2021 arrived with hope: I’m not here to talk about COVID-19, though, but Dungeons & Dragons, so I’ll be talking about what this years brings to my (online) gaming table, and that means new characters, new stories, and new campaigns.
The first RPG Blog Carnival of 2021 is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra, and they want us to join in by writing about character or NPC creation, backstories and motivations, plotting campaigns or story arcs, or even our favourite adventures and settings (did anyone say “Eberron”?). That should be easy… for the whole year, maybe, hehe. We’ll do our best by focusing on whatever is new in 2021, which usually is an update on my current campaigns, but for this article, we’ll give a focus on how to be new even when playing with the old.
As a player
Late 2019 I joined a Waterdeep: Dragon Heist campaign. I play Zarek (character sheet at D&D Beyond), a very self-aware inventor which just found out he was adopted by his parents, bringing him into an identity crisis that turned him from waterdhavian socialite and dilettante to Harper-wannabe adventurer and vigilante. Mechanically speaking, he’s a human Artificer with the Armorer specialty (so yeah, he’s basically a mix of Batman and Iron Man into a fantasy setting).
When creating a new character, for me it’s essential to talk with my DM about his ideas regarding the campaign storyline. Without requiring him to spoil any challenges or important events, I can suggest what I’d like to hapen to my character, and he can plan ahead and try his best to incorporate such ideas to his own. When I mentioned Zarek sees himself as an outsider because his “scientific” approach to magic, he gave me the opportunity to show off his inventions during a holiday parade in Waterdeep. I didn’t win, but I got an honorary mention from the jury because of an “extraordinary knack for artifice and arcane engineering”, which of course fueled Zarek’s intention of being unique and at the same time, made him feel proud of being waterdhavian, even if he wasn’t born there. This whole thing developed in his sense of duty towards the city and worked fine for him to be hooked during the explosion that sets up the events of Dragon Heist.
As a DM
Most my parties moved online one month into the pandemic lockdown here in Peru (that would be approximately mid-April). We are using a three-way mix of Roll20 (for the grid) with Google Meet (for the chat) and D&D Beyond (for the character sheets) which has proven to be quite successful most of the times. Of course, the main cast for most of them has gone though several changes, and I always welcome new players who want to try the game, but doing so with a full-of-veterans groups has its own challenges. And if you run into that situation, maybe these two tales can serve you as inspiration.
Let me start with my Sundays’ campaign: “Thronehold: Keys to the Throne” is inspired in the Eldraine setting for MtG. In order to have them fit together, players had to select one of five knightly orders to belong to. Each order has a moral value they hold as the most important, and as they start their quest to recover a holy relic for one of those orders, the events have the players traveling to the future, where their characters don’t recognize the complex world around them anymore. This approach allows me to introduce new players to the Eberron campaign setting without a whole session of infodumping about the Last War, dragonmarks or even religion. They are discovering along with their characters, who were used to a simple world with five knightly order at the service of a king long gone.
My second story is about Wednesdays, the days I’m running “Ravnica: A New Guildpact”. This is particularly troublish when someone has the time to jump in those days, but has zero knowledge of the setting. For this one, I took the “Captain America” approach. The new guy’s character was turned into a statue and left behind since the beginning of time, a whole labyrinth built around the area he was in. When the players had to traverse such labyrinth, they had the chance to turn him back to life. This had a bonus side: not only the new player has every right to ask all sort of questions about the guilds but I can also give hints to the party if they need them, is the form of flashbacks for his characters from a time before he was turned to stone. I’m still debating myself if I want to have that event to be an important trigger for the campaign or not. I’ll keep you updated.
Every coin has two sides
Our favorite hobby (I’m assuming it’s also yours since you’re reading this) is a collaboration work of beauty. If you want your character to be truly epic, the weight of the responsibility doesn’t all only on the DM: is also yours. Talk, negotiate, and find common ground for your tales to become truly epic as they are told together, session by session.
#CountdownTo300 Just one more article and we’ll call it!