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Creating a D&D Campaign

It's a lot of work.

Illustration credit: Wizards of the Coast

Full Immersion Gaming

When it comes to creating an exciting and immersive table-top RPG, I'll warn you now you will have your work cut out for you. To set the stage, about three weeks ago my group of friends and I decided that we should start a good old D&D Campaign. So I got to work. What I didn't realize at the time was the insane amount of work I would have to put into it.

First, let's break it down. There are about a million ways to go about starting a D&D campaign. First and the most common, is the pre-made Wizards of the Coast official campaigns. These books are very easy to use and do most of the work for you, there is very little in the way of story you will have to do when deciding to go with the official Wizards of the Coast campaigns. All of the maps, NPC's (non-player characters), enemies, points of interest, and your parties' mission will be done for you. These are very well done and fun to play. The official campaigns run at about $30 in most shops where you can find them, or online. So what do you do if you don't have the money or in my case don't want to spend that amount. That brings us into the purpose of this article.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several things that the official campaigns do for you. The first thing you will need to do when creating your game is to figure out where the game is set, are you in Toril (The world that official campaigns are set in)? Are you going to make up your own world, or set it in some other world altogether? For my purposes, the story takes place in Toril. The problem with this is the majority of lore has already been established. The vast majority of Wizards of the Coast campaigns take place on the continent of Faerün. I have decided on a continent that has almost none of the lore established. What does this mean for creating the adventure? This means I have a lot more leeway when designing maps, NPC's, and the layout of most towns. What this also means is you have to put in a lot of work to make the game seem more fluid and immersive. In this process I have written up something like 20 hours of game play. That covers the when's and why's of what the party is on this adventure for. In order for this to be believable and also interesting and fun, you will have to put in the time and effort in researching the world and it's lore (for my purposes, if you are creating a world from scratch this is not necessary). So you have to research the races, classes, animals, monsters, climates, who and what is in each specific area, deities, and more. If you are going with a completely custom world this will all fall to you and your imagination to come up with the above mentioned specifics. After you have the races, classes, monsters, animals, deities, religions, and general rules for how this world works figured out, you will have to figure out how everything physically looks. In my case I'm using areas of Toril that have not been explored in detail through D&D books or Forgotten Realms novels. What this means is that I have very little guidelines in creating maps of the area and what is in it. As for me, I am starting the campaign in the Toril continent of Zakhara, I chose this area because they have no written explanations of what you would find here. In my case specifically there are towns and settlements plotted in Zakhara, but the contents of the towns and settlements is all up to me. After hours of research on the beliefs and people of the area (because again, it needs to be believable) I started to draw up maps of cities, towns, and settlements. All based on what people of similar climate would do in building a settlement. Where is the market place, where are the places of worship, where can I find the people in charge. This is a painstaking process, but a very necessary part of the process. When you have all that figured out a lot of the rest will start to become a lot easier. From there it's just figuring out specifics of your campaign, what will you allow, and what will you prohibit. After that you are well on your way to creating a great adventure that will hopefully be fun and immersive for your players.