Dungeons & Dragons Online

Taking collaborative story telling to the next level by letting go.

Tl;dr let your party run one-shots in your home brew world that will have real consequences. It will challenge you as a storyteller, and engage your players with your world more.

I don't know if this is an advanced technique, but it has some risk, the good kind.

I'm a big subscriber to the messages contained in Steven Johnson Book Where Good Ideas Come From particularly his analysis of the Coffee House in the Age of Enlightenment as a place for small ideas to come together to create big ideas, with that in mind some background:

For 2 years I have run a campaign weekly with 7 players. We have had a couple of weeks off and a few players have missed a few sessions but for the most part we have played every Sunday or Monday for give or take 100 sessions.

The world is entirely home-brewed, Eavaros, a high magic sphere deeply connected to other planes and sharing most of the forgotten realms' pantheon. Other than that my party had no idea what to expect (this part is important).

Last week we were going to be down 2 players, but at level 20 balancing encounters and endgame storytelling really require that the whole party be there. I am no longer at the point in my story where I can throw in a town fair or bottle episode without it looking like a cop-out (though sometimes cop-outs are cool).

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So the one shot "The Battle for Xinstock" was born. As we wrapped up the previous session the party received a message from a council member that "the city of Xinstock had been lost" (there's a war going on) as I described this to the party, the gravity of this was sinking in, many of their NPC friends and compatriots live in Xinstock, and they own a Bar/Art gallery there. I then explained that next week, as we would be down 2 players, Our Sorcerer would be running a one shot to show us how it was lost, and we would all be playing a level 16 party of those NPC allies.

The Session was madness. I played the bar manager who (cliché incoming) was a rescued kobold that the party adopted. As we started I realised just how much of the lore my players had been paying attention to. Locations, the layout of the city, and most importantly, the fact that the city was build on the ruins of an older city. Our Sorcerer had built the one-shot very much in the feel of the entire campaign, We fought elementals at the walls and then when the Bar/art gallery was destroyed, we travelled into the old city in search of weapons to protect ourselves based on rumour.

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the session was otherwise great, there were traps and intrigue and new lore and puzzles (that we couldn't solve so bashed our way though, so that's food for thought)

Long story short, we Dalaran'd it. We activated an ancient elvish mechanism that teleported the city over 7000 miles into the North Sea, the location that the entire campaign began 2 years ago. The city of Xinstock had literally been "lost" These kinds of teleportation mechanisms had been hinted at for over a year, but the party had never encountered one The Sorcerer took what he knew of the lore and extrapolated on it. It's important that I gave no notes to the Sorcerer beyond the character sheets for the NPCs and the map of the city (which they already had having lived there for over 8 months in game time)

The party really enjoyed this, and I got to experience the feeling of surprise that few forever DMs get to. It reinvigorated me to try and elicit that response from my players more often moving forward.

This gives me a lot of options for the next few weeks(last few weeks) of the campaign, and it also allowed the players to flex their understanding of the NPCs. Moving forward I think I will do something like this every few levels through campaign 2 which utilises the same world, though it may be challenging at lower levels as the NPCs will not be as developed.

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Notes: for me to take to the coffee house:
All of their teleportation circles are now 7000 miles away.

So are their allies.

One of the players literally vaporised one of their most reliable income streams.

Source

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