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doccarnby
Acolyte

12 Posts

Posted - 21 Jul 2019 :  04:13:26  Show Profile Send doccarnby a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
It's been a very long time since I last played D&D, and frankly I was pretty young then, but I've been making plans with some friends to start playing again, and so I've been working on campaign set in Cormyr and I'm looking both for advice on running the Realms, as well as general DMing advice.

I'm running 3E, and starting it the day after Shieldmeet in 1372DR. The Realms I've been working on is slightly heterodox, but I hope not so much that it makes giving advice difficult. I'm starting with the premise that the goblin war was way more devastating, and there's barely enough Purple Dragons to maintain order in the heartlands of Cormyr, never mind the eastern reaches, where I'm setting the campaign. I've got a few story threads that the players can pursue, the Zhentarim are naturally quick to take advantage of the chaos, there are still remnants of the goblin army tooling about, beneath their feet the duergar have declared war on the drow (I'm not using the Silence of Lolth metaplot though), the inner planes seem to be grinding against the prime, and strange portals are opening up and dropping stranger peoples and beings into the Realms. The stories aren't fleshed out too deeply at this point, we're still early in gathering a group and all that, but I have a general idea of where to take them, both if my players take to them or not. I've got a couple simple adventures mostly fleshed out, a small town on the banks of the Immerflow for their base, stats for the NPCs inhabiting said town, some odds and ends, and a bunch of stuff to go on in the background just to make things feel a little more alive.

So, my questions, first the large open one, how do you start planning a campaign? Because in all honesty, I feel like I'm kinda directionless in my planning. Second, I need some more specific suggestions for certain bits. I know early on the Zhentarim are going to try to make deals with goblins (which isn't going to end well due to extraplanar shenanigans, but I digress), but how will their plans start to evolve from there? If my players decide not to deal with the Zhentarim, what will be their plan of action? Further, what about the political situation in Cormyr proper? This is one area I'm actually somewhat stumped on, the only thing I'm sure about is that the Fire Knives will do something at some point, but honestly politicking isn't quite my strong suit. I had plans for various lords to be scrambling for more power, or for the more foolhardy to be aiming for independence or even the crown itself. I've been considering dropping those bits just to make things easier on me, but then what would I fill in the heartlands with if my players decide to go that way, or even if they just hear rumours from Suzail?

I think that's about all the relevant information. The only thing I think that might need to be touched on is the shades, since I started working on this without the PGtF and the Campaign Setting isn't very forthcoming about why Tilverton got messed up (I've probably missed it), they're back, but in secret and having a quiet little war with the Phaerimm in the Anauroch, so the destruction of Tilverton is a mystery. However, I did see a map of Netheril during my research that called Tilver's Gap "Moander's Footstep," and that seems like it might be a fun tack to take.

Thanks for any help and suggestions you might provide!

Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
32456 Posts

Posted - 21 Jul 2019 :  05:57:22  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'd start it in some small town, large enough for the PCs, but not a major burg. Let the PCs get involved in a couple threats to the town -- helping the Purple Dragons defeat roving bands of goblins or Zhent mercs and such, before throwing in drow or extraplanar stuff.

At some point, someone prominent in town -- maybe the mayor, maybe a wealthy non-noble, maybe a War Wizard -- is assassinated. The PCs investigate, and after much time, find the Fire Knives are involved, and that it's the first step of a plot by the local nobleman to take advantage of the mess. Maybe the noble has some noble rivals to clear out, or maybe the noble is one of Azoun's many bastards and he wants to clear the way to plant his own backside in the throne, or maybe he's one of those nobles that thinks nobility should rule Cormyr, not royalty.

That should be enough to get your players to mid levels, at least.

Now, all that aside -- I think you've got enough going on without the mentioned Inner Planes element and the portals. Unless your plot absolutely requires those things, I'd keep it simple and stick with goblins, assassins, the aftermath of a major war, opportunistic nobles and Zhents, and the drow/duergar element. That's a lot right there, and throwing in weird planar stuff on top of all that seems like overkill to me.

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doccarnby
Acolyte

12 Posts

Posted - 21 Jul 2019 :  07:30:58  Show Profile Send doccarnby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That's probably reasonable and I could probably rework a lot of that stuff to not involve the planes. A lot of it probably fairly easily, actually. I was thinking of it being something that starts off small and weird, then gets bigger over time. I probably don't need an excuse for goblins to be contentious with each other and everyone else either.
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doccarnby
Acolyte

12 Posts

Posted - 22 Jul 2019 :  04:38:28  Show Profile Send doccarnby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Is there a good resource for the Fire Knives? The 3E FRCS and the Forgotten Realms Wiki are both a little sparse for mining. Looking at Volo's Guide to Cormyr (remember when WotC had a bunch of free downloads of previous edition stuff? I miss that), on pg.197 it has this line: "The [Fire] Knives were linked with the fallen god Moander and dwelt in the town sewers" but that seems to be a reference to a short-term alliance in Curse of the Azure Bonds. I'm also curious how other DMs used them in their campaigns, how did you go about setting them up, what worked and what didn't, things like that? I'm worried about dropping them in too heavy-handedly.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
32456 Posts

Posted - 22 Jul 2019 :  04:59:51  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Cloak & Dagger, one of the best 2E sources, has some info on them... But even that's not a lot.

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Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
http://www.candlekeep.com
-- Candlekeep Forum Code of Conduct

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Brimstone
Great Reader

USA
3061 Posts

Posted - 22 Jul 2019 :  08:07:43  Show Profile Send Brimstone a Private Message  Reply with Quote
3E Lord of Darkness has info on the Fire Knives.

"These things also I have observed: that knowledge of our world is
to be nurtured like a precious flower, for it is the most precious
thing we have. Wherefore guard the word written and heed
words unwritten and set them down ere they fade . . . Learn
then, well, the arts of reading, writing, and listening true, and they
will lead you to the greatest art of all: understanding."
Alaundo of Candlekeep
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doccarnby
Acolyte

12 Posts

Posted - 23 Jul 2019 :  04:42:09  Show Profile Send doccarnby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Excellent, thank you very much. Lords of Darkness looks like it can be picked up pretty cheap on eBay and Cloak & Dagger doesn't look much more expensive (mostly).
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Brimstone
Great Reader

USA
3061 Posts

Posted - 23 Jul 2019 :  15:06:48  Show Profile Send Brimstone a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Both are FANTASTIC sources of Realmslore.

"These things also I have observed: that knowledge of our world is
to be nurtured like a precious flower, for it is the most precious
thing we have. Wherefore guard the word written and heed
words unwritten and set them down ere they fade . . . Learn
then, well, the arts of reading, writing, and listening true, and they
will lead you to the greatest art of all: understanding."
Alaundo of Candlekeep

Edited by - Brimstone on 23 Jul 2019 15:07:30
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Cards77
Senior Scribe

USA
685 Posts

Posted - 25 Jul 2019 :  21:06:37  Show Profile Send Cards77 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by doccarnby

It's been a very long time since I last played D&D, and frankly I was pretty young then, but I've been making plans with some friends to start playing again, and so I've been working on campaign set in Cormyr and I'm looking both for advice on running the Realms, as well as general DMing advice.

I'm running 3E, and starting it the day after Shieldmeet in 1372DR. The Realms I've been working on is slightly heterodox, but I hope not so much that it makes giving advice difficult. I'm starting with the premise that the goblin war was way more devastating, and there's barely enough Purple Dragons to maintain order in the heartlands of Cormyr, never mind the eastern reaches, where I'm setting the campaign. I've got a few story threads that the players can pursue, the Zhentarim are naturally quick to take advantage of the chaos, there are still remnants of the goblin army tooling about, beneath their feet the duergar have declared war on the drow (I'm not using the Silence of Lolth metaplot though), the inner planes seem to be grinding against the prime, and strange portals are opening up and dropping stranger peoples and beings into the Realms. The stories aren't fleshed out too deeply at this point, we're still early in gathering a group and all that, but I have a general idea of where to take them, both if my players take to them or not. I've got a couple simple adventures mostly fleshed out, a small town on the banks of the Immerflow for their base, stats for the NPCs inhabiting said town, some odds and ends, and a bunch of stuff to go on in the background just to make things feel a little more alive.

So, my questions, first the large open one, how do you start planning a campaign? Because in all honesty, I feel like I'm kinda directionless in my planning. Second, I need some more specific suggestions for certain bits. I know early on the Zhentarim are going to try to make deals with goblins (which isn't going to end well due to extraplanar shenanigans, but I digress), but how will their plans start to evolve from there? If my players decide not to deal with the Zhentarim, what will be their plan of action? Further, what about the political situation in Cormyr proper? This is one area I'm actually somewhat stumped on, the only thing I'm sure about is that the Fire Knives will do something at some point, but honestly politicking isn't quite my strong suit. I had plans for various lords to be scrambling for more power, or for the more foolhardy to be aiming for independence or even the crown itself. I've been considering dropping those bits just to make things easier on me, but then what would I fill in the heartlands with if my players decide to go that way, or even if they just hear rumours from Suzail?

I think that's about all the relevant information. The only thing I think that might need to be touched on is the shades, since I started working on this without the PGtF and the Campaign Setting isn't very forthcoming about why Tilverton got messed up (I've probably missed it), they're back, but in secret and having a quiet little war with the Phaerimm in the Anauroch, so the destruction of Tilverton is a mystery. However, I did see a map of Netheril during my research that called Tilver's Gap "Moander's Footstep," and that seems like it might be a fun tack to take.

Thanks for any help and suggestions you might provide!



Go buy Ruins of Zhentil Keep. It is chock FULL of insane campaign ideas that you can easily use in any way.

I always build a literal sheet of paper where I write down every story arc that I want to include, and then I graph them so that I remember where and how they will connect, even a decade from now.

Some are active, some are dormant, some go off and on.

It's the only way I've found to keep track of every thread.

I have been doing this for 6 years in the same campaign.

My method was reinforced by watching GoT (I just started watching it last year).

There is ALOT of power and flexibility for you as the DM when you have multiple threads and story arcs going at the same time, even if they don't come up again for years.

It adds a ton of richness and layers to the game, and you will amaze your players by connecting something from 5 years ago to the current story.

People love that.
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doccarnby
Acolyte

12 Posts

Posted - 26 Jul 2019 :  04:04:26  Show Profile Send doccarnby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, I was sketching out story arcs and when various events happen, at what levels, as well as what those events, assuming the players didn't change how they played out, would do to the larger world after the campaign. I was thinking that I could offer a couple quests that the players could follow if they wanted, and any they chose to ignore would play out in the background and affect things as much as the ones they did do. My intent is to make it seem like a living world where there are things going on even where the players aren't, and part of my choice in setting them in a town on a trade route was so that there were a number of travellers who'd pass through and mention things happening in far off places.

As for Ruins of Zhentil Keep, I will definitely keep an eye out for it as well.
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Tyaralt
Acolyte

Brazil
8 Posts

Posted - 07 Aug 2019 :  19:23:09  Show Profile Send Tyaralt a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think it really depends on what kind of campaign you and your players want but anything is possible. You may make a sandbox based on the entire region, with hex/pointcrawl or not and let the adventures come organically, just present your NPCS, rumors and recent events and let the players search their own adventure. I do this in my own campaign, one day they might decide to look for a goblin lair and you writte one or just addapt something like cragmaw castle from Lost Mines of Phandelver; maybe they find the Zhents worrying and look for a big conspiracy; or they might befriend a priest, see if he needs help and you just make up that one of his colleagues disapeared while exploring some caves. I totally can't create adventures on the fly so by the end of each adventure I usually present some hooks and let then choose one or make their own for me to prepare it as the next session.

Another approach is to make a more modern campaign like everything released for 5ed. There may be some big evil plot from Zhents, Fire Knives, eldritch extraplanar horros, archmages or all these included to destroy the kingdon. You don't have to prepare everything in one go, just decide some basic guidelines and develop it over time, but think of ways to link things. The goblins and bandits around the town that the party faces at lv 1 or 2 may be sent by some other mastermind, either Zhent, noble, priest, Fireknive/etc that the group defeats and continue their marry way to loot some dungeons only to find latter that the evil was not rooted at the time and new perils await to happen.
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Renin
Learned Scribe

193 Posts

Posted - 08 Aug 2019 :  03:33:56  Show Profile Send Renin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ah, I love talking adventure creation theory and practice. Itís a fascinating thing to me. One; you are telling a story, yet the story doesnít get decided by you, itís finished by several others instead. Two, itís not an automatic process either; the PCs donít get to automatically live so your story continues. A wonderful dynamic.

Iím currently running 2 campaigns; one is my Ďonce around the Sea of Fallen Starsí and another is two ported over Pathfinder adventure paths taking place north of the Giantspire Mountains between Damara and Narfell. I just finished a 14 year campaign set in Chondath. So, hereís my ideas:

Start small to go big. Little ideas grow into huge plot lines. Iíd agree with others that worrying the PCs to have to deal with portals opening to other planes is something 10th level+ adventurers worry about, not 1st level scrubs starting out in BigTreeTopTown.

My other thought is about how you want your campaign to go down; is it based on Events reactions, or is Personal driven.

My Chondath campaign was Event driven; the PCs were in a world of trying to get their own mercantile business going, while responding as heroes to attacks on the merchant caravans, Baneite incursions, city versus city warfare; they had to deal with what was going on in the world.

Personal driven stories is what my Sea of Fallen Stars is about. The crew of my PCs sail to respond to events of their life; a Sembian wizard must return home to see if foul play was the reason for his brotherís murder, a Dambrathan Half drow finds his history with his family pursuing and doing attacks in his name, a cleric from another plane finds her godís enemy arisen as another false god in Unther, and a Magus Samsaran finds that her past life was one of slaver and murderer as she tracks down her past partners, who have links to the blackblade she now uses. See? Personal driven!

Going with your idea and others here, Iíd start it with saving the town from goblins. A straight up, night attack, the PCs respond. For your small town, I wouldnít use an established Realmslore area, just make my own up. That way you get to control how much Purple Dragon influence is here (perhaps none, due to the events occurring in Cormyr). Perhaps a single War Wizard who is only there to send any real minor reports. Establish if your PCs call this home, or if they are passing through. Have them band together either as friends through the town, as adventurers who call this place home and theirs to keep safe, or as hard traveling heroes who find themselves in a situation that really needs them.

Hunting goblins leads to finding lots of money. Whereís the money from? Revealed to be Zhents. Whoís a Zhent? Why here? You donít know, but the only minor lord in TreeTopTown wants to back you and keep you around (guess what, heís a Zhent, but you keep that hidden a REAAAAAL long time). Make him a guy your group comes to trust, put faith in, and even believe without him, they maybe canít succeed. Even have this lord send the PCs out on missions which inadvertently aid the Zhents who are still trying to cause unrest and turmoil in the region. (Donít ever directly lead your group into killing Ďgood guysí thatís waaay too hard to walk back as a DM). If youíre near Sembia, some of them interfere with Cormyr and Sembian plans. Wild card adventures come as tieflings or demons get dropped in from elsewheres.

I find things start to snowball to lots of various quests and plot lines almost without your own planning. Most times, it comes down to limiting what directions you want to go!

I may even steal this idea myself for another series of adventures...
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doccarnby
Acolyte

12 Posts

Posted - 08 Aug 2019 :  04:33:55  Show Profile Send doccarnby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I certainly seem to be going more for option A, or at least that's how I've been planning out events. Putting the quest options at the end of a session is actually a pretty good idea, my plan was to have adventures then offer them at the beginning, but you are right, doing it the opposite way would certainly cut down on the work required. That said, I am unfamiliar with the "modern campaign," would you mind expanding on that? How does it differ from adventures from prior editions?

Aside from that, I was wondering if anybody had any advice for creating encounter tables? Is there an easier way, or is it always a pretty slow process?

Edit: Oh jeez, didn't see that before I posted. Thank you for the advice, Renin. I've been planning something sorta event driven. For the setting I was thinking a small, but growing, town south of Tilverton on the Immerflow. Purple Dragon patrols are rare, defence is currently done by a militia force. For a first adventure I was thinking that the party'd get hired to track down some goblins that stole a sheep (on the thinking that a stolen sheep is minor, but goblins stealing sheep is another matter), and they track them down to a small abandoned fort where the goblins have holed up. I figure it can either be a straight fight or the players can stop and try to figure out why there are a number of dead goblins with giant spider bites around. Once this is done, the lord in the area will sponsor them to help tie them to the area, and from there they'll be able to get involved in various quests as they like.

I must admit, my town as currently planned and statted does seem to have a minimal sinister bent. Plenty of people who can get them into/out of trouble, but generally for a good cause (or at least to make a quick buck). It's got more of a law/chaos dichotomy going on at the moment, but it could use some sketchy people and Zhentarim spies.

Edited by - doccarnby on 08 Aug 2019 05:50:20
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Tyaralt
Acolyte

Brazil
8 Posts

Posted - 08 Aug 2019 :  16:34:44  Show Profile Send Tyaralt a Private Message  Reply with Quote
doccarnby I'm mostly a novice myself, entering the hobby just this last year. However comparing 5ed adventures with the few older modules I had access to, mostly 2ed, I noticed this. Current adventures are mostly structured campaigns usually from lv 1/5 to 10/12. Some are really good, but provide a rahter rigid structure.

In Lost Mines of Phandelver for exemple you have different chapters that must be run, you might change things like having the group batle the bandits before the goblins and the like, but if players derail and decide going to Neverwinter or another place is more interesting then everything goes to the can. If it's a pre written module that demands less effort to prepare, then I usually don't mind too much and let the players come up with new things, but to writte an entire dungeon that they won't even visit hurts...

The problem with writting your own campaign like that is this, you risk lossing a lot of work and having to railroad your players. This won't always happen, but it's a risk, especially if you prepare too much in advance, thus I find it better to only have a general idea of the plot ahead and only really prep just the next session or dungeon, no more.

But when I see earlier modules I find more variety. Some are really just modules, a self containet dungeon or plot that may take your group across one or two character levels and no more, no strings attached to what comes next. I find this gives more freedom and a more adventure for the glory and loot vibe rather then start a big quest to save the region/world from a conspiracy from liches who use an atropal to steal souls/dragon cultists bringing their dragon goddess/elemental evil cultists bringing their primal overlords/ giants manipulated by dragons/demon lords breaking into the material plane and the like that we are seeing in this edition.

Which one is better ? The one you prefer, anything goes so long as it's fun for everyone. I do recommend not preparing too much in advance, but there is no sweet spot as this varies between GMs.

However I would like to make a suggestion, why not mix both ? In my campaign I just let my players loose to sandbox several small missions in the kingdom and plan to MAYBE start a proper eppic quest when they are stronger. Or I may just continue this way and go after richer and more dungerous adventures without any specific plot or objetive besides those the group adopt for thenselves. Feel the players out and see what you and they would like more and decide later in the game, the players probably won't even notice.

As for encounter tables I imagine you mean random encounters ? If so I recomend this reading, it has been running very well at our table https://theangrygm.com/redesigning-random-encounters-1/ there are several more posts elaborating the matter, but I don't have all their links on hand
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doccarnby
Acolyte

12 Posts

Posted - 09 Aug 2019 :  02:31:01  Show Profile Send doccarnby a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ah, a sort of mini-Adventure Path style? Yeah, I do agree with your assessment of their downsides, I remember having similar thoughts when looking at the Shackled City Adventure Path. I do also agree with your suggestion of mixing the two styles, that's kind of what I'm aiming for, and part of why I wanted to start hinting at wilder stuff really early.

Regarding encounter tables, that's an interesting post, it sounds effective, though I'm not sure I quite agree with their ultimate conclusions. In my mind, random encounters are there both to be a quick encounter and to make the world feel more alive. The idea of setting up events is good, I planned something similar, but I feel their approach misses some of the point of the encounter tables, namely that you can reuse them, for a bit at least. I feel like events, or fake random encounters as I've been calling them, should be supplemental to the main encounter tables, perhaps in a somewhat hybrid manner (first or second random encounter is an event, or something similar), or as a DM's Special.

Anyway, I'm thinking more of filling out a level-appropriate table. It seems like a very slow process of finding monsters and animals of the right environment, then taking some from nearby environments, then taking into account the animal life of the area (Elminster's Ecologies looks like it'd be super useful here, because what's this I hear about baboons?), and then ordering them out into a table. I was wondering if anyone had tips for speeding the process, or had a good resource for them.
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