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D&D 5E Bugsploration Campaign Idea

BookTenTiger

He / Him
The other day I came up with a quirky idea for a campaign setting using 5e D&D as a starting point. I'm going to use this thread as a way to collect my ideas. If you feel inspired, want to add some ideas, or have questions, feel free to post! I'm not interested in using other systems for this campaign, so please do not suggest other TTRPG's.

Bugsploration (Temporary Title)
Explore the Empty Earth from a bug's-eye view.

Campaign Elevator Pitch
Play as a sentient Bug exploring an Earth abandoned by humans. Defend the kingdoms of Bugkind from natural forces and invaders from magical realms. A Bug's life is short; make your mark so you can retire and pass on your legacy to the next generation of Bug Explorers!

Important Elements
  • Players play as sentient Bug adventurers (a Beetle Barbarian, a Grasshopper Ranger, a Moth Wizard, etc)
  • Adventurers take place in the "real world" without humans: sidewalks, parks, living rooms, garbage heaps, etc.
  • Bugs come from another universe; they are all about an inch tall, have hands, can speak, wear clothes and armor, use weapons and magic, etc.
  • Other malicious forces have invaded from other universes, and must be dealt with.
  • Bugs will battle small animals such as frogs, mice, and "wild bugs," as well as invaders from other realms: undead, oozes, constructs, etc.
  • During a campaign, players will be expected to retire their older bugs after a few years, and roll up new characters in the next generation.
  • Retired bug characters will be able to pass on feats, magic items, money, or proficiencies to the next generation.
Bug Characters

The Bugs that players play as are not ordinary bugs of Earth. Instead, they are from another universe where everything is "bug-sized" and all of Bugkind lives in fantasy-medieval-style kingdoms. In a strange magical accident, whole empires of Bugs have been transported to an Earth where humans have vanished. Bug characters will be exploring this abandoned world, defend villages and kingdoms, settle new territories, and fight other invading forces.

Bugkind
To keep things simple, all the Bug characters are around the same size: 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches tall. A 1-inch-tall Bug is considered "Medium Size" while a 1/2-inch-tall Bug is considered "Small Size." No matter how many arms and legs they have, they have at least two arms with hands and two legs they can walk with. Bugs can speak different languages, cast magic spells, wield swords and shield, and do the things that adventurers do!

Rather than have traditional races, each character will choose a few Abilities that make their bug unique. For example, a Spider character might be able to produce webs, climb walls, and have a venomous bite. A Grasshopper character might be able to leap very high, create music with their body, and blend in. A Butterfly character might be able to fly, have a powerful sense of smell, and dazzle with their colorful wings.

I'll be posting a list of character abilities later.

Character Classes
Bugsploration would use all the normal classes and subclasses of D&D. The Bugs originate from a world of fantasy-medievalism. The Empty Earth has many opportunities to create new technologies, and some invading forces, such as the Puppetmasters, can manipulate modern tech. However, most bugs still use swords, armor, shield, and magic wands!

Divine and Arcane Magic
Though the Empty Earth did not know of magic before, since humans have vanished magic has come to this world. Bugs are very experienced in magic; their world was full of wizards and druids and divinity. They brought some of that magic with them to the Empty Earth. Invaders from other realms have also brought their own magic, some of it beautiful and wild, some of it twisted and corrupting.

Arcane Magic: Wizards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Bards work much as they do in basic D&D. Each has a source for their arcane power. Some Sorcerer Origins may have to be adjusted flavor-wise... what does a Bug-version of a dragon look like? Many of the Warlock patrons may come from other universes.

Divine Magic: The Gods the Bugs worship stayed in the other world. However, clerics who worship these gods can still access their power. Some clerics are working to bring their old gods to the Empty Earth.

Equipment
The world the Bugs came from is a traditional Fantasy Medieval Setting. Bugs know how to smith with metal in order to forge armor and weapons.

I do like the idea that in the Empty Earth, many weapons, armors, and pieces of equipment have been modified with found objects. Maybe a character uses a dime as a shield, or a thimble as a helmet? Trash would play a big role in construction: plastic, glass, and metal from broken objects could easily be used as equipment.

The Empty World also has access to more modern technology! I could see characters wearing Battery Packs that allow them to channel lightning through their sword. Wind-up and remote-controlled toys could be repurposed as mounts or carriages. I don't think there are going to be computers in the world, but I like the idea of a once-medieval society experimenting with automation.

Short Lives
Bugs don't live very long! Most Bugs become adults after 3 seasons, and live for 8 to 12 seasons.

Most Bugsploration campaigns would include multiple generations of adventurers. If Bug adventurers survive to retirement age, they gain the option of training the next generation.

I like the idea of the first group of Bug Adventurers retiring around levels 5 - 8. Players would then create Bugs in the next generation, trained or inspired by the first adventurers, and starting at the level their previous characters retired at.

I also like the idea that, based on what a Bug did during their life, they can give a new character a proficiency, feat, magic item, etc.

Invaders from Other Realms
Bugs came to the Empty Earth from another realm, but so did other malicious forces. I like the idea of the abandoned Earth being influenced and transformed by intelligent beings from other realms.

For example, a force known as Greenfire could come from a realm of endlessly twisting roots and branches, animals thriving in the infinite green spaces. In the Empty Earth, the Greenfire warps plants and animals, transforming them into intelligent beings who wish to dismantle society and replace it with anarchic nature. Bugs might be facing Bullywugs, Twig Blights, or Angry Acorns who do not want to see yet another civilization take over the world.

Sample Adventure

The adventurers come upon a Butterfly Village in an overgrown Empty Earth garden. Citizens have been vanishing, and strange empty cocoons discovered in basements, attics, and alleyways. It turns out the local Baron has made a deal with a powerful Greenfire Bullywug Sorcerer, who has promised him metamorphosis into a more powerful being. The Baron has been testing metamorphic spells on Butterflies, forcing them to transform into strange hybrid creatures enthralled to the Bullywug Sorcerer. The characters must explore the Froghole, a dungeon beneath the Birdbath Falls, in order to either slay the metamorphosized monsters and their master, or find a spell that can reverse the process!


More to come!
 

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aco175

Legend
How long have humans not been around? If it has only been a couple years, then most things are the same and things like paper may still be around. I was thinking of an obstacle course inside an egg carton.

Could be interesting. Everything is relative. A common rat to us is a giant rat to them, or more like a dragon. A cockroach is more an ankheg to them.
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
How long have humans not been around? If it has only been a couple years, then most things are the same and things like paper may still be around. I was thinking of an obstacle course inside an egg carton.

Could be interesting. Everything is relative. A common rat to us is a giant rat to them, or more like a dragon. A cockroach is more an ankheg to them.
I don't plan on having solid answers to what happened to people or where they went. If something needs to still be around, it's still around?

It's been fun coming up with enemy equivalents for a 1 inch = 5 foot scale. For example, I was thinking of frog people, and realized I could do something like:

Tadpole: Goblin
Frog: Hobgoblin
Toad: Bugbear
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I don't plan on having solid answers to what happened to people or where they went. If something needs to still be around, it's still around?

It's been fun coming up with enemy equivalents for a 1 inch = 5 foot scale. For example, I was thinking of frog people, and realized I could do something like:

Tadpole: Goblin
Frog: Hobgoblin
Toad: Bugbear

bull frog being an ogre? Or maybe an hill giant? Those things eat like crazy!
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I did something similar where every PC tiny sized and the adventure entirely in and under the floor ofa large warehouse. Rats, Lizards, Spiders and cats were all deadly but the real fun came from imagining how to navigate the world when a puddle becomes a drowning risk and the thing you need is up on a shelf and the only way to reach it is by climbing up a broom handle

theres lots of climbing, jumping and swinging involved

and lots of lying on the ground irl so the players could see what things looked like from the characters perspective...
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
Bigger than that- those things would have the swallow whole property.
That's why I think there need to be more magical forces at work... If all the Bug characters are 1 inch tall, there could also be Frog, Mouse, and Plant creatures that are also 1 inch tall
 



I was gonna post that you must of course have some pubs/inns in this world, but then I realized that:
  • Some bugs eat poop
  • Some bugs eat rotting meat & vegetables
  • Some bugs eat other insects
  • Some bugs don't eat at all
  • Some bugs eat nectar
  • Some bugs eat everything and everyone
Gonna be an interesting night life in this world.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I was gonna post that you must of course have some pubs/inns in this world, but then I realized that:
  • Some bugs eat poop
  • Some bugs eat rotting meat & vegetables
  • Some bugs eat other insects
  • Some bugs don't eat at all
  • Some bugs eat nectar
  • Some bugs eat everything and everyone
Gonna be an interesting night life in this world.
Imagine the termites and borer beetles turn up and want to eat the pub
 

John R Davis

Adventurer
OP. Excellent idea btw.

You could keep the game to end at low level. Effectively when you level you shed that " stage ", and get quite a jump in cool stuff, but then die when you reach say level 6 or 7 ( i.e your adult stage ends)
 

pogre

Legend
OP. Excellent idea btw.

You could keep the game to end at low level. Effectively when you level you shed that " stage ", and get quite a jump in cool stuff, but then die when you reach say level 6 or 7 ( i.e your adult stage ends)
Is there an e6 version of 5e out there?
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
Like a lot of the weirder campaign ideas, this idea cries out for artwork. Do you have someone in your group who can draw peoples' characters?
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
Bugkind Traits

Your Bug is an anthropomorphic insect, arachnid, or other creature commonly referred to as a "bug." It has at least two arms ending in hands, and at least two legs it can use to walk. Most bugs have six to eight limbs (though some can have dozens). In these cases, two limbs are still the dominant "arms," and two the dominant "legs."

When you create your Bug, use the following steps:

1) Ability Score Improvement: choose ability scores to improve.
2) Size: Choose a size for your Bug.
3) Bugkind Abilities: Choose three Abilities for your Bug.

You might have a Bug in mind already, which will influence which Abilities you pick (for example, someone who wants to play as a Goliath Beetle might pick Armored Exoskeleton, Natural Weapon, and Natural Resistance). On the other hand, you might pick out abilities first, then find a Bug that matches your selections!

Finally, keep in mind that two of the same kind of Bugs don't need to have the same abilities. Maybe your Millipede has Many Legged, Multiple Arms, and Extraordinary Appendages, while another Millipede has Stalker, Regenerative, and Magical Origins. Have fun, be creative, and build your Bug!

(For those feeling bold, roll 3d20 to generate your Bug!)

1) Ability Score Improvement
Choose two ability scores to add +1 to, or one ability score to add +2.

2) Size
Choose one of the following sizes.
  • Big: Your size is Medium. You stand between 1.25 and 1.5 inches tall. You gain advantage on Athletics checks made to grapple or shove, and your carrying capacity is doubled. Your may ignore the Strength requirements of armor. However, you must eat double the usual amount of rations per day to prevent exhaustion, and all armor costs 1.5 as much as normal. You suffer disadvantage when making attacks with light weapons.
  • Medium: Your size is Medium. You stand between .75 and 1.25 inches tall.
  • Small: Your size is Small. You stand between .5 and .75 inches tall. Your walking speed is 25 feet. You suffer disadvantage when making attacks with a heavy weapon. You require half the normal amount of rations per day to prevent exhaustion. You may pass through the space of any creature larger than you. Furthermore, you may take the hide action when obscured by a creature that is larger than you.
3) Bugkind Abilities
Choose three abilities for your Bug. Some abilities may be taken more than once.

  1. Wings: Your jump distance is doubled. When moving, you may choose to fly up to your walking speed, though you must be on the ground at the end of your turn or fall prone.
    1. If you chose Wings twice, gain the following benefits: You gain a Flying Speed equal to your Walking Speed.
  2. Armored Exoskeleton: When unarmored, your Armor Class is equal to 13 + Dexterity Modifier. When wearing armor, you gain +1 to Armor Class due to your thick exoskeleton.
    1. If you choose Armored Exoskeleton twice, you gain the following benefits: when unarmored, your Armor Class is 17.
  3. Multiple Arms: You can carry up to four objects at a time. You may use your extra arms to wield one more weapon with the light property. If you carry an extra shield, you gain no additional benefit to your Armor Class.
  4. Magical Origins: You have magic in your blood, granting you certain proficiencies and abilities. Each time you take this ability, choose one of the following benefits:
    1. Elemental Animus: Your being is suffused with the magic of the elements. You gain proficiency in either Nature or the Herbalist Kit. You learn one cantrip from the Druid spell list. Your casting ability for this cantrip is either Constitution or Wisdom.
    2. Divine Destiny: Your people are blessed (or burdened) with the divine will of the gods. You gain proficiency in either Medicine or Religion. You learn one cantrip from the Cleric spell list. Your casting ability for this cantrip is either Wisdom or Charisma.
    3. Arcane Ancestry: You trace your ancestry to beings of immense magical power. You gain proficiency in either Arcana or an Instrument. You learn one cantrip from the Wizard spell list. Your casting ability for this cantrip is either Intelligence or Charisma.
  5. Extraordinary Senses: Your large antennae, multiple eyes, or sensitive spines allow you to stay aware of all that happens around you. You gain proficiency in Investigation or Perception. When you are blinded or deafened, you do not suffer disadvantage on attack rolls against enemies you are aware of. Finally, when sleeping, you are still somewhat aware of your surroundings, and may make Perception checks against sneaking opponents.
  6. Natural Weapon: You have powerful mandibles, large claws, a long stinger, or other natural weapon. When making an unarmed attack, you may use your natural weapon to deal 1d6 + Strength or Dexterity Modifier bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage (choose one damage type when you gain this ability). Your natural weapon counts as a light weapon.
    1. If you take this ability more than once, choose one of the following benefits:
      1. Poisonous: When you strike an opponent with your natural weapon, it must make a Constitution Saving Throw DC 8 + Proficiency + Constitution Modifier or suffer the Poisoned Condition until the start of your next turn.
      2. Grasping: When you strike with your natural weapon, you may use a bonus action to attempt to grapple your opponent. If you succeed, you may not use your natural weapon again until the grapple ends.
      3. Reach: Your natural weapon is now a reach weapon. You deal 1d8 damage when attacking an opponent 10 feet away, or 1d4 damage when attacking an adjacent opponent.
  7. Web: You naturally produce web from your mouth, spinarrets, or another appropriate source. As an action, you may create one of the following objects out of webbing: 50 feet of rope (the equivalent of hempen rope), a bedroll, a blanket, a grappling hook, a net, a sack, or a torch (if a handle is available). You may produce a number of items equal to your proficiency bonus each day. The item lasts 24 hours before dissolving.
  8. Camouflage: Your carapace can change colors, allowing you to blend in with your surroundings. Gain proficiency in Stealth or Survival. You may take the hide action when lightly obscured by natural phenomena, such as mist, rain, or heavy foliage.
  9. Vaulter: Your powerful legs allow you to leap far. You gain proficiency in Acrobatics, and your jump distance is doubled. Furthermore, you may take the Dash Action as a bonus action if you jump for the entire movement.
  10. Many-Legged: You have more legs than the usual bug, granting you a number of benefits. Your walking speed increases by 5 feet. Standing up from prone requires no movement. When using the Dash Action, rough terrain does not halve your movement.
  11. Hiveminder: You are used to crowded hives in which teamwork and empathy are highly valued. You may even have the extrasensory ability to read or share surface emotions. You gain proficiency in Insight or Persuasion. When you are adjacent to an ally, you may take the Help action as a Bonus Action.
  12. Pheromonal: You are able to produce and interpret pheromones, which communicate emotions and simple messages. You gain proficiency in Animal Handling or Insight. As a bonus action, you may produce pheromones to communicate a silent one-word message to allies or trained animals within 60 feet.
  13. Extraordinary Appendages:Your body is adapted to move in extraordinary ways. Each time you take this ability, choose one of the following benefits:
    1. Burrower: You are able to dig through the ground, using your powerful hands, feet, or other body parts. You gain a burrowing speed of 10 feet when traveling through soil, sand, or other diggable terrain.
    2. Waterbug: Your body is adapted to move easily through water. You gain a swimming speed equal to your walking speed. You may hold your breath for double the usual time. Furthermore, when you use the Dash Action, you may walk on the surface of the water as if it were rough terrain. If you end your movement on top of the water, you fall beneath the surface.
    3. Climber: You have powerful climbing limbs, adhesive pads, or clinging spines that allow you to ascend vertical surfaces. You gain a climb speed equal to half your walking speed when climbing a vertical surface, and a climb speed of 5 feet when moving across a ceiling.
  14. Nocturnal: You are most awake at night. You gain Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray. You do no sleep; instead, you fall into a trance for 4 hours. After resting this way, you gain the same benefits most creatures do after resting for 8 hours.
  15. Prismatic: Your prismatic carapace, wings, or spines have both social and magical benefits. You gain proficiency in Intimidation or Performance. Furthermore, you gain advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma Saving Throws versus magic.
  16. Natural Resistance: Your body is adapted to survive certain harmful forces. Choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder. You gain advantage on saving throws against that damage type. You also gain resistance against that damage type.
  17. Elemental Blast: Once per round, as an attack, you launch elemental energy from your mouth, antennae, or stinger. When you take this ability, choose one damage type: acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder. Choose the shape of your blast: a 30-foot line, or a 15-foot cone. Creatures caught in the effect must make a Dexterity Saving Throw versus a DC equal to 8 + Proficiency Bonus + Constitution Modifier, or take 2d6 damage (half on a successful save). The damage increases to 3d6 at 6th level, 4d6 at 11th level, and 5d6 at 16th level. You may use the elemental blast a number of times per day equal to your proficiency bonus.
  18. Stalker: You are naturally stealthy. You gain proficiency in Sleight of Hand or Stealth. Furthermore, as a bonus action, you may take the disengage or hide actions.
  19. Regenerative: Through shedding your exoskeleton, drinking blood, or other means, you are able to regenerate your lost health. As an action, you may heal a number of hit points equal to twice your level. Once you use this trait, you cannot use it again until you finish a long rest.
  20. Unwavering Awareness: Your large eyes, big brain, or extrasensory abilities grant you an awareness more keen than the average bug. You gain proficiency in History or Perception. You may add your proficiency bonus to Initiative rolls.
 
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BookTenTiger

He / Him
Here are some sample Bugs:

Butterfly Bard: +1 Charisma, +1 Dexterity. Medium-Size. Wings x 2, Prismatic.

Grasshopper Ranger: +1 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom. Medium-Size. Vaulter, Stalker, Camouflage.

Snail Wizard: +1 Constitution, +1 Intelligence. Small-Size. Armored Exoskeleton, Extraordinary Appendages (Climber), Extraordinary Senses.

Tarantula Barbarian: +2 Strength. Big-Size. Multiple Arms, Natural Weapon, Regenerative.
 


cbwjm

Hero
I'd suggest googling instectopia 5e. The creators have made a compendium of different insects as well as a subclass for each class. Though technically sized similar to standard races, I figure size is relative anyway so they should be able to be slotted in, or at least provide inspiration for your own creations.
 

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