Forgotten Realms: Dragon Queen Tiamat
Here are some initial details regarding the campaign I have planned, which will have an overarching plotline with some epic events to hook everyone in (and with which the party will somehow have to contend as potentially cataclysmic threats escalate) — though, with that said, I know the setting quite well from reading many of the Forgotten Realms books and am comfortable deviating from the main questline or customizing it with more “sandbox” style side-quests — and will definitely be personalizing the plot to your characters and their backgrounds somewhat, once those have been created and the party takes shape…
scheduling and attendance:
- I understand that some players (especially those potentially skyping in remotely) may not be able to make it every week (or even to every biweekly session if that’s the schedule we decide to go with). There are several ways to work around this possibility; so, depending on party size, I would encourage even people who think they could participate in most sessions to play if interested and give it a try. The minimum for a D&D session to be fun and “worth doing” (rather than canceling/postponing) is three players plus the Dungeon Master (a trio still feels like an adventuring party more than a duo, which can really only be fun with two very experienced players and an equally experienced DM).
- From experience, I can typically keep things moving fairly quickly with up to six players (even if some are new to D&D) and still keep combats from getting bogged down and hopefully give everyone a chance to shine and have fun throughout. Seven players would be an absolute maximum, and even with some experienced players helping with some DM tasks there would inevitably be some slowdown or player frustration. Four or five players showing up reliably is ideal, in my experience. So, with that said, depending on interest level from this initial group of prospects, we’ll see if we have to recruit anyone else or not to fill out a regular party…
- If players have to miss out on a few individual sessions as the campaign progresses due to scheduling conflicts but remain committed to attending most sessions in the campaign, that tends to be easy to work around and accommodate… In some cases, a character can ideally go off on a “side-quest” (when a player is absent) and conveniently return to the party at the start of the next session the player attends (with any activities the character wants to pursue during the side-quest to aid the party discussed, summarized, and resolved between the player and me as the DM by email during the weeks the player is absent).
- Alternatively, especially for one absence or an unexpected absence that may involve a tough battle for the party (or in cases where it would be tough for a character to leave the party temporarily), I can let another player run the absent player’s character as an NPC (trying to play it somewhat safe and not get the character killed, though I would do that only with the absent player’s approval regarding who will run his character in his absence, and of course this requires that the character sheet of the absent character has been left with me or the player’s trusted “proxy”).
- I like offering the freedom to play almost any type of fantasy character imaginable (and this is fairly easy to fit into the high-fantasy world of Forgotten Realms and customize accordingly, which is not true of every campaign world since some have a more limiting theme or tone). However, especially for those players potentially looking to creatively play an anti-hero type (or any non-“good” alignment, really), I would encourage some forethought about possible “in character” motivations for working with a (presumably mostly heroic) party (though that will be easier as it takes shape and bonds between characters are established and worked out); this way, such characters (who might be “unlikeable” or unsympathetic in real life) stay super fun for everyone to have around and spice up the plot with interesting motivational and ethical tensions, but ultimately don’t derail the campaign or split the party too often or severely. Examples, for anyone who doesn’t get what I’m talking about would be archetypes such as mercenary characters seeking various rewards, characters who may be “bad” or cruel but follow a code and are perhaps devoted to some supportive alliance with one of the other more nobly heroic characters that keeps them fighting for good causes, trickster characters curious to witness and take part in an epic adventure, etc.
mechanics of character creation:
- I would ideally prefer that everyone just use the standard point-buy system for assigning ability scores (it’s easy, can be done in advance without having to witness or verify rolls, and is maximally fair with a variety of options (min/max, balanced, etc.), though if most players prefer to “roll-up” characters old-school at the table with randomized stats we could do that, but it’s most fair and mechanically balanced if we choose one method or the other as a group and go with that for everyone). That said, options within a character’s background (personality, ideals, bonds, flaws) can be chosen freely, and do not have to be rolled randomly from the Player’s Handbook tables unless you can’t decide or don’t have a preference and just want to use dice to pick something from the options for you at random.
- I am also open to players creating customized or combined backgrounds (mixing and matching a hybrid of two of the provided options) if you can make a good case for that as a uniquely cool character concept (though, to be fair, this could of course never grant more than the normal number of skill and tool proficiencies, any overpowered/abnormal equipment, or more than one background “feature” — which is basically a roleplaying, as opposed to combat, “ability” or social advantage for your character); any customized background should ideally be approved by me in advance of play, however.
- I would prefer that we stick to the player character races in the Player’s Handbook, but if anyone really wants to play a nonstandard race we can talk about it — and I can see if I can find some 5th Edition expanded rules for that or create something custom, though that would be something the rest of the players would have to approve, to be fair, since it might not come out ideally balanced compared to thoroughly playtested rules.
party “balance” and composition:
- In general, it’s not as crucial as it has been in previous editions (cough 4th, 2nd) or as it is in most MMOs — for a variety of technical/mechanical reasons, as well as because each class has at least two “subclass” style paths or directions for character development which are almost like multiclassing built into some classes, in many cases — plus there is, of course, the option to actually multiclass (though I would only recommend that for advanced players or those willing to spend lots of time planning character development). That said, it would not be the worst idea for the party to have:
- at least one character relatively skilled at mêlée combat (though this does not have to be a traditional “tank” class such as a fighter, paladin, or barbarian)
- at least one character with some magical healing ability (though by no means does this need to be that character’s primary focus)
- at least one character with strong offensive spells of some type
- a stealthy/rogue style character with lots of skills can also be extremely useful, especially for some more clever and creative playstyles, but is not strictly necessary…
- Keep in mind that there are many classes/subclasses that could more than adequately fill more than one of these roles combined into a single character; also, as your party gains wealth, it is possible to hire some allied NPCs as cannon-fodder which players will control, within reason and subject to the rules that government such arrangments. So please everyone play a character you’re sincerely interested in playing and excited to create and develop; don’t play a class you don’t really want out of some perceived duty to “balance” the party.
player preparations before the campaign:
- If at all possible (as time allows), I would prefer that everyone plan and create the basic mechanics of their own characters in advance and send me a summary of your stats/race/class/background-choices (resolving any questions by email) since this can save a lot of time at the table and allow us to more quickly work out bonds and other details to flesh out each character’s sheet before diving into the first session ASAP without spending hours creating characters; however, it would be nice, as a courtesy to your fellow party members and generally good D&D etiquette, to let us all know by email what types of characters you each want to play in advance of the first session, in order to avoid too much similarity/overlap (as well as laying some claim to the specialties or focus where you each really want the core essence of your character concept to shine and take the lead). I will also try to create a place to eventually post your characters here on Obsidian Portal once you join…
- I can be sure to have enough character sheets printed out on cardstock for everyone who needs/wants one (though anyone who wants to fill one out in advance can feel free to send me a scanned character sheet if you prefer), but I really don’t need more than ability-stats/race/class/background-choices quickly summarized in advance by email from anyone who can manage that (plus a short paragraph narrative backstory if you feel so inclined); these stats can then be very quickly copied to a character sheet at the beginning of the first session and fleshed out from there. Start at level one for now, but feel free to plan up to level three, and we can probably start play advanced up to level three to make things more exciting right from the first session (I just need to look at scaling up some of the early encounters to adjust difficulty a bit through the early campaign to smooth that out, and I’d rather everyone do that advancement at the table, though feel free to have your progression choices planned out in advance if you want).
Equipment customization options:
- If you want to buy custom starting gear, instead of the standard gear provided by your class+background, you may roll from the table on the first page of the Equipment chapter (page143) in the Player’s handbook based on your class, then send me the results of that roll via Secure Dice (https://www.rpglibrary.org/software/securedice/), then purchase totally custom gear using those starting funds only using however much money you get (though please stay within reason regarding equipment choices based on your character concept).
- Alternatively, you may buy any additional mundane/utility items or standard weapons at book prices from the Equipment chapter tables with any starting money you have “leftover” granted by your class+background starting gear, and you may also forego starting with any items in your class+background starting gear inventory that you don’t want/need if you wish, and buy something of equivalent book value to the total value of the starting items you discard before the start of play (or simply add that total book value of any starting items you wish to discard/omit to your starting money to save for future purchases or expenses). Anyway, I recognize that customizing gear is a rather complex option many players will not want to bother with, and the starting gear is usually fine (and there are ample opportunities to buy gear or upgrade weapons “in game” as play progresses, of course). However, depending on how much weight your character can carry without being encumbered, there are many relatively affordable/cheap adventuring items and miscellaneous utility accessories that can prove quite useful in all sorts of dungeoneering, exploring, or infiltration scenarios (I would recommend someone in the party have climbing gear, for example). Also, for clever characters, all sorts of more tricky items can be useful in deception or confidence schemes (i.e. equipment for forgery, correspondence, disguise, etc.). A lot of players too often overlook the power and utility that even very mundane or cheap sorts of equipment can provide in the right situations to create opportunities and more flexible/clever options that otherwise would not be possible for the party to achieve.