While everyone’s first campaign has to come to an end at some point, it’s never exactly an enjoyable experience. You’ll always miss that character (or perhaps come to regret them depending on how “cringy” your first character was.) But with time comes experience. In a more literal sense, I’d like to think I’m at least a level 15 role-player at this point in my life. Often though, things can slip into a sort of loop. Where you’re kind of playing the same five characters over and over and over again. Well, I’ve always been one to “break the chains” if you would, when it comes to making the suggestions for the next campaign at my table. Quite a few of them have been shot down. I like to blame it on the fact that the DM is a grognard, but in all honesty I’m kind of a wild card, proposing rather eccentric campaign basis (not suitable for 5e in some cases which is the edition we’re using most commonly.) Well, occasionally, I’m not shot down at the speed of light and we get some rather interesting stories. Here are a few of my most interesting ideas. (For the sake of this article making sense when I use the phrase *descriptor* campaign I’m saying it in reference to most, if not all of the characters being *descriptor* as opposed to literally everyone in the campaign world. Although I’m sure a world where everyone is Chaotic Neutral is probably the closest you’ll get to a real world simulator.)
1) All Evil Campaign
I mean, haven’t we all had a ploy for world domination at some point or another? I know I’ve wanted a little mayhem and chaos in my life every now and again. Truly, I think this is one of the most versatile of the idea’s I proposed because some of my other ones can “fit” into it. For example, a lycanthrope campaign could also fall into this category. But the beauty of this is the key three different evil alignments. If you don’t want to worry about the characters backstabbing the ever-living hell out of each other constantly (which would easily be defendable as just playing the character) you could request the group be Lawful Evil and collectively follow a similar “code of honor” so they can’t backstab their allies. Or, put a curse on the fools for their evil acts so if they harm each other they burst into flames or something similar.
Of course, having a campaign where everyone is at eachothers throats (playfully and for the sake of roleplaying for god's sake or someone will get stabbed in the throat with a pencil) could be just as enjoyable in the long or short- run. Then there’s the antagonists to the group to talk about. They could be old, previously played groups, who are WAY out of the evil group’s weight class. Meaning they’d have to really think in order to overcome (or perhaps slow down) their quarry. And of course, once these characters are fully developed and all powerful, they could serve as villains in later campaigns.
2) Demi-God Campaign (Overpowered Campaign)
It's a damn blast to be a badass. Normally, players work hard at becoming a badass. Starting off as essentially some numpty who picked up a sword or spell book and eventually becoming one of the most revered and powerful people in the world. However, sometimes it’s nice to be born into power. Born into the right to control certain things and express a higher form of power than the rest of the common-folk like you or me. A group of them could be very powerful indeed. And such a situation would require a lot of planning on the DM’s part. But as with any special campaign, there’s a lot of room to maneuver with if you are concerned about everyones power and being equal. I think the best place to start for this campaign, would be to discuss just how powerful a demigod is. Weather or not we’ve got Percy Jackson over here, with relatively human capabilities with a few added bonuses or if we’re talking about a group full of the equivalents of Hercules punching through the heads of dragons is a very key question. Each has their own merits.
If one was to make a less overpowered demi-god, (let's assume for the sake of argument Percy Jackson level demigod, in his case Percy is relatively human when not in contact with water and the likes.) The individual's character could have their special abilities in only extraordinarily specific conditions. Balancing out the game and making their powers generally more of a plot device. The son of the God of War however would most likely enter their element whenever in combat and something similar could be said the daughter of the God of Magic. Honestly though, if you’re thinking about making your players have to deal with very situational powers for their characters, why even bother making them demi-gods? If you were to go for a more powerful perspective, the son of the God of Tricksters could be able to turn invisible and teleport (short distances) on a whim, making him very formidable in combat, but almost useless against an enemy with blindsense or truesight (which as a demi-god enemies with these typically rare traits could become more common.) The daughter of the Goddess of Hell might be an ace at necromancy and fire spells, but have difficulty mastering more subtle spells such as abjurations and illusions. There’s a lot of things to consider going into this campaign, but the sheer uniqueness of the characters possible might even merit their own roleplaying system.
(A couple footnotes: One: A personal thing our group did was give each character an epic boon early on. Two: Very important thing to discuss is the relationship between the character and their parent.)
3) Monster Campaign
With Volo’s guide giving access to quick stats for (so-called) monstrous races such as orcs and the Yuan-Ti, this particular selection is probably very common. Of course. that’s not to say that this wasn’t possible in other situations and before Volo’s guide. Just that it makes this feel more natural. Being the begrudging heros of a group of people who shun and outcast you can be an odd situation indeed. At least for the protagonists. Making camping outside of cities more common and bandit attacks far more amusing. This opens the party up to having to solve social issues and overcome racism from town to town. (Of course when most orcs are Chaotic Evil isn’t a little justified?) While that might get tedious, it’s a surefire way to encourage non-combat based experience gaining. Also, you could phase it out as their renown in a region grows. Not to mention the fact that depending on the monstrous race chosen, they could have a plot device built in with a clan or group of allies that comes in occasionally. Even the odd group of adventurers could come in wanting to kill the monsters after a report from a particularly aggressive commoner.
Of course the issue here is balance. Monsters were meant to be the antagonists to the protagonists here and what's an antagonist whose on the same power level as the hero? For example, a Yuan-Ti character, with base immunities and resistances to common ailments as well as bonus to their casting would very quickly become a potent force in the group. An orc would be a great fighter. Probably better than any of the base races could be. A similar story for Bugbears and their superior reach. Mix that with a polearm, and they’ve got a 15 foot reach. At least if you ask Volo’s Guide. You can always homebrew that jazz or make some excuse though, so by all means, get cracking.
4) All *Race* Campaign
Every race has stereotypes to fit and to break. With a group filled with all elves for example, you’ve got your classic magic, arrow shooting xenophobe with a strong dislike for those oafish dwarves and just a small dislike for all the other races. Then you’ve got the drunken heavy armor plated fighter with a greatsword and a bit of a lust for money. A group of dwarves have the one guy who sneaks around with his leather armour and pair of daggers and keeps his beard short as to avoid tripping on it while he’s low to the ground. Then there's the greedy, alcohol fueled warrior with his beard decorated with beads and metal, an axe and a shield at his side, whose a blacksmith in his downtime. Another thing to consider as a group with primarily one race in it, is if some if the characters even speak common. Assuming they grew up primarily among their race isn’t unreasonable and learning a new language isn’t exactly number one on everyone's to do list.
However, for all it’s worth, having just one race in a group kinda makes it lean towards a certain class typically. With a primarily gnomish group for example, it’d be extraordinarily easy to have an extra magic lenient group. In that case a fighter might not be on the crew, and anyone who’s played a few campaigns will tell you how important a tank is. Anyone who’s played ANYTHING will tell you how important a tank is (WOW players I’m looking at you to confirm.) Perhaps gnomes are a little bit of an unideal example with the size thing going for them. But my point is made nonetheless. My only big no no for this would be don’t do an all human campaign, although if they’re in foreign lands for example, it might work.
5) Exploration Campaign
Do me a favour, and listen to the original Legend of Zelda theme or the opening to Dragon Quest 8 while reading this, because no matter how hard the editorial team and I try we can't get the text to forcibly transmit a song into your mind. Though we did lose a couple interns trying. By the way, if you see Brian... I mean, Graynor the Bonebreaker, running the streets naked using a dead chicken to fend off the hallucinations, contact us. We’ll send an extraction team. And to the families of our beloved interns; Sorry ‘bout that one.
But, now that you're listening to some appropriately adventurous music, I’ll make a point. Exploring the unexplored, the unmapped and the unknown is just as dangerous (if not more so) than delving into ancient dwarven ruins or destroying a crypt of undead. No maps means that it’s far easier for the DM to make up on the fly. Since it’s not known what lives out there, you can break out some of the more eccentric creatures from the Monster Manual (or better yet, Volo’s guide) for our more knowledgeable players. Hell, even make the less common races more prominent in these other lands. The Tabaxi could populate a more tropical setting for example. This is by far the most adaptable one on this list, seeing as a lot of adventures are location based, this allows for a more diverse locale. Letting the campaign run free and unhindered. More difficult to plan, but way easier for heat of the moment situations where your friend is like “lets play some D&D” and everyone else agrees. This lets the player lead the story a lot more, and personally I adore that.
Although this idea is not without it's flaws. For example, having a ranger is practically a necessity. So is the survival skill. Otherwise this will be a lot less “exploration” and a lot more “we’re lost in another hellish unknown land, whose idea was it for us to explore goddamnit?” And to be perfectly honest, the ranger seems like one of the most underwhelming classes this edition. If anyone is active in the community or the books, they’ll most likely have heard bad things. Don’t be surprised if you get some resistance when you mention that there has to be a ranger, but you can probably get them to do it if you give the ranger a powerful magic item to use in combat and as a plot device for you. Or you know, use a different edition. Just not fourth.
Surprise, surprise, there’s a lot of possibilities in an table-top game like D&D. Lots of places to go, people to see, universes to play in, monsters to kill. The homebrew scene is just getting bigger and better as well. Unearthed arcana opens up new playstyles and worlds. This is just a small list of things I came up with (and obviously these are all soooooo original) that may or may not have had some memorability behind them. The ones that stood out in the back of my mind. And honestly, anything that is out of the ordinary there is really doing something right (or wrong depending on how you look at it)
Jarod Lalonde is a young role-player and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Call of Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.