Content of the article: "Siege Campaign"
I've been building a campaign in my head, and on scraps of paper, for a while now and I'd finally like to get it polished up for the next chance I get to run an adventure. Because of that I'd like to ask for some help from this community when it comes to conceptual rules, play execution, and nit-noy detail.
The campaign takes place entirely (well, mostly) during the besieging of a long neglected fortress. I'm not thinking a movie siege where the bad army shows up with its seemingly inexhaustible minions to hurl at the walls (although there will be a time for hurling minions at the walls near the end) but rather a siege of attrition and resources, something that may take a months or even a year to resolve. The campaign will exists entirely (well, mostly) in this protracted siege. Because I have been a glutton for punishment since time immemorial I don't intend to make it a low magic setting. Indeed, one piece of help I need is that I don't have a lot of experience with 5e magic (well, 5e altogether, I haven't played since 4e). However, I want to embrace siege magic and counter-siege magic (I'm anticipating a company of Abjurers who specialize in Dispel Magic).
The campaign is broken up, somewhat neatly, into five chunks which correspond, somewhat neatly, into level sets.
Non-Siege: I did said it would take place entirely in the siege (well, mostly). In the first part of the campaign there is no idea (in game, I'll tell the players the concept so no one feels cheated) that a siege is coming. They're going to adventure in the area, building up a reputation, list of contacts, and a sense of give-a-damn about the people. This should run about Levels 1-4.
Pre-Siege: This stage begins when warning comes riding over the hills that an innumerable enemy force is on the march towards the siege location. In this instance the players will, either of their own initiative or by contract with a local authority, begin running about like crazy trying to prepare the city for the incoming siege. They'll have about a week or two to get everything as ready as possible. This should run about Levels 4-8.
Early Siege: This stage begins with the PC's literally holding open a route for the last stragglers into the gate, so it's very specifically the beginning of the actual siege. The PCs begin with some relatively mundane tasks, often assigned to them by a representative of the Marquis that they are familiar with. These include: Organizing the Refugees by skill, finding homes for them to share, calming early tensions, and finishing any internal repairs to the walls and ramparts left undone. There will be a few small skirmishes as the invaders test fort's defenses and definitely some arcane and divine magical fuckery to see about an early end. This stage ends after a week of these activities with the a Parlay between the Marquis's daughter (nepotism, though she is good at debate) and a council from the invaders. I expect these to run between levels 8-10, though maybe 11 with good role play.
Mid-Siege: This is the long haul, and it begins with the betrayal of the Parlay and a desperate attempt to keep the Marquis's daughter both alive and safe. This stage is the long haul stage, which will also be the second most active (compared to when the walls actually fall). Here's a set of things I'm thinking: If the daughter is captured they rescue her, preventing/detecting/ending a poisoned water source, assassinating/capturing/undermining high value targets, sabotaging war machines, putting out fires, tending to the ill/injured/traumatized, catching assassins, guarding the wall/gate, detecting people under enchantment spells, repelling attacks, launching attacks, sabotaging enemy morale, boosting ally morale, calming tensions between groups, preventing/detecting/ending a plague, guarding food stocks from desperate people, dealing with the pressure and frustration, sneaking out to find allies, stopping invaders from discovering the PC's route in and out, and preventing/organizing a coup (not, presumably, for the invaders but rather an internal power change). I expect the mid-siege to run Levels 11-16.
Late Stage: This begins when the walls or gate or something falls and the populace is forced to retreat to the inner wall where the keep and a few other smaller buildings are. A hard running battle through the streets with little time for short rests, let alone extended ones, as the PCs try to push back against the clock and protect the citizenry. This is going to be a stage with a lot of action in short order, forcing the PCs to exert themselves or give up on people and resources. This (relatively) brief period will run get the PCs to level 20, wherever they were before. This stage culminates with the invaders' final battle through the castle keep and the BBEG battle atop the keep (or wherever the PCs force the battle I guess).
So I have this general idea and have even written down a "Mission" guide with surface level options I could imagine for some of these steps, although I'm sure they'll come up with something clever (whoever they happens to be). I've got a loose map, some basic lore, and a few clever organizations available but its far from everything.
What I could use help with is three-fold: missed ideas, 5e siege magic, and fleshed out ideas.
Are there any other activities that would fit into some of these stages that I haven't thought of? How does magic in 5e come into play with a siege? Like I said I don't often run spellcasters and I haven't run one in 5e ever, so the magic system is something of a blindspot. If you were players, what spells would you use to capture the fort or counter such attempts? Finally, a lot of these ideas, especially in the Mid and Late stage, I haven't fleshed out much beyond a basic description. How would you see running these things to maximize fun, engagement, and immersion?
Also, any other suggestions or advice is more than welcome! If you see something I didn't ask, throw it out there anyway, I am almost 100% new to 5e (life got super busy around the time of 5e and I never got a chance to try it). Does this sound like a game you'd enjoy playing in or does it sound like a long boring slog (I'm basing it on real sieges, but I don't want it to be as boring as a real multi-year siege).
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