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D&D General Sword & Sandals campaign ideas


Lame ass problem: I promised my players a sword & sandals campaign. Something like Conan but set in ancient Athas (Dark Sun post Rajaat's murder but before the Wars of cleansing have ended.) Its a mash up that checks a lot of boxes for us. BUT I AM BLANKING ON PLOT! I can think of dozens of adventures, but not a way to tie anything together. This is the opposite of my normal issues, and its driving me nuts. I may have spent to long worldbuilding and overloaded a bit.

So, to quote a Disney princess; Help us, EN world. You're our only hope.

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A couple ways to go.

List out the adventure ideas you have so people can make suggestions about connections for a tie together plot.

No plot, it is sandbox and emergent play with specific events and things but no predetermined overarching tie together.

Base it off of the PCs, take their interests and run with them, take what they bite on and build from there, or ask the players ahead of time what goals they want to shoot for or explore.

Look over existing plots from genre novels you like or adventures/adventure paths and adapt them to your needs.

Pick a specific campaign theme or element (like a sorcerous cult) and focus on building a plot from there.


Here is an idea loosely based on a campaign I recently played in:

Act 1: Episodic adventures within a region. PC's are amoral mercenaries trying to make a buck in a dog-eat-dog world. During this act the PCs meet the various factions and power groups in the region to set the stage for the later acts.

Act 2: The Big Threat emerges. The PCs aren't heroes - but there is literally no one else stepping up to face this threat. The various factions either don't believe the threat is real or are too consumed in their immediate agendas to worry about it. The only hope is for the PCs to cobble together an alliance with enough of these factions to defeat the Big Threat. Some factions can be persuaded, some can be conquered, some may just need to be preemptively destroyed.

Act 3: The fight against the Big Threat. PCs face the enemy while trying to hold their alliance together. If they are victorious they will have saved the region from certain doom and have emerged as not just heroes but also as leaders....perhaps even kings.

Be true to Conan and run episodic adventures?

This. I've never run D&D sword & sandals, but I've been running Conan 2d20 in what I believe is faithful to the original stories: I simply drop the PCs in the middle of a conflict already happening and let them run with it. If you start with "you're lost in the desert" and finish with "you arrive at Tyr", you don't need to start the next session at Tyr, you can start with "you managed to infiltrate Hamanu's royal treasure and are now the owners of a fist-sized diamond, but you need to get out of this place. The templar are coming! Roll for initiative!"


I think Conan and I tend to think of simple pleasures- beer and whores. Not sure how you think or if this is more how you want to play. It can be an easy going plot with gold being the main focus. This may be hard in a D&D game once the PCs get a few levels. You could limit the gold in game and have silver be the main coin.

They discover a planar gate toward other world, and this is also being visited, explored, conquered or coloniced by people from Jackandor or the Mystaran hollow world.

Signs of the evil elemental eye cult have been discovered.

There is a secret war in the "land within the wind", the lord faes against the elemental titans.

A warlord is using totem shamans for an army of bug kaiju monsters.

The noble houses are secretly guided by shamans who can speak with the spirits of the ancestors.

A mad wizard is using spynewyrms to craft a new symbionts.

Waves of refugees from an unknown zone appear. Really they are petitioners, souls from the afterlife returned to the material plane.

A crashed alien ship is found in the dessert. The crew are shardmins who awakes. Their missions is to search and destroy the puppeters (mind-controlling parasites) and getting ready to be in the middle between a war between a rogue pirate gith faction and the cult of Thoon (Monster Manual V).

Shadow spiders are used elves to create a new race of slaves who worked in the underdark, but these can start a rebellion thanks a binder who uses vestige pact magic to speak with the Weaver Mother.

A meteorit crashed in the dessert and can infect living beings into mindless living-construct hordes, like the creatures from Metal Gear Survive.


Lord of the Hidden Layer
Dealing with a wave of refugees fleeing the Champions and/or the destruction they cause. Let's face it, you cannot eat defiler ash and no new crops are going to grow in that field, ever again - gotta find someplace else, hopefully a place that will chase the Champions away, or kill them in self-defense.


Elder Thing
Have a few adventures, a plot will emerge. It isn't always wise to start with a big campaign arc planned out, because that can lead to railroading.
Stay true to Conan and run episodic adventures?

Here you go. I've run Sword & Sorcery adventures/campaigns pretty exclusively since 5e came out, and this is the way to do it.

Not every campaign needs an overarching plot, and if you DO need one your players will hand it to you after an adventure or six.

Don't sweat it. Just play.


Staff member
One of the classic sword & sandal “campaign themes” was a simple quest. The protagonists go on a journey, and things happen. Think of how many times it has been used, and not just within the genre: The Odyssey, The Voyages of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts‘ quest for the Golden Fleece, Kung Fu (TV show), Sliders, Quantum Leap, Battlestar Galactica, The Hulk (TV show), the quest for the Holy Grail, the Epic of Gilgamesh...

There’s THE QUEST, and then there’s all the stuff that happens on the journey. And the protagonists might not even complete THE QUEST. Sent for waters from the Fountain of Youth, they might find it no longer exists, is a complete fable, or that the person setting them on the path doesn’t need it (for any of a number of reasons).


A couple of (not mutually exclusive) suggestions:

1. Draw up a few powerful NPCs before the campaigns starts. These don't have to be fully fleshed-out or even fully-formed ideas, really. Just some vague ideas you have on paper (something as simple as: King Burdan; old warrior who carved out his own kingdom and has no heir) you hint at when the PCs are exploring the world.

2. Let the PCs explore a bit and see what kind of trouble (in the form of unintended consequences) they create.

The key is that you take good notes of what's happening so you don't get caught in some story-destroying plot hole. If you do, and your players are mature, you can always ret-con it but it would be better if the story flows consistently if not smoothly.


Search up the Dark Sun 5e conversion/homebrew guides. I have seen a bunch around and lots of them have good ideas for a lower-magic, Conan feel.

Mythic Odyssey of Theros is probably another good one to look at.

Watch/read a few movies/books/comics about them for inspiration. 300 (movie and graphic novel), Spartacus, Gladiator, Conan, etc.
Pick up and play video games with the same tone as you want to have in your games

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