a campaign without NPCs or villains?

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My current campaign is wrapping up, and I’m interested in trying something very different next.  This game has been full of political intrigue and complex double-crosses, and I’m a little burned out on it, so I want the next setting to be hella straightforward.

I’m thinking about doing a hexcrawl in a world where there is nothing beyond the walls of the starting town except miles of unexplored terrain.  When the PCs leave their village, they’re saying goodbye to every NPC on the planet.  Just beasts, plants, caves, and environmental phenomena to deal with … at least for a while.

I’ve got some ideas on how to keep the setting exciting, and I’ve got my players’ buy-in on this idea, so at this point I’m wondering if any of you have run or played in a game like this.  What was it like?  Was it hard to maintain variety of encounters/situations?
Sounds like there's no point in characters doing it.  Leaving everything behind for the unknown is fine and dandy, but you are saying there is nothing to find.  You need some sort of discoveries along the way or there will be no separation between sessions.
Plus, how would they get ammo?  Supplies?  Magic items?  Monsters are designed with the knowledge that the characters are getting stronger.
It's a piece of the very beginning, but something to abandon all civilization for?  There needs to be something out there for the characters to experience.  Motivation to go die for.  Since people never come back, the characters would have no way about what is going on.  Why hasn't any kind of divination magic worked?  Why is it not explored?  How is a village going to process enough raw materials to support even an iron age level of technology?

This concept needs to be worked out a bunch more. 

I personally like the game, but as Mastercliff stated there needs to be some things filled out.

1-  Is this the home world of the characters? Or do they “wake up” there.

2-  A City would be easy to wrap a head around, would give enough populace to insure long term stability (have to have enough people of all trades, guards, judges, farmers, doctors, ext to insure things even run)

As for a reason they leave, if your creative you can think of something; Maybe a plague breaks out and the only person who is immune is the crazy old guy that use to wonder into the “nothingness”  So the party sets out to find the cure.

Or that after years and years of nothing beyond the city walls, someone sees a bright light in the distance and the party goes to adventure.


As for survivability and leveling, I think this can easily be worked around.

Make sure that someone in the party is trained in nature (and in this setting a few need to be) so roll for finding food (or hell there are rituals for it to) Make most of the monsters they find “eatable” so they can just consume their foes without risk of getting ill. Plenty of streams and lakes can fix water problems.

Also, there should be a reason why there is only one City/Hamlet ext, in this world; maybe because it’s the only safe place.

For leveling This would mean the further away they get, the stronger monsters get.  Within the first hundred miles of the city maybe only small monsters ( savage wolfs, bears, maybe some lone kolbolts or goblin bands.)

The next 100 could have orgers, orcs, zombies, ext; if you keep scaling this way as long as the party is traveling deeper they should be fighting stronger creatures (just keep a reason for them to move forward) As also have the physical world change in appearance to; showing that even the earth you tend is becoming more dangerous.


Portal rituals to jump back to town every now and then (to report in/ get help ext) I’d keep these super rare (maybe only one or two chances at it even tier of place) This would at least give you some lee way in giving new plot developments.

You need to figure out by NPC do you mean anything that can talk? Are there Orcs and other humanoid races out there? Or past the walls is it only mindless beasts.

I’d also try to tie the quest to the reason the world is so blighted that people can only live in one city; why is this one area the only one safe? Why does the world get gradually more dangerous as you travel away from one point?

You have a good idea, and lots/lots of possible fun, hope it goes well and report how it ended up playing out.


Mastercliff, you bring up some excellent points!  I will try to address them all/

As far as the PCs know, there’s nothing out there, but eventually they’ll find the ruins of civilizations more advanced than their own.  This will introduce new mysteries and plot hooks.

Ammo and supplies?  Make it or find it.  One of my first ideas was D&D + Oregon trail, but with more monsters and WAY less inventory management.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like a compelling game, but my players have already bought into this idea -- I wouldn’t be pursuing it if they hadn’t.  We’re all interested in playing a game that starts of more grounded in reality, at least initially.  The current campaign is hella epic: all spelljammers, killing gods, and remaking the universe, and we want to do something simpler next.

Magic is unheard of in the starting village, and there are no gods to speak of.  My players have agreed to use only martial classes for their initial builds, though subsequent characters might be arcane or psionic, depending on how the campaign goes.  Multiclassing and hybrid are also potential options for later on.  The PCs have never seen or imagined a magic item, and they’ll be few and far between (we’ll be using inherent bonuses, and maybe extra feats, to compensate).

I like your observation that, in general, monsters get more difficult as the game progresses.  In keeping with the “grounded in reality” concept, I expect the players are going to favor self-preservation over reckless heroics; there will probably be a fair bit of running away from the Huge Noise in the jungle.  If the PCs encounter a creature or creature colony that is clearly beyond their level, I expect they’ll avoid it and plan to return later.  Also, fighting a few kruthiks is different than taking out a whole colony, so there’s an element of scalability there as well.

You’re right that a single village is unlikely to be able to support any sizeable amount of metalworking.  I’m planning on refluffing all weapons as stone and/or bone.  When the PCs encounter metal for the first time, it will probably be like “what crazy kind of stone is this?!”

In answer to “why hasn’t the world been explored?”, there’s a whole backstory/mystery there that I could go into, but the short version is that the PCs’ parents all experienced a simultaneous blackout and awoke with no memories.  They rebuilt their culture via intuition and muscle memory (there have been some astounding medical papers published on this!).  Anyway, the village is back to normal, except no one remembers what’s out there.  Maybe there will be some crude maps?  The PCs are the first generation after the Cataclysm, and part of each player’s character creation process will be to figure out what compels his/her character to leave the safety of the village.  I could expand on all this, but at this point I’d rather focus on the question of “is this campaign viable?” rather than expound on a plot that might never be utilized.

CliveDauthi -- thanks for the encouragement!  I think I’ve addressed a few of your points already.

The village needs to be large enough that it can sustain itself, but small enough that the PCs are the only group of explorers.  I envision the PCs motivated almost entirely by curiosity -- questions of “what’s out there?” and “what happened to our parents?”  I’m hoping at least one PC will be a biologist-type, interested in new types of plants and animals, motivated by a desire for new knowledge.

You’re totally right that Ranger types are absolutely essential for the exploration model to suceed.  It seems like each character should have a clear combat function and also a clear role in the expedition, even if it’s just “I’m the cook.”

I agree with you about the terrain changing.  As the PCs get closer to the source of the Cataclsym, their surroundings will become more dangerous and inhospitable.

Portals!  This is a great idea, especially when used extremely sparingly.  I had initially imagined that if the PCs wanted to go home, they’d have to talk (and I’m sure this will happen), but there will probably be a moment when they need to get back home immediately, and portals are a great way to do it.

I’m thinking that there will be sentient humanoids (orcs etc), but I want to use them sparingly.  I’m not interested in another game where the PCs convince one tribe of NPC goblins to attack the nearby bugbears colony.  On the other hand, convincing the orcs to help them clear the area of high-level predators sounds fun.

Another idea I had was that the village will change and adapt to the PCs’ discoveries.  If they clear a certain area, maybe the villagers will be inclined to set up some sort of outpost.  This would be even more likely if the PCs found some sort of valuable resource that wasn’t available anywhere else.  In a game where the PCs will spend so much time away from their home and families, it seems important to make what few PCs there are seem even more dynamic and well-rounded than normal.  If the PCs see that their actions have positive effects on their loved ones, maybe they’ll be even more motivated to continue their quest.
Is a caveman adventure worth exploring? You may have to put some caps on this world, no monster with more than 10 CR? Also no monster bigger than huge? Consider that a 1 ton manticore is hard to feed why not use the size changing rule to make them small 40 pounders?

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The dmg has some notes on primative weapons. Suppose you read Edgar Rice Burrough's Pellucidar series? Savage Species has ways to modify races and Anthropomorphic animal men. Serpent Kingdoms includes a lot of reptillian stuff, set in jungles of course. Spelljammer.org has a lot of odd stuff.  Maztica was available in the downloads section in the 2 Ed stuff?

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