D&D General Adventure Prologues

BookTenTiger

He / Him
An idea came to me from another thread.

Has anyone ever run "prologues" for adventures? A mini-adventure that takes place before the real adventure, setting up the mood, foreshadowing events, or introducing enemies? I thought this could be a fun little facet to a campaign. The players could play alternate characters, especially low-level villagers, guards, or treasure-hunters.

Here's how I see it working.

Let's say you're planning on running Sunless Citadel (I pick this just because it's an adventure I'm familiar with). The adventure begins in the town of Oakhurst, where folks have been buying magic apples from goblins which can either cure or harm those who eat it. The village is also being attacked by twig blights.

Before the adventure begins, the players could create 1st-level villagers with more average stats (maybe an array like 12, 11, 10, 10, 9, 8). They would run through a short adventure (1 - 2 sessions) that would introduce some of the mysterious elements of the adventure. Maybe the villagers would be trying to find a goblin merchant to purchase magic apples to heal an elder, but run into twig blights? Or the villagers could be trying to find signs of lost villagers in the upper levels of the Sunless Citadel dungeon?

After the adventure, the next session would introduce the real characters, and the rest would run as normal.

Some fun benefits of a prologue would be:
  1. The DM can foreshadow important settings, enemies, or mysteries.
  2. The enemies will get a chance to be dangerous and threatening when facing these low-level villagers.
  3. The players get a chance to play different characters, and can have fun trying out different roles.
  4. The surviving villagers can be important NPCs in the main adventure!
Has anyone ever tried anything like this? Do you think it would work in a campaign? How would you run an adventure prologue?
 

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RobJN

Adventurer
Bond-ian prologue: "Roll for initiative!"

I can see merit in the idea. It could potentially spoil parts of the adventure later on... but then again, you could use meta-expectations against the players by changing up certain reveals, or tweaking a plot twist to, say, go left where it was originally supposed to go right.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
Nice idea.
I’ve never done a prologue as such but I usually give an outline of the base community for each campaign and ask players to include some form of link to that community in their backstory.
Could be a cousin, friend, family history from a couple generations back or whatever. Just to create some emotional investment.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I do prologues all the time to introduce a new campaign or adventure!!!

It sets the stage and lets the players know things about where they are located and what is going on--which allows them to make decisions based on that information.

In fact, it is pretty rare when I don't LOL.
 

timbannock

Adventurer
An idea came to me from another thread.

Has anyone ever run "prologues" for adventures? A mini-adventure that takes place before the real adventure, setting up the mood, foreshadowing events, or introducing enemies? I thought this could be a fun little facet to a campaign. The players could play alternate characters, especially low-level villagers, guards, or treasure-hunters.

Here's how I see it working.

Let's say you're planning on running Sunless Citadel (I pick this just because it's an adventure I'm familiar with). The adventure begins in the town of Oakhurst, where folks have been buying magic apples from goblins which can either cure or harm those who eat it. The village is also being attacked by twig blights.

Before the adventure begins, the players could create 1st-level villagers with more average stats (maybe an array like 12, 11, 10, 10, 9, 8). They would run through a short adventure (1 - 2 sessions) that would introduce some of the mysterious elements of the adventure. Maybe the villagers would be trying to find a goblin merchant to purchase magic apples to heal an elder, but run into twig blights? Or the villagers could be trying to find signs of lost villagers in the upper levels of the Sunless Citadel dungeon?

After the adventure, the next session would introduce the real characters, and the rest would run as normal.

Some fun benefits of a prologue would be:
  1. The DM can foreshadow important settings, enemies, or mysteries.
  2. The enemies will get a chance to be dangerous and threatening when facing these low-level villagers.
  3. The players get a chance to play different characters, and can have fun trying out different roles.
  4. The surviving villagers can be important NPCs in the main adventure!
Has anyone ever tried anything like this? Do you think it would work in a campaign? How would you run an adventure prologue?
I've done it. I often use it to show the bad guy's POV, with the players running lackeys or minions.

It's a little hard to find a good beat to conclude on that isn't a TPK or complete campaign spoiler, but beyond that, they are great for learning pacing and showing the Big Bad off early on.
 

aco175

Legend
I did a preview night when one of the players could not make it to start the campaign. The other players played NPC guards and a caster group exploring the hidden passage under the bad guy castle. The found a few rooms and a secret of the campaign, but all died when the BBEG unleashed his cool power on them. The players found out a cool power the bad guy has, they also found out a battery-like thing that was giving him power, but had no idea how to stop it.

I think it brought some of the players to become more invested in the game.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Every campaign.

Recent examples:

Kingmaker. Instead of starting out with the preset campaign hook of "you have a charter to explore the frontier and take out bandits," I ran a pure roleplay prologue where players invented how they were invited to the wedding of a Baron (based off a real adventure from Game of Thrones RPG). Their decisions led to how they all met one another and ultimately who ended up being Baron and Baroness, which a year + later has led to this particular Baron making major moves to possibly be king during a civil war. Two goals: campaign ideas and party unity.

Curse of Strahd. Players adopted some of the campaign hooks and we used those at a dinner party where the PCs would be tasked with escorting the Vistani off-site. By the time we were done, players had invented a story wherein one was daughter of the hosting noble, another the bastard son she stood up for, another the wise mentor for these "kids," and the host became an overbearing mother whose husband was away, leaving her to run the frontier town. Goal: unify the party in a common enterprise.

The only caveat to prologues is that you can create such a great story that if a PC dies, it may negatively impact the effect of the prologue.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I have done similar, though usually without dice as a talk-through one-on-one with players delving into their background story - i.e., how did you get in this mess in the first place and meet everyone else?

There's also an older adventure that does the reverse - WGA4 - Vecna Lives!. Adventure starts with the players playing the Circle of Eight (Bigby, Tenser, Mordenkainen, et. al.). They run into "Vecna" and get curb stomped. You then play as the Eight's hirelings, trying to find out what happened and how to stop "Vecna". Its a tough sell as an opening to an adventure, but if you can do it right it really puts the fear of the BBEG into the players, with a big helping of wanting to take the BBEG down.
 

Agametorememberbooks

Explorer
Publisher
It’s a fun idea! So long as your players are cool with spending 1-2 sessions playing as such. For something like this I’d probably have them create their character and then I’d create their ‘NPC‘ version that was in town during the foreshadowing events. If a particular character didn’t fit in, or would be better as an ‘adventurer just arriving on the scene’ then I’d just have the NPC they play fade into the background as a stable NPC of the town.
 

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