Dark Sun Campaign Prep – the Challenges of Starting a New Game

The opportunity to start a new campaign is usually both a challenge and joy for most GMs. In the planning of my new Dark Sun campaign, the challenges appeared first. I had been wanting to start a new game for quite some time, and I had intended to run Star Wars Saga Edition. To that end, I purchased nearly the entire set of books for the system. Now that my desires have shifted to run Dark Sun, the wife is somewhat unhappy at the unused Star Wars books on the shelf. This brought me to my first challenge: spousal consent.

My lovely wife has a considerable tolerance for my collection of RPG books. She doesn’t play herself, but she supports me in my hobby. Freshly baked cookies often warm the stomachs of the brave souls who sit at my gaming table, and she has yet to utter the phrase “don’t you have enough books and miniatures.” Still, she laments the fact that I’m on a first name basis with the owners of the local gaming stores, book stores, and used book shops. An additional, but related concern was where to hold the game. I prefer to host for the games that I run as I love having all of my reference materials at hand. Still, asking someone you live with to devote an entire night a week to gaming is a considerable request. These two items represented the first dragon to be slain on my quest to start this new campaign.I planned to solve this challenge much as I would deal with an unbeatable dragon in game; bribe it with gold. I’m reasonably certain this method will work over the long term, though I worry for my accumulated hoard.

The most distressing obstacle to starting a new game was finding players. Most of the members of my regular gaming group are unable to start a new campaign. College workloads have cost me two potential players, while family-time considerations have cost another. A fourth player is unable to add a game to his schedule due to a work promotion. Adding to the situation, all four abstaining are dear friends in addition to being great role-players. I was confidant I could fill the seats, it was replacing the talent which concerned me. I navigated this challenge through my tested recruiting method: Fliers in the gaming store, Ads online, a post on Facebook, and word of mouth through the local gaming community. I know an entire series of articles could be devoted to recruiting players for games. Thankfully, It had results even quicker than expected. Within hours of posting ads, the empty ranks were filled by eager requests for adventure and glory in the world of Athas. While this challenge appears bested, only time will tell if these new players are in it for the long-haul.

A third challenge presented itself with what standards to set for the campaign. In the world of Athas, the divine does not exist. There are no gods in Athas and as such, no divine heroes. Additionally, the number of races known in Athas is relatively small compared to other settings. There are suggestions on how to incorporate other races in the campaign setting but I wanted to encourage the players to play races that had a history in Athas. Countering that, I must admit I personally hate to let the rules stop anyone from playing what they want. Experience however, has shown me where these things can lead.  Hybrid artificer / invoker warforges have no place in the desert world of Athas. To conquer this challenge I decided to split the difference. I would allow divine characters but only the races allowed by the book. The reasoning being that keeping the races limited helps to keep things familiar. Races give players flavor to work with, but the class defines the character and his abilities.

The final challenge has found itself in a place where many GMs would find joy. Building a series of adventures around a plot can be nerve-wracking for me. I have trouble keeping all the different elements sorted. Furthermore, I have at my disposal a great number of modules I’ve wanted to run. I recognize the need for an overarching plot to keep the players focused, but keeping it strait and making it flow has always been a difficulty for me. I wanted badly to use the modules, but I needed a cohesive plot that made sense to the players. This presented a  headache, until I remembered an excellent tool available to GMs called Masterplan. This outstanding free software makes campaign planning easy. It allows me to link in my head all the different plot points and keep everything together. I can string together the different encounters from the modules and link them to the story. Using it I have planned out the first tier of adventure while drawing elements from Marauders of the Dune Sea, Scepter Tower of Spellgard, The Slaying Stone, and Orcs of Stonefang Pass. Homebrew elements will fill in the gaps for the modules. With this challenge crushed, I felt a lot better about the start of the game.

Be sure to check back next week as I present the cast of characters and the opening of the campaign.

[tags]Athas, 4e, D&D, Dark Sun, Gaming, Role Playing Games, RPG, Tabletop, Wizards of the Coast[/tags]

3 thoughts on “Dark Sun Campaign Prep – the Challenges of Starting a New Game

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  1. I’m with Nundahl on this one. Challenge one hasn’t burned me… yet. Then again, I’m not so sure that I’d want to be with someone that tried to limit my gaming. That would be like killing a part of my soul. lol


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