New campaign, new ideas.

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So first off I guess I could say that I run my own hamebrew campaign setting.  I don't know if that'll help anyone, but I feel it may prove useful information.

Im starting a new campaign with a new cast of characters.  Hopefully level ones, but the players may conflict with that idea.  The last game ended at level 12 due to schedule changes, and the party does not want to continue that plot untill the whole cast can reunite.  So I thought about running a new game, new characters, and becasue I believe in fresh starts, it will begin back at level 1.  My starting idea is this-

The players all start in a mead hall, (the continent of my world this game takes place in has a Viking feel to it.  You may refer to Viking history or the more recent "Elder Scrolls: Skyrim" for what I'm trying to portray here).  The players will notice that everything moves in slow motion, almost as if they are begining to become aware of their surroundings.  They don't recognise the people sitting next to them (assuming the PCs are sitting apart from one another, I plan on them knowing each other from beforehand) and they also notice that everyone's face is blurred.  When all is quiet the man at the end of the long table stands and raises a tankard and begins to speak, but nothing is said.  his face is blurred and his speach is slowed, so much that the PCs cannot understand what is being said.  Thunder crashes and lightning strikeas and the PCs awake at the bottom of a mass grave.  They begin to climb out and see that they are in the middle of a battlefield, and it's snowing, and they have no gear.  They meet, see a yellow square in the distance (a window with a candle lantern) and they proceed to the house where they find gear for themselves and a man who explains that he barryed them after the great battle was over.

So that's just the beggining, and it's all I have.  I need a reason for the PCs to have come back.  I don't want to do the normal "Necromancer or dark wizard on a war parth", or "find the artifact before someone else" routine.  i also don't want to include too much political scheming, as I don't think I'd be any good at it as i know nothing of politics.  So I come to you, oh wonderfull forum, seeking two things.  Your approval of my start for my campaign (lemme know if you like or if you have anything to add) and your ideas for at least a story or adventure hook to go on.

I at least plan on the main adventure being about the PCs trying to find out why they where revived, and possibly by who, but I don't know where to go.  Maybe the Queen that the players already met once, and whom they don't really care for from past campaign reasons. 

So ideas are welcome.  I may use some, I may not, it all depends.  And if anyone is interested, I could use this thread to sort of chronicle the beginings of the game.  IDK.
I think it might be more interesting if you dont give the players an NPC to talk to right away. Let them wake up in the middle of a battle field. They have no memories of who they are or why they are there. As they search through the bodies they have brief flashes of memory that make little sence and are clearly shattered and unorganized. (think the vission that commander shepard gets from the prothean becon in mass effect) the memory flashes provide them with few leads maybe a man getting struck in the face with a bolt of fire, a wave of shadow moving unnaturally through the chaotic fighting, and a blinding ray of light streaking through the sky and striking the battle field. Perhaps they are also lucky enough to find a crest of either faction that took part in the battle. With these little details the players must find a way to figure out who they are and why they were fighting in this battle in the first place.

Perhaps they were sent on a mission by Odin himself to defeat an ancient evil. Perhaps a great Leviathan the gods fear could bring about Ragnarok or destroy Yggdrasil (the world tree.) OR... perhaps they were sent by Surtr the fire jotunn (fire giant) that is suppose to set fire to the world at the end of ragnarok to open the gates connecting Midgard (or what ever you refer to your world as) to Jotunheim and Hel. OR they were sent by Loki to free Fenrir or some other great and terrible beast to use as a weapon against the the armies of Jotunheim and Hel, of course this being Loki truely intends to use the beast(s) to slay the AEsir and seise control of Midgard.

No matter who sent them now they can't remeber but they must track down the men they were fighting with (or against) and get to the bottom of this and delay the start of Ragnarok or the destruction of the world tree (and the universe as they know it.) to do that they must track down the man with the burt face figure out the signifcants of the other fragmented images (what ever you deside they should be) they saw as they scoured the bodies of the fallen and be the desiding factor in a battle that will shape the fate of the world. (also drinking fighting and feasting should probably go in there somewhere along the way I mean come on, these are vikings we are talking about here.)  

Hope that gives you something to work off of or at least gets the gears turning. ^_^  
Before putting pen to paper, run the idea past your players and ask for feedback.

I would also consider framing your beginning and end levels up-front. What I mean by that is I don't recommend saying, "It starts at 1st-level and goes until we're done..." Give it a cap. "Heroic tier only" or "4th through 8th-level." This keeps your pacing tight and the game won't just peter out like so many games do because of reasons. Often, campaigns end like American TV shows - because it runs too long and nobody gives a damn anymore or it gets lame like the last few seasons of Seinfeld or whatever. Don't let that happen. It's better to leave them wanting more than to have them glad it's over already.

Your opening scene, while evocative, lacks action or tension. I recommend you start your sessions - every session - in media res with action or tension to be resolved. Since it is the first time they'll have used these new characters, I further recommend that the first scene be a combat encounter so they can test their new PCs out tactically.

Also, you don't need reasons for the PCs to come back... the PCs do and by extension, the players. So ask your players why they've come back to the realm of the living. Use framed questions to encourage them to tell you what unfinished business they have in the mortal realm both individually and as a team of heroes. Ask follow-up questions, tie it to whatever you have prepped so far, write down what they tell you, and use all of it.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Both posts sound reasonable.  I was thinking that they would want to search around first, so letting them find clues as to what side they were on and leads that could take them to people who would know what's going on sound like obvious things that should happen.

The gods do play a large part in the world, and though I don't use Odin or Loki directly, I do have dieties that would work well as stand ins, again with a Norse theme, but not the original Norse gods themselves.  So the Jester, the god of mischief and tricks in my campaign world, could easily play the role of Loki and could have set the players up.  I kind of like the idea of having the PCs play as the villains for once and fight for the "other side" that was trying to unleash some Fennris or Ragnarock creature or event, but then have a change of heart and try to stop that from happening. (or they could continue that task, depending on what they want to do with the story)  I also havn't had the chance to use Fire Giants in my campaigns in the past, (this is a problem, Fire Giants seem to be iconic enemies in D&D, like the Red Dragon, or a dungeon for that matter...lol Dungeons and Giants.)  So anyway, that gives me the chance to run some Fire Giant scheming and things.

I'm not sure about running the idea by the players.  I don't know, i just don't like the sound of spoiling the story by letting the players know what's happening.  obviously I could try telling them what I plan without telling specifics, but aside fro "how do you guys feel about playing reborn characters that come back from Valhalla?".  Seems like I've already said to much, and that the openning segment of describing the way they come back wouldn't have that much impact.  I was planning of having this as a tier adventure, not going past 10th level or so.  Mot of my games seem to ave a hard time even trying to get to 10th nowadays.  I'd like the campaign as a whole be about trying to deal with why the PCs were brought back, but I don't plan on them searching around for why they were fighting or who they were fighting for, for too long. 

I guess putting the characters in combat at the begining makes sense.  Let them figgure out how well they work together before hand and then when they are spent, open the story up whith "you black out, and now you are here".  Keep the game rolling, that way they don't get mad that they "died" and there is something more happening.  I do plan on taking notes on what the players do or say, and asking them what they want to do is basically how I run the game.  and finally, what kind of framed questions would you think to ask?  
I'm not sure about running the idea by the players.  I don't know, i just don't like the sound of spoiling the story by letting the players know what's happening.  obviously I could try telling them what I plan without telling specifics, but aside fro "how do you guys feel about playing reborn characters that come back from Valhalla?".  Seems like I've already said to much, and that the openning segment of describing the way they come back wouldn't have that much impact.

It's also not going to have much of an impact if it's not something they're particularly interested in. But, if it's not something they're not particularly interested it, perhaps it could become such if they are aware of your plan and can offer suggestions to make it more in line with what they'd enjoy.

Surprises are fun, but when they don't pan out they can take a whole idea down.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Both posts sound reasonable.  I was thinking that they would want to search around first, so letting them find clues as to what side they were on and leads that could take them to people who would know what's going on sound like obvious things that should happen.



What if they don't want to search around first, or don't know to do so? You may have a good idea of what your players will do, and I do too when it comes to my players, but from a design standpoint, I make no assumptions whatsoever. If my "next thing" requires the characters to do something I want them to do first, it represents a potential failure point in my prep.

I'm not sure about running the idea by the players.  I don't know, i just don't like the sound of spoiling the story by letting the players know what's happening.  obviously I could try telling them what I plan without telling specifics, but aside fro "how do you guys feel about playing reborn characters that come back from Valhalla?".  Seems like I've already said to much, and that the openning segment of describing the way they come back wouldn't have that much impact.



"The story" is the thing we create as a group while playing the game. You can't "spoil" it by letting them know the premise of the game. You can't guarantee anything you do will have the impact you hope it will. So my advice is don't hope for things in that way.

The question you ask above is exactly what I'd start with. If they agree that premise sounds fun, you've got their buy-in which makes everything else that follows so much easier. Once you've asked them that question, ask why they've been reborn, what great purpose must they serve, what are the stakes, what are the consequences for failure, etc. Wherever possible, when you ask them these things, tie it back to things you have in mind so that everyone's ideas are incorporated. Then start with an action scene and take it from there.

I was planning of having this as a tier adventure, not going past 10th level or so.  Mot of my games seem to ave a hard time even trying to get to 10th nowadays.



Good.

I'd like the campaign as a whole be about trying to deal with why the PCs were brought back, but I don't plan on them searching around for why they were fighting or who they were fighting for, for too long.



I'd recommend that not being the focus at all. Let them determine that from the outset. Pacing is improved when players have information they can act on, especially information they had a hand in creating. Start with the premise of them knowing what's going on (as it relates to their characters and current situation) and take it from there. There will be plenty of surprises later, I'm sure, as the villains pursue their own goals and bad things start to happen.

I guess putting the characters in combat at the begining makes sense.  Let them figgure out how well they work together before hand and then when they are spent, open the story up whith "you black out, and now you are here".  Keep the game rolling, that way they don't get mad that they "died" and there is something more happening.  I do plan on taking notes on what the players do or say, and asking them what they want to do is basically how I run the game.  and finally, what kind of framed questions would you think to ask?  



Or, start out that they're warriors back to the mortal realm from Valhalla. They're killing some trolls that are threatening a peaceful village or something right now. Then pause that action scene for a moment, flash back and engage in some questions to determine how they got to this point, how they know each other, what history they have as a group, what they experienced in Valhalla, what goals they're seeking to complete before they can return to the halls of their ancestors, etc. Use what they give you to build the adventures that follow.

Prior to this, write down a list of elements you'd like to see in the game - villains, NPCs, places, monsters, artifacts, events, etc. - and frame your questions with those things. For example, "The villain Iskvar plans to use the Axe of Ragnar to dominate the Western Kingdom, a prelude to the end of the world. When you faced Iskvar in the battle that cost you your life, what mark did you leave upon him that binds you together?" That sort of thing. Iskvar, the Axe of Ragnar, the Western Kingdom, the impending doom of the world - these are all ideas and content produced by the DM. Ask your questions such that the answers connect the PCs to those things in some way.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

just a random idea i had thought for this 
what if the players were infact demons/demonic creatures in a human/elf/whatever form? The opening scene at a mead hall is revealed to be a fiery chamber of some demonic god at the head of the table
and the battlefield was some grand esque battle between good and evil where they were on the evil side

this could bring in a lot of fun things like granting the players some of their "old" demonic powers if they choose an evil path and also have them choose whether to return to their former positions or fight against their god 
Why are the PCs returned from Valhalla?


Easy.  Some-one just sounded a Horn of Valhalla (a magical war horn from that summons x lv xx fighters to aid the weilder from earlier editions)....

So they're in this idealized mead hall - getting drunk (hence any blurry effects).
Roll me a save....
No matter what #s they report: From outside they & some others hear a war horm sounding.
They & these others go to investigate.  Maybe they grab their equipment, maybe not.
Maybe have those staying behind offering encouragemet.  Or maybe just not reacting to the horn at all?
Outside, off in the distance, is your patch of light.  But it's not a lit house window....  It's the portal opened to (whatever you call your world).
The PCs are drawn towards it - wether they're equipped or not.

And then you throw them (& any NPC Valhallens that were with them) directly into a combat - where the ONLY thing they know is that those guys over there are the foe.  CHARGE!

As the battle wraps up the PCs discover that only they & maybe a a fellow responder or two are left standing.
The foes are all dead,
Most of their fellow responders are dead,
And the NPC party who summoned them?  They're dead too.  Plus the horn is cracked/destroyed.
They can now loot the battlefield.   This could be especially important to anyone who investigated sans equipment....

And NO, there is no ready answer as to what the fight was about.
There's even less explanation as to why the PCs don't fade away back to Valhalla.  (if they manage to deduce how they came to be here to start with)
Nor is there a ready explanation as to exactly where in the world the PCs are beyond their imediate surroundings.