The Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years. The Trail of Tears. The Mongol Invasions. The wagon trains to the American West. History is marked by mass human migration, villages uprooted, families packing everything they have and setting out on a desperate, years-long journey to find a better place. Migration is one of the great human stories, and one that has not yet been the subject of a campaign.
I would like to try some new things for this campaign, and they are worth stressing here.
- Deep Ecosystems
This is a stock fantasy story, using the normal Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons rules. For inspiration, I have turned to the Eocene Era to find creatures and ecosystems that ring true and are a refreshing change from bog-standard D&D.
However, this is not a caveman game. Technology levels are standard 5E, as are the standards of learning and education.
- Recurring Themes and Characters
Because the exodus explores an uprooted community, it gives players the chance to develop deep relationships with NPCs. The campaign will have a definite Kingmaker flavor, in which the clan units and political alliances of the party will grow and develop organically as the story progresses.
- What Would Gandalf Do?
This story is about a journey, and the perils of journeying. Many effects in D&D remove the journey, or take important parts of the tension of adventure away. Fly or Feather Fall remove the fear of falling. Water-breathing removes the fear of drowning. Teleport removes the entire journey.
So, as a guiding point, we ask: what would Gandalf do? If the effect removes the adventure, it will be Rule-0’ed. This currently means that any flying magical effect is straight out. (Flying mounts are another question entirely. Gandalf rode eagles.) For now, tactical effects like Misty Step and Dimension Door remain intact, but are on probation.
It would be fun to add more kinetics to D&D, which has a tendency to be an “I swing and do 8 points of damage” system. A good adventure involves heroes sent flying, splintered shields, walls smashed. To remedy this:
- Monsters will routinely have a range of additional kinetic abilities: gore, smash, trample, hurl, splinter, etc., that will provide kinetic effects on top of basic damaging attacks.
- Players will have, as a start, the ability to add a kinetic effect to any critical hit, as well as the DM’s solemn promise to provide serious support and bonuses to attempts to make regular kinetics (maneuvers, knockbacks, etc.) powerful through dungeon dressing and bonuses.
- A player may sacrifice an object in their hand to reduce taken damage by 1d4. Weapons can be sacrificed to reduce damage by their damage amount. Shields can be sacrificed to absorb the blow entirely. An item used in this way is completely destroyed. This ability (as an aggregate, not separate) may be used once per encounter.
- Please feel free to suggest rules changes that increase kinesis as we develop the campaign.
- Rule 0
I tend to prefer rules-based campaigns, especially when working the kinks out of a new system. However, Rule 0 is in full effect. If a ruling goes the way you think is wrong, please note it and let me know after the session. I will appreciate the help and the timing.
- Verisimilitude Engine
A large part of this game is going to be a campaign deckbuilder, in which NPCs, events, plot hooks, and more go into a campaign deck. A significant amount of the players’ ability to influence the course of gameplay will go into the design of that deck, from which events for each ongoing session will be drawn.