D&D General What is your favorite "campaign paradigm"


B/X Known World
I tend to stick with open-world sandbox play. I generally prefer a west marches style new unexplored area or continent. For the lore dump reasons explained above. Fill the area with stuff for the PCs to explore or bounce off of and factions/NPCs with goals. Wind it up and let it go. The PCs can set their own pace, pick and choose what to do and where to go. But the world is always changing based on what they do and don’t do.

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Generally, at level 1, the players need to explain how their characters know each other. They need to know at least one other character well.

It tends to be they all met during their background, while studying at a college, or comparable form of apprenticeship. They might all be students, or sometimes nonstudents that somehow associate with the places of learning, such as working at the pub that the students attend.

Otherwise, they might all come from a specific community, such as the same Human nomadic clan or the same Eladrin utopian city.
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I actually try not to have a default - to mix up the campaigns to make them distinctive. Indeed, for each campaign I try to introduce a unique "side dish" (to go with the Orc&Pie) - something to hopefully engage the players in the Social and/or Exploration pillars of the game. One campaign might be about uncovering secrets, another about seeking out lost civilisations, another about political intrigue, and so on.

I do have a default structure I use, which is an Closed-Open-Closed approach - the campaign will generally start with som fairly tightly-constrained inciting event/mini-adventure, then will open out into a much more sandboxy section. Somewhere in there the characters will find a locked door (literal or metaphorical) and a bunch of keys, leading them to come to a fairly constrained end point. (Sometimes, the structure is Closed-Open-Closed-Open-Closed, or even more iterations. The idea is basically the same, just repeated.) I pretty much got that structure from the 5e published adventures, notably Lost Mine, Storm King's Thunder, and Curse of Strahd. While I find many of the 5e campaigns lacking in execution, I really like the way they're mostly structured.


I've only ran three long-running campaigns. They all started small and evolved into "first uncover and then stop the big world-changing event". The first one was so long ago that I don't really remember too much from it. In the last two campaigns I still provided many different off-ramps to other adventures, but the players stuck with the main event.

I was really hoping they'd tangle with the vampire secret society, too!


I tend to have smaller campaign arcs in a larger scope that is not that defined. Levels 1-5 might start out one thing like save the town from orcs or such and then once you defeat the chieftain to win the day, you find out he is working for a giant. This next part takes you levels 6-9 and then you manage to save the day, for a while. Some other threat comes along for levels 10-13 and you may find out that it was somehow tied to the first one.
This is my preferred style as well. I ran an excellent campaign for 5E, where the party started out investigating bandits, which revealed the return of the Temple of Elemental Evil, where they saved the missing prince of Furyondy. After being richly rewarded by the prince, they were then sent on several assignments for the kingdom that eventually led to an plot for Lolth to absorb the world into her demonweb. Campaign ended with them facing off against the Spider Queen in her home lair, where they forced her to flee, crippling her power base. Each thing led to the next, and I eventually wrapped everything back together (Lolth had influence in the Temple of Elemental Evil).


Do you find that due to the nature of the game it’s tough to place characters and their motivations or goals into play?
Not a bit. Now as a session 0 thing I do make sure the characters' motivations are generally aligned with the guild. If the guild is a merc guild for example, but they want to play a pacifist saint....probably not going to work.

But because adventurs can be so flexible, I can easily create missions that really home in on a particularly character's desire. Maybe one character is an orphan, so I have a mission to help out an orphanage, which can let the character talk about their background and how helping these kids really matters to them, etc.


Lost in Dark Sun
Adventurer’s guild. I prefer an episodic style of play, where each campaign is basically a string of one-shot sessions and I find the adventurer’s guild method works perfectly for this.


Weird gangs of New York are fighting.

All my campaigns have a metropolis with eccentricity dressed and themed gangs. And they are at war.

"It's the Warriors meets Underworld. Everytime" - One of my players.

  • Football gang
  • Other type of Football gang
  • All female gang
  • Orc Bikers
  • Elf Mob
  • Halfling Mafia
  • Surface Dwarves Cartel
  • Chaotic Criminal Cult
  • Killer Klowns
  • Corrupt City Guard
  • Rich guy with powerful friends
  • Legions of street urchins dressed in red
  • Secretive Guild
  • Vampire's spawn
  • Dragon's Economic Base
  • Awakened Immortals
  • Pink Pimps
  • I can't believe it's not Ninjas
  • Top Hat Necromancers
  • Halberd Harlots
  • Hobgoblins in Togas
  • Nekkid Werewolves.

Let's me see which ones my players end up hating so engaging them is easier. And I get to steal popular media. And I get to justify silly or cheesy tactics.

Voidrunner's Codex

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