101 Days of D&D: my Eberron campaign's core story

So, I’ve got a working core story (or “premise,” if you want to use what’s a fairly loaded word in some RPG circles these days) for D&D and for Eberron. But, what I’ve been missing and REALLY need so that I can get on with both the campaign itself AND the nuts and bolts goals of my “101 Days of D&D 3.5e” project, which I laid out in the first post in this series, is a way to connect the adventures into some sort of semi-coherent whole. I also want to weave some subplots for each of the characters through the adventures, so that they have some personal stake in the adventures/”missions.”

After looking back over the notes I’ve taken from conversations with my players and the character backgrounds they’ve submitted, I think I’ve finally gotten some focus on the WHYs of this campaign.

But first, a little background. The campaign is a pretty by-the-books Eberron campaign. I’m not really presenting an edge case here — it’s all solidly with the “low-hanging fruit” range of what’s possible in this campaign setting. That being said, I like the group of characters the players have put together, and I like the direction we’re headed now.

The characters and their motivation/stories:

1. Ja’el: a former Cyran soldier (Cyre was the country that got destroyed) who lost his family, his liege, his livelihood, everything. He’s a little crazy and a lot cynical, but at the core, still a hero, even though he’s pretty down and out at the moment. He wants to find out what really happened to Cyre and seek some revenge. He also (nearly subconsciously) wants to regain his “heroic” status. He’s got a long way to go, though.

2. Dox, changeling wizard. Changelings are a new race evolved from crossing Dopplegangers and Humans. Dox was raised by a human wizard and thought he was human, just with a special power (changelings can do a minor shapechange, taking on the appearance of any humanoid). He discovered his true identity when his mentor died. He’s searching for his parents and why he was given to the human wizard to be raised. In a very real sense, he’s searching for himself, on a number of layers.

3. Tamarind, halfling Druid. The halflings of Eberron are split in to more or less two camps, the traditionalists who live a nomadic, fairly primitive life and those who have wandered and become members of other societies. Tamarind was raised in the traditional nomad culture, close to nature, but her father was a halfling of House Jorasco who had a one brief fling with Tamarind’s mother. All that Tamarind has of her father are a few stories, and, oh yeah, the House Jorasco dragonmark. She’s on a sort of “walkabout” to find out if she fits better into other society than the traditional one that raised her, and to find out what responsibilities (if any) or rewards (if any) there are of her dragonmark. She’s going to get forced to make some tough decisions about her place in the world, and she may have to make a choice one way or the other about which path she will follow.

4. Zhan, a Warforged fighter. As the Last War has ended and peace (however fragile) has replaced it, what is the place of those made (literally) to wage war? Zhan is a replacement for a now-deceased halfling and a better fit for the party and the campaign. The party has already faced the minions of the Lord of Blades, a very powerful Warforged who has basically decided that the warforged are superior to all “living” things and has surrounded himself with fanatical followers. Zhan is going to have to decide whether he wants to follow the Lord of Blades, or whether he’s going to be able to forge (pun intended) some other sort of meaningful existence for himself.

So, looking at all that the campaign’s really about identity and how identity is formed and shaped both internally and externally. In many ways, it’s the core story of Eberron itself: a world that’s having to redefine itself, find its identity, after this devastating war.

However, despite all the above, I’m still not abandoning the “let D&D be D&D” mantra I stated when I put the game together, nor am I ignoring the D&D core story (discussed in my last post. The characters are still going to be killing things, taking their stuff, and returning to civilation to sell the phat loot. Seriously. But (and like Pee Wee Herman says, “Everybody’s got a big but), I’m going to boil that down to it’s essence:

  1. defeat target,
  2. recover X from target
  3. return to Sharn
  4. exchange X for something of value to the party (equipment, information, etc.), and
  5. do it all again next week!

It’s just that — HOPEFULLY! — in this campaign, the characters will always be addressing the WHY behind the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW of the weekly sessions. There WILL BE a purpose for them behind each and every “adventure” they undertake from here on out (or at least there will be something that will resonate with each character in each adventure, even if it’s not primarily about them). The focus will shift from character to character, and they’ll develop new goals as well, but the plan is for them all to keep moving forward toward their goals.

Whew! That was a long one. But, I think I’ve got quite a bit better focus on the “metaplot” of this Eberron campaign now, and I can better evaluate published adventures (more on this in another post) and better write original adventures and connecting action with that focus in mind.

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