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D&D 3E
Dming yourself into a corner... 
6th-Apr-2007 02:20 pm
I've dm'd myself into a corner, I think. here is the setup so far.

There is a town called West End which is cut off from the entire human kindgom, and has not had contact with the "old kingdom" in over 50 years. West End did however construct/reconstruct three other castles in the area(Redkeep and Anghor), as well as made contact with the arab flavored kingdom far to the south, Berezin. As far as any knows, the only races in existance are humans, elves, dwarves, and half breeds.

1. An army from the old kingdom is marching slowly toward West End with the intent to conquer it for it's vast natural rescources. The party is almost completely unaware of this.
2. A powerful druid went to a horribly evil ruined city and was taken over by a powerful evil spirit. This spirit helped the druid uncover lost texts detailing how to magically combine humans and animals to create monsters (read: kobolds, goblins, orcs, ogres, gnolls). He has been doing this for over 50 years. Some groups of such monsters have left, forming villages of their own. Since there are vast uncharted wilderness areas, this works for me.
3. Ships full of Hobgolbins(basically) who are not actually evil have landed on the shore west of Redkeep.

1. The evil druid has had a small portion of his army beseige Redkeep
2. In exchange for helping to defend Redkeep, the Hobgoblins have come into the castle through a secret entrance and are helping to defend/break the seige
3. An splinter group of humanoids has captured an NPC one of the party members is in love with. The party is headed towards that camp now.

I want the party to rescue the NPC, then return to either help with the seige of redkeep, or to west end, or elsewhere. I want them to make a bargain of some kind with the invading army from the old kingdom (selling land in exchange for rescources) and have the army from the old kingdom and the humans fight a climactic battle against the humanoid forces.

Just for scope, it takes at least one month to go from West End to Berezin, so we are talking about a vast area. (Roughly larger than Deleware for any of you also from the united states). I know it doesn't seem vast, but in Medieval times, it's big.

Now, the problem. While all this would be good for a book, I do intend the campaign to continue after this, and I do want the humanoids to hold huge tracks of land which create not only their own "country", but also create a barrier between the human lands and the Berezin people far to the south. How can I work towards a climactic

crossposted to dungeonmasters
6th-Apr-2007 06:26 pm (UTC) - Railroading?
You got cut off there so I can only guess at what your real question is.

I wonder if you're writing too much. If the story is all laid out from beginning to end, where's the drama? What part do the players really play here? Does it matter what they do?

I think you have a wonderful setup. Dramatic enemies who want to do evil things. Make the players aware of their options and see what they do. Maybe they don't rescue the NPC. Maybe they do something unexpected and irresponsible and don't go to help against the Redkeep siege. Whatever they do, adjust the world to reflect how it's changed as a result of the players' actions (or inactions). Let them suffer the consequences of whatever they choose. But let THEM choose and let the story come out of that.

If you just want to write a good story and control it from beginning to end, write a novel. =) If you want to collaborate with players to write an exciting story, then you have to be ready for the players to do most of the plot driving.

If everything is about consequences, then why would the campaign end after this?
6th-Apr-2007 07:25 pm (UTC) - Re: Railroading?
Well, fortunately, one of the characters is in love with the NPC, so the rescue is certainly going to be rescued.

I see what you are getting at however. The events are already in motion, and will happen whether or not the PC's act or not. Now I think what I get from what you are saying is that I need to set a timetable with a bunch of what-if's, like if the pc's don't help the seige, it will fall on January 29th or something... The invading army will arrive unhindered February 13th, and the humanoids will do this on this date if these things don't happen, etc.

thank you!
6th-Apr-2007 08:54 pm (UTC) - Re: Railroading?
Yeah, I've found that long term games can go forever if you embrace the give and take between players and GM. You hit them with some event. They react. The consequences no matter what they do should be interesting. That way, the choices they make not only matter, but also lead to new events that are even more exciting.

So you tell them that Redkeep is being sieged AND their favorite NPC has been kidnapped. They brainstorm solutions.

Them: "Can we save the NPC and get back in time to prepare for the siege?"
You: "It's very unlikely. Only if you go straight there, rescue her with no delay, and get right back to Redkeep."

That creates tension and drama. Then escalate a little. Put obstacles in their way that they must overcome to avoid being delayed but don't overdo it. Maybe even offer a side adventure bribe that will give them a one-time chance at some magic item but will most certainly delay them.

Them: "If we save the NPC and are, say, one or two days late for the siege, what happens to Redkeep?"
You: It's uncertain. I can give you some details on what the possible outcomes are and their probabilities if you succeed on a Knowledge (Military) roll, DC 20."

Or whatever skill. That way, you've let them use their character abilities to influence their choices. Don't be afraid to make up a quick D20-roll table like this:

Modified roll Outcome
15 or higherYou return with plenty of time to prepare
10-14You return just in the nick of time for the siege
5-9You return a day after the siege began
2-4You return the last day of the siege
1 or underYou return after the siege is over

The roll is d20 + time modifier. Time modifier is the number of days they dally. Let's say it takes 2 days to get to the rescue and 2 days to get back. So you've built 4 days into the chart. If they take longer than 4 days, it's a -1 to the roll for every additional day. If they skip the rescue, they get a +4 modifier. If they find a way (perhaps using a teleport scroll they earn on the rescue or something else) to cut their travel short, they get a +1 bonus per day they save.

By looking at the table, they probably can see that they already have only a 55% chance to get there in time as it is. You can adjust the table to fit what makes sense to you.

The point is to arm this with the information and let them decide. The exciting part of D&D isn't the haphazard falling into the DM's timeline but rather the hard tactical and strategic choices that players make (often knowing the odds) and the cool consequences that follow.
6th-Apr-2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
two things, but no real answers.

1) The section heading are getting lost, as the lj-cut text doesn't appear in the text once you click through.

2) A person can walk 20 miles in a day. Delaware is 100 miles by 30 miles. Its less than a week, by foot, from one end to another.

Iowa is 200 miles x 300 miles (more or less). That's two weeks from one end to another.

Wyoming is 280x360 miles. 4 weeks, give or take, with the mountains.

(For point of comparison, the entire Appalachian Trail has been done in under 50 days; and that's not the worst-possible terrain, but it certainly is rougher than most.)
6th-Apr-2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
Felt more like wyoming. I was figuring on a horse going 70 miles a day, and a website said deleware was 1,800 miles from top to bottom. Duh. Thanks.
6th-Apr-2007 08:56 pm (UTC)
Uh. Wow. That's about the length of the east coast.

Horses can't sustain 70 miles per day. They can get 50 miles a day, sustained, in great condition and with luck. 30 miles a day is a 'good day' and sustainable rate.

7th-Apr-2007 10:46 am (UTC)
Heh heh. I've always managed to avoid the DM's Catch-22.

I expect it'll catch up to me sometime in my current campaign. It's overdue.
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