March 23, 2012

New Campaign Brainstorming

A couple of days ago I was asked by the actual DM in our weekly Pathfinder campaign to take over the role and start with a fresh new cycle of adventures. I'm quite excited about it, especially now that (having played a little) I feel quite comfortable with the rules. Despite the fact that I've never liked running story-oriented campaigns, this time I'll try to go in this direction. I think I'm doing something really simple and quite linear, not to end up with a story too difficult to handle (playing once a week means little prep time in-between sessions, especially considering that I do have a life outside D&D, whatever), thus the trite classic prevent the rise of a new dark lord theme. The point is I need a world to settle this new campaign, so here's some brainstorming about the topic. Suggestions and critics are welcome!

Fantasy Mashup
The first idea I had is to paste together everything I like in fantasy, so to create a world in which I have a spot for every weird idea pops into my head and use for future attempts. Things to throw in include: a pirate archipelago, a sky realm, Transylvania, a dark desolation of chaos, primitive lands for swords & sorcery, a couple of different human kingdoms (vikings, medieval knights, despotic technocracy) and a lot of empty space for future addenda (desert land for Arabic themed adventures, an uncivilized land, a Japanese themed country, and so on). So yes, basically nothing too different from Mystara. Creating a brand new world has its benefits on the long run (that is, re-usability), but its nonetheless one hell of a work even if one limits his efforts in barely sketch up everything focusing only on what's really needed.

Middle Earth Hack
I'm toying with this idea since, like, always. I think hacking the Middle Earth could really provide me with a very interesting world for a D&D campaign. Of course, the hack part is where I put in everything D&D-ish (like common high-magic, clerics, powerful magic-items and artifacts, Dwarf Rangers, Gelatinous Cubes, etc.) with little attention not to denaturalize Tolkien's masterpiece. The benefits on the short run is that I would only need to adjust what is worth (like, for example, place the Witch-king of Angmar among with Sauron and Smaug all in the same time-line) and already have a general idea of what's where, and how the world scale works (I always have hard times with this kind of things). The major drawback I see here is the limited re-usability of such a setting.

A Possible Solution
How about using the Middle Earth hack as a base for the Fantasy Mashup world? Like, it's obviously the western portion of a larger continent, and many of the things I wish to include (oriental, Arabic, Viking, medieval kingdoms, etc.) are already in one way or another. I could make it work by reorganizing it's geography (for example, switching Rhovanion and Eriador, Mordor and Angmar, making room for Transylvania in the eastern part), changing most of the names (except the generic ones, like I don't know, The Misty Mountains) and so on.


  1. What appeals to me about LOTR's Middle Earth as an adventuring location is its low-magic nature. I'd like to play a grungy LOTR campaign, with the players as burglars, sellswords and conjurers of cheap tricks, and the dragons and mythic fantasy as suitably rare and remote background material to the party's less heroic plundering and tomb-robbing. But that's me; it sounds like you're already leaning towards a certain idea, so I say go for it.

    1. Yeah, Pathfinder is a little difficult to run low-magic. Although Midnight had several cool ideas I could dig, I guess :)

  2. You have probably already considered it... but Golarion would, i think, also pretty perfectly fit your fantasy mashup idea, there's a place for everything there.
    Im also a big fan of middle earth - well and midnight too, so i can totally dig a midnight-esque pathfinder middle earth campaign :)

  3. What about using some of the old MERP stuff? ICE's middle-earth was basically a big fantasy mashup inspired by Tolkien's works. Especially if you include things like Court of Ardor and the Northen Waste...

  4. I like the last option. How about... a random table! List people and places from Middle-Earth in one column (Numenorians, Lake town, Thorin, etc) and in another column list fantasy things that *don't fit* in Middle-Earth like gelatinous cubes and Japan. Then try to make sense out of the random combinations. Pretty soon you will have explained why Moria is full of beholders, exactly where in Transylvania sits Orthanc and the mysterious connection between Denethor and rust monsters.

    Or maybe the real world locations are a third column... In any case this would be easier than the first option because you're letting Tolkien do a bunch of work for you, but I bet what you would end up with would hardly resemble Tolkien.

    1. "you're letting Tolkien do a bunch of work for you, but I bet what you would end up with would hardly resemble Tolkien."

      And that's quite exactly the point!

  5. Another take on the Middle Earth/Fantasy Mashup hack is that you could have a Tolkienesque world that's suffering from some sort of dimensional degradation: the dimensional walls between worlds are breaking down in this faux-Middle Earth, so other, more alien realms are beginning to "bleed through". The end result is that the land has become kind of a patchwork of different realms. Your PCs could be hiking through the Iron Hills, only to find that on the other side of the hill they're climbing is a vast broken plain where rocky pinnacles float in the air, many of which are topped with castles, and knights mounted on pterodactyl-back joust with each other...

    As much as I love Middle Earth, I suspect you're going to have an easier time coming up with material that interests you week after week by going with the Fantasy Mashup. Given that you won't have long to come up with material for your game, I would think that having an "anything's possible" approach would make it easier to come up with ideas you could run with.