Adventure Groups, Guilds, Clubs, Teams

Creativity Loves Constraints.

A blank canvas an be anything, but if you present a bunch of artists with a blank canvas and say “draw a dragon”, you’ll get some amazing and unique dragons, and I can almost guarantee that it will be more fun to look at then what you get when you give a bunch of artists blank canvases and say “draw whatever you like..”

The reason is… that little constraint (“dragons’)  gives us just enough direction to start interpreting the possibilities.

Which brings me to themed Adventure groups. Usually when you start a new D&D group, you might have certain sources in mind or even a campaign world, but what I think you should consider (whether you are a player or a DM) is getting everyone on board with picking a concept or theme and sticking to it. If you put just a bit of effort into the theme you can get some great motivations for roleplay out of it.

Oh, and you’ll need a name, for flavor.

Here are some examples:

Same Race

Imagine a campaign group where the players chose to all be dwarves. Each of the party roles could be filled (there could be a dwarf defender, a dwarf artificer, a dwarf invoker, and a dwarf ranger.. ) The concept could be “We’re all brothers, and our father, the clan leader, was killed, so we are on a quest to avenge him..” – you give them a name like “Clan Jarlhammer” or ‘The Brothers Grim” and suddenly you have some dynamics for family-relationships and suggestions to the Dm for plot, npcs..Having a name like this gives players a sense of identity.

I run an all-drow campaign group like this. And we try to keep all of the drow details correct (for example, female characters are in charge, your birth order and how close you are related to the House Matron is important..  we also made it so that only female drow are allowed to have the divine power source. Relationships between the charcaters have an added dynamic because we chose that theme before the campaign even started.. a totally different thing than if I just said “bring a 1st level character”.

Imagine running a campaign for an all halfling PC group- or a group based on members of a nomadic wild-elf tribe. .. or even a band of Kenku.

Same Power Source

Here’s something we couldn’t really get away with before D&D 4e: What about an all divine group? Or an all arcane group?  What if the concept were– “All of the PCs are crusading expeditionary members of the Temple of Pelor”: A cleric would be obvious, but it doesn’t stop there. You could cover all of the roles with a cleric, an avenger or two, an invoker, and a paladin or cavalier. They could be called the Lightbringers or the Sunwalkers.. adventures would immediately focus on things like..eradicating undead, foiling the plots of Tharizdun’s followers, setting up missionary type outposts, .. and generally doing things in the name of Pelor. Can you imagine a campaign that focuses heavily on wiping out a zombie plague or a series of vampire infestations for the heroic tier? After a while- in any campaign- the adventures start to suggest themselves based on what the PCs have found themselves involved in, but I think if you can get a group to focus on this stuff early on, you reach that point so much sooner.

Other suggestions: A magic academy(all arcane). A primal tribe (all primal). A mercenary company (all martial). A secret psionic group…  Think of the possibilities!

Combined Concept:

Rather than pick just a power source or race.. you could pick  a concept or theme and go from there. A druidic circle, for example, might feature a human druid or two, but also a half-orc beastmaster ranger, an elven seeker, a wilden feypact warlock, a halfling warden, a gnoll barbarian, and a half-elf shaman. Players will  come up with a lot of great ideas once you give them the theme.  Early adventures could revolve around protecting their home forest from the predations of an invading tribe of goblins or a hostile green dragon, or even an encroaching group of civilized humans.  Some suggested NPCs could even be treants and nymphs that suggest adventures to the players.  A name could be something like “The Oaken Court” or something.

Other suggestions:  The PCs are all members of an ocean-faring group of explorers, or represent a specialized guild of dragon-hunters.  The PCs are all a group of criminals, like a thieves guild- only they aren’t all thieves- some of them are muscle (brawler style fighter), an illusionist specializes in deception and track-covering, a bard acts as the “face-man” to set up cons, and a rogue or two might be cat-burglars or lockpick-specialists.

Themed Groups Are Just Cool

Television shows and movies do this all the time: The A-Team, Ocean’s Eleven, Inception all have this deal where the central characters come together  sort of as a group that shares common goals through some form of affiliation. Relationships and details start to spring out naturally once players have a reason to share affiliation.

Think about setting this up next time you start to put together a campaign!

Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Nunya!

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