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D&D 3E
Bet you never had this problem 
12th-Feb-2005 10:29 pm
Okay, so I'm running a D&D game here for my girlfriend and a bunch of her friends for reasons having to do with restricted social circles. None of my (now four) players have played D&D before. They are all vet students. So it should perhaps not be surprising that the party looks like this ...
Orin - half-elf cleric of Ehlonna
Amiko - half-elf druid with attendant tiger cub animal companion Akyra
Tywin - NPC half-elf ranger to round out the initial (small) party, with his hawk Yoshi
Zantar - half-elf ranger/rogue (and let me tell you, that is a kick-ass combo)
and finally and most recently,
Aurora - elf druid with attendant wolf animal companion Sierra.

Right. So that's a party with two druids, two rangers, and a cleric of Ehlonna. These guys are going to go into a dungeon WHY? I've dealt with unusual parties before, I've dealt with pregnant PCs, I've dealt with all-halfling parties ... but I've never had a group quite so ... specialized. I mean, really, really specific. Thematic, even. In a few more levels, four out of five of them will have animal companions. At the moment they're approaching the climax of a "rescue princess from dragon" story arc that I set up to be the first thrust of the campaign because, hey, they'd never played D&D before and I had no idea what the party would look like. But now what? What sorts of story arcs can I really use to keep this wilderness-friendly party engaged and interested and on their toes? (I already had Stefan of Err's Wing engage in a spot of cubnapping back when the party had only one druid).

I'm trying for something with a little more oomph to it than "oh no the fluffy bunnies are being killed and sold for golds!" I can have bad people cutting down the forest once (but who, and why?) but that'll get old fast and I don't want it to become the Lorax campaign.

So give me your ideas. What are some good druid/ranger themed adventure hooks, plot arcs, and villains to keep my players engaged? (It's a homebrewed setting, but anything you can think of from any setting can probably be adapted).
13th-Feb-2005 04:39 am (UTC)
Druidic civil war. Have a forest they're friendly with have a druidic civil war where the evil druids depose the good druids, and the good druids seek to regain control. They ask the PCs because the party is quite obviously skilled at the nature bit, and they're adventurers.

Throw them into a city. Make them deal with people, do some investigation, and hunt somebody down. It'll make them uncomfortable, wary, and nervous. If you see they don't like it (as opposed to it just being difficult) wrap it up and send them out into nature again.

Mountain ranges are your friend. Mountain ranges have both forests, and caves. Have your Ranger track something to a cave and they *need* to, for whatever reason, find it. Depending on how far you wanna take that, Goblins, Orcs, Kobolds, Ogres, Trolls, Hobgoblins, all of them could have a Viet Cong-esque tunnel network built into the caves. If you used the above Druidic civil war idea, this could be how the evil druids deposed the good druids. This is especially great if the PCs feel accomplished after saving the forest...then find out they're only halfway (or even less) done.

Swamps. Swamps are naturey, but they'll cut down a lot on mobility. These should make your PCs nervous all the time. Keep them on their toes - snakes, trolls, undead all make good things to throw at them here, but keep in mind (it's their first game, don't just outright overpower them) that their mobility will be hampered, depending. A lot of things will be able to move faster than they can. Leave them some safe route to escape.

Have them accidentally intrude on some nomadic tribe's territory. The nomads could attack, try diplomacy, both, run in terror, or whatever you feel would best suit.

We've played in a couple aboveground campaigns. Almost without exception, there was no dungeon delving, when there was, it was very short. I personally enjoy them more. You have a wider range of tactical options, if that's your thing. If not, it's not just pointless hack, slash, check for traps, search, break open door, repeat ad nauseum.
13th-Feb-2005 07:29 am (UTC)
Make the evil druids fanatical. Like eco-terrorist sorta deal, despising all civilation!

Swamps have magic areas of beast and posin.
(Deleted comment)
13th-Feb-2005 03:30 pm (UTC)
Oh man. What about eco-gorillas?
(Deleted comment)
13th-Feb-2005 05:41 am (UTC)
Long ago I had a high level mage with a small army. It wasn't a fighting army really, just guards for a caravan I had comissioned to hual supplies too, and treasure from, a remote dungeon (very very remote). Once we had actually made it there we needed to resupply. I set my army to gathering meat. We needed a lot, so they were literally decimating the deer population in the forest I was in. I needed lots of wood to smoke the meat, and build things I needed, like a defenseable palisade, buildings, tools, etc. All in all, I was very high-impact. Sure enough, some druids quickly took notice with me. They had no cares about the dungeon I was looting. They just didn't like my food gathering needs, nor my tree chopping practices. A 200 yard radius clearing around the campsite is a good defensive measure, but try explaining that to the druids. The trick for such an encounter against PCs would be to make up a scenario where the players would probably symapthize with the cause, but they characters would have to be opposed to it.

Recently John ran a dungeon set in a thick forest. He madea map just likea dungeon, but the "hallways" were paths, and the rooms were clearings. He made the trees very thick, and applied hefty movement penalities and high cover values for being in the trees to force us to stay on the paths.
13th-Feb-2005 05:45 am (UTC)
Just watch a few episodes of Captain Planet...
13th-Feb-2005 06:28 am (UTC)
Here's what I did once that was fantastic...

A druid can be ANY neutral alignment, including neutral evil....

So, a town has many great fields... the fields are caused by druidic services in which villagers are sacrificed and their blood is spread on the fields... all this is done in secrecy so that the villagers won't rebel.

Alternatively, you could have a forest where the druids are using nature to destroy the civilized towns in the area...a druid vs. civilization war....Like someone above suggested.
13th-Feb-2005 06:55 am (UTC)
Green dragons are often a plague to forests. If you wanted to get them in the classic dragon-as-an-end-to-a-several-session-ministory setup, you could have them asked by nymphs to save their forests from the plagues of the green dragon.

So many half elves! Do you know how much fun you could have if you threw them in a soceity of humans or elves that was racist to half breeds? In an elf soceity, where only the elf PC was accepted and the half elves were stoned? It would make a good city experience. ;-)
13th-Feb-2005 07:00 am (UTC)
The biologist in me has to suggest something perhaps a bit more... grandiose.

Think of a long term, campaign-sized adventure that you can use to get them to do all sorts of things they wouldn't otherwise do. The overall story is simple - the land is dying.

It can start with a simple observation - the death of a forest due to unknown causes. They can track it to its source, a cave, a wizard, a monster, whatever, but in the end, they discover that it's all part of a much bigger problem. I would suggest letting them meet or hear quite a bit about the "big man", the major enemy, because giving players a nemesis that they can hate throughout the campaign is always fun.

To suggest another idea, why don't you take a look at The Steerswoman's Road by Kirstien Rosemary (I think I spelled her name right). It's an amazing book about a world where wizards are secretive, powerhungry people and the steerswomen are traveling philosophers, always sharing their knowledge. One steerswoman discovers that the world is changing, not for natural reasons, but because there is one wizard that is manipulating ancient spells to destroy the world. Spells that once were used to burn away dead, inhospitable life at the very edge of surviveable land in huge, mile-long swaths were abandoned for generations, causing famine because the people who lived there could no longer expland outward. And then this evil wizard began using the same spells, but not on the inhospitable land where it had been intended, but on civilized areas, murdering people and destroying natural landscapes.

In Rosemary's books, the "wizards" are actually scientists (though she never actually says it outright - you have to figure it out for yourself) and everything that the steerswomen see as magic, is simply very advanced technology that they do not understand, so I do not think this exact example would fit your situation, but it might give you some idea about how you can use a love of nature to make your tree-hugging party do just about anything you want them to do. ;)
13th-Feb-2005 07:05 am (UTC)
That said, you should suggest to your players that they take a look at the Steerswoman books. It sounds like they, like me, enjoy both a creative and analytical mind, which is exactly what one needs to both enjoy these books and the mysteries they hold. I've recomended these books on _scientists_ and I would recomend them to your players for the same reason. :)
13th-Feb-2005 03:34 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure my girlfriend threw that book at me about a year ago and is probably wondering why I haven't read it yet. Still, wizards do, effectively, = scientists, and there is something to be said for arcane magic being inherently unnatural (especially necromancy), so hmmmm....
13th-Feb-2005 08:11 am (UTC)
Im not sure if this was a module my friend used, but it involved a druidic ring which could turn animals into people to create a quick army, a village as a victim, and an evil druid in league with some fiends trying to take over...
13th-Feb-2005 12:38 pm (UTC)
Check out the Eberron campaign setting for some great Druidic ideas. They've got sects of evil druids, druid tied to vermin instead of animals, and prestige classes for rangers who wants to get their nature on. Also a big druids vs. Aberrations theme. Otyughs always seems to turn up in the illustrations. And for reference, Owlbears are Magical Beasts and Trolls are Giants.
13th-Feb-2005 02:43 pm (UTC)
You could also use lost temples or something as dungeon-like terrain. So basically it's run like a dungeon-crawl (if you're into that sort of stuff) except you're above ground with a bunch of plants hanging over everything. Killer plants make fun enemies too.

I ran a short campaign once where all the characters were elves. I had set them up to basically join the army and help fight off an army of goblins (or something) that had invaded their territory.

I'll also second the idea of sending the group into the city, just to see their reaction. I believe a number of verteran gamers like myself would be into this, but your players may not. Still, it's worth a try. And I'll also second the idea of playing up the half-breed aspect of your players. Maybe through them into some elven court-intrigue (again, if you're into that). Perhaps instead of renegade druids you have a faction of elves (maybe led by a second-son or something) who are trying to take over. Basically you can run standard adventures, just do it in the forest so that the characters have a chance to use all their abilities.
13th-Feb-2005 03:05 pm (UTC)
If you ever read Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth books, at one time a Wizard had all the fruit that was red turn poisonous, to kill off people and childern. This I could see affecting nature on a wide scale and they have to set things right. You would have to come up with a reason for the Wizard doing it but it would just have to be drawn from your own campain.

You also may want to check out the Offical Rangers & Durids guide for the Druid Blighter which is basicly an evil durid gone mad and out to destroy the forest.
13th-Feb-2005 03:38 pm (UTC)
So, how is the ranger/rogue combo so kick-ass? Just curious.
13th-Feb-2005 06:52 pm (UTC)
A lot of class-skill overlap (Hide, Move Silent, Search, etc.), dual-wielding for nearly-free, improved base attack, hit points, and saves vs. straight rogue, martial weapon proficiencies, and when you flank and dual wield you can sneak attack with every hit. Of course, in a party where the only other fighter-type is a straight ranger, maybe there's no good baseline to measure her against.
13th-Feb-2005 09:15 pm (UTC)
haha YAY for Vet Students :-D
14th-Feb-2005 01:26 am (UTC)
There's plenty of ways to run an all-wilderness campaign. (In case I reiterate anything anybody else has already said, take into account that I only skimmed through the replies. x.x There are just too many of them for me to read all of them.)

One: There's an ancient and long forgotten temple deep inside the forest that was recently opened by explorers. Unfortunately for everybody else, the seal on the temple was keeping a Lich and his Undead army inside. The first thing the Necromancy-fancy-pants does is blight and desecrate his surroundings. Yay.

Two: Probably the most fun way of dealing with those oriented towards nature is to have a whole bunch of Natural Disasters. It screws with their minds, because it's more or less a tenet of their lives that Nature is good. It'll tug at heart strings, that's for damn sure, and clean up efforts can always be roleplayed...especially if your entire group are all vet students. Flashfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc etc etc.

Three: ...have all the fluffy bunnies get kidnapped and sold for gold? xD Couldn't help myself.

Four: Send the party against a pack of Lycanthropes that's recently relocated to their area. It can either be good for one (or more, depending on how things go and how you set it up) encounter, or a longer adventure if one of them becomes inflicted with the Curse without realizing it. It could likely prove devastating for the Cleric to be cursed without immediate treatment, because if during the first night of wanton acts of destruction, she might lose the favor of Elhonna. Atonement quests are usually long and drawn out, in my experience.

Just a few ideas for ya. :] Take 'em or leave 'em, but I'm sure you'll come up with something that will be fun for all. A lot of times, I find that when you don't know what your players could/would do, let them decide where to go and wing it for at least one session, and then start planning things again. It gives them more creative control, and encourages them to find and create their own adventures. As PC's, that's technically what you're supposed to be doing.

I've even played characters that, where we didn't have anything planned, I led a hunting expedition that led to a two week adventure. In one of my games, my players decided to travel across the continent, just so they could see the largest city on the map and ran across a great many things along the way, many of which only originated as random encounters and escalated from there.
14th-Feb-2005 02:21 pm (UTC)
Perhaps the balance of nature has started to get seriously out of whack in your world?

In remote locales, rifts and chasms and holes in hills open, allowing access to an otherworldly realm - and vice versa. Now they must find a way to stop this invasion, or else the wilderness will be overrun by fell creatures.

Possible invaders:

- The Dead: There is a plane of the unhallowed dead (those who died and whose souls were not claimed by a deity) out there, and the dead now have united under powerful leaders to reclaim the lands of the living. Fun for fighting undead of all types. Conquered territory will soon get converted into "dead lands" full of swamps and sick vegetation.

- Demons and Devils: These cracks and fissures go to Hell itself - the old wards the celestial powers have placed on the world are weakening, and the reign of the demons is at hand. It's probably a good idea if you create a few races of "demonic foot soldiers" - they can be tough, but be slain by non-magical weapons and are not much of a threat individually to characters with class levels (if they are basically immune to non-magical attacks, the humans are basically doomed...)

- The Fey: Not harmless little sprites and pixies - these are the true "Fair Folk" of the uncensored fairy tales of old, who steal cattle, rape women, steal children, and dine on human dreams and passion. Read Terry Pratchett's "Lords and Ladies" and "Exalted: The Fair Folk" by White Wolf to get into the right mood.

- Invaders from Beyond The Stars: Some people remember a weird meteor shower coming down one night a new months ago. Then some rangers and druids in remote regions started to report strange red blooms of plants and mushrooms like they had never seen before. Frontiersmen saw weird insects - with more legs than they were supposed to have - and other strange critters. Then something large apparently ate these frontiersmen - and their villages. What happens in the wilderness?

A biological invasion from another world, that's what. This scenario is freely stolen from the old GURPS War Against the Cthorr, which in turn is based on a series of SF novels by David Gerrold. Figure out some sort of alien ecology (the GURPS book really helps with that - for d20, you should probably create a bunch of templates to turn ordinary animals and monsters into something weirder), and let it loose on an ordinary fantasy world where it slowly eats up the "normal" ecology. And the ones who are best able to combat it are the ones who know the most of nature - in other words, druids and rangers.

There should be some big monsters to fight for the PCs so that they can show off their combat skills, but in the end, the invasion cannot be fought by "conventional" means - they need to learn as much as possible about the new plants and animals, and develop magical means to hold them off and eradicate them. In the "War Against the Cthorr" series, there was no hint of the ultimate instigators of this invasion - the encountered animals were all non-sapient, though some were quite clever - but you might want to come up with some sapient opponents the PCs can defeat, which might (or might not) put an end to the invasion...
14th-Feb-2005 03:14 pm (UTC)
For some reason, all I can think of when you say "Invaders from Beyond the Stars" is Cthulhu and the bad things from Hellboy. The really bad things.

I just picture tentacles and horrible beasties bursting out of the ground/water/sky/corpse and doing ... bad things.
14th-Feb-2005 03:26 pm (UTC)
Well, that works, too - and frankly, the "Cthorr" universe has quite a few Cthuloid overtures (and the GURPS book even mentions a crossover).

But while I think there is never a good reason not to add Cthulhoid elements to a campaign, I think it doesn't work quite as well for "pure" wilderness adventures, for in a way, the Mythos is the wilderness that humanity is trying to explore to its own detriment.

Now, frontier adventures work just fine, as there are lots of Mythos stories about isolated and in-bred families of frontiersmen who consort with unclean entites. But I would use that later on - at first, you need to show them a few "wholesome" communities of human frontiersmen before you can show them where things go wrong...

If you just use monsters from the Cthulhu Mythos and put them into a wilderness region somewhere, they just become another part of the local ecology - a dangerous and weird one, to be sure, but still something that might be considered "natural". It is only in its interaction with humanity that the Mythos can show its corruptive nature.

It's the same with the Cthorran invasion. An alien biological invasion is bad, but to create true horror you need to show how it either makes the lives of humans a living hell or kills them outright...

Incidentally, if you want to know more about the "War against the Cthorr" series, check out the Cthorr Wars website.
14th-Feb-2005 03:22 pm (UTC) - Save the Forest, Adam style
Sure, the "save the forest" thing is the obvious way to go, but it doesn't have to be boring. Pick a race that has a biological reason to clearcut the forests. Enhance. Twist.

Why do people clearcut? For wood. Why? Well, wood is good for building and for fuel. Let's go with fuel. Who needs that much fuel and for what? How about huge forges? Who is known for metal forges? How about dwarves?

So let's have a race of dwarves from the underground who dig up into the surface world and send out armies of cutters to clearcut huge areas of forest and transport the wood back to their tunnels. There it's fed to giant furnaces that power their underground world, including their metal forges.

What do they use all the metal for? Well, maybe they build machines? Tunneling machines, sure. Also magical constructs. They have a whole army of mechanical constructs that fight, tunnel, and cut down trees. Some, like the cutters, are rather stupid and fight like animals, or just run unless forced to fight; still, they're dangerous in a fight. Others, like the wartrains, are smart and lethal.

Let's twist it a bit more. The dwarves are in a symbiotic relationship with the formians (ant-centaurs). They share the same space and enjoy each other's benefits. The dwarves supply the formians with technology and magic, and the formians supply the dwarves with near-mindless hive labor, hive communication, and tunneling knowledge. Imagine a giant ant-hill sprouting out of the middle of a forest, hundreds of formians wandering around with magical constructs, cutting acres of trees and carrying the wood back to the hill.

Why are they expanding? Twist again. The dwarves are controlled by an infernal power, some Lawful Evil devil with grand designs. Maybe he wants to corrupt and weaken someone whose power grows from the forests, like (say) the goddess Ehlonna. He's also forging an army of constructs to defeat the elves. As Lolth twisted spiders and elves into the Drow, this devil has twisted formians and dwarves into the Dwormian — essentially Duergar ant-centaurs who can control formians telepathically.

Some possible adventure hooks:

The heroes run across a single, strange metal beast that is cutting down trees. It is malfunctioning and has lost contact with its hive.

The heroes discover an abandoned formian ant-hill. It's like a large earthen hill riddled with man-size tunnels. The ant-hill is incomplete. Why was it abandoned? Perhaps its builders dug into an ancient site that was far more dangerous than was worth it. Perhaps mummies or spectres killed many builders. Imagine ghoulish dwarves and skeleton formians.

Farmers report odd creatures poking around their settlements. The heroes will learn that these are the advanced scouts of the formians. They may be able to track the odd tauric creatures back to their base, but then what?

The Grand Druid calls an assembly and warns all who care for the forest that a great evil is spreading.

Run with it!
15th-Feb-2005 01:46 pm (UTC) - Blue Rose RPG
Try checking out Green Ronin's Blue Rose RPG -- they just released the pdf version at RPGNow.com. It's billed as "romantic fantasy" and targetted towards the Mercedes Lackey set, but the authors are solid and previews look pretty cool. They've mentioned intelligent animal companions a few times, so there might be alot in there you can use.

15th-Feb-2005 03:10 pm (UTC) - Curious?
I must ask the question. To save the Princess will the eco-friendly types kill the dragon or find a way to relocate it to a spot where it won't have direct conflict with man? Relocation could be quite an adventure with a dangerous dragon.
15th-Feb-2005 03:52 pm (UTC) - Re: Curious?
Killing the dragon is not, per se, an adventure goal. Technically they could sneak in, steal the princess, and leave and accomplish their stated goals. They are, however, traveling in the company of a crusty old NPC knight who, if left to his own devices, will attack the dragon straight-forward-like. My guess is that they will try to kill the beast, but I don't really know.

I think the problem here is that many dragons, where direct conflict with man is entirely avoidable, will seek it out in order to acquire more treasure. A dragon is not an animal. It is at least as smart as you are, and condsiderably more powerful. I'm not sure how they fit into the "balance."
21st-Feb-2005 06:00 pm (UTC) - Clue bus, now stopping at Station Vulpez ...
Furries. OF COURSE they are all ranger/druid/oh-when-can-I-get-a-pet types. Heehee ... I am fond of sneaky mages, meself.

Most wars are fought over territory - most skirmishes are one group pursuing another through the trees/desert/swamps. Territory = outdoors = perfect for your group. The classic Temple of Elemental Evil is set in a swamp, as are several other modules.

You want a continuous source of good storylines? How about two or three large empires in a (very uneasy) truce, which one (forgotten, evil) empire is forever trying to break. The PCs will be continuously trying to keep the peace as the villains are continuosuly trying to start a major war ... eventually, the PCs must get to the heart of the issue and deal with the major villians. There could be villianous sorts in each of the three empires that have their own machiavellian plans for wanting a war. The party will be outdoors practically all the time, travelling the width and breadth of the continent.

Just some ideas for you.
25th-Feb-2005 06:07 am (UTC) - Re: Clue bus, now stopping at Station Vulpez ...
I spend enough time trying to explain to my girlfriend what Furries are, let's not open that can of worms.

I know that some of my players will have little patience for political intrigue, but I kinda like the idea ... can we give it an unnatural twist? Can we add, say, necromancy or Cthulhu-esque daemonology to the mix? War-as-sacrifice, tear down mortal order and replace it with chaos and aberrations? Hmm. Could wind up with a situation where the druid-types are actually trying to protect civilization from the horrors that lurk in the wilderness ...
25th-Feb-2005 05:44 pm (UTC) - Re: Clue bus, now stopping at Station Vulpez ...
Could wind up with a situation where the druid-types are actually trying to protect civilization from the horrors that lurk in the wilderness ...

... EXACTLY! It would rock as a campaign, because you could have "gates" that open up, providing a logical explanation for "hey, just how did a lesser demon/etc/etc. show up at this spot?".

The campaign could easily work at all levels of play - even, eventually, into the outer planes at higher levels.
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