Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wier Experiences: D&D 4th Edition from Player to Dungeon Master

For anyone that occasionally happens upon my amazing and quite legendary posts here on the Holynub Report they would not be surprised to find out that I am, in fact, a complete nerd. It is also no secret that on top of being a nerd I am a huge fan of lore and story driven games. So when my brother in law approached me about joining his Dungeons and Dragons group I was more than willing to give it a go. As such I was thrust into the current incarnation of the game known by all as the 4th edition. The following is a chronicling of my grandiose rise from mere player to the lord of all that I surveyed on a table trodden by many a snack, drink, and hero.

My first experience took place in the campaign of a fellow whom I shall refer to as, DM JJ. I, knowing very little about the game and how it was played, decided to choose my class based strictly on which picture I thought was coolest in the Player's Handbook. As a result I found myself playing an Elven Avenger by the name of Demoren, an avenger that walked the path of the Raven Queen and reviled the undead! Or something along those lines, I didn't read much into the lore at the time. I found out very quickly that having as many re-rolls as I did lead to me being a target as my mystical and soon to be famed "cheater die" issued out critical strikes of maximum fury. The whole combat and the story were all of interest to me and I enjoyed this short period of being a player quite a bit. Though I could not help but think of how cool it would be to have people play through a world of my own machination. By the mere off the cuff remark about "an all evil" campaign that I would do I found myself committing myself to a year long journey across my own imagination.

So, good sir DM JJ said unto me, "then at our next meeting, you shall be DM, and we shall begin".

Given the two week deadline for an entire new beginning I wondered if my mouth had written a check that my creativity could not cash. However, I am a lover of stories and story telling, surely all I had to do was learn the frame work of the game and anything I could think of would easily translate into it. Surely that must be true! Luckily for me the D&D 4th edition Dungeon Master Manual gave me all the tools necessary to bring whatever story I could think of to life. It served as a strong skeleton to the body of work I would then begin to build around it.

Being that my party was meant to be evil I had to find a way to put them down that path even if their characters themselves were not necessarily evil to begin with. So the plan was simple, kill the party, bring them to the side of undeath and make vengeance against the living factions I created their ultimate goal. So to begin with I planted them as members of a mercenary group that worked both ends of an on going war between two large island nations. The Verdant Isle, an island known for it's rich wood resources and vast farm lands, was inhabited by those humans and humanoid races that had long called the islands home. The major island to the east, the Isle of White, was known primarily for the vast stone quarries and large amounts of mineral and metal deposits. Either way, each island needed something worth trading or using that would make them viable entities on their own. This lead to the creation of two major factions, the Whitemane family in the Isle of White, and the Verdant Wardens from you can guess where.

In order to put the onus on the party to go after both of these factions I had to make them appear to be cooperating. So with a dash of political upheaval and intrigue two main antagonists, or perhaps "good guys" would be better in this instance, were created; General Liam Whitemane the brother to the king of Whitemane and Admiral Jin of the Wardens. These characters, through secret communication had plotted to usurp power in their respective areas and form an alliance. The details of which reveal that both of these characters did indeed have their nations best interests in mind and ultimately they were probably the true heroes in this story from the very start. As such, these two leaders strike against the only force they know would truly resist peace in the isles, the mercenaries that my players currently worked for. By prompting the mercenary leader, a man named Braltak, the Wardens pulled their forces into the field for one last great battle to "End the Whitemanes", a weary old general seeking to retire agreed to the large sum of money and took his men into the field where they were ambushed and killed by both the Whitemanes and the Wardens. While this occured, back at their fortress the mercenaries that remained, the players party included, were greeted with a slaughter of their own that put them six feet under.

The game was set, the players were dead and soon they found themselves being pulled from the darkness by a true shaker of events, a Necromancer whom I named Myrdred. His promises of power and vengeance appealed to the party and pushed them forward to continue the story in a fashion that would make them want to be the evil that they were supposed to.

However, with all that planning one could never predict what a player is going to do when they are actually in the field. As the story progressed and the characters developed their distinctive personalities I allowed them to altar the course of events as they would see fit. Should they wish to lie, cheat and steal they were given the opportunity. This being my first time as a Dungeon Master I did not want to be over bearing. I felt it was better to let my players push the story forward in the way they felt it was logical. As they drew conclusions from what was going on around them I developed story hooks or small scraps of information that may or may not cause them to alter their course. Granted being put up against the fury of an extremely powerful Necromancer kept them in check for some time they managed to find a way to pursue their selfish desires beyond his grasp.

Ultimately they found themselves serving someone that they had thought for sure would have been a clear enemy, but as fate would have it darkness overtakes the souls of even those who are touted to be virtuous and just. I don't want to spoil too many details of the story here for reason I will divulge later.

So, what is the point of this article then Wier? Is this just to pat yourself on the back for creating a campaign which your players enjoyed quite a bit your first time through? Are you that arrogant Wier?!

The truth is, the point of this article is to tell the world that I found working with the D&D 4th edition rule set a very easy and good way to get across an original story. Though I borrowed a small bit of D&D lore to spice the story up at the beginning of it all I found myself abandoning it in favor of my own world more and more. The plot developed around the tools easily and I feel that you could adapt the rule set to accommodate almost any kind of fantasy story. With the right amount of tweaking you could even turn it into a whole new genre if you were willing to put in the creative time and work. So my experience, in essence, is a general review of the D&D system. It made a great conduit for me, as a story teller, to bring a world to life and watch people play roles inside of it.

If you've been thinking about getting into the dice rolling adventure of a friend, or creating your own unique world for people to play in I highly recommend the 4th edition D&D system as a start. It's intuitive and easy to use. All and all it was a very pleasurable experience to work with and continues to be as I craft my second campaign.

Also, as a side note, if my vague description of the early story of my campaign did sound interesting to you, you may want to stay tuned in the coming months as I am in the process of translating my group's adventure into a novel for the wonderment of all.


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