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D&D 5E Bugsploration Campaign Idea

Khelon Testudo

Cleric of Stronmaus
Small: Your size is Small. You stand between .5 and .75 inches tall. Your walking speed is 25 feet. You suffer advantage 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.
Do you mean "disadvantage"?
 

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BookTenTiger

He / Him
I've been thinking about what an "Adventurer's Day" looks like in the Empty Earth.

In typical D&D, the Adventurer's Day involves going into dungeons, fighting bad guys, getting treasure and magic items, returning to town. The goal of a D&D adventurer is usually to get more cool treasure and defeat bigger bad guys.

I think the main objective in the Bugsploration campaign would be securing the Empty Earth for Bugkind.

Adventurers will typically:
  1. Travel to a new location
  2. Identify either...
    1. What threatens the Bugs living there
    2. What prevents Bugs from living there
  3. Use their abilities to solve the problem
Here would be some typical adventure prompts:

Showdown at Cola Springs
Cola Springs, a frontier town built from soda cans, is being harassed by Tarantula Bandits who want the valuable fresh water for themselves.

Inside the Rust Dungeon
The adventurers explore an old truck, fighting the Oilies that have taken it over, searching for Technobits that could help a local community rebuild their windmills.

Battle of the Bad Bricks
The adventurers fight back the Blugos (little blue building-block people) who have taken over the town of Pebble, trying to find the Puppetmaster who is sending out psychic orders.

Mad God of Puddle Lake
The adventurers secure the shore of Puddle Lake, clearing it of Greenfire-warped creatures, such as Frogogs (Orcs & Ogres), Earthwyrms (Ankhegs), and Minnomites (Kuo Toa) who seem to pull magic power from a strange statue (an old overgrown Chia Pet) at the center of the lake.

In order to focus the campaign on securing the world for Bugkind, I think there needs to be a mechanical reward based in making communities safe.

Maybe safe communities would unlock sorts of Feats, or magic items, or proficiencies for the characters? Maybe new Downtime Activities?

If we really want to get crazy, securing communities could grant Ability Score Improvements! Now that would be a real carrot for adventurers to secure the territory!

I could also use some of the Stronghold Feats from Level Up as inspiration.

Another idea could be that safe communities unlock new places to explore. This is a big world full of dangerous animals. Bugs that wander too far from civilization get eaten by birds, bats, and lizards, battered by strong winds, beaten down by rainfall... This campaign could involve a "living map" that grows when communities are secured.

These are some interesting ideas here! I might want to create a little Community Generator that has brief descriptions of the place, its features, and the threats facing it.

Speaking of threats, in my next post I plan to detail the forces from other realms that threaten the Bugkind of the Empty Earth!
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
The PCs find this book on a shelf. It turns out to be a Basic Rules set. It includes stats for Giant Ant, Giant Wasp, &c. After a PC reads and understands the book ... they start running into the giant insects they have been accidentally summonning. (This is intended as a less-obnoxious version of the old "I cast Explosive Runes" booby trap.) Maybe with some work they can get themselves a new and unique spell?
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Threats to Bugkind, Pt 1

Greenfire

The Greenfire is an elemental force that has made its way into the Empty Earth from a realm known as the Greenspace. This alternate Earth is occupied entirely by a single enormous, world-spanning organism that manifests as an entangled mass of plants, fungus, and animals. All are one in the Greenspace, sharing a single mind and purpose.

The intelligence and hunger of that green force have spread into the Empty Earth, and have started infecting the plants and animals faced by Bugkind. This malignant corruption is known as the Greenfire. It manifests in plants and seeds given buglike form and intelligence, in tadpoles and earthworms warped into magical monsters, in spellcasters and savants tempted by the hungry green voice that promises ever-growing power.

The Greenfire wishes for all in the Empty Earth to join the Greenspace.

Common Greenfire Enemies
Ogs
: tadpoles, frogs, and toads transformed by the Greenfire into greedy foot soldiers. Includes ollyogs (goblins), frogogs (hobgoblins), and bullyogs (bugbears).

Greenbeasts: bugs and other small beasts given magical properties by the Greenfire. Includes earthenwyrms (ankhegs), rust roaches (rust monsters), and dragonfireflies (dragons).

Greenkin: plants and fungus given the form of Bugkind. Includes twig blights (twig blights), myconids (myconids), and stalkers (treants).

Greenfire Adventure Ideas:

Ogs in the Water

Ogs have occupied a magic bird bath that is blessed to provide endless clean water to a garden village. The adventurers must find a local water spirit, trapped inside a wild-spider-infested garden shed, to restore the magic once they have cleared the ogs.

Hoard of the Haunted House
It is said a dragonfirefly sits on a vast bed of Bits in the attic of an old house. If the adventurers make their way through the haunted ruin and defeat the dragonfirefly, they will have more than enough Bits to secure the area for a new Bug settlement.

Fire and Oak
A newly formed trade agreement between a local village and a nearby myconid settlement is endangered by a Greenfire Warlock and his army of Angry Acorns, operating out of a birdhouse hanging from an oak tree. Will the adventurers be able to stop him before he turns the myconids against the Bug village?
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Threats to Bugkind, Pt 2

Puppetmasters

Puppetmasters come to the Empty Earth from a realm of utter chaos, where they are the prey of dangerous, mindless creatures. In our realm, the Puppetmasters have found a land where they can be apex predators. If the Bugs do not stop them, the Puppetmasters may one day control every living being.

In their natural form, Puppetmasters look like masses of tangled organic strings, wriggling and writhing, dripping corrosive translucent liquid. Like hermit crabs, Puppetmasters find empty forms to fill and control. On the Empty Earth, they prefer toys. Puppetmasters will fill the hollow bodies of dolls, action figures, or stuffed animals, and with their magic abilities, bring their new bodies to life.

Puppetmasters' natural magic abilities allow them to control other inanimate objects, and influence the minds of Bugs. They are dangerous foes, always seeking control in this new world.

Common Puppetmaster Enemies
Toy Soldiers:
Puppetmasters are able to use their magic to manipulate and bring to life inanimate objects. They seem to prefer animating toys to act as guards, labor, and assassins. The most common kind of toy brought to life are Blugos (modrons), little blue plastic people that usually come in sets with plastic building bricks. Larger toys (golems) are used as bodyguards. Some toy soldiers are disguised to look like Bugs (animated armor) and infiltrate communities in order to carry out their masters' devious deeds.

Puppetmasters: Puppetmasters possess fragile bodies, but powerful minds. Their magical abilities are unmatched in the Empty Earth. Each one is unique, and takes on a husk that usually matches its personality. One Puppetmaster may choose to live in the body of a doll, and uses its magic to transform Bugs into dolls (medusa). Another Puppetmaster may choose to live in the husk of a wild spider, using the spider's fangs to liquify and drink the brains of its victims (mind flayer). Sometimes a Puppetmaster possesses just a part of a husk, such as the floating head of a teddy bear (beholder).

Thralls: Puppetmasters do not always use brute force to gain power. Often, they carefully manipulate Bugs through their psychic abilities, or through the inherent greed or weaknesses of their target. When a Bug makes a deal with a Puppetmaster, they may gain tremendous powers for a time. But that power eventually transforms their bodies, warping them into piles of writhing mandibles (gibbering mouther), hollowed-out exoskeletons (cloaker), or mad Bugs obsessed with secret knowledge (nothics).

Puppetmaster Adventure Ideas

Village of the Dolls

An entire Bug Village has been replaced by Toy Soldiers. They claim to have escaped from a Puppetmaster operating out of a nearby castle made from a dollhouse and Blugo bricks. They ask he adventurers to slay the Puppetmaster and secure their freedom. It turns out the Toy Soldiers did escape, but captured all the Bug townsfolk and sent them as a gift to the Puppetmaster, a doll (Medusa stats) whose gaze can turn Bugs into toys!

Skyscraper Summonings
Lightning has been striking the top of a building for weeks, and a strange glow emanates from the rooftop. Blugos have been building a strange temple from Blugo Bricks and other scavenged materials. Through it, they hope to summon a new Puppetmaster. Can the adventurers make their way to the top of the building and stop the ritual in time?

Horror of Shell House
The town of Shellmouth used to be a peaceful beach village, until the doors to the the glowworm wizard Starblood's laboratory magically sealed shut. Now folks have been vanishing from town, and and at night strange garbled cries echo from the wizard's laboratory. The adventurers must battle through mutated thralls to find the wizard gone mad and fight his "assistant," a Puppetmaster hiding in a Bug's husk.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Personally, I'd go the Gamma World route - something dimensional cataclysm happened, humans are now gone and the native bugs of "earth" have evolved/mutated (Super-collider spawned world shift?). Not much changes, but the bugs are now defending their home world from otherworldly invaders.

An late-campaign-twist could turn out to be that the actual cataclysm that occured is that humans were either transformed into the bugs, reborn as the bugs or mind-shifted to the bugs (if you want to go that route to reveal the mystery of what happened at all).
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Personally, I'd go the Gamma World route - something dimensional cataclysm happened, humans are now gone and the native bugs of "earth" have evolved/mutated (Super-collider spawned world shift?). Not much changes, but the bugs are now defending their home world from otherworldly invaders.

An late-campaign-twist could turn out to be that the actual cataclysm that occured is that humans were either transformed into the bugs, reborn as the bugs or mind-shifted to the bugs (if you want to go that route to reveal the mystery of what happened at all).
Great ideas!

To me, the mystery of where humans went isn't that important to the setting. I want to focus more on Bugkind building a better world for bugs. Build bug better!
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Terrain Types

Rather than the traditional terrain types of D&D, the Bugsploration game would take place mostly in the abandoned urban spaces of the Empty Earth. From a Bug's point of view, this terrain varies greatly, from cracked sidewalk to gushing gutters to the rusted ruins of cars and homes.

Here are the terrain types where adventures would take place:

Garden Plots
Overgrown gardens once tended to by humans. Often contains medicinal and consumable plants. Very desirable territory for Bug settlements!

Gray Wastes
Vast stretches of cracked asphalt, cement, and tarmac: streets, sidewalks, blacktops, driveways. Often broken up by oases where trees and shrubs have broken through.

Junkheap
Dumps, dumpsters, and piles of trash. Toxic and dangerous, but full of hidden treasures!

Parkland
The parks of the cities have grown into dangerous wilderness, stalked by predators and deadly to travel through.

Residential Ruins
The homes, offices, and stores of the previous world, now falling into disrepair and ruin. Some serve as the territory for entire kingdoms, while others are too dangerous to occupy.

Rusted Ruins
Old trucks, generators, and other machines once used by humans. Their rusted remains are now treasure troves for useful materials.

Tunnels
Pipes and sewers, burrows and holes, often occupied by wild bugs or giant animals.

Untamed Wilderness
Land never tamed by the humans, often at the edge of urban spaces: beaches, lakes, woods, etc. Only the bravest Bugs dare tread.

Waterways
Gutters, puddles, and streams are important resources for fresh water and transportation, but can also be dangerous sources of floods or aquatic predators!
 


Stormonu

Legend
I'd add two more terrains

Skyscrapers
Lofty realms filled with sunlight and exotic materials, but their height makes food and water more scarce. More often than not winged creatures - bug and enemy alike - find it much easier to access such areas than grounded bugs.

Basements
Whether actual basements, access tunnels, subways, bunkers or even old missile silos, these underground areas share their lack of light and propensity to be places where fungus, molds and other easy foods can be found. In these lightless realms lie some of the most unusual - and often terrifying - things of the bugsverse.
 

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