This play by post campaign is inspired by my abandoned National Novel Writing Month project. Practicing writing while adventuring together sounds way more exciting! Players in this campaign will have a lot of opportunity to establish the world they live in and guide the narrative. I will not be using a hardcover- we're going off the rails, folks!
I'm using the DnD Beyond forum because they have special abilities to list monsters, magic items, and there is a dice roller, too. We'll all learn the system together, so no worries if you're not familiar with it.
Character creation will be 30 point buy, no stats higher than 17 before racial. Use this calculator. You can be any race, including monster races. Anything in a published book is fair game- no Unearthed Arcana/homebrew. Your character will be from a town that YOU create, and then we will establish relationships- you will know at least one other adventurer beforehand. To facilitate the story, your character needs to have at least one goal and one flaw. A goal can be anything from revenge to collection of wealth to seeing the world- really anything that motivates your character to *do* something. A flaw should be something that makes sense with your character's background and stats- what makes it more challenging for your character to accomplish their goal? A character looking for a magical book that will restore life to their deceased lover is far more fascinating when they can't read.
I welcome your ideas and contributions, and can't wait to see where this wild ride leads!
Edit: Additional info regarding setting.
High fantasy campaign.
A formerly connected world is becoming more and more isolated after famine, war, and poverty destroyed the prosperity of certain regions. Trade routes are being severed. Walls are being built. Nationalism is the new patriotic norm. Before this, the continent had a particularly long span of abundance- a golden age when magic is developed and everyone was educated and arts thrived, etc. Your character may or may not have been alive during that time.
Can you give us a breif overview of the world/region this will take place? If we're designing it completely ad hoc and as things grow out of play organically that's cool; I just want to slot in better.
Any ideas on themes you want/want us to explore and desired tone of the campaign? I'll open this second question to everyone as well.
I'm definitely interested, do you have a starting level in mind for our characters? And regarding the towns that we make, are there any restrictions you want to put on them (are firearms a thing, can we make noble houses and the like out of whole cloth, etc.)?
A formerly connected world is becoming more and more isolated after famine, war, and poverty destroyed the prosperity of certain regions. Trade routes are being severed. Walls are being built. Nationalism is the new patriotic norm.
You have a lot of artistic license regarding your hometown. In fact, the more unique it is, the better! But everything has to be explainable using the DnD published materials (re-skinning is okay!). Guns can be re-skinned Heavy Crossbow or Ice Knife, for example. I gravitate toward high fantasy with a side of steampunk, but I'm up for whatever y'all invent!
Oooh, I wasn't interested in guns until I saw your Ice Knife example and now my mind swims with possibilities of a medical'ed out dwarven fusiliers, centaur plains-raiders, etc. I was leaning on a dwarven character to start, maybe I'll go whole hog down that route.
Trade routes being severed via political ties souring or violence? Walls like Great Wall of China, Berlin wall, border walls, or city walls? If city walls and trade routes facing predation, what force(s) kept things peaceful until this point? Are we looking at a points-of-light style world, or one headed that way?
Testing dice roller:1614
edit: Don't roll two times side-by-side without at least a space. Original rolls 16 and 14; testing to make sure it doesn't reroll upon an edit.
If your hometown has nearby walls, you decide what they are. Not all the regions necessarily have walls.
The continent had a particularly long span of abundance- a golden age when magic is developed and everyone was educated and arts thrived, etc. Your character may or may not have been alive during that time.
What are everyone's thoughts on the setting being the aftermath of a First World War (web of alliances leads to a massive war) or Thirty Years War (particularly the German states, where large mercenary armies from both sides would fight, and winners and losers alike would pillage the surrounding countryside for supplies) type scenario in the immediate past? If we wanted to do a more points-of-light type setting, both situations (or even both combined) could serve as a decent reason why the world got to that point, and if we take the Thirty Years way of things, many of the brigands running around will be the remnants of mercenary armies and the like, and whole towns or even cities could have been burned down over the war's course. The campaign could be about a group of people from various towns that survived (or didn't!) the war trying to either re-establish a kingdom or sue for peace.
There could be lost relics and treasures that have been stolen by looters or bandits or need to be recovered from the wreckage of a city, threats from either the Underdark or just beyond the borders from kingdoms that avoided the worst of the fighting, and now want to expand into territory without armies to defend it.
Aviar is a rough, brown feathered Aarakocra that bears a resemblance to the eagle. Aviar, or Avi, grew up in the Aarakocra settlement of Hullolcree. His familiy was of the lower class so he spent his adolescent life working the land and fishing the rivers, his home being a cave. When he came of age Avi took the mountain path to the Chun Monastery to begin his studies. He worked hard at his training and books but still only remained an average student. After 10 years he earned the honor to wear the robes of Chun and set out on The Sojourn, the first to be taken in three decades. He hopes to earn the right to become a Master.
The Hawkspan Mountains - A mountain range that is home to many anthropomorphic settlements, colonies, and towns. When flying overhead the mountain range resembles a hawk with wings outstretched.
Hullolcree - Hull-lull-kree - An Aarakocra settlement that spreads across several miles of foothills and cliffs of the Hawkspan mountains. Saying the name of the town in the Aarakocra language sounds like a seagull trying to greet you with a mouth full of fish, best to stick to common. It has a class system where the nobles live on the cliff sides and the peasants live in the foothills and farmlands far below. The middle class is mostly made up of merchants that live and sell along the trading road that leads up to the Chun Monastery just to the Northeast. A river runs down from the mountains just west of the settlement and separates the town from the forest line. To the Southwest is a large forest where a known Lizardfolk settlement is located, their closest neighbors. Many rope or chain lifts can be spotted throughout the high areas so that those without flight can access certain houses.
The Chun Monastery - Located high up in the Hawkspan Mountains. This monastery is made up of multiple facilities connected by well kept stone paths and tunnels. It is rumored that there are more buildings, and possibly entire campuses, throughout the mountains that only the Masters know how to access. They house about 300 students that are made up of anthropomorphic beings from the surrounding populations. The robes of The Order are a sky blue with edgings of white. Aarakocra, Tabaxi, and Lizardfolk make up the majority of them but some Kenku and a couple Dragonborn can be counted as well. Mistress Chunbi of the four elements, an albino Tabaxi, leads the Monastery. She is also known as Lady Chu to the nobles and diplomats of the towns represented at the Monastery. She has been alive and mediating for as long as the oldest animal remembers.
Kebaegir is a large continent with many diverse regions and diverse inhabitants. The regions of Kebaegir were once at peace. Crops grew plentifully in the fertile regions, game was abundant in the forests, and fisher-folk hauled in full nets every day. Trade flourished among all the regions. Scholars and scientists discovered methods for harnessing powerful energies and gods and patrons bestowed gifts of incredible abilities to their most dedicated worshipers. Magic was primarily used for entertainment, worship, or artistic creation.
During the hundreds of years of this prosperity, the oceans were slowly over fished, a large portion of the wild game became extinct, and the fertile ground turned barren. Some regions became too poor to trade with the richer regions. Blame was placed on certain regions for not protecting their natural resources, and distrust grew. The regions of Kebaegir started isolating themselves from each other. Skirmishes and then later, battles, broke out along borders. Magic, for the first time, was used as a weapon. Trade routes were severed. Walls were built. Nationalism became the new patriotic norm. And this is where our story begins...
The Monastic Order of Chun - There are three levels in the order of Chun; Student, Monk, and Master. Training and tests are given to advance in the hopes of gaining enlightenment or power, both acceptable goals in The Order. There are currently six masters, the youngest being in his late fifties. Mistress Chunbi is the oldest but none alive can recall a time she was not the Mistress of the Monastery.
The Trials - These basics can take between eight and fifteen years depending on the competency of the student. They begin with the basics of managing a life. Financial management, building and repair, farming, foraging, hunting, and of course unique trade skills the student shows promise in. Music, art, history, culture, and geography have dedicated classes. The more difficult teachings of interpersonal skills, decision making, problem solving, critical and creative thinking, self awareness and self control, and of course resilience and adaptation. The Order is not chaste or closed off so there are families brought up within the monastery walls and parenting skills is something shared among the entire community. Combat training begins when one of the Master's approves the student to move on. Often this will be a Master of one of the Monastic Traditions taking a student into their own class. Once finished the student becomes a monk and earns the honor of wearing the blue and white robes of The Order.
The Sojourn - Few have embarked on this since the world left it's golden age. Most are content with working and living at the Monastery or in the settlements surrounding the mountains. It is said that during the Golden Age that there were five times as many monks out on Sojourn then there were working at or near the Monastery. The monk is required to leave the land they know and travel the world. They are to represent The Order with honor and dignity. This can be accomplished in many ways. Monks can be great craftsmen or merchants, mediators, warriors, teachers, musicians, and every now and then... heroes. The ultimate goal is to discover something unique about themselves and to gain a greater understanding of how the world works.. what some may call enlightenment. Once The Sojourn ends, the monk may return to the Monastery to take The Test to become a master.
The Test - The final test is straight forward but difficult. First, the monk must defeat a current Master in a spar. Second, the Monk must demonstrate the unique thing they have discovered about themselves that would set them apart from all others. There is no limit on how many times a monk can retake the test, unless they die of course. Every master is said to have failed at least once. The Golden Age boasted 99 masters that would rotate through the 15 available positions at the Monastery; the rest would travel and teach.
The Way of the Open Hand - Master Toll - A slider type Tortle
The Way of the Drunken Master - Master Yoshiyuki - A bright orange Kitsune
The Way of the Four Elements - Mistress Chunbi - An albino Tabaxi
The Way of the Sun Soul - Master Hekkirc - A dark red feathered, hawk like Aarakocra
The Way of the Kensei - Master Jackal Laugh - A silver feathered Kenku
The Way of the Long Death - Mistress Racha Mindihr - A pale Human
In the village of Blackpool, children have not been born for over three decades for reasons unknown to its residents. Until... Marcel and Anne-Marie Faughn give birth to a healthy baby girl well into their 50's. Considered a miracle, the entire hamlet covets and helps raise Ríonach and come to love her as one of their own. Precocious and inquisitive, she learns several trades and skills growing up, including weapon fighting, that shape her into the young woman she grows up to be.
The town slowly begins to age around her as no other children are born after her either. Some residents outlive the rest of their family. She notices how lonely and lost they seem and help establish the first group home of its kind to house and rehabilitate those who no longer have care. The residents claim that in her presence they feel healthier and more agile than they have in years... it's almost as she possesses the ability to heal those around her for a short time.
Ríonach's mother passes unexpectedly in her 80's leaving her to care for her blind father who is beginning to lose his memory as well. He lives with others in the group home. Short-term memory all but gone, Marcel speaks constantly about his love for adventuring and the wild expeditions he embarked on as a young man.
Uncertain and unsure about her future, his stories inspire her to take up adventuring on her own: partly to find herself, protect those weaker, and discover the blight of barrenness upon her village.
Blackpool has thousands of bees that make their home within its valleys and groves due to the abundance of wildflowers that feed off the nutrient-rich creeks nearby. The first inhabitants of the area knew that they struck a different kind of gold mine and established the town shortly after. Hundreds of hives were built to harvest precious honey, and the hamlet took the honeybee as their celebratory mascot.
People traveled miles to purchase jars upon jars of the famous honey due to its richness and abundant healing properties. Blackstone became the central hive of activity as other towns began to crop up around them. Everything flourished for a time.
As years passed, the bees kept reproducing like wildfire, but their human counterparts began experiencing trouble. The town had on average 7-8 healthy births a year, and that number quickly dwindled. Eventually, no one fell pregnant at all. Neighboring cities and villages grew superstitious and believed a Honey God had placed a curse upon Blackstone that no one could bear children.
After an unfortunate accident involving a child, the towns declared Blackstone no longer safe for travel. The major roadways were diverted to avoid the entrance into the town, and their honey was no longer purchased for fear of it being poisoned. Several hives were closed or relocated as they simply had too much supply and not enough demand. No one of child-bearing age or younger were allowed to cross the borders into Blackstone. The town was crippled. Some eventually packed up and left. The faithful stayed behind to tend to their bees and accept the fate that Life had dealt them.
You pass through a dead forest alone. The blackened, barren limbs reach up fifty feet and more towards the bleak winter sky, and the enormous trunks suggest that this woodland is extraordinarily ancient. Following the rutted dirt road, you see a dreary village ahead. Smoke from chimneys drift lazily above thatched roofs, peeking over the six foot ramparts that surround them. A river runs along the western edge of the town, and you can see dozens of orcs fishing with nets from longboats. The smell of smoked fish grows stronger as you approach a gate, guarded by two orc guards with spears at their sides.
You all enter Dherrogh, an orc fishing town on the Blackhawk Run individually. What do you do?
Edited to add:
If you approach the gate, one of the guards addresses you in a rumbling baritone voice. "State your name and business. Dherrogh does not have extra food or supplies to spare for vagrants. Sheath your weapons at all times, and be on your way as soon as possible."
If you approach the orcs fishing in a longboat nearby, they look you over and then turn back to pulling in their nets. Only a few fish are hauled in at a time, and they are not large. After five minutes, one of the orcs turns back to you and calls out, "Trade?"
"Dead forests sure are dreary.... and barren..." Avi walks silently, only his talons poking out of his cloth wrapped feet. "...and spooky." He absently talks to himself as a comfort until a large branch finally lets go of the tree that bore it. The cracking and snapping of its descent and heavy thud on the ground are accompanied by a very undignified shriek as Avi can now be seen perched on a large branch about fifteen feet up. He looks around quickly with sharp turns, unbristling himself as he lets out a deep breath. "Just a branch... no groups of rogues and bandits. Hard for them to hide anyway." As he continues to reason with himself he launches from the branch and flies at a much quicker pace down the path'; about ten feet off the ground. Avi comes to a clumsy, hop skip and a jump, landing as he spots a break in the tree line. Proceeding on foot seems a wiser choice since it is probably not common to receive flying visitors. Avi has now reached the next part in his Sojourn and steadies himself for his first encounter with outsiders... although technically he is the outsider in this circumstance. "Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths... steady eyes, no fear, don't chortle." The smell of fish make his eyes smile as fond memories of fishing briefly dance across his thoughts. Avi approaches the gate with an open, out facing palm and a walking stick/quarter staff in the other hand.
"I am Avi of.. " he states the name of his hometown in his language and it does indeed sound like a seagull attempting to greet you with a mouthful of fish. "I am a monk of Chun passing on my sojourn. I have no need of charity or hand outs." He stops for a moment as the aroma of fish overtakes him. "I would however like to know where I can purchase that wonderful smelling smokey fish that keeps taunting my appetite."
The guard who spoke nods and turns his attention back to the road you came from. The other guard, a woman with an angled dark scar across her face, replies, "Ask for Shagar at the smoker in the center of the village. She has the best fish, but be prepared to trade for it. Your coin is no good here."
Avi's shoulders visibly sink. As a monk he travels with practically nothing. "I see." He continues his walk trying to think what to do next. He might just have to pass directly through this town and forage his way to the next settlement if his coin can do nothing here. As an orc town he wasn't sure if they would take his teaching or training as payment... maybe there was a place he could earn some kind of local trade by elbow grease or a little brawl. Avi shakes his head as his hopes sink a little more. He was hoping for a good meal and an unguarded rest before continuing.
Ríonach pulls her gray cloak tighter around her frame as she passes underneath the sparse, burnt canopy. It’s not unusually cold out to her, but the silence of the woods around her is distracting and ominous. Something awful has come to pass here she thinks to herself. No one in their right mind would choose to stay any longer in this dead waste. Her feet ache from the walking, and the uncomfortable grumbling she experienced in her stomach this morning has turned into daggers in her abdomen. She quickens her pace until the inviting sight of chimney smoke is seen just up ahead.
Her footsteps slow as she approaches the guard standing before the gated ramparts. What would he assume of a girl traveling alone? She does not expect to be met with such brashness immediately.
“My name is Ríonach Faughn. I come from the northeast from a village called Blackpool.” She pauses. His tone and words were not inviting, but she is desperate. “I am very hungry, sir. I-I could help! I’ll work for the food and a night’s rest if you allow me.”