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 non player
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.
The backbone of a campaign is a connected series
of adventures, but you can connect them in two
In a continuing campaign, the connected adventures
share a sense of a larger purpose or a recurring
theme (or themes). The adventures might feature
returning villains, grand conspiracies, or a single
mastermind who's ultimately behind every adventure
of the campaign.
A continuing campaign designed with a theme and
a story arc in mind can feel like a great fantasy epic.
The players derive the satisfaction of knowing the
actions they take during one adventure matter in the
next. Plotting and running that kind of campaign can
be demanding on the DM, but the payoff is a great and
An episodic campaign, in contrast, is like a television
show where each week's episode is a self-contained
story that doesn't play into any overarching plot. It
might be built on a premise that explains its nature: the
player characters are adventurers-for-hire, or explorers
venturing into the unknown and facing a string of
unrelated dangers. They might even be archaeologists,
venturing into one ancient ruin after another in search
of artifacts. An episodic game like this lets you create
adventures-or buy published ones- and drop them into
your campaign without worrying about how they fit with
the adventures that came before and follow after.
A theme in a campaign, as in a work of literature,
expresses the deeper meaning of a story and the
fundamental elements of human experience that the
story explores. Your campaign doesn't have to be a work
of literature, but it can still draw on common themes
that lend a distinctive flavor to its stories. Consider
CHAPTER I I A WORLD OF YOUR OWN
A campaign about confronting the inevitability of
mortality, whether embodied in undead monsters or
expressed through the death of loved ones.
A campaign revolving around an insidious evil,
whether dark gods, monstrous races such as the
yuan-ti, or creatures of unknown realms far removed
from mortal concerns. As heroes confront this evil,
they must face the selfish, cold tendencies of their own
kind as well.
A campaign featuring troubled heroes who confront
not only the savagery of the bestial creatures of the
world, but also the beast within- the rage and fury
that lies in their own hearts.
A campaign exploring the insatiable thirst for power
and domination, whether embodied by the hosts of the
Nine Hells or by humanoid rulers bent on conquering
With a theme such as "confrontation with mortality,"
you can craft a broad range of adventures that aren't
necessarily connected by a common villain. One
adventure might feature the dead bursting from their
graves and threatening to overwhelm a whole town.
In the next adventure, a mad wizard creates a flesh
golem in an effort to revive his lost love. A villain could
go to extreme lengths to achieve immortality to avoid
confronting its own demise. The adventurers might
help a ghost accept death and move on, or one of the
adventurers might even become a ghost!
VARIATIONS ON A THEME
Mixing things up once in a while allows your players
to enjoy a variety of adventures. Even a tightly themed
campaign can stray now and then. If your campaign
heavily involves intrigue, mystery, and roleplaying, your
players might enjoy the occasional dungeon crawl-
especially if the tangent is revealed to relate to a larger
plot irr the campaign. If most of your adventures are
dungeon expeditions, shift gears with a tense urban
mystery that eventually leads the party into a dungeon
crawl in an abandoned building or tower. If you run
horror adventures week after week, try using a villain
who turns out to be ordinary, perhaps even silly. Comic
relief is a great variation on almost any D&D campaign,
though players usually provide it themselves.
Tiers of Play 36 Table Rules
As characters grow in power, their ability to change the
world around them grows with them. It helps to think
ahead when creating your campaign to account for this
change. As the characters make a greater impact on the
world, they face greater danger whether they want to
or not. Powerful factions see them as a threat and plot
against them, while friendly ones court their favor in
hopes of striking a useful alliance.
The tiers of play represent the ideal milestones for
introducing new world-shaking events to the campaign.
As the characters resolve one event, a new danger
arises or the prior trouble transforms into a new threat
in response to the characters' actions. Events.need to
grow in magnitude and scope, increasing the stakes and
drama as the characters become increasingly powerful.