Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Current Campaigns, Part One: Aquea

So I thought I'd get the ol' content ball rolling with some posts about the current campaigns I run. To start off with I'm going to look at my first ever campaign, Aquea, which is run using Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition rules.

Aquea is an odd campaign because it represents my continuing birthing process as a DM and it is the unfortunate (or fortunate) "victim" of my Edition Identity Crisis that started when I accidentally stumbled upon a site that has the three original, 1974 D&D little brown books. It started sort of accidentally; I had the 4e books, but wasn't sure I was ever going to use them (I had bought 3rd edition and never touched it besides making a character or two for myself for kicks). At some point last summer I decided to start having my friends make characters for 4e, sort of on a whim. They started getting excited, and then they started getting me excited.

It didn't all get started until this past January, though. I put a whole lot of questionably-useful front-end work at the beginning; I had my players fill out lengthy player character background questionnaires (a mistake), I drew up a rather largish countryside (partially a mistake), and I started a now-dormant Facebook group to keep us in touch between sessions (a mistake).

The characters in Aquea at the start were Balasar, a dragonborn paladin of the Raven Queen; Fai, an eladrin cleric of Corellon; Lucky, a tiefling warlock; Aldran Naranas, an elf ranger; and Enorac, an eladrin wizard. I had them start having already met in a loose travel agreement, for safety on the roads between the town of Patch (which still exists only off-map even in my own head) to the town of Riversay.

I don't want to get into the nooks and crannies of the story; suffice to say that since then the party has ventured into, cleared out, and saw swallowed by the earth a corrupted, forgotten cathedral of Erathis; stopped an orc attack on Riversay ordered by Fai's old mentor; saw the Governor of Riversay killed in that same attack; talked the guards out of arresting Aldran after he tried to loot the Governor in the town square, in broad daylight; and ventured to the city of Urradon, and there picked up a want ad that led them by and by to chasing a halfling's necklace, latetly taken by kolbolds, through Urradon's sewers and, ultimately, a forgotten underground laboratory of the mysterious, geometry-obsessed wizard Marazmus.

That last part has been a real crease in the t-shirt, though. I was starting to get into older D&D editions and the retro-clones when I got the idea to send the party on a huge dungeon crawl- unfortunately, 4e and lengthy, multi-level dungeon crawls (with huge breaks in between sessions to boot) do not get along all that well. Hour-long encounters can turn a labyrinthine level full of monsters into weeks and weeks of play, therein only covering days of gametime. It was this, more than anything else, that convinced me that the games I want to run are better suited for older editions than 4e.

I chalk almost everything that happens in any D&D game, even as a player, to be an education in DMing. Plenty of DMs have years and years of play under their belt by the time they are 28. Next month I'll be 28, and I'll have, oh, about seven months of DMing experience at that point. Aquea has been a university-level course in failure, recovery, and occasional self-doubt; I'm only now really grokking what works best within the 4e framework and what would be better suited to a different ruleset.

It's been a hell of a ride, though, and I wouldn't trade this new-found hobby for anything at this point. Fourth Edition is definitely not my favorite edition of D&D, despite having far, far, far more experience with it than any other edition; plenty of the things I am learning in Aquea are edition-neutral, though, and even when a lesson is specific to 4e the learning makes me the fonder for the system.

I'm not sure now how long Aquea is going to go on. At the beginning I was certain it was going all the way to 30, but even if I wanted to run that campaign now I'm not certain it would work with the changing schedules (and addresses) of some of our players. It's just not holding up well with all the breaks we're forced to take- with Aquea, because of how XP and everything works in 4e, we just Don't Play if anyone can't make it- and I already feel it sort of unraveling. Hell, I even had trouble remembering the name of the first major hub town because it was so long ago that we played in it- and we're only at level five (and have only seen one other settlement since then).

One of the things I am looking forward to with Labyrinth Lord (which is what I'm fixin' on playing tonight) as a campaign is the idea of a more modular party. If Player A can't make it this week, well, his character is busy, too; no XP, no treasure, but the party goes on. There's no worries at all of differing levels, given that they are built into the system through varying XP rates, and shorter combats and an emphasis on exploration and pure adventure (and roleplaying!) gives plenty of time for the party to bum around town, head into the dungeon, kill some things, map some stuff, and get back to town all in one play session (usually).

But I get ahead of myself. All of that is fodder for my next post, which will be titled, I assume: My Current Campaigns, Part Two: Dakkan.

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck with the LL campaign - can't wait to hear (read?) all about it!