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D&D General Steal this from my campaign!

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
We all have cool things in the campaigns we run and play in. It could be a great quest idea, a feature of the world, how the party started, or an NPC we all love - or love to hate.

So, what do you have that you want to share with the hope someone will steal it for their campaign?

I've made this a Question thread - feel free to suggest as many things as you want put please put them all in their own comment. People can upvote to comments and the most beloved will float to the top.

Regardless if you have something to post, please upvote responses you'd like to steal.
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In one of the campaigns I run, the players are agents of the Child-Empress. This makes them important before they are powerful. The first few levels weren't killing rats or fetch quests, it was helping to work out problems in a new colony. Also since they could requisition mundane gear, horses and the like they were not nearly as loot-needy as normal starting adventurers, allowing whole different types of low-level play.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
After discussing basic campaign themes and ideas during our session 0, I started my current campaign with the PCs reporting for a levy. The starting area is quite dangerous and every family is expected to help in defense of the city or pay a tax to hire mercenaries. Because the group happened to be caught up in a bit more danger than normal (and used several "emergency use only" healing potions in the process) they got a reputation as people that could be called on in times of need.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In my D&D/street level heroes mashup, I have a stable of five pre-made B-list heroes using the sidekick rules in TGtE:
  • Boticelli, a tortle warrior
  • Hawk Guy, a human expert
  • Hightide, a water genasi spellcaster
  • Lockpick, a warforged expert
  • The Visage, a changeling spellcaster
  • Smokeshow, a fire genasi warrior
The expectation is that the PCs will regularly split up to do superhero stuff because they can't, for example, deal with Spiderpig rampaging through the orphanage by the docks and Doctor Lobotomy mesmerizing the nobles at a masquerade ball at the same time. So when the party splits up, we focus on one team at a time which gets augmented by the sidekicks that the players with characters in the other scene play. Once resolved it flips to the other scene where some play PCs and others play sidekicks.

This creates a meaningful choice for the players: Given two bad things happening, do we split up and effectively weaken the party to deal with two threats at the same time or do we focus all our strength on one problem and deal with the aftermath of ignoring the other? It's also fun for the players to portray a quirky NPC from time to time and drive them like a stolen car since they don't care as much if they die or not.
 

Bird Of Play

Explorer
- Drows aren't evil or twisted; their society is harsh but it's not that much harsher than, say, certain human societies. Drows are simply the only elvenkind that wanted to stand up against human expansion and still, to this day, refuse to commerce with them. Their xenophobia towards humans is definitely a negative trait, but at least it has a reason.... and even if they have nightvision and do worship darkness like humans might worship sunlight, turns out that liking darkness because you see in the dark and grow food in the dark, does not mean you're evil.
This is a good idea in my opinion: play on the usual trope, pick a race (i.e. drow) or a category(i.e necromancer) that the players expect for sure will have certain negative connotations, and make them discover it was all a mixture of political propaganda and social misunderstandings. It really gives food for thought.

- Duergars are all mentally unstable..... by breed. When I read that duergar were a certain way because of how the illithid kept them, my first thought was..... pugs. They're supposed to be wolflike creatures, but we bred them into those deformed things full of congenital health problems. Surely the illithid did the same with those dwarves, especially with their brains. In fact, I think they pretty much imply this in the official manuals, but often the whole thing is not played as mental illness but only as them being "like dwarves except evil". Instead, my duergar npcs all have some form of schizophrenia. But in most of them it's not all that obvious. This is double fun when you find out drows are actually kinda good people, and then you expect duergars being evil is just another stereotype.... well, they aren't evil per se, that much is true.

- Beholders! Ok, ok, when you hear about my idea for beholders, you'll find out it's nothing particularly unusual. But then you wonder why nobody designs beholder like that. Much like the illithid, beholders are alienlike creatures who probably come from another planet or dimension. Ok, that much is a given. But for the one beholder I created so far (the patron of a warlock p.c. I have), I simply imagined a superior intelligence who sees us like we see some simple animals, and treats us like we treat simple animals. That is already absolutely horrifying. Even some of the most goodhearted people who love their cat/dog and spoil them, end up neutering them like it's no biggie. But we never imagine us in their place. "It's only an animal, it doesn't realize it's been neutered, or it's kept alone when I'm away all day.....". And that's the kindest example I can think of. As a side note, my idea of beholders is more like undescripted masses of flesh who reproduce by spores. I took inspiration by unicellular organisms. Except they're smart!
 


I not exactly sure if it would be ground breaking or anything, but my one bud who plays a Warlock said that he enjoyed the idea a lot when I did it. So here it goes:

Basically, at a certain point in the session I was DMing recently for my two buds, I had the Ranger pc and the Warlock pc roll and make a History check. Upon passing the check, the scene shifted from the current present and flashbacked to a moment from the two pc's past. The Ranger pc remembered the time he was learning/training his Two Weapon Fighting style while having a talk with his Ranger mentor npc, who will appear in the next session. The details of the mentor was left totally unknown so that way, it would be a surprise to learn the Half-Elf Ranger was taught "how to Ranger" by his mentor which is also a bit of a surprise on who it is.

The Warlock's flashback was when he was interviewed and accepted into the "Arcane Society" Brotherhood that he is currently a member of. It showed the terms and agreements as well as the Warlock's request for the field of study that he wished to learn, as well as being granted full Autonomy in regards to any arcane discoveries made. This particular moment from the past was BEFORE he became a Great Old One Warlock.

Both characters, upon finishing their respective flashback, earned a point of Inspiration. The idea is that at certain points in the campaign, these History checks will happen and, little by little, reveal the backstories of both pcs via roleplaying. Now I know what your thinking and shouting from the back: "What if they fail the History check?" Well the DC for these are intentionally set very low so failing them isn't really an issue. Second, some of the past events shown within these flashbacks have taken elements that were a result of role playing from my buds during the session. Case in point, the Warlock player was the one who came up with the term for the Arcane Society and inserted it into the fiction of the campaign automatically where I had no idea there was even going to be an Arcane Society at all. So as DM, I basically rolled with the punches so to speak and incorporated the Role Playing from the Warlock player into the fiction of the campaign while creating Npcs, that I never had the original intention of making, into existence.

Future History check Flashbacks will eventually include how the Ranger pc acquired his Panther beast companion, how the Warlock became a Great Old One pactbound, how the Ranger pc's Mentor found him, and perhaps even more important details. And yes probably at the end of each of em, they'll gain a point of Inspiration just like the first time it happened. if the PCs already are capped out at 3 Inspiration Points, then they'll instead gain the effects of a Short Rest instead.

As I said before, seems like the idea is liked.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
A twist on the usual "you start in a tavern" is to have everyone in a tavern with a noble looking for Adventurers! for Big Rewards!. Everyone crowds around the table, and the noble is condescending and jerky, and then picks the people there who aren't the PCs with disparaging remarks about them and leaves.

At which point it turns out that the treasure map had fallen out of his pack and the PCs have a chance to form a party and beat them to it...
 

Laurefindel

Legend
never mind, more a DM thing than campaign thing.
I occasionally hand out epic boons as one-offs as non-monetary/non-XP rewards in various situations, even at low(ish) levels.

As a matter of fact, the lower the level, the most significant this single « succeed on an attack roll card » you got as a result of a downtime training or something
 

pogre

Legend
I had the PCs start as joint heirs of a border fiefdom. I created a chart for why a PC had been selected as an heir for the players who could not come up with an explanation. They had a small village and whole lot of encroaching wild space and wild things. The campaign lasted a long time and by the end the PCs were heavily involved in palace politics and more. It gave the PCs instant shared party investment and for the most part they were constantly poor from trying to improve their fief.
 

Tallifer

Hero
Gnomes in colorful caravans with inscrutable gnomish tarot decks which plant seeds of hope, suspicion or fear in the players' minds. I just scrawl down the briefest of descriptions for weird new cards: sometimes the players are even affected or can draw on some insight or advantage. I liked the idea of Eberron's draconic prophecy but wanted something more whimsical and Oz-like.

05 Overfed Boy scripted edited resized grayscale.jpg


(See more from my webcomic which is a record of my campaigns Tales from the Gnomish Tarot )
 

toucanbuzz

Legend
In my fey heavy Kingmaker 5E reboot, I utilize fairy tales come to life by foreshadowing them through tavern tales, childhood rhymes, creepy children, and so on (attached). Most will eventually come into play in some way, as legends that cannot be overcome by combat. For example, recently they put a rusulka to rest after finding out (1) her name (located on a gravestone found during exploration a few sessions earlier), (2) how to use that name to remind her she was alive (paid research), (3) punishing her killer (by beating a broom woven of her hair on his grave at midnight to summon his soul, requiring paid research and finding that grave) and (4) restoring to her what was denied to her in life by her killer so she could finally rest (roleplayed).
 

Attachments

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Norton

Explorer
I had kind of a fun idea for a fantasy/sci-fi jump start that I might want to publish called Square One (SQ1).

A group of low-level, forest-dwelling PCs are hunting and come upon an arrow made of strange material, described to the players as looking like a circuit board. Investigating the area they find a large tunnel burrowed into the ground and at the end of it a broken-up ship. Fighting off some hideous creatures fashioning weapons from it and living in it, they find looted human corpses and through human writing (or a hologram) learn a very big secret: the ship crash-landed some time ago and in it were a group of humans attempting to make a new start on a newly discovered habitable planet after theirs was destroyed. They also discover that hidden on the ship somewhere is important DNA cargo, and that a device jettisoned from the ship prior to touchdown was meant to create conditions conducive to restarting life from its earliest phase. As they try to process what they've learned, water begins to rush into the tunnel...
 

So when there is a need for a very knowledgeable exposition character to be consulted by the PCs, or when they need the help of a high level spellcaster, my players will often find that, performing in town that week, is a high level NPC Changeling Glamour Bard named "Magic Tom", who is very blatantly just David Bowie. I don't consider it a particularly brilliant or original idea, but it is one I would most like to see adopted by a few more random DMs in the world. It seems much more on brand for the Starman to be gigging around a fantastical multiverse wielding high level magic through music than just another dead person here on Earth, and the more people whose campaign settings he weirdly shows up in the better.
 


I have one campaign that starts off with:
  • The PCs RP with the lead NPC guard, who is pivotal to the story. She has gathered all of them there, and they do not know each other.
  • They immediately need to leave if they "want the job."
  • They get outside the city and have an encounter
  • They find their campsite for the night and then sitting around the fire, introduce themselves.

I've run that beginning (or one similar) a few times, and it seems to work well. If there is any awkwardness, it is gone by the time they reach camp. If there is any notable ideas or backstories the player had in mind, it is sometimes fleshed out during the RP or encounter. And if there are restless players that require action, it satiates their desire.
 

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