Call to Adventure

This is a handout I’ve lovingly researched and prepared for my players in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I’ll be starting soon.

Inspiration

While we’re waiting for the first session, I thought I’d share a few of the inspirational materials that made me want to run D&D this year.

Game Night by Jonny Nexus

Game Night is a book I found at random in my girlfriend’s grandparent’s AirBnB’s bookshelf. It’s nothing like what they’d read, so it must have been left by a previous guest. The god of gods, a Zeus analogue, is running a roleplaying game with his children gods. The gods themselves portray the archetypes, and control real people in the All-father’s creation in their game. It’s a hilarious take on role playing games and an interesting story at the same time.

Stranger Things (Netflix)

The opening scene has the protagonists playing D&D, battling a famous ‘big bad evil guy’ demon Demogorgon. The series uses D&D monsters and scenarios as metaphors for what’s happening to the characters. It’s a great show, very suspenseful. It’s probably the biggest reason that Dungeons and Dragons has exploded in popularity in the past year or two, though others will claim Critical Role has a bigger part. I doubt it.

The Adventure Zone podcast

One of my favorite movies just ended. It was roughly 80 hours of audio from start to finish, with no visual components whatsoever. It's coincidentally also one of my favorite books, and not only is it not on paper, it was largely improvised.

Into The Adventure Zone With Griffin McElroy in the Austin Chronicle by Rosalind Faires

The Adventure Zone started as three brothers and their dad doing a filler episode for their other podcast. A friend of my tweeted about it ending. That piqued my interest well enough to try the first episode. I was hooked and listened to the entire thing over a couple of months. It really put off my reading goal this year, since I spent all my free time on that. It’s an incredible introduction to the game by a family who’s never played before but has experience with improv and theater. If you listen, be aware that it begins with some minor spoilers for something y’all may do at the start of your game. I think it’s worth it.

Other inspiration

  • Critical Role, a very popular D&D actual play podcast that I haven’t listened to yet. I picked up the campaign setting and plan to incorporate at least some plot hooks from it. It can be watched on YouTube as videos or you can listen to the audio-only podcast. The players are mostly professional voice actors, which contributes to their success.
  • The Elder Scrolls Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim are big inspirations for me, especially with the “open world” I’m building.
  • Running The Game by Matt Colville is a youtube series mostly on DMing, but with some episodes that are of interest to players as well. Don’t watch the first 3 episodes, they’re spoilerific. Alignment and Politics 101, The Central Tension are interesting places to start as a player.
  • Draw Your Adventure is something I discovered years ago and was amused by. It’s a cartoony saga of intrigue, betrayal, and redemption.

Rolling Characters

We’ll do this together, but here’s the method we’ll be using to roll characters:

  • Roll stats first
    • Roll 4d6. Drop the lowest number, and sum the rest. Eg. 3 + 5 + 2 + 6 = 14. Write this as your STR score.
    • Repeat for DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA in order.
    • If you don’t have at least 2 scores >= 15, start over.
  • Based on these stats, choose a class and race
    • You could pick any class here, and there are interesting role-play aspects to playing a low-int WIS Wizard who actually bluffs his way through knowledge checks and “leads from the back” because her CHA is her highest stat and WIS was no good.
    • Race can augment these stats a bit, see the Races table.

This is designed to let us discover our characters, rather than bringing them to the table. I’m hoping this will be more interesting than playing into some of the tropes we’ve probably heard of.

More on rolling characters with this method (YouTube)

Don’t worry about building a “balanced party” with a melee, magic, healer, and dexterity character necessarily. Play what you want to and what will be fun. We’ll make it work. Even if you all play the same class, you’ll have that nice backstory that you all met in the monastery, are members of the same knightly order, or have studied magic together from a young age.

Character Names

Part of your campaign style has to do with naming characters. It's a good idea to establish some ground rules with your players at the start of a new campaign. In a group consisting of Sithis, Travok, Anastrianna, and Kairon, the human fighter named Bob II sticks out, especially when he's identical to Bob I, who was killed by kobolds. If everyone takes a lighthearted approach to names, that's fine. If the group would rather take the characters and their names a little more seriously, urge Bob's player to come up with a more appropriate name.

Player character names should match each other in flavor or concept, and they should also match the flavor of your campaign world-so should the nonplayer characters' names and place names you create. Travok and Kairon don't want to undertake a quest for Lord Cupcake, visit Gumdrop Island, or take down a crazy wizard named Ray.

From the DMG page 36

Resources

  • DnD 5e Quick Reference is an interactive reference for movement, actions, conditions, and effects. It’s all in the PHB but it’s nice to have a handy guide.
  • Cheat Sheets
  • Elevate your voice acting I think it’d be fun if we used voices for characters.
  • Roleplay Challenges / Personal Conflicts
  • Knife Theory is a way to make a character’s backstory more fully fleshed out and at the same time give me, the DM, ways to draw you in, raise the stakes for you, etc. Read the post, then think about what “knives” you’d like to include even before you create the rest of the character. You mighty come up with more that you like based on the race, class, background when we do character creation. Before then, things like your family, associations/debts/friendships, or deep dark secrets can be considered. Try to write a short paragraph about each knife.
  • Emotion Wheel I haven’t had a ton of experience role playing, and so this wheel seems like a good resource for creating more complex characters. Rather than “I’m surprised to see you adventurers here in my castle!” an NPC might be perplexed, baffled, and maybe a little annoyed that a motley crew of campaigners was before them. Conversely, when someone is indifferent to your characters they are also bored and feel “bad”.