Monday, December 31, 2012, 5:19 AM
2012 will long be remembered as a year in which my passion for D&D was given fresh life. Painting minis, playing MTG, reading The Hobbit, studying OSRIC, discovering Gygax magazine, and preparing for a GDQ1-7 campaign in the new year.
2013 marks my 35th year of enjoying D&D, and what a long strange trip its been. Finding my way as a noob in the 70's, hitting my stride in the 80's, flying like an eagle in the 90's, catching my breath in the 00's, and beginning anew in the 10's.
Favorite groups of mine:
The Waldo Avenue Gang in the early 80's. There were fifteen of us. We enjoyed a goodly amount of what later became known as backyard LARPing. We also enjoyed plenty of table-top AD&D, some Gamma World, some Star Frontiers, and plenty of d20 battlefield stuff with miniatures that we'd paint ourselves. Our youngest group member, Walter, was six years old. He and I are still friends today. He's into filmmaking. Our oldest group member, Thomas, was twelve years old. We went on to sing in a band together, and I was best man at his wedding. He'll be with us at the table-top AD&D campaigns in 2013.
The Homebrew Crew in the early 80's. Junior high school was a time of branching out. There was a D&D group on Grant Avenue, near Main Street. Word was getting around that their DM Tony was a great DM. He was a few years older than I was, and he had been playing AD&D for a few years longer. His very presence made me want to raise the level of my own games. Tony's group consisted of his younger brother James, and two kids from the nearby neighborhood, Dominic, and Nicky. They were a tight unit; impenetrable. Soon enough, Tony had outgrown AD&D. James did too. Dominic and Nicky continued on, with me as their DM. I was home-brewing D&D adventures like mad. A memorable one involved the Castle Of Red Horn.
The Band Of The Hand in the mid 80's. There were five of us, as the group's name suggests. Memorable PC's included Jobe, Zooberus, Lightningfoot, and Sir Goon Of (played by Jonathan). Tarax and Slace (Tom). Borzog (Anthony). Astrid The Valiant and Harlequin L. Jokester (Kevin). These were the times of the all-nighters; marathon table-top gaming sessions fueled by soda and snacks. It was a glorious time to be a gamer, and we enjoyed it to the hilt.
The Dragonlance Gang in the mid 80's. There were six of us, and Dragonlance was our thing. Memorable PC's included Tarax (played by Tom), Okarr The Magnificent (John), Gutboy Barrelhouse (Rich), and Bowloslowsious (Bobb). Author Tracy Hickman gave us an exciting new way of experiencing AD&D, with modules DL1-4. We played the entire series, and Hickman's characters in the storyline (Tanis, Raistlin, Goldmoon, Riverwind, Tasselhoff Burrfoot, et. al.) appeared in the campaign as NPC's. Our PC's were the real stars of the show, however. Some of them will resurface in 2013, as NPC's in the upcoming GDQ1-7 campaign.
The Joiners in the mid 90's. There were six of us, and we used the Planescape campaign setting. Much of what went on involved The Outlands and the city of Sigil. Background music was used to help create a mood. And the floating skull (mimir) even had it's own tracks on cd. Memorable PC's included Antic (Joe), Q'bic Kidard (Dan), and Bat, Son Of Tarax and Whipsnake The Rattler (Tom). Invitations were sent by snail mail to each of the players. Elaborately detailed character backgrounds were written for each player. The campaign was more anchored in role-play, than actual combat, and it was visually superior to any of my previous campaigns. Planescape artwork was stunning. Planescape trading cards were used as indicators for the NPC's, and the player handouts were a joy to look at.
Other groups came and went; the most memorable of which was the Dungeon Squad in 2010. And now, 2013 brings with it the GDQ1-7 campaign and the Meanwhile campaign, in my home-brewed realm of Benchleydale. Tom is back. Dan is back. Kevin is back. Many newer faces are in the mix as well. Empire Gaming is our home base. Bring it on, 2013. Bring it on.
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Sunday, December 30, 2012, 4:16 AM
It was decided that our January 6th starting date (for the GDQ1-7) campaign would be postponed until January 27th. One one hand, yes, it would have been very nice to begin on January 6th. Many of us were stoked for January 6th, myself included. On the other hand, postponement is wise. Let me count the ways.
The more I study Gary Gygax's G1-3 modules, the more I want to write. For instance, Gary gives the DM plenty of NPC's to work with, each of whom would greatly benefit from further development. I'll know when I've written enough, and I have not arrived at that juncture just yet.
It was beginning to look like some of our players weren't going to be able to join us on January 6th, for one reason or another. As the DM, it's important for me that we have as many players as we can in attendance on our campaign's starting date.
I've been away in Nevada, where I am convalescing from having had radical platelet-rich plasma stem-cell treatments to grow new nerves and bloodvessels in my legs. My recovery was going swimmingly, until an unfortunate setback occurred last night. It's become abundantly clear that I am not yet ready for my return flight from Nevada to New York.
Some of our players still must roll up their characters. We've expanded our roster of players to a confirmed sixteen, and I'll aid the new recruits with rolling up their characters when I am back in the swing of things on Long Island again. Sixteen players in one D&D group. Yes, you read that right. A group that includes all eleven of the character classes from the 1e AD&D Players Handbook. That's a first for me. And no small thrill, I might add.
All in all, I am entirely fine with this necessary postponement, and I know that our players are too. It's the winter holidays now. Everyone is enjoying the company of loved ones, and I understand that as well as anyone would. As for the GDQ1-7 campaign? Time is very much on our side. Good things come to those who wait.
I wish you a very happy new year in 2013. May all of your wildest dreams come true.
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Saturday, December 29, 2012, 12:16 PM
It was decided that I'll referee another 1e AD&D campaign at Empire Gaming (in addition to the GDQ1-7 campaign beginning on Jan 6th). 2013 is certainly shaping up to be a healthy year for 1e AD&D on Long Island.
This subsequent campaign will be known as "Meanwhile...". It will involve entirely different characters from the GDQ1-7 campaign, and the adventures would be entirely separate from the GDQ1-7 campaign. It does, however, take place in the same home-brewed realm of Benchleydale, at the same time as the GDQ1-7 campaign, using the same 1st edition AD&D rules. I suppose another name for this new campaign could be "Benchleydale And Beyond" (or B&B).
Sessions will happen every third Saturday. 5 or 6 players only, and characters will start at 4th or 5th level (instead of 8th or 9th like we do in the GDQ1-7). As such, the "Meanwhile..." adventures would be less dangerous, and the campaign would allow for greater character development.
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Thursday, December 27, 2012, 7:28 AM
When it comes to tabletop RPGs, I've learned that there's far more to the adventure than meets the eye. When two universes collide, merge, and become as one, we bear witness to an unlocking of the true power of the game.
I first learned of 1e AD&D in 1978, when my parents moved our small family from Vermont to New York. We settled down in the sprawling suburbia of Long Island, along the Lynbrook/Malverne border. I was in 3rd grade at the time. In the house next door to ours, there lived a family with three sons. The youngest of these three brothers was my age. We became good friends, he and I. He and his two older brothers played D&D, and they listened to Queen on vinyl.
The oldest brother homebrewed his own dungeons on graph paper, and he was the first DM that I'd ever met. The DM mostly kept to himself, and didn't socialize with me very much at all. That's what I remember about him today, more than anything else. The private manner in which he carried himself, and that involuntary aura of mystique. I thought he was a genius. Perhaps he was. The youngest brother would sometimes tell me stories about his older brother's D&D adventures, and how ruthless of a DM he was. Being an imagination-oriented lad, I was hooked. I wanted to join in and play. One day, they let me roll up a character, and sit in on a session or two. Little did I know how much of an impact that would have on me. I had joined a secret society, that only we knew about. We had separated ourselves from the rest of the world. No one else would see what we'd see. I had crossed over, and I had witnessed the merger of two universes, theirs and mine. It was exhilirating. It was a feeling that I would reacquaint myself with time-and-time-again, for more than three quarters of my life.
After a few years of gameplay exclusively with TSR products, I began to explore other game systems. I began to experiment. Before too long, I was cherrypicking elements from this system or that system, and integrating them into 1e AD&D. It came naturally, and I remember being surprised that more DMs in my area weren't trying different things like I was. Looking back on it all, I believe that the other DMs in my area were TSR purists. There were quite a few DMs in my area in the early 1980's. Generally speaking, each DM had their own group, and they rarely (if ever) branched out to enjoy gameplay with other groups. Some DMs frowned upon the ways in which other DMs ran their groups. Some of this "frowning upon" was justifiable (if another DM was running hack/slash or monty haul or super-leveling). If anything, I was more of a "live and let live" DM. As such, I didn't lose any sleep at night.
In 1981, Arms Law and Spell Law were published by Iron Crown Enterprises. These books contained many new character classes, and many new spells, all of which were easily adpated to 1e AD&D, if a DM were so inclined. I was. And I did. These books also introduced me to critical hits/fumbles tables. I never saw a natural 20 in the same light again.
Soon after came the Fantasy Wargaming book in 1982, written by Bruce Galloway, published by Stein & Day. This rather unwieldy tome contained the Bogey Table; a random table on page 86, for character handicaps/boons/quirks/flaws, which fascinated me to no end. Here was something outside of TSR, which found a home at my gaming table. It wasn't long before new characters in my groups were regularly rolling on the Bogey Table during their character generation.
Hot on the heels of all that, in 1983, Bard Games published a delightful series of books, which also became part of my D&D arsenal. These books included the Arcanum, The Compleat Adventurer, and The Compleat Spellcaster; opening a door to a wide range of new character classes, and shedding light upon a new spellcasting system to the forefront. Want to play as a necromancer or a warlock? No problem. Want to be a beastmaster or a corsair? No problem. It was all inside the covers of those Bard Games publications.
The early 1980's was certainly a renaissance period for the RPG community, the likes of which we've not seen since. Competition, growth, and expansion are all necessary for any industry to remain healthy in a free market economy. If I could shake hands with I.C.E., Bruce Galloway, and Bard Games, you know I would. I'd also thank them for teaching all of us that there's always room for fresh ideas.
Now, thirty years later, I stand upon the precipice of another gaming system called Hackmaster (published by KenzerCo). 2013 will be the year in which I learn to play this new system. It remains to be seen if I'll cross over once more, grafting pieces from Hackmaster onto our 1e AD&D gameplay, or if I'll enjoy Hackmaster as an entirely separate system on its own. Only time will tell. If my RPG history has taught me anything though, its taught me that crossing over never subtracts from the 1e AD&D experience. Crossing over leads to enlightenment and enrichment. It is nothing to be afraid of.
Sure, being a TSR purist has its boons. But remember, it's a great big world out there too, with ideas aplenty. Enjoy.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012, 12:37 PM
Writing for a D&D campaign is quite unlike any other kind of writing. It is the very apex of the writing craft. Knowing that the tale will change shape with every gaming session, is half the fun. Careful placement of NPC's and plot devices is essentially the tending of a grand garden. When the tale begins to blossom and flower, after two or three sessions, the craft becomes even more stylish. PC's will certainly do their part, to help steer the story along, creating a colorful collaboration quite unlike any other form of writing.
It was decided, for this campaign-to-end-all-campaigns, that the NPC pool will largely consist of prominent pre-existing characters/creatures/deities from D&D's earliest days. There'll be efreeti, in a nod to Sutherland's iconic cover at from the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide. There'll be appearances by members of the original Circle Of Eight (Mordenkainen, Bibgy, et. al.). There'll be githyanki, in a nod to Emmanuel's iconic cover art from the 1981 Fiend Folio. Deities will have their parts to play (including Asmodeus, Lolth, and Thor, to name a few). There'll be firbolgs, in a nod to Jeff Easley's iconic cover art from 1983's Monster Manual II.
Some NPC's will be benevolent. Some will be hostile. Some will be transparent. Some will be tricksy. All will be interesting.
In my world, challenging oneself as a D&D writer is important for personal growth. Never one to become stagnant, I've written countless campaign notes through the years. Some notes get recycled. Some notes are forgotten, and lost to the ages. Each time a fresh campaign rolls around, it gets better. Always better, never worse.
Giving old treasures a new chance to shine has also always ever been part of the process for me, as a writer. Case in point, the great golden mace of the north. Originally intended as both a treasure and a plot device in the 1990's, when I was DM'ing a mindblowing Planescape campaign. Raise your hands if you remember the Planescape campaign setting from 1994. The sun was setting on 2nd edition D&D, and it was an uncertain time for the game. At any rate, the PC (Zogg Zogz) for whom the treasure was written, never did factor into the equation. Clearly, not everyone shared my passion for the game at the time. And so, not unlike Sauron's one ring to rule them all, the treasure vanished without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again.
Until now. The great golden mace of the north will be one of the featured treasures in our GDQ1-7.
A favorite PC of mine (Okarr The Magnificent) reappears in this new campaign, as an arch-mage who dwells inside his own wizard tower along the eastern rim of Benchleydale, just north of the marshlands, near where the witch (Terrible Tess) makes her home.
In the mid-1980's, I was refereeing a fun Dragonlance campaign, in which the PC Okarr was one of the stars of the show. He was a dual-classed F/MU who wielded a magic sword with power-word activation. Speaking the word "Zar" would make the sword go aflame; dealing extra fire damage to his opponents. Speaking the word "Par" would grant the wielder the power of flight. It remains to be seen if this weapon will reappear in this new campaign, but it's almost certain that Okarr himself will have a part to play in all this, before the story is through. While this is not the first time that Okarr has appeared as an NPC in my many D&D adventures, I can say with complete certainty that this will be the last (and best) time that he appears. And you, dear readers, can interpret that any way that you'd like to.
Having a rich DM history, from which to draw upon, goes a long way towards the fleshing out of any new D&D campaign. Having great modules to run (GDQ1-7) makes my job seem less like a task and more like fun. Striking the right balance between hack/slash and monty haul is an artform unto itself.
I'm still enjoying the ride, after all these years, and against all odds. The faces/names/places have changed, and yet my affinity for the game still remains. I'm still learning too, about my strengths/weaknesses as a storyteller (and still learning about my love for the craft, which might dwindle at times, but most assuredly will never die, as long as players are willing to join me at my table, in search of adventure).
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Tuesday, December 25, 2012, 7:26 PM
Our GDQ1-7 campaign got a big shot-in-the-arm today, when it was announced that Tony Hellmann's CRITONOMICON would be in play.
Published by Technomancer Press in 2006, and out-of-print since then (for reasons unknown), the CRITONOMICON has become a holy grail for DMs (with used copies of the book presently fetching upwards of $250 on amazon dotcom).
One product description (at the Technomancer wikipedia page) says "...over 60 tables tailored to every need: simple, quick crits and fumbles decided by the roll of a d6; more sophisticated tables requiring a d20 or multiple dice, and our grand charts which have hundreds of possibilities."
Gone are the days of a natural 20 meaning double-damage, that's for sure.
Far be it from me to fully comprehend why TSR (and Wizards Of The Coast later on) never seemed to get it right, when it came to critical hits/fumbles.
Leave it to the indie publishing houses to get it right. Go figure.
Until the CRITONOMICON came along, the best critical hits/fumbles engine that I'd seen appeared exclusively in the Rolemaster books; published by Iron Crown Enterprises in 1984. Those charts were such a success with my D&D groups back then, resounding chants of "Chart! Chart! Chart!" were often heard at the table, when a player rolled a natural 20 to hit.
In more recent years, the Gamemastery decks (put on the market by Paizo Publishing in 2008, and still very much in print), were a good time too, even if somewhat pedestrian by my cultured standards. My D&D group in 2011 used the Gamemastery critical hit/fumble decks, and they were enjoyable enough, I suppose. Variety is still the spice of life, you know.
I've tried all the rest, and I'm ready to roll with the best.
The CRITONOMICON also features "charts that are weapon specific and others that are opponent specific (mounted opponents, winged opponents, et cetera)...one of the spell fumble tables is even specific to spell level and school of magic."
There's every reason to believe that this holy grail will enhance the gaming experience tenfold. Our players have assuredly never had it so good. If word gets around to other D&D groups in our area, that we're using the seldom-seen CRITONOMICON, they'll be green with envy.
Somewhere up there, at the big gaming table in the sky, Gary Gygax is smiling, and I know why. At least one D&D group is truly doing justice to his GDQ1-7 campaign, on this eve of the 40th anniversary of his game.
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Sunday, December 23, 2012, 4:27 AM
Hackmaster and OSRIC.
While focusing primarily on the fleshing out of a GDQ1-7 campaign, I'm finding that an affinity for Hackmaster and OSRIC has begun to take shape. The current edition of Hackmaster (5th edition, I do believe) will be a healthy obsession for me in 2013. I know of no one who has played it with regularity, and plans are underway for Jason Robinette and myself to become guiding lights for it on Long Island.
Having been a reader of Knights Of The Dinner Table, I have known of the Hackmaster RPG for nearly ten years. Having recently begun to read the Hackmaster Basic PDF (at www.kenzerco.com/hackmaster/) has been a joyous experience. It has shone quite a light on this delightful RPG. While similar to AD&D in many ways, Hackmaster has a flavor all its own, and I liken the journey to the learning of a fun new language.
As for OSRIC, it's something that I've been hearing about for a long time, but never began to examine closely, until now. OSRIC stands for Old School Reference and Index Compendium, and the modules can be enjoyed with AD&D rules. While some might dismiss OSRIC as being a TSR clone, others have embraced it as an indie entity. Rather than frown upon OSRIC, or pooh-pooh it, I've decided to give it a whirl.
Many OSRIC modules can be found, if one looks hard enough. I am particularly interested in the OSRIC modules for higher levels, and I welcome the challenge of grafting them onto the GDQ1-7 campaign (where all of our gamers are already at 8th or 9th level). Having never even held a print edition of an OSRIC module in my hands before, I am stoked to acquire some, and see what they're all about.
And so, to Hackmaster and OSRIC, I raise my glass on high, in a holiday toast to you both.
Getting to know you better will be fun. Not unlike the fabled explorers of old, I shall embark upon these two expeditions in 2013, in search of greater RPG glory. But first, it's back to the GDQ1-7 grind for me. One thing at a time, folks. One thing at a time.
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Saturday, December 22, 2012, 12:09 PM
The Circle Of Eight. Mordenkainen, Bigby, Rigby, Zigby, Yrag, Felnorith, Vram, and Vin.
Names which harken back to the earliest days of D&D. Criminally underused as NPC's in previous campaigns of mine. Their time has come.
What better way to pay homage to Gygax, during this upcoming 40th anniversary year of D&D, than to breathe fresh life into the CO8 while DM'ing Gygax's masterpiece (GDQ1-7)? If this campaign is to truly be remembered as one for the ages, it seems only fitting that we marinate the adventure in CO8 sauce. I know of no finer recipe.
Researching the CO8 is no more difficult than a Google search. Plenty of details are easily found. The fun part comes later. Inserting the CO8 into the campaign. What sorts of challenges will their insertion present for the players?
As DM, I ought to steer clear of taking the easy way out (having it simply be a direct combat confrontation with the CO8, or having it simply be a chance encounter, et. al.)
On the contrary, placing of the CO8 into this campaign will be done with surgical precision. Weaving a thought-provoking storyline with the CO8 will enhance the campaign in ways that the players will remember for all their days.
In doing so, here are some guidelines that I'll follow:
Spacing. Deconstruct the CO8 and spread the NPC's all throughout the campaign, having them be spaced far enough apart, so as not to introduce them all into the tale too soon.
Timing. Knowing when to play the CO8 card is just as important as knowing that I'll want to play the CO8 card in the first place. Playing the CO8 card too soon, however, disrupts the flow of gameplay. Instead, play the CO8 card only once in a very rare while. Use best judgment.
Voicing. Let each NPC have their own voice, be it gruff, frantic, soft-spoken, cautious, emboldened, or whatever. Don't overlap voices. Remain distinctive. And roleplay them to the hilt, full-tilt.
The 5 W's and the H.
Who = Mordenkainen
What does he have with him? His faithful hound, perhaps?
When did he get there?
Where is he exactly?
Why is he there exactly?
How did he get there?
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Monday, December 17, 2012, 8:12 AM
A DM can get by on his own wiles and wits. One's own imagination can carry us far. It's why we are DM's, after all. And yet, it never hurts to get by with a little help from our friends in the writing community. If I had a dollar for every time that I felt inspired by something that I'd read in a book someplace, I could treat all of us to a steak dinner. And, by "all of us", I mean everyone that I've ever known.
Let's cut to the chase. My resources for the GDQ1-7 campaign are as follows:
The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe
One Shot, by Lee Child
Under The Dome, by Stephen King
The Teeth Of The Tiger, by Tom Clancy
Taken aback by that list? Not what you expected? I detect a great furrowing of a great many brows. Good. Inspiration can come to us from the unlikeliest of sources, you know.
My list of resources would be a dull list indeed if it were comprised entirely of fantasy fare and/or predictable selections.
Let's see now...
The Tolkien book is a no-brainer. And with all of the Peter Jackson hullaballoo, including The Hobbit amongst my resources makes all the sense in the world. I have never read it before, and it's already surprised me in ways that I never dreamed it would. Case in poiint, who knew that the section with Gollum and Bilbo was such a short part? Not I. Also, who knew that Beorn was such a colorful character? Not I. And furthermore, seeing how Tolkien sets the stage is something I can learn from.
The Wolfe book is a curious inclusion. Rarely do tales of courage inspire me like the tales of our nation's early test pilots and Mercury/Gemini/Apollo astronauts do. This book's pages will serve as a constant reminder that men can overcome seemingly impossible odds, not unlike the eleven players who'll be going up against the giants in our campaign. As DM, it's my job to constantly bombard the players with challenges, and never let up.
The Child book is the tale from which that new Tom Cruise film (Jack Reacher) is based upon. Stephen King was once quoted as saying that the character of Jack Reacher is the coolest character in a continuing series. Child was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America. There've been 17 novels in the Jack Reacher series, and this one is number 9 (first published in 2005). Even if I absorb only a small amount of Child's talent as a storyteller, and apply it to our campaign, I will consider it a victory.
The King book is a book which I began reading in November of 2009, when it first came out. For some reason or another, I never made it past page 25 or so. What can I say? Life just gets in the way of a reader and his book sometimes. Now, more than ever before, I am determined to finish what I started, and find ways to apply the storytelling technique to our campaign. King's long been a favorite author of mine, and I can think of none more worthy for me to be inspired by. Publishers Weekly said the book was "formidably complex and irresistibly compelling" in their 2009 review. It's a description which I'd like to be said of our campaign as well.
The Clancy book is my wild card. It's been years since I read Clancy with any degree of regularity (The Sum Of All Fears having been my last dance with him, all the way back in 1991). As far as Clancy's Jack Ryan books go, The Teeth Of The Tiger is hardly thought of as "essential". Nonetheless, it introduces the character of Jack Ryan Jr, and it signals a new beginning for the Ryan legacy. It's an interesting parallel to our GDQ1-7 campaign, as the spirit of 1e AD&D continues to live on through us. I'd also like for our campaign to contain elements of espionage/intrigue, and who better for me to draw inspiration from than Clancy?
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Saturday, December 15, 2012, 12:04 PM
Far be it from me to fully comprehend why any DM would start a module without first adding some color to the adventure beforehand. As for our GDQ1-7 campaign, beginning on January 6th, there's plenty of color in the Benchleydale realm, in which the hill giant fortress is situated.
Benchleydale is governed by the good king Asiago. His royal subjects are loyal to their king, and the people have lived in peace for many years...until now. The hill giants have begun to run amok, laying waste to the surrounding townships, and becoming increasingly militant. A refugee camp has taken shape, and the people no longer enjoy the protection of their regent, as they once did.
There was only one thing left for the king to do. Recruit a hit squad, send them on a (perilous) mission to infiltrate the hill giant fortress, exterminate the giants if they must, find out why the giants are running amok, and report back to the king.
A map of the Benchelydale realm will be given to the players, when they first embark upon their journey. It is five days' travel on horseback, from the southwesterly king's castle to the northeasterly hill giant fortress. Many opportunities will present themselves along the way, for the party to get sidetracked from their primary mission. Interaction with NPC's along the way is hardly a necessity, and yet Benchleydale is a realm that's been sufficiently saturated with opportunities for sub-plots and side-missions.
To create the realm leading up to the module is one very important task for a DM. To maintain a working knowledge of the realm is another very important task of a DM. Knowing where the party might find the Hand Of Vecna or a Deck Of Many Things is just as important as knowing the primary mission of the party. Knowing that Okarr The Magnificent might dispatch the party on a quest, sending them four days' travel in the opposite direction from the hill giant fortress, is all just part of the grand design of the game.
As DM, one always ought to let the party have the freedom to do whatever they choose to do. Steering the party towards once particular destination all the time isn't really the way that the game is meant to be played. Let the campaign breathe. Have it be a colorful experience, and not simply a static (or cliche') experience. Be quick with a random encounter whenever appropriate, and allow the players to enjoy as much of the realm as they'd like to explore (before they dive headlong into the module).
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