DM starting a new campaign and I need help with ideas.

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I'm starting a new campaign soon and for the first time I'm developing my own world for it. It's going to be a high magic world and an extremely peaceful one. Ideas that I've been kicking around are that long ago there was a great migration of the more civilized races to a new world that supported life but was devoid of any "monsters" such as orcs and dragons, etc. Fast forward centuries and all the civilized races live together in harmony. They've created airships and use enchantments and magic in daily life. There is peace and harmony. There are no gods, but some men have attained godhood, perhaps great sages that grant divine-like powers (for clerics and other divine casters).

     However, at the start of it, the pc's attend the opening of magical gates that are simultaneously being opened around the world, perhaps to link the continents further.  The idea is that monsters rush out of the gates and invade the world. It's thrown into complete chaos. I want the direction of the campaign to be the player's ideas. Do they rush to their home cities to help fight the creatures off? Do they try to close the gates and learn why these creatures invade? Does it become a survival or post-apocalyptic theme? 

      What I'm stuck on is the back story for it. I'd love to explore a Xenosaga type theme. Maybe the creatures that come from the portals are angels of a kind, seeking divine punishment for man overthrowing gods or becoming gods themselves. Maybe something like they accidentally opened portals to the far realm and the creatures are from there, seeking new lands to conquer. I'd love something fairly deep but I just can't figure out where to go with it. Any advice would be awesome!
What did your players say when you ran this idea past them?

The opening action scene sounds compelling. 

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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What did your players say when you ran this idea past them?

The opening action scene sounds compelling. 

Part of the fun for us is the surprise of it all so I don't get into story details with them, but they like the idea of the world itself from what basic things I've told them about it. I wanted to get the story fully fleshed out before I involve them too much. We're an experienced group and they trust me as DM. 

To go more into the opening, since there isn't war (at least for some time) and there's no threat of orcs and such, the player characters will basically be some profession tied to their skills. So a fighter would be a simple soldier there just as a ceremonial type guard, a wizard would be there to observe the portals activation, someone with history would be a historian there to document it, etc. 

Part of the fun of it is that they're not really adventurers to begin with and not very skilled at combat and dealing with threats like this once it happens. I wanted kind of an opening fight, where monsters rush out and overwhelm everyone. There are fights happening all over. The pc's are close so they fight a battle. They'll have to flee then, getting back to the airship they came in on. I imagine another fight in the sky and just an intense, chaotic beginning like that that throws them right in the middle at first. Maybe through the fighting the airship is damaged and they have to crash on an island. They're stuck there and have to repair the ship and scavenge for food and things and run into another little encounter or two, while monsters spread through the land ravaging and destroying until they get back in the fight or decide what to do.
Part of the fun for us is the surprise of it all so I don't get into story details with them, but they like the idea of the world itself from what basic things I've told them about it. I wanted to get the story fully fleshed out before I involve them too much. We're an experienced group and they trust me as DM.



I view the PCs and what they do as "the story," so it requires no work on the DM's part. Are you looking to come up with a plot prior to the game the PCs will follow during the course of the game?

To go more into the opening, since there isn't war (at least for some time) and there's no threat of orcs and such, the player characters will basically be some profession tied to their skills. So a fighter would be a simple soldier there just as a ceremonial type guard, a wizard would be there to observe the portals activation, someone with history would be a historian there to document it, etc. 

Part of the fun of it is that they're not really adventurers to begin with and not very skilled at combat and dealing with threats like this once it happens.



What edition are you playing? Have you shared this particular premise I've quoted with the players?

I wanted kind of an opening fight, where monsters rush out and overwhelm everyone. There are fights happening all over. The pc's are close so they fight a battle. They'll have to flee then, getting back to the airship they came in on.



What happens if they don't choose to do that? (Same question applies for any assumption you might make as to player choices once the ball is rolling.)

I imagine another fight in the sky and just an intense, chaotic beginning like that that throws them right in the middle at first. Maybe through the fighting the airship is damaged and they have to crash on an island. They're stuck there and have to repair the ship and scavenge for food and things and run into another little encounter or two, while monsters spread through the land ravaging and destroying until they get back in the fight or decide what to do.



I think the basic premise is interesting and the initial focus on compelling action is a good approach. It sounds like you have an idea of where it goes from there. What sorts of advice are you looking for? (My questions above are probing for how you approach DMing so I can give advice through that lens.)

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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I've shared the premise with them and they like the idea of the world itself and the fact that their characters would not really be experienced adventurers to start. They will still be able to create their characters normally, starting on level 1 and developing a backstory that fits. One of their ideas is that they're from the same academy and are there together to observe or help. 

I am looking for help with the plot itself yes. You're right the characters actions help form the story but I believe in plot heavy games. I usually script out the first part heavily like this and then once we get to some downtime in game, they can decide the course of the game. Obviously in my idea, they're going to want to deal with this world changing threat. How they go about it is up to them. I know my group though, they'll go along with the story. Otherwise there's really no game.

We are playing 4e. The outline for the beginning is pretty much my idea for what will happen. Staying there while huge masses of creatures pour out would get them slaughtered. It is up to them of course. That's just how it probably will go, but that's not really the issue i'm worried about. I'm looking for help with the plot itself, the reason for the invasion of these monsters. What are these monsters intentions? Is there something bigger going on behind the scenes? I'm looking for help with the story behind this invasion mostly. Though any advice on the world would be great too.
It's the latest phase of the Blood War in which devils and demons claim footholds on Prime Material worlds to launch invasions deep into each other's territory. This world, like many others, just happened to be in the way. Lower-level PCs can deal with local threats. As they get more powerful, they can deal with planetary or planar threats.

I can't help with a specific plot as that's not something I can get behind. But as far as motivations, that's what I'd go with because it's something I'm familiar with (Planescape).

Good luck!

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  How to Adjudicate Actions  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

It's the latest phase of the Blood War in which devils and demons claim footholds on Prime Material worlds to launch invasions deep into each other's territory. This world, like many others, just happened to be in the way. Lower-level PCs can deal with local threats. As they get more powerful, they can deal with planetary or planar threats.

I can't help with a specific plot as that's not something I can get behind. But as far as motivations, that's what I'd go with because it's something I'm familiar with (Planescape).

Good luck!

Thank you for your help and advice. I do like that idea.
Extreme general plot:
Heroic Tier:  Very localized.  The heroes are hearing of rumors of strange things happening.
Paragon Tier:  Worldwide.  The heroes are now realizining it is not just a specific area.  They must now find the original malfunctioning portal.  Think of something like this:  a portal virus.  Once one portal got affected, it started spreading to all other connected portals.  On the way, they will be treating the "symptoms".
Epic Tier:  The heroes must now do "invasive surgery" to "cure" the portals.  This means going though the original portal to the world where the virus came from and combat the virus at its source.

Along the way, make sure there will be side adventures that do not have a direct relevance to the main plot.

Keep track of the world time.  Don't make it too linear.  Expect the players to do the unexpected and roll with it.  There may be times the players will completely skip over an encounter you have planned because you did not think of the loophole that allowed them to do that.  Do not close those loopholes, but make the loopholes work for you.

Since this is a large scale invasion, it will take time for the enemy to marshall its forces once they realize they have new territory to conquer.  There could be more than one enemy.  There could be the main enemy that created the portal virus and a different enemy that doesn't want the main enemy to succeed, but wants to capitalize on the virus effects.  The second enemy could even go as far as hiring the PCs to combat the first enemy (but that would take place in the Paragon Tier of play).  Then once the first enemy is routed, the second enemy rears its ugly head and tells the PCs that they were being used.  The final encounter would be where the second enemy underestimates the PCs and they defeat him.  But doing so also unravels the virus and they must go back through the portal or be stuck in the new world.

The biggest thing is to use your imagination.  Also allow the players to come up with ideas.  Try not to say no unless something is extremely essential to the plot.  What I gave you is what I would have done.  It really is best to come up with something on your own, but I hope I gave at least a skeleton to work with.  You just need to flesh it out. 

You have the free will to agree or disagree.
You have the ability to act freely on the above choice regardless of the consequences.

That is a very good skeleton for it definitely. I like that too. This is all definitely helping me flesh it out. Thank you!
Maybe an astral conjunction caused the portals to open in a way that awoke the Great Old Ones. Their formless stirrings are causing ripples through the Planes, and causing the different Planes to "slosh" against the Prime Material, each "slosh" throwing monsters of that plane into the world.

Heroic: Localized threats, and the Shadowfell/Feywild. The beginning stirrings of the Great Old Ones causes the closest planes to "bump" the Portals, dumping undead and fey creatures into the peaceful surroundings. Areas around the Portals would take on characteristics of whichever Plane "slopped" into that particular portal. Some would be areas of incredible necrotic power, and others of the strange magic of the Feywild.

Paragon: Larger (kingdom/continental) threats, and the Astral Sea/Lower Planes. The increasing activity of the Great Old Ones sloshes 'deeper' planes against the portals, dumping heavenly or demon/devils into the Prime. The local areas the PCs affected have weathered the storm better than other areas. Refugees flee to the "protected" areas. Portents point to the now-awake Old Ones heading for the Prime from the Far Realm.

Epic: Great Old Ones send their servants through, as the Far Realm impacts the Prime Material. The Heroes must enter the portals and find the "anchor point" for each, severing it from the Prime Material world before the insanity of the Old Ones engulfs the Prime. 
So many PCs, so little time...
That's awesome. I love all the responses. Thank you. I might go with the Far Realm idea. I really like it.
You could combine the two ideas into one.  I can see ways to do it.  Can you?

You have the free will to agree or disagree.
You have the ability to act freely on the above choice regardless of the consequences.

I'm starting a new campaign soon and for the first time I'm developing my own world for it. It's going to be a high magic world and an extremely peaceful one. Ideas that I've been kicking around are that long ago there was a great migration of the more civilized races to a new world that supported life but was devoid of any "monsters" such as orcs and dragons, etc. Fast forward centuries and all the civilized races live together in harmony. They've created airships and use enchantments and magic in daily life. There is peace and harmony. There are no gods, but some men have attained godhood, perhaps great sages that grant divine-like powers (for clerics and other divine casters)...

Your world sound soo perfect, too perfect that... it has to be Matrix.  Now DnD that, and you be rhe man.


Jul 8, 2013 -- 6:16AM, Twilightorder wrote:

I'm starting a new campaign soon and for the first time I'm developing my own world for it. It's going to be a high magic world and an extremely peaceful one. Ideas that I've been kicking around are that long ago there was a great migration of the more civilized races to a new world that supported life but was devoid of any "monsters" such as orcs and dragons, etc. Fast forward centuries and all the civilized races live together in harmony. They've created airships and use enchantments and magic in daily life. There is peace and harmony. There are no gods, but some men have attained godhood, perhaps great sages that grant divine-like powers (for clerics and other divine casters)...


Your world sound soo perfect, too perfect that... it has to be Matrix.  Now DnD that, and you be rhe man.



This perfect world is the dream of a dead goddess. She lies slumbering in the cosmos, dreaming until some cycle of the heavens reincarnates or revives her. Denizens of the 'true' outer world are trying to awaken the goddess early, or perhaps destroy her forever, depending on what best serves your plot. In either case, the magic they works manifests in her dreams as aberrant creations. Just as dreams sometimes seem to be nonsensical, things from outside the dream seem to be products of madness to the denizens of the dream world.

The Far Realm is the world outside the dream.

Behind the invasions of normal, recognizable monsters, there is always some aberrant monstrosity leading it. Sometimes, the Far Realm energies corrupt a mortal. The information the PCs may get from these creatures are fragmented and strange. Over time, perhaps they can piece together clues as they traverse the heroic tier, stopping invasions and receiving cryptic messages or even visions. It would probably help matters if they could get glimpses of her other dreams (the Shadowfell, Feywild, ect), which may each represent some part of her desires, fears, or goals in life.

By the time the Paragon tier rolls around, the characters should have some idea of the truth. Perhaps their goals revolve around finding manifestations of the ritual in their world(s) and destroying them, to prevent her awakening and the destruction of their world. In the Epic tier, the heroes could escape to the Far Realm to prevent the destruction of their goddess (and their world) or perform a mass exodus to save their people before she awakens.
Reminds me a lot of the plot of Half-Life - an accident while the portals are open start a "resonance cascade" that begins shattering the borders between Earth and at least one parralel universe or alternate dimension, resulting in a virtual invasion of Earth's universe, with Earth being "terraformed" into something familiar to the invaders.  If I remember correctly, the plot reveals over time that the alternate "Far Realm" style universe is sort of a battleground between alien factions, including some who view Earth pragmatically as a source of exotic soldiers and material for their war effort.


The Stephen King short story "The Mist" has something of a similar plot:  a military research station messing around with "different atoms" accidentally breaks a hole through the walls of this Universe into a parralel one, resulting in a sort of "planetary body horror" story as Earth gets corrupted by the monsters, atmosphere, and terrain of the other universe.  (The story was made into a fairly watchable movie a couple years ago.)


The music probably isn't going to be to most people's taste, and the lyrics are a bit hard to follow, but Canadian metal band Voivod's classic Dimension Hatross concept-album delves into some similar territory as well, as a futuristic cyborg barbarian warlord launches a project to open a door into and conquer a small pocket-dimension which turns out to be home to a number of conflicting factions driven by outlandish philosophies, as well as the ultimate horror of formless, massless psychic parasites that hitch a ride on the explorers back to their home world to cause chaos there.


The idea also suggests to me Bruegel's bizarre images of the Tower of Babel and the images from the Tarot card "The Tower", both ideas suggest a terrible fall resulting from a project undertaken in pride, hubris, and arrogance against the laws of gods and nature, with "The Tower" suggesting such a fall on a personal level, and Babel suggesting such a fate befalling an entire civilization:

[spoiler images]





[/spoiler]

If you are feeling really arty, you might use that as a recurring theme throughout your campaign...
[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
These are all great ideas. I do like the idea of setting it up as a Far Realm invasion certainly. I have fans of Lovecraft in the group already and we haven't explored those themes in D&D at all yet. It also fits really well with the story setup of course. The dreams of the goddess idea intrigue me too. One of the thoughts was (and I know it's been done like everything else) that centuries ago they overthrew the gods and keep the goddess of magic imprisoned, siphoning her power and using it to elevate their own magics. That would fit with that idea from Tormin, the goddess actually calling through the portals for aid, drawing creatures to her to wreak vengeance and destruction.

I really like the fall of Babel idea too. That might fit with the overthrowing of the gods. Maybe it's something that the general population doesn't realize even, that they have imprisoned one of the gods. Maybe the creator god, something like IO, uses the portals to send retribution to the world to punish them for their hubris.

With all these great ideas I definitely have enough to put together the plot.  
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