Dungeons and Dragons – Mystara
Design Part 17 – New Directions
Why New Directions
The campaign of “Wrath of the Immortals” for 5th Edition started with a plan for multiple storylines introducing the various countries of the known world of Mystara and then leading into the storyline of The Immortals Fury that makes up the core of the campaign.
There are 14 Gazetteers of the Known World region of Mystara and a Box set covering the two main empires of the region. So the base plan was to build sixteen characters, one for each nation with their own storyline.
Players were to build a different class and race combination between each of the games, trying each class and race on offer.
Core Fundamentals of the storyline are:
- There are no half races – Half races are historically all mass murderers with not a shred of goodness, used in tales as an object lesson on who to distrust on sight. This is due to all half races being created through artificial means of a curse or by magical intervention. And as well as that issue, all half-races created are sterile and unable to reproduce themselves without further intervention. This did not stop players wanting to, and bringing in half races into the game.
- No characters could be evil – I don’t like running evil games so stated early no evil characters. This included murder hobo characters who only kill things and don’t interact with the setting in a positive way. This was agreed by all players prior to joining.
- Each character started with Trinket – This trinket was meaningful to the character and tied to their ongoing storyline. A character who lost their trinket was not a character that would be able to continue. This was ignored and forgotten by the players alot.
- Starting story was for levels 1 to 4 – All the new characters created over this time would finish up as they gain 5th level.
- Each starting story ends in Darokin – Each group of characters ends their short run with an invite to Darokin to meet with a merchant who has a proposition by the name of Rheddrian.
- All prepared casters requires a spellbook – This stopped a lot of issues I had with resources being used without permission.
- Races age appropriately – Based on how they compare to humans in potential lifespan, all other races have an equivalent aging process, such that elves are generally have a eight times the life expectancy of humans, so they also age at eight times slower for the purposes of maturity. Most humans are considered mature and an adult at the age of 14-16 in the setting, and that translates to 112 to 140 being the same level of maturity.
- Core Rulebook or approved Options only – Players who build from Unearthed Arcana or future expansion books can be used in the introduction storylines, but they are not permitted in the ongoing storyline.
- No characters who broke the game rules would advance in the storyline – When it came time to move onto the next part of the storyline, character who broke the fundamental would not be permitted back into the game to continue the storyline.
First Major Changes
After playing the game for 32 sessions doing adventure based experience and showcasing the storylines around the nation of Karameikos, we transitioned into a short story format introducing the characters and levelling over 1 to 2 sessions each and compressing each of the setting storylines down to 4 to 8 sessions. The idea of having 15 more years of an introductory storyline was not appealing to my group or me as the person running it.
As part of this the characters would then level with the changing of the year. So it became a brief storyline showcasing the region they were in, and how their characters fitted into the area.
To be honest this was not a great change, should have either being a single session per character or group for each of the setting detailing how they fitted with each other and what their personal connections to the story would be. In hindsight this would have been better then the mini stories we did.
This lasted from Ylaruam, Glantri, Ierendi, Alfheim, Rockhome, Northern Reaches, Five Shires, and Minrothad.
Second Major Changes
Now that we had some nations played through, we reached the Orc’s of Thar and I offered something different, a chance to go evil for a short story and play goblins, hobgoblins and orcs. This was a deviation from my usual no evil play, and was something the players had been asking to be able to do in the games.
It did not go very well, and the group was tiring of the storyline, so I got them agree to one last region which will lead right into the core campaign with those characters. So the reason this is linked to the Orcs of Thar piece, is that the players in this story were mostly evil, and when they got to the set piece for the start of the storyline they were just murder hobo’s and burnt down their quest after putting anakin skywalker to shame with the number of elven children murder by the group. So a new approach had to be taken.
Third Major Changes
With it now being 2018 and the need for a new look at what I was planning on doing, I started up two more groups to begin in the Ethengarian and Atruaghin regions, retired the darokin group to the gallows and made sure all characters brought in met with the campaign guidelines agreed upon and moved the original group into the second storyline of “The Immortals Fury”. This introduced Hollow World and its mechanics to the group and this was where the conversions of the setting I had been working on since 2016 were introduced to the table. This included the following:
- Secret Crafts – introduced from Glantri Gazetteer with an understanding I would expand, alter and update to 5E.
- Weapons Mastery – introduced from Rules Cyclopedia also to be converted over to 5th edition
- Maps of the Region – Introduced with each of the gazetteers.
- Racial Updated – Adding elemental affinity to all the races as a work in progress.
- Pantheons – Adding a work in progress pantheon.
- Hollow World – How the regions, races and the Spell of Preservation interacted in 5E.
Both the Ethengarian and Atruaghin storylines started like the Karameikos one with fluid level progression based on story progress. Started Ethengarian one with the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure while the other with Tyranny of Dragons and an adventure from Tales of the Yawning Portal.
Fourth Major Changes
A new feature is the creation of video capture of the sessions, previously they were all audio recorded and not safe for distribution, but with the video recordings the players have agreed to be part of it after the first year of running it in 2019
Writing this I am surprised I made it to four major changes, and at this point I know it will not be the last of them. but will keep going and seeing where it finally takes me. Each of the storylines were linked back into downtime being a core of the story when it comes to levels. So I returned to characters levelling at the end of the games calendar year, and then shuffling the Ethengarian storyline a few years into the future to match its level, while the Atruaghin storyline was stuck in a time trap until they also caught up with the appropriate level/year for their characters. Each of the storylines chosen here were specific to what the characters were doing at the time.
With the return to the everything happening in the game year relating to a single character level, I also introduced the concept of breaking up all the published 5E modules into discrete levels and spreading it over the storyline. With this in mind I also pulled apart the Wrath of the Immortals timeline and did the same thing taking the four year war and stretching it over fifteen years. This was a big changes and required a lot of work on the timeline.
I have also include magical items having a range of new abilities taking them from a basic use, to an attuned use, to awakened and exalted special tiers of power, with racial affinity providing extra abilities based around racial interests.
Taking the conversion details from the back of the Rules Cyclopedia to convert BEMCI to AD&D as the basis for making the 36 levels equivalent to the 20 levels we were working with. So modules were worked into this concept as well to make it all fit together with what I thought was a nice interlinking set of storylines includes all the Basic, Expert, Companion and Master modules from the BECMI rules.
OD&D 5E D&D
01 to 12 = Same level
13 to 15 = 13th
16 to 18 = 14th
19 to 21 = 15th
22 to 24 = 16th
25 to 27 = 17th
28 to 30 = 18th
31 to 33 = 19th
34 to 36 = 20th
Fifth Major Changes
Bringing in 2021 I started work on the patrons as the source of all the Domains, Secret Crafts and eventually all the archetypes, this is a major piece of work and will be ongoing taking a while to complete. I have also begun working in the Spells, feats and completing the weapons mastery, races and timeline connections while expanding when the adventures take place in the ongoing storyline.
The secret crafts have expanded from 7 out to 50, with variations linking back to each of the special character options available in the older game rules. Such as merchant princes, shamans and other similar things.
With a new kickstarter called Level Up it provides an advanced ruleset for the characters and I have also added pages for all the characters in my games to show the build process to make sure nothing is forgotten with all the changes that have been made, choices taken, and future updates.
Sixth Major Changes
With 2022 and covid, I have had time to work on some new changes in direction, I have a version 2 of the weapon mastery that is simpler and more powerful ongoing easier to expand and easy to use at the table.
Next on the cards will be the reintroduction of the original levels of the characters as I have obtained rules for epic levels, with the plan for all Master storylines to fit after the completion of the Wrath of the Immortals core storyline. This will cause a major shakeup of what I have planned already in the timelines, but the work will be worthwhile.
I have begun adding in the people of interest from each of the gazetteers, having added in those from Karameikos and showing what they convert over to now that I am keeping their base level from the older editions and taking them into epic levels. I am also connecting them to their clans and families.
The patrons have been given their own voice in a page (there will be many to come) that allows me to easier connect them into the various secret crafts, clerical domains, gods and pantheons. This will be an ongoing piece of work for world building a unique version of the setting for my players.
The guiding principle I have when making changes is how does it improve the overall story, the ability for players to tell their story, and how player character and NPC benefit for them as a trifactor of requirements that have to be met for me keep them.
The core rule of a roleplaying game is that it is a game, the second rule is that overall it should be fun. This second rule is tricky, because every person has a different definition of what they see to be fun. Now the core of the second rule is that if the person running the game is not having fun then there is no game. With that in mind the changes that I make to the games I run are what make me keep coming back to the games, and how I have over 1,800 sessions all up, and how I keep having storylines and tales to tell.
This would explain the reason why long term games keep reinventing themselves because that is part of my nature, and changes can be in the moment, or long planned, each with equal weight to the storylines.
Part 1 – Five Elements,
Part 2 – Five Spheres,
Part 3 – Pantheons,
Part 4 – Divine Features,
Part 5 – Reference Material,
Part 6 – Races,
Part 7 – Secret Crafts,
Part 8 – Weapons Mastery,
Part 9 – Setting,
Part 10 – Timeline,
Part 11 – Magical Item,
Part 12 – Classes,
Part 13 – Downtime,
Part 14 – Immortality,
Part 15 – Elemental Aspects,
Part 16 – Immortal Patrons,
Part 17 – New Directions,
Part 18 – Symbols
Part 1 – Mapping
D&D Menu – Adventures, Artefacts, Backgrounds, Classes, Dominions, Downtime, Feats, Gazetteers, Gods, Magical Items, Monsters, Organisations, Pantheons, Races, Ranks & Titles, Rune Magic, Secret Crafts, Settlements, Spells, Timeline, Weapons Mastery
Class Builds – Artificer – Bombardier (Tinkerkin), Barbarian – Totem Warrior (Ethegnarian), Totem Warrior (Heldannic), Bard – College of Valour (Sunfey), Druid – Circle of Dreams (Woodfey), Circle of the Tree of Life (Seasonfey), Fighter – Battlemaster (Seashire), Eldritch Knight (Kerendan), Weapons Master (Makai), Weapons Master (Stonebound), Monk – Way of the Elements (Waterchild), Paladin – Oath of Radiance (Sunfey), Oath of Vengeance (Firechild), Sorcerer – Wild Magic (Shadowfey), Warlock – Celestial (Sunfey), Wizard – Bladesinger (Seasonfey), Dragon – White. Multiclass – Cleric/Wizard (Ethengarian), Rogue/Cleric (Atruaghin), Rogue/Sorcerer (Seashire), Wizard/Rogue (Traladaran)
Floorplans – Thyatian
Session Recordings – Campaign Journals
This site is constantly under revision, no blog posts are final as this is a work in progress place for me to develop my game settings and rules. Some posts might be placeholders for future content, so feel free to check back later for updated information.