If you follow my Twitter feed you may have noticed that I have a love of both the Dungeons AND the Dragons. Basically… Wizards of the Coast has me. In a platonic sense. I’m hooked on multiple aspects of Wizardry. I’ve been a Magic player since I was a wee lad with flowing golden locks, wrestling Grizzly Bears in the frozen highlands of Dominaria. My love of Magic led me to play both Duels of the Planeswalkers and Magic Online. I’ve owned and spent hours playing NetRunner and Axis and Allies. I also have plans to one day steal THIS statue and turn it into a full body suit (don’t you tell nobody).
However, unlike a lot of Wizards of the Coast fans, I never found myself entering the wide world of Dungeons & Dragons until fairly recently. I have no stories of “the good old days” in D&D. I was not present that one time back in ‘78. I’ve never been in the Tomb of Horrors. I have yet to encounter a gelatinous cube. After six sessions of running my own D&D campaign, though, I DO have stories to share.
When I started my first campaign as Dungeon Master months ago, I was determined to really focus on learning the ins and outs of the game system. I also decided to start my campaign from nothingness. As a DM and storyteller, I wanted to create my own universe from scratch using the ideas I’d gained from both reading and writing fiction.
Chris Perkins’ blog: The Dungeon Master Experience was a factor. I feel like you could just buy some dice and read that man’s articles and you’d have everything you need to run a D&D campaign. Like him and many other DMs, I tend to steal borrow story ideas from the movies and books I read. The D&D books are also a thing. They provide structure and character classes which are important, but where adventures are concerned, I never run sessions straight from the published text. Instead I tend to use the plots and races described in D&D books as props. I can pick and choose the pieces I like best and work them into my campaign. If they don’t make sense, I tweak them or make up a reason why they do make sense.
With a party of four players (which later grew to 5) plus myself, I began my first adventure using the first world ideas to pop into my head. The King of Avalith had sent out pamphlets (via carrier squirrels) in order to call out heroes from across the land. He needed an elixir retrieved from a temple in the nearby mountains (apparently all the King’s men were terrible fighters/mountain climbers). There was something unique about this little kingdom, though, and the players soon learned that everyone who lived in Avalith was immortal… sort of. The crystal that floated above the King’s throne provided this power, and its batteries were starting to run out. The elixir would basically give it a fresh charge and solve their little aging and/or dying problem.
Cut to the mountain temple – aside from a small spider and skeleton infestation, the location containing the elixir turned out to be a nice cozy little spot. Even the ghosts were friendly and offered them supper. The adventurers pressed on through puzzle-locked doors and found their prize, and the elixir they sought was in the hands of an ancient lich. So ancient that he really had no interest in fighting my adventurers – in fact he was quite friendly and offered the party his hospitality (in the best Sean Connery voice I could perform). The problem, however, was that the elixir was also the lich’s phylactery. The players were faced with the dilemma of whether or not they should steal the elixir and kill the nice old retired lich, leave it be and lose the favor of Avalith’s people, or… or… OR DRINK THE ELIXIR and become immortals themselves! Evil lich magic would be theirs! In place of a dark lord you would have a queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the sea!
… they chose the first thing. The lich thanked them for playing nice, and the adventurers officially established their first base of operations in his temple, fully staffed with ghostly servants and fluffy beds. The session was the most fun I’d had with a group of friends outside of my card and board gaming habits hobbies. It not only established my new world and several characters, but in my mind it established the group’s first nemesis in the form of a jaded and quasi-immortal King, still awaiting his promised elixir: a consequence my adventurers have yet to fully face.