Dungeon Master's Guide 5e

(Joyce) #1

Or perhaps they begin the campaign in the dungeons
of an evil baron's castle where they've been locked up
for various reasons (legitimate or otherwise), throwing
them into the midst of the adventure.
For each of these steps, give the locations only as
much detail as they need. You don't need to identify
every building in a village or label every street in a large
city. If the characters start in the baron's dungeon, you'll
nee d the details of this first adventure site, but you
don't have to name all the baron's knights. Sketch out
a simple map, think about the surrounding area, and
consider whom the characters are most likely to interact
with early in the campaign. Most important, visualize
how this area fits into the theme and story you have in
mind for your campaign. Then start working on your
first adventure!


As you start to develop your campaign, you'll need to
fill in the players on the basics. For easy distribution,
compile essential information into a campaign
handout. Such a handout typically includes the
following material:
Any restrictions or new options for character creation,
such as new or prohibited races.
Any information in the backs tory of your campaign
that the characters would know about. If you have
a theme or direction in mind for the campaign, this
information could include seeds hinting at that focus.

  • Basic information about the area where the characters
    are starting, such as the name of the town, important
    locations in and around it, prominent NPCs they'd
    know about, and perhaps rumors that point to trouble
    that's brewing.
    Keep this handout short and to the point. Two pages
    is a reasonable maximum. Even if you have a burst of
    creative energy that produces twenty pages of great
    background material, save it for your adventures. Let
    the players uncover the details gradually in play.

Once you've id entified what your campaign is about,
let the players help tell the story by deciding how their
characters are involved. This is their opportunity to
ti e their characters' history and background to the
campaign, a nd a chance for you to determine how the
various elements of each character's background tie
into the campaign's story. For example, what secret has
the hermit character learned? What is the status of the
noble character's family? What is the folk hero's destiny?
Some players might have trouble coming up with
ideas-not everyone is equally inventive. You can help
spur their creativity with a few questions about their

Are you a native, born and raised in the area? If so,
who's your family? What's your current occupation?

  • Are you a recent arrival? Where did you come from?
    Why did you come to this area?


Are you tied to any of the organizations or people
involved in the events that kick off the campaign? Are
they friends or enemies?
Listen to the players' ideas, and say yes if you can.
Even if you want all the characters to have grown up in
the starting town, consider allowing a recent arrival or
a transplant if the player's story is convincing e nough.
Suggest alterations to a character's story so it better fits
your world, or weave the first threads of your campaign
into that story.

Backgrounds are designed to root player characters
in the world, and creating new backgrounds is a great
way to introduce players to the special features of your
world. Backgrounds that have ties to particular cultures,
organizations, a nd historical events from your campaign
are particularly strong. Perhaps the priests of a certain
religion live as beggars supported by a pious populace,
singing the tales of their deity's exploits to entertain
and enlighten the faithful. You could create a mendicant
priest background (or modify the acolyte background)
to reflect these qualities. It could include musical
instrument proficiency, and its feature probably involves
receiving hospitality from the faithful.
Guidelines for creating a new background are
provided in chapter 9, "Dungeon Master's Workshop."

Campaign Events

Significant events in the history of a fantasy world tend
toward immense upheavals: wars that pit the forces
of good against evil in an epic confrontation, natural
disasters that lay waste to entire civilizations, invasions
of vast armies or extra planar hordes, assassinations
of world leaders. These world-shaking events title the
chapters of history.
In a D&D game, such events provide the sparks that
can ignite and sustain a campaign. The most common
pitfall of serial stories without a set beginning, mfddle,
and end is inertia. Like many telev ision shows and
comic-book series, a D&D campaign runs the risk of
retreading the same ground long after the enjoyment's
gone. Just as actors or writers drift away from those
other mediums, so can players-the actors and writers
of a D&D game. Games stagnate when the story
meanders too long without a change in tone, when the
same villains and similar adventures grow tiresome and
predictable, and when the world doesn't change around
the characters and in response to their actions.
World-shaking events force conflict. They set new
events and power groups in motion. Their outcomes
change the world by altering the tone of the setting
in a meaningful way. They chronicle the story of your
world in big, bold print. Change- especially change that
occurs as a result of the characters' actions-keeps the
story moving. If change is imperceptible, the actions
of the characters lack significance. When the world
becomes reliable, it's time to shake things up.
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