D&D General Your favorite way to start a D&D campaign?

Ringtail

World Traveller
I always like to start with a small fight. D&D has a big focus on combat and most players are itching to try out their new abilities. Also, nothing forges a group of strangers into a adventuring party much like a fight. This first fight is usually pretty easy but exciting. At low levels an easy fight can still turn against them so it pays to be cautious.

For example, my most recent campaign I've started (A Fantasy inspired Spaghetti Western using the Brancalonia sourcebooks on the DTRPG) I had a whole scenario planned where the PCs would break out of jail, crawl a small dungeon to freedom and then head off into the woods to establish their hideout and Outlaw Company. After some thought however I scrapped most of the jailbreak section and instead the sesssion began with the Player Characters riding haphazardly upon the back of a speeding carriage while being pursued by four bounty hunters on horseback, after succesfully completing their breakout. Roll Initiative!
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
My answer to this question is in media res. I vastly prefer to drop the players into the middle of something that's going on rather than drop them into a low-stakes situation and just have them decide where to start, so to speak. What that looks like specifically depends on the campaign, it could be a fight, or it could be something more like the chained in a ship example above (which I loved btw, whoever posted it). I'll usually pick something that reflects the themes of the campaign, which is something I always make very clear in session zero. I like the game to start with some momentum built-in I suppose. Not always, but mostly.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
What's your favorite way to start a D&D campaign?

After Session 0, once all the characters are created and the group has sat down, the pizza is ordered and the Witcher Soundtrack is playing...

Classic: we meet in a tavern, and someone asks for help.

Action: roll initiative! Combat starts right away.

Mysterious: you find yourselves walking along a fog-bound road, no memory of how you got here...

What are your favorite ways to start Adventure 1?

What are some of the great, or not so great, ways you have started campaigns?
You are all in the port city of Firenz on the southeastern tip of the Aramala archipelago. Tonight is the first night of the Festival of the Moons, where all folk of the city wear masks or paint thier faces, and anyone you meet could be a pauper or a prince. Mask sellers and face painters are on every corner, and the final touches on the decorations on shops and homes and the streets themselves are being put up with work songs and laughter. You can smell street food being cooked, and musicians are auditioning for owners of taverns and other establishments that will remain open when night falls.

You have the whole day before you, and a few hours before you must meet your contact about a job in the city. What do you do?
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
Attack on a caravan is always a good one. The PCs weren't in the same place in the caravan (so they wouldn't have reason to have chatted) but when it's attacked, they have to come together to survive.
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
However you choose to start a campaign, its always classic for an out of control wagon to crash and 1D6 goblins tumble out.
Classic: You sit in the tavern, surrounded by a wide assortment of fantasy folk. An old man comes up to your table. "Are you adventurers of fierce spirit and brave character? My village needs-" Suddenly an out of control wagon crashes through the wall, and (1d6) goblins tumble out!

Mysterious: You find yourselves walking along a fog-bound road, no memory of how you came here. A large, dark shape starts to approach through the mist. It is a black wagon, lit by strange green lanterns, pulled by a dark horse with glowing red eyes. (1d6) goblins tumble out.

Action: Careening down the market street is an out of control wagon! 1d6 goblins tumble out. Suddenly a second wagon crashes into the first! 1d6 goblins tumble out. There's an explosion behind you as three more out of control wagons crumple together. 3d6 goblins tumble out.
 

payn

Legend
Classic: You sit in the tavern, surrounded by a wide assortment of fantasy folk. An old man comes up to your table. "Are you adventurers of fierce spirit and brave character? My village needs-" Suddenly an out of control wagon crashes through the wall, and (1d6) goblins tumble out!

Mysterious: You find yourselves walking along a fog-bound road, no memory of how you came here. A large, dark shape starts to approach through the mist. It is a black wagon, lit by strange green lanterns, pulled by a dark horse with glowing red eyes. (1d6) goblins tumble out.

Action: Careening down the market street is an out of control wagon! 1d6 goblins tumble out. Suddenly a second wagon crashes into the first! 1d6 goblins tumble out. There's an explosion behind you as three more out of control wagons crumple together. 3d6 goblins tumble out.
Unexpected: The captain of the sea frigate you are assigned to hands you a mop and orders you to swab the deck. Out of the sky a portal opens up and a wagon crashed onto the deck of the ship. 1D6 goblins tumble out.
 

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
Absurdist: You're playing chess with the Grim Reaper while a loud clock ticks on a nearby wall. A mime (fighting the wind) presses his way into view, stops, draws the outline of a door in the air, mimics opening it, and (1d6) goblins in black-and-white striped shirts and berets tumble out.

Dadaist: Nothing happens. Nobody comes. Why? Why indeed. Why are we here? We are waiting. Waiting for (1d6) goblins.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Backstory: Your father opens a cupboard while giving you a sharp reprimand for your carelessness in becoming a folk hero for fighting the nearby goblin tribe. 1d6 goblins tumble out of the cupboard and kill him, forcing you to leave your home and adventure in the world.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Classic: You sit in the tavern, surrounded by a wide assortment of fantasy folk. An old man comes up to your table. "Are you adventurers of fierce spirit and brave character? My village needs-" Suddenly an out of control wagon crashes through the wall, and (1d6) goblins tumble out!

Mysterious: You find yourselves walking along a fog-bound road, no memory of how you came here. A large, dark shape starts to approach through the mist. It is a black wagon, lit by strange green lanterns, pulled by a dark horse with glowing red eyes. (1d6) goblins tumble out.

Action: Careening down the market street is an out of control wagon! 1d6 goblins tumble out. Suddenly a second wagon crashes into the first! 1d6 goblins tumble out. There's an explosion behind you as three more out of control wagons crumple together. 3d6 goblins tumble out.
You know, if you went with Kobolds here instead of Goblins you would have the added narrative gold that is three Kobolds in a trench coat. Just a thought. The only downside is that it's hard to write up - 1d2 Kobold Trenchcoat troikas? 1d2 Kobold Trenchcoat Threesomes? (no, perhaps not that one....). 1d3 Trenchcoats each containing a d3 Kobolds? IDK, but other than that it's gold.

DM rolls and shouts HAH!, wandering trenchcoats! Suck it newbs.

OK, I'm done.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I like to start with the group arriving somewhere. I think strangers in a strange land is very effective. We generally talk about what would make sense in session 0, and in session 1 I present them with a fantastic location in which they arrive. I always try and offer a healthy mix of a few colorful characters, a short encounter and a strong moment to see how the group reacts, where they shine, what they enjoy.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My answer to this question is in media res. I vastly prefer to drop the players into the middle of something that's going on rather than drop them into a low-stakes situation and just have them decide where to start, so to speak. What that looks like specifically depends on the campaign, it could be a fight, or it could be something more like the chained in a ship example above (which I loved btw, whoever posted it). I'll usually pick something that reflects the themes of the campaign, which is something I always make very clear in session zero. I like the game to start with some momentum built-in I suppose. Not always, but mostly.
I have an idea to start a short campaign in the midst of 3 different scenes for different characters, each of which is going badly for the characters involved. One pair of PCs and their companion are running from extra-planar modron cyborg cops through the streets of a city on one of Eberron's moons, another PC starts off falling down the side of a tower due to a cut rope as she was betrayed, and the other 2 PCs stand back to back in a the center of a circle of blades pointed at them.

The scenes each lead the PCs to a tavern in Sharn, where they will meet a prospective patron who had been observing their exploits (and had some tricks up his sleeve if anyone had been killed of captured, which would have led to those PCs owing him). The NPC patron is an NPC from the current Eberron Campaign, and the stories of the PCs will tie into the fallout of what they are doing in the current campaign. The scenes are based on the character concepts that I've seen from players, and would change if they go different ways with their characters.


The current Eberron campaign, I used the starter adventure premise from the 4e Eberron campaign guide, with some modifications. The PCs have changed a bit over time, but that game started with 3 PCs and a DMPC, being a sort of reboot of a stalled out Eberron campaign that began in 4e. The 4th PC would be joining later, due to scheduling stuff and the fact that his background involved being elsewhere on this particular day.

The PCs are scouting out a tower on the edge of Cyre, near the border with Breland. 2 PCs are mercenaries working for Breland, the other PC is a "squire" (she was supposed to attain full knighthood but her mentor sent her to the farthest front he could and refused to knight her because she countermanded his orders, so she's a bit disgraced at this point) of the Onyx Skull from Karrnath. The DMPC is a mercenary working for Cyre, though only he knows that ever once they've all met.

The knight is investigating the tower because she is following the trail of her investigation into the Emerald Claw, who had been abducting people for experiments, using magic intended for undead on living subjects, back in Karrnath. The Shadar-kai monk DMPC feels terrible magic building, and volunteered to look into it, thinking some sort of real bad war magic was being used. The other two are investigating sightings of undead being raised, which would indicate some sort of Karrnathi offensive.

As they get to the tower, a storm rolls in and covers their approach, and they catch glimpses of eachother, and before they can confront eachother, they come upon a necromantic ritual being down with a tied up human man in the center, and a prophecy mark on the ground. There is a cool moment where the Brelish mercs see an obsidian sword blade, and black and red plate boot, and a crimson cloak and fiery long hair, and nothing else, in a flash of lightning, because the knight is basically a metal album cover come to life.

They get a flash of prophesy referencing 5 who will stand against the storm, and see themselves standing together against some great darkness, and then the necromancers attack them. Once that's dealt with they free the human and investigate the rest of the tower, find more emerald claw above about to sacrifice another guy, save him, he thanks them and names himself as Brenn ir'Gadden, of a powerful Brelish noble house. The other guy is his long time friend and assistant. Introductions done, the storm worsens, and more enemies arrive.

They hold out against a tide of undead and 3 necromancers with the help of Brenn (appropriately to his characterization, the assistant rolled garbage and I think hit with one bow attack the whole fight), and the storm grew to the point where lighting was constantly hitting around them, and the sky was fully black in what should have been the first light of dawn, and they all instinctively started to run as a hundred foot tall wall of blue-green mist rushed toward them and they heard the sounds of battle in the valley below turn to screams and then go silent. A short scene of them all standing at the edge of the border, staring into blue-green mist unbelieving as they try to grapple with what they'd just witnessed, and then we end the session.

Next session cuts directly to 4 years later, in Sharn, and they've all been invited by Brenn to a remembrance day event on the anniversary of the Day of Mourning. Other PCs that I'd introduced in another session are also there, in the common balconies, taking note of how each of them knows either Brenn or one of the PCs, as well as some memorable NPCs that were either PCs or important NPCs in the old Eberron campaign. The scene is interrupted by an attack by a Mournland abomination, and some terrorists, one of which seems to have an aberrant dragonmark. A chase battle through the towers and skybridges and rooftops of sharn ends in a townhouse with a complex arcane lock, then into a basement where an enormous eldritch machine is gathering power and needs to be disabled, in a complex skill challenge that took 4 characters IIRC 4 rounds to complete, while the rest of the characters chased and caught the aberrant marked terrorist, and discovered that he was Brenn's old friend and assistant.

The fallout from that adventure is still defining the campaign 7 levels later, as they have fully investigated and are now figuring out what to do about a conspiracy between the Emerald Claw, delkyr cultists, and a cult known as The Order of The Black Flame, which is in service to an ancient red dragon, who is also the dragon that murdered the Kobold wizard's gold dragon mentor. Basically all the seeds of the whole campaign were sown in that first two part adventure.
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Classic: You sit in the tavern, surrounded by a wide assortment of fantasy folk. An old man comes up to your table. "Are you adventurers of fierce spirit and brave character? My village needs-" Suddenly an out of control wagon crashes through the wall, and (1d6) goblins tumble out!

Mysterious: You find yourselves walking along a fog-bound road, no memory of how you came here. A large, dark shape starts to approach through the mist. It is a black wagon, lit by strange green lanterns, pulled by a dark horse with glowing red eyes. (1d6) goblins tumble out.

Action: Careening down the market street is an out of control wagon! 1d6 goblins tumble out. Suddenly a second wagon crashes into the first! 1d6 goblins tumble out. There's an explosion behind you as three more out of control wagons crumple together. 3d6 goblins tumble out.
"So that's how we started our adventuring careers. And now you can understand why we founded the Red Banner Wagon Driving Safety Academy for Goblin Acrobats. It's now been 1d6 years without an accident."
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
However you choose to start a campaign, its always classic for an out of control wagon to crash and 1D6 goblins tumble out.
Actually what's become our semi-traditional start-off is that once they get in the field, the first opponent faced by any party is 4 Twig Blights, in homage to a well-remembered campaign where this was the case.
 


Odysseus

Explorer
My favorite was with an all dwarf party and I started with "You all wake up in prison cell together naked with nothing but your beards to cover your modesty."
 


Jmarso

Adventurer
Yep.

Attendant, a cookie for @Jmarso please! :)
Long live Meepo! My son (the party instigator) started a full-on battle by casually asking the Kobold Queen if Meepo would be a tasty treat, cooked up. That was not the path to a successful negotiation, and came real close to a TPK. I thought the other players were going to kill him! :ROFLMAO:

That, and the party releasing the Dragon wyrmling loose on the goblins were the high points of the adventure. What they failed to achieve with the Kobolds, they succeeded with the dragon, although without negotiation. They threw open the door and barricaded themselves in another room while the mayhem ensued. I had the players play the goblins / hobgoblins during that battle, while I DM'd the dragon.
 

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