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New Year, New Campaign

22 January 2022

Intro

A new year means a new campaign! Probably. It's been a while since I've run a campaign1. I've run a few one shots2 in the mean time but I think I'm ready to GM a full length campaign again. By the end of my Waterdeep campaigns3, I was sufficiently burned out on running games, even pre-builts from Wizards. I had been running games for nearly a full decade with occasional breaks. While I'm still not ready to run a campaign written by myself, I do feel comfortable running a prebuilt campaign. I want most of my effort to be spent running the game, not writing plot lines, creating characters, and drawing maps.

Campaign Considerations

There's a lot to choose from given my desire to run a published campaign. There are the yearly adventure books published by Wizards and then the whole of DMs Guild and third party publishers. There are three campaigns that immediately leapt to mind once I decided I was ready to run a game again: Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat, Princes of the Apocalypse, and Convergence Manifesto.

The Tyranny of Dragons storyline has some things going for it. Dragons, namely Tiamat, cults, and a large level range. It was the first adventure set published for 5E and has been recently updated and re-released as a gift set. Neither I, nor any of the potential players, have played it. But I have heard good things about it from other friends.

Princes of the Apocalypse is intriguing and nostalgic. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil was one of the first adventures I ran and I remember being very inspired by the book. It's got a similarly large level range and cults. But this time Elemental Evil instead of Tiamat. Again, none of the potential players have played it.

Convergence Manifesto is an adventure path I've been tracking for a bit. The biggest selling point is that it's based in Eberron which is my favorite setting. It's also a world trotting adventure showing of a multitude of interesting places in Eberron and diving deep into the lore of t he world.

Part of the appeal of the Wizards adventures is that they're well supported by Roll20. I can pay to have all the maps, tokens, and text setup for me which lets me focus more on running the game. That said, if an adventure or campaign has digital maps available, it wouldn't take me too long to setup Roll20 with them. After a few days of back and forth, I settled on Princes of the Apocalypse. The nostalgia factor combined with the Roll20 module won out. I will very likely return to Tyranny of Dragons and Convergence Manifesto in the future.

Rules Considerations

One of the first considerations for what rules to use is whether or not the campaign will be Adventurers League legal. I believe that most of the potential players don't care much one way or the other. I've enjoyed using the AL rules for a couple of reasons. At my last few trips to DragonCon, playing in the D&D event room for the multi-table epics and opens has been a major source of fun and enjoyment. This allows me to meet new people and play with my friends without having to be the GM. GMing an AL campaigns provides rewards that I can add to my various AL characters. The Season 9 and 10 rules sapped my desire to play AL as they were very restrictive on what could be played. However, with Season 11, they've made changes to open up the player and GM options significantly. Still there are limits that primarily exclude options from non-Forgotten Realms sources and optional rules that provide material benefits to the characters.

If I don't run the game as AL legal, then there's two optional rule sets I'd consider using, the Franchise rules from Acquisitions Incorporated and the Group Patron rules from Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Both rule sets offer a way to add cohesiveness and stickiness to the party. After reading through both, the Franchise rules are more involved. I really like the idea of a base of operations4, but the individual roles are probably too heavy. The Group Patron rules seem to hit the right balance of benefits and costs. I might include the base of operations rules from AI even if we don't use the rest.

Next Steps

Next up, I'm going to do multiple read throughs of Princes of the Apocalypse. I'll also see how to fit the Group Patron rules into the story. Finally, AL is going to be releasing some new rules in the next month or so that will also inform my decision.


  1. My last turn as a DM ended with 2019 with my Waterdeep campaigns.
  2. Magic City Mysteries, Paragon City, and The Continental New York
  3. Ran Waterdeep: Dragon Heist twice, played it once, and ran Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage once.
  4. Trollskull Manor was a highlight of every Waterdeep: Dragon Heist campaign I participated in.


James Abels


    

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