D&D General Campaign Idea: feedback/ideas?

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I’ve been thinking about a new campaign I’d like to run, with a somewhat cliché, Tolkien-esque basis: a “dark ages” that takes place centuries/millennia after the defeat of a great evil. So lots of ruined castles and towers dotting the overgrown hillsides, with lots of dungeons to explore underneath them.

Like I said, fairly standard/cliché stuff.

I imagine scattered villages and very small towns amid endless forest, and maybe a small castle/hall with a petty chieftain here or there, but no large cities or kingdoms. The thing I struggle to explain, though, is why cities/kingdoms would NOT have re-grown during all this time. That just doesn’t seem very likely. And maybe it’s ok to hand wave that, but maybe coming up with an explanation would provide some more color.

Thus my new idea.

Two features of this world are:

a) As nearly everybody knows, when the Great Evil was defeated, it left a curse on the world that the mighty will always perish. And, sure enough, any time anybody rises to a position of importance and power (in the sense of authority over others, not necessarily character level), the curse strikes them and they die after a long, wasting illness. (That’s not quite the whole story…keep reading.) So one tension in this world is between human ambition and the unknown limit to that ambition (kind of like not being sure how far above the speed limit you can go before you get pulled over.)

b) Although villages and towns are fairly isolated, and the forests in between are perilous, there is an order of sages/healers that wander from place to place dispensing wisdom and lore and healing and sharing news. But they are a decentralized order, intentionally structured so that no member rises to a position of importance, and so far they seem to have evaded the curse.

The “Big Secret” (this would not work well as a published setting) is that the wandering healers are members of an ancient cult, and they are the ones who have been killing off (poisoning, then pretending to care for) anybody who becomes too important, masking their activities by acting benevolent the rest of the time. Before the Big Evil was vanquished, It knew that in order to make a comeback It had to keep humanity weak, so It left behind this cult, with instructions to kill off any potential rivals, and to begin the long, slow process of restoring Itself. The thing is, over the generations the cult has forgotten/distorted the reasons why they are doing all this, including that they’ve totally dropped the ball on bringing their leader back to (un)life.

But the story takes place as things are beginning to change.

Two more parameters:

1) I want it to be a medium or low magic setting, in which nobody knows how to make magic items other than potions and scrolls any more, and spellcasters are generally mistrusted. I might use custom classes to restrict spellcasting PCs, or maybe another system entirely. Maybe even TOR or their 5e variant.

2) Although there’s some storyline to uncover, the campaign is for relatively inexperienced gamers, and I expect will consist primarily of old school dungeon crawls, getting attacked by monsters in the woods, and the like. But…we’ll see where the story goes.

Thoughts? Ideas? Savage attacks on my character and lineage and personal hygiene because this is, after all, the Internet?
 

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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Reading that I got the idea that The Endless Forest itself is the BBEG of the setting, it is sentient and actively works to keep ’civilisation’ in check.

The order of Sages are druids who have come to a compromise with the Endless Forest to serve it in return for allowing small villages to remain.
Thus isolated hamlets and villages are able to survive and even grow crops, but they live in fear of the Forests, their religions are all about appeasing the Forest spirit and may involve giving a sacrificial offering.

However one city has begun to rise in rebellion against the Endless Forest, a walled city that is using artificer magic and thus triggered dissent and war.

PCs then get to be positioned in that conflict between Nature and Civilisation
 

nevin

Hero
I’ve been thinking about a new campaign I’d like to run, with a somewhat cliché, Tolkien-esque basis: a “dark ages” that takes place centuries/millennia after the defeat of a great evil. So lots of ruined castles and towers dotting the overgrown hillsides, with lots of dungeons to explore underneath them.

Like I said, fairly standard/cliché stuff.

I imagine scattered villages and very small towns amid endless forest, and maybe a small castle/hall with a petty chieftain here or there, but no large cities or kingdoms. The thing I struggle to explain, though, is why cities/kingdoms would NOT have re-grown during all this time. That just doesn’t seem very likely. And maybe it’s ok to hand wave that, but maybe coming up with an explanation would provide some more color.

Thus my new idea.

Two features of this world are:

a) As nearly everybody knows, when the Great Evil was defeated, it left a curse on the world that the mighty will always perish. And, sure enough, any time anybody rises to a position of importance and power (in the sense of authority over others, not necessarily character level), the curse strikes them and they die after a long, wasting illness. (That’s not quite the whole story…keep reading.) So one tension in this world is between human ambition and the unknown limit to that ambition (kind of like not being sure how far above the speed limit you can go before you get pulled over.)

b) Although villages and towns are fairly isolated, and the forests in between are perilous, there is an order of sages/healers that wander from place to place dispensing wisdom and lore and healing and sharing news. But they are a decentralized order, intentionally structured so that no member rises to a position of importance, and so far they seem to have evaded the curse.

The “Big Secret” (this would not work well as a published setting) is that the wandering healers are members of an ancient cult, and they are the ones who have been killing off (poisoning, then pretending to care for) anybody who becomes too important, masking their activities by acting benevolent the rest of the time. Before the Big Evil was vanquished, It knew that in order to make a comeback It had to keep humanity weak, so It left behind this cult, with instructions to kill off any potential rivals, and to begin the long, slow process of restoring Itself. The thing is, over the generations the cult has forgotten/distorted the reasons why they are doing all this, including that they’ve totally dropped the ball on bringing their leader back to (un)life.

But the story takes place as things are beginning to change.

Two more parameters:

1) I want it to be a medium or low magic setting, in which nobody knows how to make magic items other than potions and scrolls any more, and spellcasters are generally mistrusted. I might use custom classes to restrict spellcasting PCs, or maybe another system entirely. Maybe even TOR or their 5e variant.

2) Although there’s some storyline to uncover, the campaign is for relatively inexperienced gamers, and I expect will consist primarily of old school dungeon crawls, getting attacked by monsters in the woods, and the like. But…we’ll see where the story goes.

Thoughts? Ideas? Savage attacks on my character and lineage and personal hygiene because this is, after all, the Internet?
keep it simple. the war killed almost everyone, then the ones left were stuck in the dark ages scattered villages and cities rebuilding some semblance of civilization. Anything that makes life better or safer is something everyone desperately wants. The old stories tell of things that the ancients can do and what was lost so they go looking for secrets and treasure.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Looks great from here!

Were I running it (and if I thought I could get away with it with those players) I'd make it look like a sandbox to start with - drop hooks for numerous adventures or missions and see which ones get taken up - and have the underlying story about the poisoning slowly emerge through clues found in those various early adventures. Eventually, with any luck, the focus will narrow to the poisoning/cult/etc. story and away you go.

I could probably make a 20-adventure three-year campaign out of this just from the ideas you give in the OP. Love it! :)
 


Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Looks great from here!

Were I running it (and if I thought I could get away with it with those players) I'd make it look like a sandbox to start with - drop hooks for numerous adventures or missions and see which ones get taken up - and have the underlying story about the poisoning slowly emerge through clues found in those various early adventures. Eventually, with any luck, the focus will narrow to the poisoning/cult/etc. story and away you go.

Yeah, that's basically my plan. If they enjoy sandboxing away, hunting for ruins and playing Munchkin I mean, being adventurers, without ever pursuing the bigger picture, that's fine. But if they pick up on the clues and pursue those threads, that's cool, too.

I could probably make a 20-adventure three-year campaign out of this just from the ideas you give in the OP. Love it! :)

Run with it!
 


Quartz

Hero
Reading that I got the idea that The Endless Forest itself is the BBEG of the setting, it is sentient and actively works to keep ’civilisation’ in check.

Can I nuance this? How about the old BBEG possessed the forest on its defeat? Maybe it started with just one tree or fungus but by now its influence has spread throughout the forest?
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Can I nuance this? How about the old BBEG possessed the forest on its defeat? Maybe it started with just one tree or fungus but by now its influence has spread throughout the forest?

Yeah there's some definite possibility in there.

EDIT: And the Druids now recognize (or believe) that to actually re-summon the BBEG would have the unintended side effect of killing the entire forest, so they're starting to have second thoughts about following through on the whole business. Or, some of them are.
 
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aco175

Legend
I like the idea overall. Perhaps clerics of a certain level start to be brought into the secret circle of cleric assassins. This way a 1st level PC cleric will not know the big secret and you can slow-play revealing it. Perhaps the one, true leader has come that was prophesized in the secret book of legend. The PCs find him or save him and over a few levels the PCs come to learn about the cleric-assassins and need to stop them.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
I imagine scattered villages and very small towns amid endless forest, and maybe a small castle/hall with a petty chieftain here or there, but no large cities or kingdoms. The thing I struggle to explain, though, is why cities/kingdoms would NOT have re-grown during all this time. That just doesn’t seem very likely. And maybe it’s ok to hand wave that, but maybe coming up with an explanation would provide some more color.
Given that
b) Although villages and towns are fairly isolated, and the forests in between are perilous,
I think you could posit it as a sort of security through obscurity. The larger a settlement gets, the more attractive of a target it becomes, if the forests are perilous and full of dangers that could actively be drawn to proper civilization (as opposed to simple existence). You only try to make a city that sinks into the swamp gets ransacked so many times before it becomes more of a hassle than its worth.

That's just what came to mind based of your premises. Not terribly substantial, but it's something.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Given that

I think you could posit it as a sort of security through obscurity. The larger a settlement gets, the more attractive of a target it becomes, if the forests are perilous and full of dangers that could actively be drawn to proper civilization (as opposed to simple existence). You only try to make a city that sinks into the swamp gets ransacked so many times before it becomes more of a hassle than its worth.

That's just what came to mind based of your premises. Not terribly substantial, but it's something.

What that suggests to me is ruined cities, not from the original cataclysm, but from people that became overconfident.
 

A couple of thoughts on the OP.

If you feel millennia is hard to justify does it really need to be that long? 500 years or so is still a long time for most of the races.

Also what was the state of the world before the BBEG was taken down? If there was a last war with a grand alliance of good realms then perhaps their royal families were all decimated, leading to generations of dynastic strife and fragmentation ... no doubt helped along by the cult you mention, who can be practised rumour mongers as well as poisoners.

Alternatively, had the BBEG effectively "won"? If he/she/it had conquered most other nations, then following his/her/its fall there would be no established "good" power structures to take up the baton. This could be reinforced by religion, especially if you have a set up that emphasises the law/chaos divide. If the BBEG promoted a Lawful religion- Lawful Evil obviously, but definitely Lawful - then it would be fairly natural for people opposing him/her/it to turn to Chaos and favour smaller, independent kingdoms.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I’ve been thinking about a new campaign I’d like to run, with a somewhat cliché, Tolkien-esque basis: a “dark ages” that takes place centuries/millennia after the defeat of a great evil. So lots of ruined castles and towers dotting the overgrown hillsides, with lots of dungeons to explore underneath them.

Like I said, fairly standard/cliché stuff.

I imagine scattered villages and very small towns amid endless forest, and maybe a small castle/hall with a petty chieftain here or there, but no large cities or kingdoms. The thing I struggle to explain, though, is why cities/kingdoms would NOT have re-grown during all this time. That just doesn’t seem very likely. And maybe it’s ok to hand wave that, but maybe coming up with an explanation would provide some more color.

Thus my new idea.

Two features of this world are:

a) As nearly everybody knows, when the Great Evil was defeated, it left a curse on the world that the mighty will always perish. And, sure enough, any time anybody rises to a position of importance and power (in the sense of authority over others, not necessarily character level), the curse strikes them and they die after a long, wasting illness. (That’s not quite the whole story…keep reading.) So one tension in this world is between human ambition and the unknown limit to that ambition (kind of like not being sure how far above the speed limit you can go before you get pulled over.)

b) Although villages and towns are fairly isolated, and the forests in between are perilous, there is an order of sages/healers that wander from place to place dispensing wisdom and lore and healing and sharing news. But they are a decentralized order, intentionally structured so that no member rises to a position of importance, and so far they seem to have evaded the curse.

The “Big Secret” (this would not work well as a published setting) is that the wandering healers are members of an ancient cult, and they are the ones who have been killing off (poisoning, then pretending to care for) anybody who becomes too important, masking their activities by acting benevolent the rest of the time. Before the Big Evil was vanquished, It knew that in order to make a comeback It had to keep humanity weak, so It left behind this cult, with instructions to kill off any potential rivals, and to begin the long, slow process of restoring Itself. The thing is, over the generations the cult has forgotten/distorted the reasons why they are doing all this, including that they’ve totally dropped the ball on bringing their leader back to (un)life.

But the story takes place as things are beginning to change.

Two more parameters:

1) I want it to be a medium or low magic setting, in which nobody knows how to make magic items other than potions and scrolls any more, and spellcasters are generally mistrusted. I might use custom classes to restrict spellcasting PCs, or maybe another system entirely. Maybe even TOR or their 5e variant.

2) Although there’s some storyline to uncover, the campaign is for relatively inexperienced gamers, and I expect will consist primarily of old school dungeon crawls, getting attacked by monsters in the woods, and the like. But…we’ll see where the story goes.

Thoughts? Ideas? Savage attacks on my character and lineage and personal hygiene because this is, after all, the Internet?
Ack! It's good enough I almost wish you had put spoilers around the "Big Secret" even though I'll never play in it.
 

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