With about four months before I plan on running Princes of the Apocalypse, I have a good amount of time to read, outline, adjust and prepare for the campaign. I've settled on not using the Adventurers League rules, which opens up some third party options for me as a GM and non-Forgotten Realms content for the whole group.
As I'm getting ready, I'm reflecting on my past campaigns and what changes I'd like to integrate into Princes of the Apocalypse. One of my goals for this campaign is to slow down the pace. One complaint I have is that the adventures often feel like there's no space for downtime. If you don't address the main quest immediately, it feels like the world will end. Tomb of Annihilation constantly threatened permanent death for characters and their allies. Dragon Heist has a sequence where it feels like you must find the next clue and the decipher it immediately or you'll lose track of the MacGuffin. A sense of urgency is often critical to compelling the characters forward, but many times its overbearing.
Another goal is to anchor the characters in the setting, I want them to care about what happens in and to the Dessarin Valley. The Group Patron and the Franchise rules will definitely be part of this1. I'm also planning on providing some character background hooks. I'll likely consolidate one note NPCs so that the characters will have more time with familiar faces. I definitely want to write up an epilogue to the campaign that provides some closure for the characters and players.
Princes of the Apocalypse is 1-15 though the first few levels are less about the plot and more about the setting. I don't think I've ever run a campaign from 1-20, certainly not a D&D 5E game. At the same time, the first two levels are boring from a mechanics perspective. Stretching the campaign an additional five levels in high level play will also require a lot of extra work on my part. So, it's not a goal to go from 1-20, but if it's feasible, I'll likely attempt it.
Princes of the Apocalypse could easily take a year, if not two, of weekly play to finish. That kind of commitment is difficult with most of us building families and careers. There seems to be a decent midway point where some of the players could cycle out. If I extend the campaign to 20, I will probably include another point where players could cycle out. I plan to have a core group of players, likely three or four. But to provide a buffer against unplanned absences, I'll have a few seats that are open every week for other players to drop in and out.
Before I dive into a full cover-to-cover read through of Princes of the Apocalypse, I'm going to review a bunch of resources related to preparing for running the campaign and modifying it. SlyFlourish and The Alexandrian have so many good articles. Coming out of my read, I want to have an event list, an NPC list, a location list, and a list of awesome things. After reading it cover-to-cover and taking copious amounts of notes, I'll spend some time making adjustments and figure out if making it 1-20 is feasible. Finally, if I have any time left, I'll do some setting research and maybe read through the adventures that inspired Princes of the Apocalypse.