D&D 5e Campaign Set Before the Books

Running the D&D Campaign

I mentioned previously that I am planning to run a 5th Edition D&D campaign set in my world. I will be doing this at Pawn & Pint, a great game shop in Kansas City.

This post will outline the rules for the campaign as well as give some back story for the world. I will warn you now, there will be some minor spoilers in the back story, so stop reading if you want to avoid those. However, those spoilers are not directly related to the characters in the stories, just the world.

I will use this post to lay the framework for what kinds of character races, classes, and rules will apply to the campaign as well as set the initial stage for the players.

Some minor spoilers beyond this point

Campaign Rules

We cannot have order without rules and so here are the basic requirements associated with this campaign.

Character races are limited to Humans

Approximately a thousand years before the start of Stephenie’s story and my books, the elves ruled the lands around the Sea of Tet. They fought a bloody civil war between the ruling families and many elves died. The humans, who lived in the area, but were not members of the ruling elite, took advantage of the chaos and tried to finish what the elves started, killing many more elves and driving the rest into the Rim Mountains. The elves never forgave the humans for the defeat and the humans have since demonized the elves. If either side encounters the other, there will be bloody conflict.

Because the campaign is set in Cothel, all the player characters will be human (if they don’t want everyone who sees them to try and kill them on sight).

Non-divine magic is the work of the demon god

Magic in my world works differently than how it works in D&D. However, I can adapt the D&D rules unchanged to my world by making the statement that the characters do not understand how magic actually works, and as a result, they have subconsciously limited their own abilities based upon preconceived notions of how they think it works. Basically, their ignorance of the actual mechanics forces them to believe legend and lore over reality and so they handicap themselves. I have a saying I use quite frequently that sums up the concept:

Perception and reality seldom converge

A second wave of civil wars after the elves were driven away pushed the people that remained around the Sea of Tet into what effectively became a Dark Ages. The people lost the understanding of magic and devolved into believing all magic emanated from the gods. A group of people utilizing “augmentation devices” to enhance their abilities organized themselves into religions and all other magic was deemed the work of the demon god of the elves, Elrin. As a result, today, anyone not getting their powers from a sanctioned god is executed, typically through burning.

While there are sections of the lands around Tet that do not hold to this rule as strictly as others, the country of Cothel and those near it, certainly do. Therefore, while I will permit any magic using class in the campaign, those who are not clerics or paladins, will have to conceal their abilities from others or be subjected to capture and execution.

This also means that there are no schools for wizards to have studied at. Some underground teaching does occur, so there is the possibility of having mentors, but not publicly acknowledged centers of learning.

If you play a cleric, your god will be Felis, the warrior farmer. A paladin can also exist for Felis, and he or she would be considered a “holy warrior.” Both of these types of magic users would be able to display their powers openly and would command both respect and fear from the populous.

Druids would be lumped into the category of heathens and Elrin worshipers, so they would have to hide their abilities.

All player characters will have the option to believe non-divine magic is evil and must be destroyed as the majority of society does, or they can have prior experiences that give them a more forgiving view on the use of magic. While societies tend toward a major belief system, there are always dissidents who believe differently. (This can also apply to clerics and paladins.)

If there are non-divine casters in the group, I would suggest opting toward a dissident view and being more accepting.

Monsters are limited in variety, but not viciousness

The lands around the Sea of Tet have been largely sanitized of strange creatures. The most typical monster that people encounter is another human. There are chances to encounter some creatures that possess magical abilities, or are outside what we have here on planet Earth, but for character classes that specialize in fighting otherworldly beasts (aberrations, undead, demons, …) the characters in the campaign will not have had a chance to encounter them in their upbringing, so pick traits that focus on beasts or humans if there is a class specialization.

As the campaign progresses, there will be a chance to encounter the other types of creatures when the characters get further from organized society (such as into the mountain ranges or back country woods). After those experiences happen, then it would be possible for additional skills to be selected.

Character rules

We will be playing by the Payer’s Handbook rules for the characters, with the exception of the Ranger, which I will permit the use of the 2016 Unearthed Arcana Revised Ranger rules.

Recent world events

A little more than one year ago, invaders coming from south of the Rim Mountains sailed into Esland, a smaller country on Cothel’s western border. The royal family of Esland was slaughtered, including Princess Kara, who was married to the Crown Prince of Esland. Princess Kara was the daughter of King Charles II and Queen Elsia of Cothel. Map of CothelAngered at the brutality of the assault, King Charles II, with his oldest child, Prince Joshua, led Cothel’s armies around the Grey Mountains to engage in battle with the Senzar forces. Many other nations gathered together and amassed joined in the retaliation against the Senzar army.

Another reason for the strong response is that the Senzar armies contained many witches and warlocks (the generic term for anyone using non-divine magic) and as such, the rulers of these countries had a moral obligation to challenge the invasion. This also required many priests and holy warriors of the various gods to join in the battle to equalize the forces.

The commitments from the various nations have been enormous because the Senzar have witches and warlocks that demonstrate powers that come out of legend and were not believed to be possible. As a result, all able-bodied men were called to service and sent to the front. Many younger and less skilled men and women were deployed to fill the gaps left in the ranks. This includes filling in the ranks of city guards.

Mired in a conflict that prevented their forward progression, the Senzar forces sent a group of assassins against the royal family of Ipith, the country on Esland’s northern border. These assassins killed most of that royal family, but they also took a prisoner, Queen Islet of Ipith. Islet is also a daughter of King Charles II and Queen Elsia of Cothel. The belief is that the Senzar hoped to derail the efforts of the man leading the war effort.

In the capitol city of Antar, Queen Elsia is gathering supplies and additional soldiers that her brother, the King of Kynto is sending through the country of Midland to help reinforce Cothel. These soldiers and supplies will soon be sent to the front to help challenge the Senzar forces.

Despite the efforts, many of the of the wealthy families in Cothel have fled the western parts of the country and many are even leaving Cothel entirely in their search for other cities they deem safer from the Senzar invasion. With many personal family guards leaving and the seasoned soldiers on the battlefields, the cities in Cothel are experiencing a state of crime that has not existed in recent memory.

The players

The player characters will be younger men and women, recently turned old enough to be drafted into service. Depending on player classes and desired backgrounds, a player may be someone transferred off a naval vessel, where the player functioned as a marine. They may also have come from a more remote garrison, recalled to Antar to help protect the capitol of Cothel.

The player group will now be working together as a squad of city guards. Leather armor, a long sword, and a crossbow will be provided in addition to basic clothing. Initial money will be limited, but a regular salary will be provided. For those playing non-divine casters, some of their magical paraphernalia can be smuggled into the barracks. Thieves would have their tools and so on.

A barbarian class would have a background as a young mercenary come across The Straights from Rawner. Any magical traits would have to be concealed.

For a divine caster, the priest or paladin will have chain armor, any choice of non-magical weapon, a larger salary, and will be living inside a temple complex in a private cell. These characters will be detailed to squads as needed, but are not technically part of the city watch.

Regardless of the actual character class, all non-divine casting players will be treated as soldiers (warriors) by the commanders in the city guard. It would be expected that many of the replacement guards will be less than proficient with certain weapons, which will be the case when a wizard or thief might be called upon to fight with a sword. (This is simply a reality of war, but the characters will have a chance to utilize their classes skills in the course of gameplay and do not have to split class as a warrior unless they want to.)

The gameplay will quickly take the characters out of Antar and across the country of Cothel (and perhaps farther). In the process, they will likely encounter many ruins and remains of the vast civilization that existed before what effectively became a Dark Ages over the centuries since the elves were defeated. Some may even stumble upon lost artifacts of great power.

The actual time and dates for I will run the campaign at Pawn & Pint will be coming soon.