D&D General What Would Be Your "Iconic D&D Campaign?"


I vaguely remember starting a thread like this some years ago, but have no idea what it was called or much memory as to its content. While replying to the Megadungeons thread, the question arose: How would I design a full D&D campaign (levels 1-20) with the design goal of including as many iconic D&D elements as possible, in a cohesive and interesting manner?

When I say "as many iconic D&D elements as possible," I don't mean an attempt to include all possible tropes, memes, unique qualities of D&D canon...that would be impossible. But how would a full campaign look that tried to "umbrella" the diversity of D&D ideas and iconic tropes?

Or more to the point, how would you do this?

Shortly after having the initial idea, I realized the obvious: there is no one way to do this, and if twenty people reply to this thread, we'll have twenty different campaigns. That's the point. There's no one true iconic D&D campaign, but what is yours? What elements are crucial? What are your favorite "D&Disms" and how would you integrate them into a cohesive (or not) whole? What must be included and what can you live without?

Another angle at this might be: if you could design the "D&D campaign to end all D&D campaigns" that you could run--or play in--which would touch upon as many of your favorite D&Disms as possible, what would it look like?

I know that for most of us, this is an impossible task--not only because we probably can't fit everything into one campaign without it being the "Soup of Too Many Ingredients"--but also, and perhaps moreso, because I'm sure we can all imagine different campaigns that we would love to play, a variety of styles and themes. But the point here is to try to do the impossible, to envision that One Campaign To Rule Them All. Give it a shot.

I look forward to your responses (and maybe I'll take a stab at it a bit later).

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Doug McCrae

Points of light post-apocalyptic* fantasy Europe with medieval technology

Dungeon, urban, wilderness – temperate, wilderness – exotic (such as desert, arctic, or jungle), other planes

Bandits/thieves, orcs or other savage humanoids, undead, demons, dragons, a BBEG that's one of the last three or an evil god.

Overarching plots and themes**:
Mysteries of the Ancients, The Grand Alliance of Monsters***, The Macguffin of Many Parts, Open a portal to Hell, Wake up Cthulhu

Other stuff:
Magic items are essential ofc but I don't think any particular ones are absolutely necessary. Magic swords are cool, obv.

*The apocalypse happened a long time ago and civilisation is starting to recover, but most of the world is still monster-infested wilderness.
**Not all in the same campaign, but at least one or two. Mysteries of the Ancients is practically essential to D&D imo.
***Includes the 'Genghis Khan but an orc' unites the tribes bit.
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Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I think LMoP and Tyranny of Dragons hits a lot of the tropes, but I like the later to be more of a sandbox.

Cultist, evil mages and dragons are a must, but I'd like them to each be a threat of their own, not necessarily a cult of evil mages that worship dragons. Also, give a bigger place to exploration challenge: the new complex traps with many evolving traps in Xanathar (featured in ToA and in A zib for your thoughts, forex) can be replicated for environmental challenges as well.

Social interaction and homebase buidling should have a big impact of the campaign, a lot like in Dragon Age: Inquisition.


I'm the Straw Man in your argument
The sequence of adventures that I’d like to run are all classic D & D adventures set in the Mystarra setting. I’d use Baron Von Hendriks and Bargle as the arch villains along with their slaver network The Iron Ring.

The first 5-6 levels would take place in Eastern Karameikos (Castle Mistamere and B10). Then after finding a map and letter as random treasure, it’s far to the south for some sandbox exploration (X1). Then it’s far to the east in the Desert of Sind to destroy a mysterious ally of the Iron Ring called The Master (X4, X5). After that, it’s a return back to Karameikos to destroy Hendriks, Bargle, and The Iron Ring once and for all (not sure of what to use here)

I’d use the Into the Unknown supplement, which is a B/X clone for 5e

Castle Mistamere dungeon from the basic Red Box set with added dungeon levels, if necessary, so the group (4-5 PCs) can reach 3rd level. Use the town of Threshold as the home town.

B10 Night’s Dark Terror

X1 Isle Of Dread

X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, X5 Temple of Death



Victoria Rules
Essential elements for an iconic D&D campaign?

  • Long. As in open-ended designed-to-last-the-rest-of-your-life long. It has enough available material to last as long as there's people willing to play it and a DM willing to DM it. No pre-set end point or capstone level. Slow to very slow character level advancement.
  • A stable and simple rules system, already playtested and kitbashed to suit.
  • Turnover:
  • - - Character turnover, be it by death, retirement, cycling, or whatever means; this includes multiple parties that mingle and interweave every now and then, and multiple PCs per player
  • - - Player turnover; not essential and not necessarily frequent, but new blood always changes things up
  • - - Setting turnover; by which I mean mix in some desert adventuring, arctic adventuring, maritime adventuring, dungeon-crawl banging, and so forth along the way
  • - - Storyline turnover; have multiple possibly-interweaving storylines either on the go or in the hopper waiting to develop, and also run some stand-alone adventures as a break from ongoing stories. Allow players to set the tone and-or follow (or design!) red herrings if that's where the mood goes.
  • Medieval quasi-European fantasy setting without too much regard for real-world history if using historical culture equivalents; for example ancient Greeks and Romans, dark-ages Vikings, and Renaissance-era Spaniards can all be made to co-exist in the same game world. And dinosuars, Neanderthals, and the occasional spaceship. :)
  • Opponents that last longer than one adventure, or that work in the background and-or are unassailable until the campaign is a long way in (think Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars)
  • Giants, Dragons, Orcs, Beholders, and other iconic monsters as opponents; Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Hobbits as PCs
  • PCs of a given class are mechanically very similar, with character differentiation coming via personality, alignment, characterization, background/history, and so forth.
  • Anything goes for PC alignment, characterization, etc.; and let the PCs sort out their differences in character regardless of what means and measures they use to so do.
  • Deadly traps and nasty surprises; the game world really is out to kill you. This is war, not sport. Levels, items, stats, limbs and lives can and will be lost
  • Conversely, sometimes the game world really is out to reward you; levels, items and stats can and will be gained, sometimes above and beyond what the normal grind provides (think the beneficial cards in a Deck of Many Things)
  • Luck is a recognized and significant part of proceedings, from initial roll-up to final death. Stats, hit points, etc. are rolled, not preset.

Howzat? :)

Pool of Radiance.

Local and Regional adventuring, a real sense of location and history, and has a little of everything (even a monster auction).


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
This is a little outside the scope of the question, but I think it’s related. My dream D&D video game would be set in Waterdeep. Within Waterdeep, you’d have your single-player campaign, with NPC party members with their own personal stories, Dragon Age style. The Yawning Portal would be a multiplayer social hub where players could meet, trade, and LFG for other players to delve into Undermountain with, which would be a Diablo style delve. It’s have some fixed areas combined with procedural generation to make each delve a bit different. Grouping up to grind Undermountain for gear, then taking that up to the surface to use in the single-player campaign sounds like an awesome play loop. Especially if the single-player campaign could be expanded upon in seasonal updates or whatever, MMO style.

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