Starting in an academy

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 Hey 
I'm currently writing a campaign for my DnD group, and I'm having a little trouble writing the beginning. I've finished it all, except they all agree they want it to start so they are in an academy, either magic or like a Victorian boarding school where they all meet each other and have one an encounter with either people attacking the school or an abandoned wing of the school before heading into town and starting the actual story. Do you have any ideas on how to implement the academy? Realistically I'd like to limit this part to around half an hour. 
Thanks for the help! 
Epic Level 3rd Edition.

City of Union.

This can give them a nice safe spot in a dangerous city.

Within; Without.

 Hey 
I'm currently writing a campaign for my DnD group, and I'm having a little trouble writing the beginning. I've finished it all, except they all agree they want it to start so they are in an academy, either magic or like a Victorian boarding school where they all meet each other and have one an encounter with either people attacking the school or an abandoned wing of the school before heading into town and starting the actual story. Do you have any ideas on how to implement the academy? Realistically I'd like to limit this part to around half an hour. 
Thanks for the help! 



Borrow from Harry Potter. Really, if it is only a starting place, you don't need to put a lot of work into it, just use some of those images of Hogwarts, rename a thing or two and you are ready to go.
I'd try to fit the academy into your own story idea, and see if both enhance each other. Maybe the BBEG threatens the school, or they need to go out and prove themselves in the field before they can graduate. 

Actually, that last idea sounds like it can work out really well. The players are all senior students from different educations within the school based on their power source (martial, arcane, divine etc.). To graduate, the school has a field test that the students need to complete to prove themselves worthy of getting a degree. The first encounter is in the field where a special test situation has been set up (with or without knowledge of the students). The test is then disrupted by the BBEG or his minions, which starts the larger story and the start of the player's journey into the world. 

Have fun! 
Neverwinter Nights (the computer game) began with exactly this premise:

www.gamebanshee.com/neverwinternights/nw... 
Neverwinter Nights (the computer game) began with exactly this premise:

www.gamebanshee.com/neverwinternights/nw... 



Dang, great link. Right there, everything you need. More than you need.
How big of a part do you want this academy to play in the campaign? Is it just a starting a point? A home base? A constant source of plot hooks? A dungeon itself?
Before Hogwarts, there was the fictional Miskatonic University - set in 1920's Earth, Miskatonic University would fund expeditions to obscure corners of the planet to explore truths and mysteries and eldritch locations and histories that mankind is probably best off not understanding.  Some of the authors who used the school in their stories have gone as far as to describe implicit and even explicit occult studies and classes being conducted by the school and its staff, and the Miskatonic's secret collection of rare, banned tomes of forbidden lore are something of a genre cliche' by now.

Miskatonic University was sort of a Hogwarts, from almost a century before Harry Potter became a household name.

You can simply give it a new name, and dress it up as a kind of adventurer's university.

If you are only slightly familiar with the conventions and cliche's of Cosmic Horror, a default 4E D&D equivalent to ol' MU would naturally provide:



  • a source of quests and adventures for its students, staff, and contractors, as they are sent off on expeditions to obtain mysterious MacGuffins, to advance arcane researches, to keep dangerous and priceless artifacts out of the wrong hands of cultists, etc.

  • a natural context for the "leveling up" of the PCs (it's a result of their studies)

  • a framework for some X-Files style intrigue in the form of secret societies and conspiracies among the students, instructors, board of directors, and so on

  • a sort of home base for the PCs to operate from

  • a source of friendly or useful NPCs (as well as rivals) for the PCs to interact with, in a context that will probably be familiar to any members of your group who have attended high school / college / university

  • dungeons in the catacombes and basements and so on under the university, or in and around or under the neighboring centuried and witch-haunted town, where secret occult experiments and buried secrets have been allowed to run a little further out of control than they should have

  • a natural lead-in to stories involving the Far Realm (a D&D pastiche of the sort of Cosmic Horror tropes that Miskatonic University is right at home with)



For context, see "Dreams in the Witch-House" (a MU student's intense studies into cutting-edge alternative mathematics and geometries overlap the morbid history of the Witch-House he is staying in, opening gates into other dimensions before awakening a horror from an earlier century from its slumber), The Dunwich Horror (MU's library of forbidden books are of great interest to sinister cultists, and some of the university's professors may be the only ones who can stop the evil),  and At the Mountains of Madness (MU's expedition into a largely uncharted and unexplored continent turn up more than anyone bargained for in the ruins of an antedeluvian lost city).
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri