This article is part 1 of the “Start A Campaign… Now!“ series.
- Start A Campaign – Part 1: The first game
- Start A Campaign – Part 2: Before the second game
- Start A Campaign – Part 3: The second game
- Start A Campaign – Part 4: How to prepare a great game in 30 minutes or less
One of my favorite aspects of D&D is world and campaign creation. The possibilities are endless. The players are excited about the upcoming first game. The inspiration flows.
However, I usually quickly find myself confronted by the implications of my visions of grandeur. Who has the time to really create a world, plan a campaign perfectly and logically. It’s almost impossible. But it is possible to create and plan enough for you and your players to have fun.
What does doing just enough mean? Here’s my failsafe approach to a first game:
- Let the players know the first game will be almost exclusively character creation.
- Tell the players they are responsible for determining how their characters know, or met each other, and why they will stick together.
- Make sure the characters all have hero potential.
- Invent 3 unique, odd, fascinating facts about their world, environment or situation.
- Get them into a fight as soon as everyone is done with their characters!
The first game is all about the characters
My players’ characters will be the center of attention for dozens of games and years to come. They need to be fun to play and fun to watch. That’s why I will allow the players to play any character concept they can think of. I’ll even give them extra skill points to make the concept work. The only limit to what their characters can be is how they all fit together, as a group. The classes don’t matter at all, but the social interactions, the reason why they are – or will be – an adventuring group is crucial to the survival of the campaign. That’s why they have to create their characters together and decide how they know each other together.
I like to supervise the character creation process for each player. I spend 30 minutes to an hour with each player, filling the character sheet. Usually, I end up allowing and suggesting much more than I restrict what the character can be. I like to do that to know the characters better and to reinforce the idea that the character can or will be exceptional.
The characters will become heroes
To become a fully qualified hero, a character needs one strength one flaw. Big ones. It makes the game much more fun. The concept of the hero with one major weakness has been used for decades and it works. I feel this is very important in a game.
Limited world creation
Since this D&D stuff is all about the players, you will design a campaign – and possibly a whole world – that allows them to use their skills and achieve greatness. If you design too much too early you might find that it clashes with an interesting character or group concept. I like to come up with 2 or 3 random facts about the world they’ll be adventuring in. I will mention these facts during the opening scene to grab the players attention, give them something to look forward to. But ultimately, the first game is all about…
The first fight
Hey, encounters are a big part of Dungeons & Dragons. Everyone enjoys them. And the players are eager to test their characters abilities.
It’s that easy
There you go. A successful, 3 or 4 hours long first game. If the game is not long enough, get the characters into another fight. Don’t make a habit of it, but it’s acceptable in a first game.