Beginning the Adventure / Campaign Diary: Archipelago Adventures - Pt. 18
Last week we discussed a bit about the story elements of our adventure. We have our introductory adventure, the big Event that will catapult our players and then exploring our archipelago. Today, we are going to start talking about our introductory adventure.
Every adventure has a beginning, and it’s one of the more important parts of a campaign. The first few levels will draw the characters, and players, into the story and give them a reason to travel together. This is a group-focused game, if the characters are unable to form a cohesive story, the adventure is going to fall apart thanks to infighting and no one wanting to stick together.
Every adventure module put out by WotC has an opening adventure that is a sign of things to come. Some of them are great, some of them are fine and others are just… well, they are there and that’s something. I’m hoping to create something great, and I hope that you help!
Let’s talk about introductions. There can be a variety of ways to open a story:
You meet in a tavern and are approached by a mysterious figure.
You wake up in a prison cart, heading to the prison/mines.
You meet each other on the road before silver mists descend upon you.
You stumble upon a city under siege.
You friend informs you she is dying.
There’s a spooky house that you want to check out.
There’s a giant rat in the tavern’s basement.
And it goes on and on and on.
In all of these introductions, something happens and it prompts the group to work together. So how can we use that for our adventure?
We need an adventure that can jump excite the players and get them to form a group. The group being the big thing, for if it is just something one person could handle, than the characters aren’t going to want to stick together.
We talked last week about how we are going to start on the island of Nepu-Nepu (so good they named it twice) and located at the port city of Amiens. The people have grown tired of the constant raiding parties sent out by the hostile Hobgoblin tribes that reside in the Archipelago and have formed a pact with the nation of Harrogan and their King. If Harrogan can help provide protection, than Amiens will supply resources.
This is going to be where we are going to start our first adventure. Adventurers, men hand-selected by the King, locals and wanderers are all located in the city of Amiens on the island of Nepu-Nepu. The horn is sounded as a raiding party of goblinoids are seen on the horizon, and the city mobilizes to repel this invasion. Our level 1 soon-to-be-heroes must spring into action to save the city!
Or maybe there is no raiding party, instead they heard there is a treasure hoard on the island!
Or there are ruins on the island and some shady people have been seen gathering around there.
Or a cave has recently taken to be home of a gaggle of goblins and the city has hired out the adventurers to clear it out.
Or a mysterious thief has stolen from each of the characters, and they unite together to find this thief.
Or there is a late shipment and the party is contracted out to head another island, maybe Colial, and discover what happened.
Or the nearby mine has stumbled upon an Ank-Heg nest and they need a group to clear it out before they can get back to the mines.
Really, there are so many options to start out the adventurers, and we could have all of these adventures as side quests that our players can do until they get to a high enough level to really take on our adventure, much like Tomb of Annihilation did. Personally, I think I am leaning towards a combining a few of them.
Maybe our party is hired to act as armed guards for an archaeologist who wishes to explore some ruins on another island. This opens up a big force in our campaign, ships and traveling through the ocean. The players can help steer the ship, though the ship’s crew can be there to make sure nothing goes too awry. Upon arriving on Lynem or Mo’Coui they help the archaeologist explore the ruins, defeat a few goblin looters and head back to Nepu-Nepu at an appropriate level.
Making a starting adventure is difficult to do right. We need something that is going to tie-in all the elements of our adventure, and also allow characters to start rolling dice as soon as possible. By getting the players onto a ship and rolling checks to help the ship crew out, we can start exploring mechanics of a ship and get players interacting with each other and the GM. When they arrive on the island, they can be the ones that disembark off the ship first and locate the ruins with the help of the archaeologist. Upon arriving in the ruins, they realize it is home to more than just jungle creatures and are immediately introduced to one of the big enemies in the adventure, goblins.
In the meantime, we also introduce a big component in our adventure… exploration. But, we do need to keep in mind that exploration for the sake of exploration is pretty boring for the players. They are going to need reasons to do things, and very few players just want to explore. By giving them a reward and an exciting quest to complete, they will start exploring and hopefully keep their excitement for exploration through out the adventure.
Or Maybe That’s Boring
Maybe my idea for a starting adventure is boring. Maybe we need to adjust things or switch things around. Thinking about where we want to go in a few levels is a good starting place. I think by level 3 the main focus of the campaign will make itself known. Upon arriving back in Amiens, they learn the horrible truth that there was a massive raiding party of goblins, hobgoblins and more while they were gone. Colonists, king’s men, city leaders have all been kidnapped and they need the adventurers to go out into the mysterious archipelago and become big damn heroes.
What are your thoughts?
Mephits are the mixtures of two elements and can lead to bad things for all those that aren’t mephits. Cruel, arrogant and more than likely up to no good, these elementals can spell bad tidings for ships and their crew. Most crew will do what they can to avoid Mephits and some captains carry treasures befitting the Mephits as a sort of bribe to get rid of them. They only speak the language of elementals, and if anyone interacts with them, the Mephits may take a liking to them. Because certain Mephits can summon more of themselves, its smart to be careful when dealing with them.
1. Steam suddenly hisses up around the ship and the sounds of hissing-wheezes of laughter echo all around. Coming out of the white steam are strange white imp-like creatures flying around. 2d4 Steam Mephits are living on the ocean floor where an underwater volcano is continuously erupting. They have self-stylized themselves as the rulers of this ocean and demand tribute or else! If the party fights them, they will quickly run away after a few are destroyed.
2. A cold breeze rocks through the ship and the sails are assailed by powerful cold bursts of ice. 2d4 Ice Mephits have decided to leave the ship stranded in the ocean and are using their Frost Breath to destroy the sails, freezing the fabric and tearing it apart with their mean claws. The sails auto-fail any Dexterity saving throw to avoid taking damage. The mephits can be convinced to stop, though they are one of the more cruel mephits and may only stop if it comes to violence.
3. On the railing of the ship are 2d4 Earth Mephits and they begin complaining quite loudly. If the players are able to understand the plight of the Earth Mephits they will come to realize they are complaining about there being too much water in the ocean. If directed to an island, they’ll complain that the island is too dry. If the party is unable to understand them, the Earth Mephits will get annoyed that they aren’t being paid attention and will start messing with the crew and party until they are driven off. They will also try to gather as much treasure as possible and run off with it.
4. What looked like thick, black storm clouds dancing through the sky actually begin to take shape into smoke-like imps. 2d4 Smoke Mephits gather around the ship, and begin roosting on the ship’s masts. They do very little to the crew, but seem to be tagging along to the ride. If the characters can understand them, they will delight and begin impressing upon the characters that they know there is an island just a day of travel to the North! If the characters believe them and head North, the Smoke Mephits will encourage them to keep traveling, laughing behind the character’s backs. They will always attempt to lie and trick the characters, claiming to see islands on the horizon where there is none.