→Brace yourselves, it's a long read←
I'm not a very experienced player and haven't ever DM'ed before, but I've been quite interested in starting up my own campaign and after exploring through a great quantity of manuals I've salvaged some ideas and built up a draft. I'm submitting it up here so I can get some C&C and maybe some help to fill in the gaps.
The aim of this campaign is to follow along characters from level 1 into high level play, using overarching plot elements that follow into each other, while also foreshadowing late-game stuff without the players noticing. The setting is custom built though it uses elements from a couple of different settings that I found neat.
Things I wanted to include in the campaign:
-Warforged (with homebrew lore)
-Lovecraftian-ish cosmic horrors
-Possibly other planes, if I can manage to push the campaign far enough to that point
How I want to link them together seems quite convoluted, but I've been thinking about this for a long time and have had some time to establish the world and how the story should progress through these elements.
I planned on creating a large map that the players could get acquainted to and be involved in. This world would be divided into three basic levels; surface, underground, Underdark.
The area which I plan on building up on is a mix of coastal, maritime human settlements, grassy plains populated by nomadic tribes (somewhat akin to Mongols, except less... conquer-y) and large mountainous regions largely inhabited by dwarven clans. The map, I imagine, would look quite similar to (and I hate to make the comparison but it's the best example I can give) what you'd see on a map for Skyrim, though this place is located quite far from any snowy regions except those coating the mountainous peaks. The region is relatively peaceful, if you can ignore the gnoll tribes making a ruckus in the plains. It's also quite a prosperous place, due to the mountainous ranges being quite rich in precious ores and gemstones. As a result, the port capital is a hotspot and sports an impressive amount of citizens. A high dwarven presence insures that cities are rigorously and beautifully built into rock citadels and fortresses. Though the mainland presents in vast majority a human and dwarven presence, the importance of the ports located there insure an important inflow of many other races into the urban environments. Even so, a small community of elves has managed to eke out a living in the virgin forests clinging to the roots of the mountains. The dwarven clans are in mutually profitable trade agreements with the human societies which have monopoly on the ports of the region. Enjoying peace and prosperity, the dwarves have managed to colonize most of the massive mountainous ranges, though there are a few places they tend to evade digging too deep into. Besides the obvious communities of troglodytes and mountain orcs, the dwarven clans have sworn not to interfere with the growing Warforged settlement into the eastern mountains, though the increase of drow infiltration and raids since the former's evident forays into the mountains suggests a troubling connection.
The Underground is the common name for all dwarven communities, also including the important Warforged settlement. The biggest and most important harbour city is said to have an large of tunnels and chambers that crime syndicates, undesirables and anybody who wants to keep out of sight inhabit. It is often referred to as "Undercity" and is said to have a gateway to the Underdark. The high number of crimes perpetrated by drows, even though the city forcibly removes any found within the walls, would suggest that the rumour be true. Any attempt to actually locate Undercity by local forces has been fruitless, however.
In this setting, it's pretty much tit for tat with what you would be familiar with in terms of the Underdark. One important point, however, is that it stretches well into just about every area of this setting.
As stated above, this region is host to a multitude of diverse races, but it features prominently 3 of them.
They are basically the bread and butter of this setting when the location is not a dwarven settlement or a coastal city. Urban dwellers, farmers, fishermen, nomads; they fill in every gap in the society not occupied by the other races. Even though trade arrangements have produced important advantages for both humans and dwarves, the intrinsic impermeability of dwarven settlements (especially their mines) have caused prejudice and racism among the less fortunate urban folk (and even among the more fortunate class, though they would never let it show) as they believe the dwarves to keep the best of their finds from the mines to themselves. Of course, they have every reason to be doubtful as dwarves tend to be quite possessive when it comes to the rare and precious, but even under the absolute lack of evidence to these claims, colloquial racist expressions have sprouted up to define dwarves; "diggers", "moles", "earthworms". Although rare, there have been hate crimes towards the urban dwarven populace by local extremists.
Government is organized into fiefdoms ruled by monarchy. The capital city is a particular case, as it is the seat of power for the human empire and yet it is, in all intents and purposes, an independent city ruled by a council, each in charge of their own areas although collectively working for the city as a whole. The council elects its own members and successors and so effectively works as a shared-power monarchy. Important decisions are run through the emperor, but rule of the city is mostly left to the council.
Besides the urban-dwelling humans and the multitude of farmers and fishers, there exist tribes of nomadic people that roam the vast swaths of grassy plains present in the region. Hardened by the constant threat of gnoll attacks, these nomads are a fierce bunch and are extremely capable warriors. They are characterised by their dark brown skin, golden eyes and characteristically stripe-patterned sash. The pattern is determined by the tribe they belong to and the color represents their place in their tribe.
Largely absent from sight except within the confines of their settlements and the permanent residents of the most important coastal cities, the dwarves usually tend to keep to themselves. Because of their past, they have a limitless hatred for drow few would understand, as a grudge for treasures will last generations within dwarven culture, and the longer a grudge goes unresolved the harsher it becomes.
Clan leaders are selected by elders to execute official duties and to represent the interest of the clan to the dwarf collective. A diplomatic gathering is held every year (or more than once, if emergency would require it) between all clans of the collective. Important decisions are made towards resource exploitation rights and trading exclusiveness.
Although I don’t intend on making them a readily available PC race due to the nature of the story I want to tell, I really wanted to incorporate them into my campaign and I think I found a neat way to make the lore match up.
Long before human settlements first set foot in the region, the dwarven clans had already established a firm hold upon the mountain ranges present there. After mining deep into the fathoms of the mountains, the clans came upon the Underdark. At first eager to find such a high amount of ore and rock with peculiar properties found nowhere else, the dwarves were quick to establish settlements into the upper layers of the Underdark. They soon came into contact with echo crystals, which they found had the peculiar property to retain memories. After much experimentation, they were able to infuse consciousness into the crystals. It took a very short time before the dwarves built a body for that synthetic soul, and thus the first Warforged was born. Heathfire was the name he was given, though the Warforged call him the Anvil Father, for it his upon his model that all following Warforged were made. At first used as a labor force to further explore the Underdark and plunder its resources, the impetuousness of the dwarves soon angered the drow and a mighty war was fought under the mountains. It is there that the Warforged took their name, for they were critical in winning the war and sealing tunnels which led to the Underdark. Nevertheless, the dwarves struggled many years to be able to continue exploiting the riches of the dark caverns until they came to the conclusion that the drow would not rest until all dwarves had been expunged from their territory.
Given relative freedom during the times of war, the Warforged had developed intelligence and self-awareness of their own and the return to a life of slavery after the end of the war was not a prospect they could accept. Worn down by years of war, the dwarves were unprepared and unmatched to face the full might of the restless army of constructs, and so they were set free. The Warforged production in the dwarven cities stopped altogether for fear of another uprising or the menace of war from the Warforged to liberate their younger brethren. Now free, the Warforged worked tirelessly and built themselves an impressive city in the mountains, with the techniques they had learned from their former masters, which they called Forgeheart. The only thing that they had not learned was how to create more Warforged, a technique that would go forgotten until very recently, when the population went from massive decline to almost that of their glory days of the beginning of their freedom. That they could get their hands on echo crystals would mean a new breach into the Underdark, which would explain the recent stirrings of the drow on the surface.
Warforged, as reclusive as they used to be, have now begun investing themselves into establishing trading opportunities with human merchants. Although very hesitant at first, the quality and relative low cost of their merchandise quickly dispelled that initial reluctance. Their smithing of weapon and armor is comparable to any respectable dwarf’s and is quite cheaper. Why they would need money at all is quite intriguing as they need no food, drink or clothes and they can make everything else they need, but they were observed to buy and collect as many tomes on magic and lore as they could carry. Why living constructs would delve into the arcane is a total mystery as dwarves claim they have no ability to use such powers.
Heathfire is said to still hold the power in Forgeheart. Why he would make such a drastic move after hundreds of years is beyond speculation.
I have a lot of things I haven't written down, but this is a good idea of where I'm heading. I'm planning on adding up little intriguing elements here and there that will only be understood by players once certain events have been attained.
So? What do y'all think?