Campaign Brainstorm

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Howdy All - I'm starting a new campaign (in less than a week). The last campaign was in a city (Ptolus) and the PCs were relatively unsavory folk.

The new campaign will feature more heroic PCs and lots of travel. In talking they all decided to be halflings and I threw in the wrinkle that their village was chiefly a halfling settlement focused around the taming and training of warwing drakes (Dragon #165, basically ridable flying lizards).

Brainstorming together we decided that there has been greater demand for these drakes in recent decades as a conflict between nations grew into a war. This is an unspecified politically motivated war as opposed to a war against an obvious evil like undead or hordes of inherently evil creatures.

The settlement is where all of the PCs came from. There are few (if any) non-halflings there. Almost all industry focuses around the drakes. Some folk in the village/town see the war effort as an opportunity to get wealthy. Some are proud of their skills as trainers and breeders and proud that they are called to service. Some folk are worried about the sustainability of the breeding operation and its impact on the breeding stock (don't get your drakes from a drake mill!). Some are against sending the drakes to die in war. Some are against taming and training them at all.

The PCs 'enlisted' as caretakers to the last batch of drakes the village/town sold to the army. They are returning to their village now (I need to determine why) and Something Is Amiss.
 

The PCs:
Clover Berrysprout (Female Barbarian)
Milo Goodbarrel (Male Wizard)
Race Treeborne (Male Fighter)
Sheldon Stouthill (Male Ranger)


Things I want to include:
1. A clutch of very special warwing drakes that will become the PCs own bonded mounts. 
2. Heroics (this should be relatively easy)
3. Travel (also easy if there are drakes about)


Questions I need to answer:
1. What is this war? Who is it between? Over what? What's happening now?
2. Why are the PCs returning home?
3. What is special about the drakes they will bond? (the bonding should happen at the end of the first short arc)
4. What are these drakes? Warwing drakes are just a starting point - the floodgates are open for what these could be like (but no breath weapons).
5. When the characters get their drakes are they hatchlings? Fledglings? Big enough to train? Ride? What seems the most fun?
First things first... I recommend brainstorming with your party rather than the boards. The boards will throw out ideas and maybe half of them will work, your players however, won't pitch an idea they find boring right from the start. Also, this increases their investment in the world and therefore the game.

That said, some random ideas:

What is this war? Who is it between? Over what? What's happening now?

 

1.The war is being fought between the King of a weakened province and an organized barbarian warband. The king is just wrapping up a campaign against a few minor rebellions on the far borders of his territory, and his army is currently away. A rather charismatic cheiftan has been waiting for an opportunity like this and is now leading an army out from the wilds with promises not of blood, nor treasure, but the land of their ancestors. The cheiftan is not interested in reliving the primitive ways, and seeks the capital to civilize his brothers and create a true kingdom.

When the cheiftan finally learns of the PC's, he admires their tenacity and strengths and offers to provide the best protection and trade to their hometown. Under the king, it remains a backwater village, but it could become a major landmark in the region. If the Party supports the king, they have to stave off the barbarians and the new rebellions attempting to take advantage of the war untill the army arrives. If they side with the cheiftan, they have to convince the barbarians to accept change, work with mercenaries, and ultimately take the capital before the army arrives to fortify it.

2. Dragonborn refugees are descending out from the mountians in a mad scrmable. At first, everybody thinks the dragonborn are attempting to conquer the area, but the dragonborn seem less interested in conquering and more in advancing at all costs, often killing the armies standing in their way.. Given that almost none of the lowlanders speak draconic, communication is difficult. It soon turns out that an elder dragon/monster has awakened benath the mountains and is now massacering the dragonborn. They aren't warriors, but refugees. The campaign swiftly shifts from battling the dragonborn to uniting the dragonborn and the lowlanders, easing tensions between the two, and readying for the assualt of the monster(s).

3. The war is is a free-for-all for power after a succession crisis. The late king and his family have been assassinated, and no clear heir is left. Only months afterward the dukes, barons, and even knight-commanders are waging bitter war on each other. Alliances are formed at dawn, betrayed at noon, and abandoned by dusk and no noble is quite sure who they can trust. Mercenaries are streaming in by the wagonload, all eager for glory.

... Wow, didn't notice the time. I might try my hand at this tomorrow... and it will involve much less description and more listing.

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. -Revelation 21:6

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.-John Donne, Meditation XVII

My photo was found here.

Question 2:
Depending upon the sort of reputation they have made for themselves, the local baron/lord/duke has decided that he needs a crack team of soldiers and they are to have the best mounts money can buy and/or to test the new clutch of drakes in combat situations. They might also be simply returning to the village because a large holiday is approaching and they would rather spend it at home. They might not even be heading to the village as their final destination, instead they could simply be passing through as part of a caravan or on the back of a wagon when they are stopped at the village gates which are closed, with no one being allowed in or out, once they get some information out ofthe gaurds, they could smell and opportunity to make some money and offer their services as adventurers for hire.



Questions 3 - 4:
I would say that there are two methods of improving upon a riding animal either superior breeding (either through natural or magical means) or superior training.


If you take the first method, you could simply expand on the warwing drakes’ current abilities, in a different manner depending upon whether the creature is improved magically or naturally. If you decide they have been augmented via magic, then you could add a few abilities to the warwing drakes depending upon what you felt was most appropriate, perhaps you could have it that the rakes have been mixed with wyverns, giving them a venomous sting or the lacerating teeth of a hydra. If you or the players decide they want to go bigger than that, they could even add in some draconic genes (not enough for a breath weapon though). If you have either of the draconomicons I would suggest you quickly go through those for ideas. The first draconomicon (for chromatics) details optional rules for each breed of dragons that could make interesting additions to a mount, for instance a blue dragon “can make Stealth checks to hide from creatures on the ground or at lower altitude, even if it does not have cover or concealment.” This could provide the basis for another story arc, as the adventurers go forth to acquire the necessary components (perhaps a scale or vial of blood?) for the ritual to magically bind some of the essence of a dragon to a drake.


If you decide that the drakes have been breed naturally, then you could have several different sub-species of drake each with minor tweaks upon the original model. You could have one breed that has been bred for reconnaissance and is thus very fast (increase the fly speed) and agile (increase the reflex defense) but as a result is not as sturdy as others of its kind (lower hit points and fortitude). Another breed could be the opposite made for battle and have very thick scales (increase to AC, Fortitude, and hit points) while being very slow and awkward in the air when fighting (reduce the fly speed and add the clumsy key word).


Finally if you decide that the drakes have been trained but are still normal drakes, you could simply give them some of the mount abilities found in other creatures. For instance, a drake trained to take evasive maneuvers without prompt from its rider might gain that “Aerial Agility” ability (While the hippogriff is flying, its rider gains a +1 bonus to all defenses.), another drake trained for mid-air combat might gain the “Perfect Position” ability (If the PC is mounted and its mount ends its turn at least 4 squares from where it started, the mounted PC attacks deal 1d6 extra damage until the start of the mount’s next turn).


Question 5:
I would probably alter this depending upon what you decide to do and what you feel is most appropriate.
For instance a drake that is trained for a particular purpose might require its intended owner to be the one who trains it, resulting in ongoing skill challenges until the drake is fully trained, or the drake might have been trained to accept any rider. I would ask your player’s what they feel like on this issue and go form there.


Hope that helps.