I've always had difficulty coming up with fresh ideas for a campaign in gaming. My players haven't complained but I guess I just feel the need to try new things and different outlooks other than "kill stuff and take its gold". Even Old School gaming is more fun if there's more options that "Fireball". Thus, I thought I'd share one campaign idea I developed because I had a player state "Urban games are boring. There's no adventure in a city." Challenge Accepted.
This was right after the gaming group had switched to 3.5 and Necromancer Games had a lot of great stuff coming out. Unfortunately, they appeared to lose their focus and the two owners got busy with life....and we lost a great potential 3rd party gaming company. Anyway, the reason I bring them up is because they had acquired the rights to update and sell the oldest published game setting for D&D: Judges Guild's Wilderlands. Many people think Greyhawk was first, but that kinda depends on which one you saw first....and I saw Wilderlands before I saw Greyhawk. Yeah, subjective judgement, but I'm a DM and that's my ruling.
Well, Necromancer Games (NG) published a wonderful boxed set of the original material including the original 18 maps in their original 17"x22" format. They published a Player's' Guide with updated classes, new feats, gods and skills. And they republished the original City State of the Invincible Overlord. So, I set the campaign in CSIO. The characters started at 3rd level in a group. I ran some individual background games for some of them to help flesh out the characters. The PC's became a group when they all showed up for a job at the same time.
The first job was to find a missing heiress. The father was widowed and the daughter was destined to marry another noble's son. I used an adventure from the Wizard's website, a mini-adventure which was pretty useless as written but had a great basic concept. The group searched out the city to find out if the young lady had run off with a suitor or had been kidnapped by a rival noble. In actuality, the daughter had threatened to run off and the dad locked her away to "find" her on his own on the day of the wedding. Of course, our group of PC's are the heroes so they foil his plan, find the girl's true love and help set things to a happy ending. But they've made an enemy of the dad.
The CSIO has a wonderful mechanic called the Beggars' Guild, in which beggars are information centers. If you can find the book, either the NG book or the original JG materials (avoid the Mayfair Games edition), it's worth the price. So, the group now has beggars watching them. The news of their success reach the ears of a riverboat captain who's 10 year old daughter is missing. He asks the group for help. He fears that someone from his shady past has taken her but he's not sure who.
This is where I decided to lay out different paths for the group to follow. Basically, I came up with three different adventure paths: 1) the young girl is held in another city by a mage who wants the captain to smuggle something very dangerous into the CSIO, 2) a group is looking for certain items to summon a demon to attack the Overlord so that the leader of the group can ascend to the throne, and 3) another group from a rival City is working on a method to turn the CSIO's goblin slaves into lycanthropes which will weaken the city for an attack. Well, guess what? The players thought there was only one adventure path and so chased the clues for all three paths equally. Then struggled to determine how the different clues fit together. Linear thinking at its best......even when I outright told them that it's a LARGE CITY so there might be more adventures than one. They worked from 3rd to 8th level, using CSIO's half XP awards, and never figured it out. Unfortunately, the campaign fell apart after we lost 3 of the players for various reasons.
For completeness sake, here's what I had planned for each path. Path 1: The girl was held by a gnome mage who was trying to slip a special magic item he had created to allow him to use as a focus for a Teleport spell. He had hoped to make it into a rival Mage's treasury to grab a batch of loot and get out. When the group couldn't separate the paths, I had him working with the demon group to get the components he needed. Path 2: this group needed three items to call up Yogg and turn him loose on the Overlord. They had two of the items and were searching for a 3rd when they picked up that they were being observed by the PC's. However, the ritual they were going to use was a false on planted by the Overlord's secret police, the Black Lotus. They were monitoring the situation and decided to let the PC's take the hurt to end the group instead of endangering themselves. They even tried to recruit the PC with the most street smarts. Path 3: the spies here were mostly wererats and so would often fight amongst themselves more than push the objective. They were just beginning to put their plan into action when the PC's torched the warehouse of tainted drink, which the PC's had confused as the hideout for the demon cult.
And it was this campaign which sowed the seeds of my discontent with 3.5. It was tough producing NPCs and monsters and magic items which fit within the rules. The players didn't help because they chose either oddball classes or strange races. The min/maxer wanted a houri type of character. One wanted a psionic race and class......I hate psionics.....yeah, that'll be another post. Anyway, long story short, the character's didn't have all the necessary skills or abilities to handle what was thrown at them. They also thought everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was related to the adventure path. Well, next time, I'll either lambast about how I hate psionics or I'll tell of another campaign. We'll see.
Thanks for reading.