Hello, CF. I'm currently writing my way through a couple of plots and factions for an upcoming game of 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, and if it's cool with everyone here, I figured it might be fun and beneficial to make this thread and use it as a kind of design work-space and, later on, as a campaign / story journal. In the past, I'd used the official Dungeons and Dragons forums for these sorts of threads (and it was a lot of fun!; I had a great time exchanging ideas with readers, and doing write-ups for each session that people could follow along with), but when Wizards of the Coast shut their Community Forums down in 2015, I ended up losing a lot of my work. I've been looking for a new community ever since. You'd think that, with as much as I use these forums, the Critical Failures subgroup would have been the obvious choice, but I guess I've never really strayed beyond the boundaries of Games and Technology and Debate and/or Discourse before now. Here's hoping it's a good fit.
Some background information on me:
I've been into Dungeons and Dragons (and by extension, table-top roleplaying of all sorts) since I was about 14-15 years old. An older brother of a friend of mine introduced pretty much our entire middle-/high school group to 2nd Edition AD&D, and we've been playing it (on and off) ever since. Third Edition came out very shortly after we became invested in the hobby, around about the time I was 16, and our Party played through a 3E campaign that lasted all throughout the remainder of high school. I will admit that, while I had an awful lot of fun playing the game back then, looking back on it, I realize that I never particularly enjoyed Third Edition and I was mostly just excited to hang out with my friends. I ended up moving on toward games like Vampire: the Masquerade and Shadowrun, and it wasn't until 4E released in 2007 (at which point I was married and in my mid-twenties) that I gravitated back towards Dungeons and Dragons. I understand the issues that people have with 4E, but I unabashedly and unashamedly love it -- to the extent that it's taken me a long time to start working within the 5E framework. But at the behest of some friends, I've begrudgingly made some purchases and I like what I see enough to start writing again.
Our Party's changed a lot over the years; some folks have moved away, others are too busy with work and families (and as a father of 4 young children myself, I totally get that), and others still just don't get along with the old group anymore, or have moved on to other hobbies. I've gathered together a group that I think could be a lot of fun, though: my wife, who is always eager to play in any game that I'm writing; our oldest son (he's almost 10), who has never roleplayed before, and only recently became interested in D&D after watching Stranger Things with us; an old friend of ours that's been a member of the Party since we were kids; and a co-worker that I do podcasts with, who similarly, has never roleplayed before, but has always wanted to. If all goes according to plan, I'll be running my first serious Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons game in about 3 weeks, on the evening of the 23rd or 24th of August. I'm pretty anxious to see how things play out, because I'll have two players who have literally zero table-top roleplaying experience, and even among the "veterans" at the table, Fifth Edition is new to all of us.
The Party, as it currently stands, is:
- Human (Uthgardt) Bear Totem Barbarian (Wife)
- Human (Calishite) Diviner Wizard (Friend)
- Tiefling Light Domain Cleric of the Morninglord, Lathander (Son)
- Tortle (Desert) Circle of Land Druid (Co-worker)
While rolling/writing up the characters, the Wizard came across a background quality that read something like, "You are in possession of an ancient book that you don't want to see fall into the wrong hands". We collectively thought that might make for a neat adventure hook, so that's sort of where everything begins. The Wizard told me he wanted to be sort of like an adviser or vizier to the Pasha or the nobility of Calimshan, and he wanted to have sort of stumbled across some accursed book during the course of his research. I started looking into Evil organizations operating in Calimshan, and the Church of Shar stood out to me as having a lot of potential. The Temple of Old Night is located in Calimport, and is among the oldest (if not the oldest) temples to the Nightsinger in all of the Realms. So that seems like a fair enough connection to me. Now, in the past, I've written a ton of stories that centered around the jungles of Chult. Specifically, I've written a ton about the Eshowe tribe, and how it fell under the influence of Ubtao's shadow, and how this Shadow Giant was actually an aspect of Shar who was trying to leverage the Eshowe tribe to wage war against the people of Mezro and throw open the gates beneath the Peaks of Flame to release Dendar, the Night Serpent, who would then swallow the Sun and bring about a new Shadow Epoch in which Shar would reign supreme. Because I've got all of that backstory already written, with characters all good to go in a couple of notebooks I've had on my shelf for years, it seemed logical to have the book that our Wizard found contain some lost information vital to the unlocking of the Gates. Because of that, the he's currently being hunted by the Church of Shar; by the time the story opens, he's fled from Calimshan and traveled north to the Dalelands. He's encountered the rest of the Party on his journey, and now they're all working together to survive on the run, because the Lady of Loss has agents in every corner of the Realm.
DALELANDS ADVENTURES IN THE YEAR OF WILD MAGIC, 1372 DR
A note on time and the passing of years and the importance of 1327 DR:
I'm aware of the Spellplague, and the Post-Spellplague Eras, but my Third Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting book is one of the best, most utilized books in my collection, and has been for like 20 years. Because of that, basically every Forgotten Realms story I've ever written has taken place in 1372, the year presented as the "official" starting date in that sourcebook. Not only does that 'feel" right to me, but it also creates some interesting opportunities from a writing / narrative perspective: because every Forgotten Realms story I've ever run or written has taken place in 1372, I can use all of the characters and plots and factions over and over again. This story will begin in the Dalelands, for example, and the last major story I wrote centered around the Return of the Elves from Evermeet, and how they needed to reestablish the Compact of the Dales to secure human allies they'd need to push the Drow away from Elven Court and retake Myth Drannor. As far as I'm concerned, everything that happened in that story is happening concurrently within this story.
The events of that campaign will take place simultaneously to the events of this campaign, and it is entirely possible for this Party to meet that Party, or to deal with certain threats related to their separate adventure.
A note on the Nightsinger, Shar:
The Dark Goddess is a formidable foe for any adventuring party, and perhaps especially for a low-level adventuring party that contains two players who have zero table-top experience. As a result, I've tried to scale down her powers a bit so that she's narratively frightening, but not impossible to overcome. The element of Shar's powers that's always interested me the most is her ability to "see everything that lay or happened in the dark". This technically means her divine sight allows her to see anything that happens in the Underdark, or in any cavern, or in any building in all the Realms when the candles blow out. And I think that's crazy strong. Don't get me wrong, I like it
, but it's a bit much for a 3rd level party to have to deal with constantly. So I'm going to limit her sight a bit to make it more interesting and fun to play around. Because Shar is essentially the Night Sky, I'm allowing her to see anything that happens beneath the uncovered night sky. Basically, if there's a roof over your head, you're fine. That way, the Party can limit their travel to daytime only if they want to avoid being seen by the Dark Lady and hunted down by her Cult. I'm imaging it a bit like Kubo and the Two Strings
, where Kubo can't go out at night because his Grandfather, the Moon King, can see him and he'll send Kubo's aunt's to collect him. I think it has the potential to be super creepy, and I'm eager to play around with it.
With regard to the factions operating in and around the Dales:
There are many major and minor organizations operating throughout the region, including --
- The Zhentarim: Emboldened by the resurrection of Bane, and his return to the seat of power in Zhentil Keep, the Black Network's initiated a full-scale invasion of the Dalelands from the Moonsea to the North. When the story begins, they will have taken full control of both Daggerdale and Shadowdale (Elminster, if he's even operating in the Material Plane at this point in time, is missing, perhaps in hiding among the Harpers and helping to plan their next move).
- The People of the Black Blood: Lycanthropic followers of the Beastlord, Malar. They're a small circle / pack operating in Cormanthor, culling the weak from the Elven Woods and keeping mostly to themselves. I see them as a largely neutral organization that might be utilized, at least temporarily, by any other faction, including the Party.
- The Circle of Winter: An organization of Druids and Witches who serve the Gloaming Court of Auril the Frostmaiden, Queen of Air and Darkness. They believe that Faerun has grown fat and weak in an Age of Summer, that the turmoil and conflict that ravages the Realms is a result of rampant, uncontrolled growth of civilization, and that it is their duty to help bring about an Age of Winter. It's important to me that these guys aren't just "evil druids". Death is a natural part of life, after all. Winter is necessary. It makes sense that people would view them as evil, and that's fine, but I'm very keen on the idea of portraying them as a part of the natural order.
- House Jaelre: Vhaeraunian Drow, exiled from Menzobarranzan. They've come up from the Underdark to find a place for themselves in Cormanthor, long-abandoned by the Elves. Their long-term plan is to retake the Elven Court, reactivate the ancient mythals to protect themselves from their enemies, and eventually reclaim Myth Drannor. They are currently loosely-aligned with the Zhentarim, and are responsible for a series of raids into Mistledale, meant to soften up the region in preparation for an offensive by the Black Network's army.
- The Auzkovyn Clan: Similar in many ways to House Jaelre, the Auzkovyn Clan are Vhaeraun-worshipping Drow who escaped slavery in the Spider Queen's cities. Unlike House Jaelre, however, they're not at all interested in settling down or retaking abandoned territories; in fact, they're perfectly happy to operate as a band of nomadic woodlanders, raiding settlements along the borders of Cormanthor, striking fear into the Dalelanders, and taking whatever they want by force. They are also currently loosely-affiliated with the Zhentarim, and are themselves responsible for a series of brutal raids throughout Battledale.
As it stands, the story is set to begin in Archenbridge, the capital city of Archendale, along the southern border of the Dalelands. Archendale has the Dales' largest and most impressive military, and is also a cultural and economic powerhouse in the region. For years, tensions have been escalating between Archendale and the neighboring merchant kingdom of Sembia, over the boundaries of a ill-defined mutual border. The Sembians are well-aware that Archendale will soon have to deal with a serious threat from the Zhentarim to the North, and will no longer be able to give it's full attention to them. But it remains to be seen what role they'll play in the coming conflict: some expect them to throw in their support behind the Zhentarim, and help them to establish a mutually-beneficial trade agreement that puts a stranglehold on all the lands of the North; but few could ever truly doubt the noble intentions of the Silver Ravens of Sembia, personal army of the Overmaster's own son, Miklos. So, who knows? Maybe they'll end up allies of the Dalesfolk in the end ... so long as it richly benefits them when it's all said and done.
[Been writing for a while. Just wanted to get some thoughts down somewhere solid, now I'm gonna head off to bed. Let me know what you guys think. I'd love to hear your ideas and your criticisms. Oh, also! I know there are parts of my plot that don't jive with "official" Realms lore and history, and I'm cool with that; I'm constantly picking out what I consider to be the good ideas and setting all the other stuff behind. My Realms have always different from the official material in a bunch of ways. Anyway, I'll come back to this thread pretty routinely to add in new factions, new plots, new dungeon ideas, and whatever else I can think of.]