielding?
- My views on understanding the alignment chart and morality, for those still interested in it. Content Warning.
Top 7 NEW Games of February 2021
Looking for something new to play on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch in February 2021? Here are the notable video game releases.
Top 20 NEW Open World Games of 2021
2021 will bring us tons of open world games for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Switch, and beyond. Here's what we're looking forward to.