A DM's S.O.S


First Post
I have committed one of the classic blunders! No, not getting into a land war in Asia or going up against Sicilians when death is on the line, but something much worse for DMs: too much daydreaming of campaign ideas and not enough adventure writing. My only excuse is that I'm rusty at adventure writing after running so many published adventures in the past.

I'm supposed to kick off a 4E campaign this Saturday but so far I have nothing. Help!

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First Post
Some of the ideas that were kicking around in my head:

- The PCs wash up on a mysterious island. This is actually the infamous Isle of Dread re-imagined with some stuff from Eberron's Xendrik, Hollow World, and Palladium RPG's Yin Sloth Jungles.

- The PCs wake up in a crypt with no memories of who they are, only what they assume is their names on the granite slabs they wake up in. They are actually ancient heroes brought back to fight an ancient evil.

- A campaign loosely based on the Metal Gear video game (guess what I've been playing lately?) in which a "legendary soldier" has gone bad and is (secretly) behind a growing army of human mercenaries, humanoids, and monsters. The ace up his sleeve: the discovery of an ancient arcane weapon of mass destruction.


Start by having them roll intiative.

Seriously, start in media res, and then color the scene afterwards, and go from there. Why are they in that fight? What are they doing there? Etc. That should leave them with enough to experiment with.

That might not give you something to work with as far as an adventure. So here is a real suggestion:

Do the Ye Olde "You all have recently been looking for work, and so have been contacted by an individual who needs a job done". Cue a shadowy warehouse. The PCs are assembled, and asked to do a simple job: disrupt a party. More specifically, a business deal between a Bandit Lord and (insert gnome anarchists/any other magically potent type). All the PCs are tasked with is making sure the deal doesn't go down.

Sure, it comes straight from "Three Days to Kill", a module, but I think it's a nice fun way to start on a different foot.

Option two: Watch "Night of the Living Dead". Repeat it. Necromancers need not apply; just the dead walking, laying siege to small town in the middle of no where, and the PCs are trapped and need to survive. Though if you want to change it up a little, toss in a few different undead types.

Any other suggestions will require details about your PCs, their backgrounds, and the players' tastes, to detail it to your party specifically.
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First Post
Thinks small, the grand world will form around them slowly. What do they see, why is that there, who is talking to them, what does he want. Let what the PC's know guide the flow, be willing to adapt. When the time is right your "reveals" will come.

Take a single idea from PCs with backstories and place them in casually.


Thinks small, the grand world will form around them slowly. What do they see, why is that there, who is talking to them, what does he want. Let what the PC's know guide the flow, be willing to adapt. When the time is right your "reveals" will come.

Take a single idea from PCs with backstories and place them in casually.

You don't have to worry about anything except the immediate. If you don't have an entire campaign mapped out, or even a campaign idea, don't worry about it. Just come up with an idea that will engage the players, and now you have stalling time while you Think.

"The game starts with you in situation X. The goal: get out." Fairly simple.

Starting a new campaign from scratch can seem like an enormous roadblock to actually playing. The idea of starting in the midst of a combat was a good one. After the battle the PC's might need to figure out why they were attacked. That can lead to sketching out an NPC bad guy or group and determining thier motivations. As far as world development goes just concentrate on the immediate area and determine what lies beyond as the PC's explore. Your players can often help create a lot of the world without ever knowing it if you listen to them during the game and make some notes.

Some possible starting points:

1) The PC's were not the intended victims. Whatever attacked them was too stupid to realize it was the wrong target. Questioning an attacker might lead to a contact about what was going on and who the intended targets were and why.

2) The PC's were the intended victims. Someone, somewhere has a grudge against them. It doesn't have to be very important in the greater scheme of things. Perhaps it was a schoolmate of the party wizard that was always jealous, or a professional rival of the rogue. What matters is the importance of the thing to the NPC's acting on it.

Once the initial encounter concludes (and having one bad guy snivel and beg and fall over themselves to divulge info is good here) the PC's can decide on how they follow up. Have the motivated NPC(s) and some fodder for them statted up and play it by ear.

After the first session, you can develop deeper and more important plots and the players might give you clues about what type of things they like to do.


There's a campaign opener contest over on the WotC forums

Perhaps one of the campaign openers entered in 4E Expert Dungeon Master Competition - Open a Campaign! might give you some ideas. There are several interesting ideas there with enough variety that one of them should fit in with your particular group and play style. There's no need to blindly follow any of them either if you want to mix it up a bit and customize whatever you choose for your group.

That's what's fun about DM'ing to me; even if I steal ideas from modules, books, or ideas on the forums I still wind up with something uniquely mine by the time I'm done with it. My KotS game is using material I wrote myself, some from the "KotS Kitbashing" thread on the WotC forums, and of course the info in the module itself.


5ever, or until 2024
I'm rusty at adventure writing after running so many published adventures in the past.

Any reason you are not doing that this time?

On the upside, the monster/npc side of 4E really is pretty easy. You might also get something from the standard traps and skill challenges in the DMG (though, while they did something with these, I think they could have done more).

And you can still take a few things from the little town and adventure in the DMG, the two published modules or online dungeon (though that has been a mixed bag), even if you don't use them.


First Post
Well, Androlphus, if you need something immediately, and can't think of anything, I suggest pulling out a qucik, pre-written adventure, adjusting on the fly. You can also use it as a springboard for further adventures. As to the various ideas you list, pick one and work it into a longer story thread. If you've ever done an outline, do so with this story thread. As you progress, find time to work out the details. Don't despair at using pre-written adventures; they are one of the DM's best tools, especially when you are short for time.


First Post
Any reason you are not doing that this time

Change of pace and to re-train the unused "adventure muscles", especially since the new edition makes writing encounters easier.

I have Rescue at Rivenroar as an utter last resort, but I think I might be able to cook something up with some of these fine suggestions. Thanks ppl!

questing gm

First Post
I would say that its better to develop a whole campaign as you move along rather than having it tailored from the beginning unless your players know and agree to suit their play style with that campaign. ;)

This thread could give you some ideas. :devil:


First Post
I'm currently in the middle of running a campaign. If I wasn't in the middle of something though, I would totally be taking Keith Baker's latest Dragon article (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drdisp/20080728) and starting a campaign with the characters as citizens of Dolurrh's Dawn. Everyone is the reincarnation of a famous villain/hero of history, saddled with amnesia, in a town in the middle of an amazingly dangerous forest. You start off with a struggle to survive and form a community (there are another 50-60 reincarnated characters in the village besides just the pcs, who all have strong personalities). And, of course, why does everyone have amnesia?

Once the characters have their feet under them just a bit, an NPC from the outside world stumbles upon their village and they realize that everyone in the village is an apparent reincarnation of a historical figure. Then you have to figure out why and how the reincarnation happened, and whether your character will re-trace the path of history, or forge a new and opposite identity.

Lots and lots of stuff to play with there. :)

And, of course, why does everyone have amnesia?

Because its 4E and everyone just gained a level?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.:angel: It does sound like a really great campaign starter for sure. It starts the campaign off with a good feeling of united purpose for all the PC's and a good shot of confusion to boot. That idea has just been filed away for future use.


First Post
Something that I have never done, but that sounds like a good idea.

Start the characters all off as retainers to a King, they all have lives in place and jobs to do. Let each character describe what he wants his characters job in the castle to be and then fill in the little details of day to day life. Then smash it all. Have a dragon, liche, mind flayer, drow raid, whatever you would like destroy the castle. Describe the events leading up to the PC's surviving the encounter but the castle and surrounding town has been destroyed. Then throw open the doors for them to do whatever they want to to, which will probably be them trying to track down those who have ruined all that they held dear. then you can pretty easily start putting togeather a series of events that will lead to a climactic battle to eliminate the menace and then possibly them returning to the castle to rebuild and continue on new adventures.


First Post
Just remember, you can do a LOT of filler stuff in the meantime....like kobold and goblins hunting...clearning out rats, snakes, frogs, wolves, zombies, skeletons, etc. just enough to get them to 2nd or 3rd level before you REALLY kick in your campaign goodies....

There are several serious campaign plots that I want to try, but for the meantime, I'm throwing the gamers on a mini-chain up to about level 5 (where they face off the big bad boss...an Oni Mage disguised as the goblin attorney, who had the PCs kill off their goblin boss and since took over the goblin operations...muwahhaahha).

Anyhow, would love to hear some of your campaign plots and ideas as you draft them out...always love hearing more ideas and borrowing (stealing) from em!


Feel free to steal this campaign start from me..., it was my seed for a 4e campaign that I don't yet have time to start up.

Setting: Eberron
Timeline: 4 years after Lhazzar became the Pirate Princess of the Principalities, just at the close of the War of the Burning Sky back on Sarlona.

The PC's are fleeing the influence of the Inspired and the budding nation of Riedra, ending up on a 'merchant' vessal that plys the waters between the Principalities, Sarlona, and Q'Barra. The evening that they arrive at the small port located on a eastern island of the Principalities there is a heavy storm, their ship limps into the harbor with sails shredded and a few of the crew missing overboard. The rain is beating hard and limits visibility to a couple of yards.

The docks are empty, and the captain kicks everyone off so his crew can get to emptying out the hold. The PCs get to the end of the dock when a human races past them, gibbering some nonsense in Dhakanni. He charges up to the captain, shoving a bundle of cloth. The Captain stares for a moment, looks up towards the docks...and suddenly calls for the crew to shove off.
Leaving a few crates dockside in his haste.

Figures appear in the rain, the water steaming from thier hulking forms and blood drifts from thier weapons.
...the ship is too far away, its time to fight!

The backstory is that one of the factions in the area have decided to wipe this pirate cove from existance, the PC's are left to fight off those that stayed behind and eek a living out of the ruins.
Which faction would depend alot on the PC backgrounds and types, but come from:
- Dhakanni Skirmishers, who believe the humans need to be removed from the edge of thier Empire
- Frostfell Barbarians, the Frostfell is extending south much further pushing the dangers of the icecap south.
- Q'Barra Mercanaries, retreiving the stolen goods from the pirates
- Opposing Thieves Guild, taking out the competition
- Valenarian Elves.. looking for combat
- Disturbed Past, in carving the cove and the hidden storerooms, a pirate opened up the prison of *something* deep under the island
- Vengeance of the Sea, Sahuagin taking payment for the pirates use of thier seas
- ??

The time and location is central to many conflicts and can be expanded based on where and what the PC's want to do. They can even try to go start a small port in the dangerous, unexplored southern continent...I would suggest they call it 'StormReach' :)

Lord Zardoz

You do not need a full adventure for the first game

You already have your campaign world ready, or at least the beginnings of one due to your day dreams / brainstorming. The very first game you run does not need to have a fully fleshed out adventure. All you need are a series of interesting encounters, even if they are all essentially unrelated.

- Set up a combat encounter with a faction or monsters that the party will probably run into much later. The encounter can be random from a narrative point of view.

- Have the players meet some important NPC's in a non hostile encounter. The NPC's can be future allies or future villains. YOu could even decide if they are an ally of villain based on how the PC's react to that person.

- Rob the players, or at least attempt to rob them using a skill challenge. This can introduce a minor future villain, or it can be used as a jumping off point for introducing them to the local authorities.

- Let the players do some gather information skill challenges to uncover some generic adventure hooks. Just to rattle off a few, give them rumors of strange goings on in a grave yard, recent humanoid raids on outlying farms, recent abductions, and rumors of treasure. When the players latch onto one to follow it up, spend the rest of the day simply trying to get there.

After the game, make notes about what stood out, and then keep those notes handy for when the players get to about 8th level or so, then find a way to tie some of those elements into the game and convince your players you had it all planned that way all along, thereby coming off as some sort of DM genius.


Epic Threats

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