D&D 5E Where's the Villain? and other musings. Why some published campaigns are great and some aren't (Spoiler alerts)

TheSword

Legend
There is a fundamental disconnect between being a ruler - they need to be located at the centre of power, and being an adventurer, on the road. This seems to be a flaw in the adventure design (although I only know it from the CRPG) but I would be inclined to split it, maybe with everyone playing two characters, one an adventurer and the other the governor and staff.
I think if you model rulership on the 16th & 17th C model where there’s a privy council and a prime minister that do the leg work and the monarch is free to go haring up and down the country at their leisure then it works fine. Think Henry VIII with monsters. Many monarchs at that point frequently spent months at a time travelling or waging war. The problem is the monarch isn’t really managing the kingdom at that point. They’re just adventuring nobles. It’s a quandary that means I’ve never really been able that conceive a really good Birthright campaign.
 

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I think if you model rulership on the 16th & 17th C model where there’s a privy council and a prime minister that do the leg work and the monarch is free to go haring up and down the country at their leisure then it works fine. Think Henry VIII with monsters. Many monarchs at that point frequently spent months at a time travelling or waging war. The problem is the monarch isn’t really managing the kingdom at that point. They’re just adventuring nobles. It’s a quandary that means I’ve never really been able that conceive a really good Birthright campaign.
Henry VIII* took the centre of government with him, never travelling without an entourage of several hundred people.

*As did other monarchs of around that period.
 

There is a fundamental disconnect between being a ruler - they need to be located at the centre of power, and being an adventurer, on the road. This seems to be a flaw in the adventure design (although I only know it from the CRPG) but I would be inclined to split it, maybe with everyone playing two characters, one an adventurer and the other the governor and staff.
There are a couple of ways to address it. You could shift the campaign to be about ruling and intrigue, and have “adventuring” be something that only comes up on occasion to counter a serious threat.

The problem is when the campaign wants you to do something “continue adventuring like a normal party” but punishes you for doing so “but if you fail to make it back within 3 weeks for a Council meeting, your kingdom will suffer badly”.
 

Henry VIII* took the centre of government with him, never travelling without an entourage of several hundred people.

*As did other monarchs of around that period.
It’s a fantasy world advanced enough to have gunslingers and robots. You could easily have the government operate remotely through magic.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
There are a couple of ways to address it. You could shift the campaign to be about ruling and intrigue, and have “adventuring” be something that only comes up on occasion to counter a serious threat.

The problem is when the campaign wants you to do something “continue adventuring like a normal party” but punishes you for doing so “but if you fail to make it back within 3 weeks for a Council meeting, your kingdom will suffer badly”.
On the other hand, this is sort of those clocks GMs talk about all the time with adventuring days and attrition. You don't have forever and a day to go adventuring. You got duties that will suffer if you dont attend to them.
 

On the other hand, this is sort of those clocks GMs talk about all the time with adventuring days and attrition. You don't have forever and a day to go adventuring. You got duties that will suffer if you dont attend to them.
Under that lens, the clocks were very effective. We rarely ventured further than 1 week away from our capital. Rarely interacted with any urban area, since the only city was 8 days away.

Unfortunately, since this was a sandbox, the areas around our city were strictly low level, and we were already overleveled for them.

The point is: it isn’t sufficient to incentivize a certain playstyle, the implementation needs to work. In particular, you need to be aware that the structure you create can incentivize the party to do that, regardless of the fact that you want them to do other things as well.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Under that lens, the clocks were very effective. We rarely ventured further than 1 week away from our capital. Rarely interacted with any urban area, since the only city was 8 days away.

Unfortunately, since this was a sandbox, the areas around our city were strictly low level, and we were already overleveled for them.

The point is: it isn’t sufficient to incentivize a certain playstyle, the implementation needs to work. In particular, you need to be aware that the structure you create can incentivize the party to do that, regardless of the fact that you want them to do other things as well.
Total agreement. I had a rat bastard old school style GM that loved punishing the players. So, was oddly dumbfounded when they never wanted to travel anywhere because it was stupidly dangerous to do so, and their kingdom went the hell if they were not back in time as well.

There is definitely a difference in facilitating play, and carrot and stick philosophy to game mastery.
 

Starfox

Hero
There are a couple of ways to address it. You could shift the campaign to be about ruling and intrigue, and have “adventuring” be something that only comes up on occasion to counter a serious threat.

The problem is when the campaign wants you to do something “continue adventuring like a normal party” but punishes you for doing so “but if you fail to make it back within 3 weeks for a Council meeting, your kingdom will suffer badly”.
On a tangent, this makes me want to make a Blades in the Dark hack about ruling kingdoms.
I admit I am am currently infatuated with BitD. :)
Under that lens, the clocks were very effective. We rarely ventured further than 1 week away from our capital. Rarely interacted with any urban area, since the only city was 8 days away.

Unfortunately, since this was a sandbox, the areas around our city were strictly low level, and we were already overleveled for them.

The point is: it isn’t sufficient to incentivize a certain playstyle, the implementation needs to work. In particular, you need to be aware that the structure you create can incentivize the party to do that, regardless of the fact that you want them to do other things as well.
Completely agree. In the computer game there are mods to remove the time-frame limits, which I used. In the TTRPG I GMed i ditched the kingdom management system for one of my own invention that did not have this feature.
 
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Starfox

Hero
About Savage Tide and Paizo adventure paths in general, the early adventures are usually the best. Second Darkness has already been mentioned, i used that as an ingress to Curse of the Crimson Throne and the Golden Goblin was the PCs base for much of the campaign.

To link with another thread here, this is the main reason I had PCs start at level 1 in Pathfinder - we mostly ran adventure paths, and the very first adventures in each were something I didn't want to miss and didn't have the energy to rewrite for higher levels.

The one exception i can think of is the Council of Thieves, where it is part 2 we really enjoyed. I butchered that adventure path and inserted about half of Council of Thieves into Curse of the Crimson Throne, discarding the rest.
 

TheSword

Legend
About Savage Tide and Paizo adventure paths in general, the early adventures are usually the best. Second Darkness has already been mentioned, i used that as an ingress to Curse of the Crimson Throne and the Golden Goblin was the PCs base for much of the campaign.

To link with another thread here, this is the main reason I had PCs start at level 1 in Pathfinder - we mostly ran adventure paths, and the very first adventures in each were something I didn't want to miss and didn't have the energy to rewrite for higher levels.

The one exception i can think of is the Council of Thieves, where it is part 2 we really enjoyed. I butchered that adventure path and inserted about half of Council of Thieves into Curse of the Crimson Throne, discarding the rest.
Currently working on a mash up of Curse of the Crimson Throne and Dragon Heist set in Waterdeep. It works surprisingly well… A different crown of horns.
 

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