5th Age Campaigns' home rules
If you are reading this, it means that you are contemplating joining one of the 5th Age D&D campaign.
This is why I am putting this introduction out there, to do my best as a DM to set up expectations for my players.
Pace of the campaign
The pace of the campaign is slow and steady. I am not shortcuting any travel journey, and each encounter can be the seed of future adventures, and more importantly I am not leading the players by the nose to the next thing to beat down. If as a player you are looking purely for hack and slash, or gaining X levels in Y sessions, this campaign is not for you.
Through their choices, characters can explore and influence the world, and thrive toward an epic fate across the multiverse if they so chose, or carve their own destiny the way they want, within constraints that are not set by the DM, but by the current characters’ levels and the group dynamic built with the other members of the party.
Some elements of the stories may be driven by a player’s character development choices. A new class added to a character, or the accomplishment of a character story line leading to expected developments. But beyond that, everything that occurs to the characters is driven by the group dynamic, random encounters and the choices of the players, more than by the choices of the DM.
This campaign is not a one-off, it is a long term campaign with the goal to give a chance to each player to truly develop their characters. The campaign’s main inspiration comes from the various campaign world created for D&D, taking up material from Forgotten Realms, the Shadowfell, the Feywild and Sigil, the crossroad of the planes, as well as many other settings, like Mystara, Greyhawk, Mirrodin or Eberron which are all part of the Prime Material plane.
Beyond the initial story lines built in each character’s background, and introducing them with a personal purpose in the game world, I do not want to drive the characters toward one direction or the other. Each occasion, each encounter, even if it starts as random, is an opportunity for adventures that you, the players, chose to pick up or not as a group.
Once in-game information has been delivered, individually or as a group, either you as players keep it in your character’s mind or forget about it. There will no gentle guiding by the hand, and I believe players must work on their character’s consistency as much as a DM must work on the world’s consistency.
My campaign rules are meant to give this specific campaign a less “high fantasy” flavor, and I understand not everyone like that. I am also a big fan of the Pendragon game, and I have developed further the downtime activities from the 5e rules (including class training between levels) as a way to make the campaign more "realistic’’ (aka like “I entered this dungeon level 1 and exited it level 10” is not what I am looking for.. computer games do those very well.).
As an example, the workweek activity from RAW is now split into 5 main activities, one per day, to give more granularity to the choices of actions a character can do each day.
Some rules are there for the purpose of adding a few tactical options or are there to handle specific actions consistently, others are there to give this specific flavor I want my campaign world to feel like. I do not expect my players to know all the home rules, I do not even know them all myself. They are documented for the sake of consistency, so that I can rule a situation the same way regardless on when and to whom it happens. I am not a DM that like making decision arbitrarily, based on my mood of the day or the speed of the wind outside.
My end goal is to build the campaign toward a change of Ages, the 5th Age. I am using all official content to build how the 4th age will end and the 5th Age will start. The new edicts of AO and the rewriting of the Tablets of Fate during the Second Sundering have closed the constant interfering of the gods with Forgotten Realms, divination and commune do not provide anymore a “how do I fix this, just ask the Gods..”. The weave does not allows for easy mind-reading of others’ minds anymore, the Death Curse is decimating existing powerful individuals to allow younger ones (the generation of the characters) to eventually take their place. The remaining Chosen, if they survive the rise of Tiamat, the demonic rage in the Underdark, the machinations of the elemental evils or the depredations of the giants, will play a different role in the future of this campaign, and the players may impact each or some of these threats differently so any of these events may or may not be impacted by the characters as they gain power.
My DM style
I started playing AD&D in 1980, and I quickly became a Dungeon Master, and played and mastered through all the editions of D&D.
My favorite edition is now 5th edition, previously it was 3.5.
(A quick tip to the hat to Jared… He knows why)
For me, RPGs are the ultimate simulation game, running much deeper than any computer game can, so I like the rules to make sense, and to avoid too many arbitrary “left to the DM” decisions. The players must know what to expect and the set of rules their character will live (and possibly die) by. Furthermore, the rules apply the same way to Players and NPCs.
What I define as true RPG is a fully open ended world, with solid rules for the simulation aspect and spells and systems that allows for open ended imagination within known parameters, while keeping the brains of the players engaged on meaningful choices. A true RPG also has a shared rule system that is both iconic and offers interesting character building options that break stereotypes.
D&D 5th edition fits that bill.
I follow the Rules As Written (RAW) except for the documented home rules on this campaign’s wiki.
I manage the minutiae of encumbrance, the dangers of traveling, the weather patterns, everything that make the world feel more “realistic” within the context a fantasy medieval looking world using the rich history of the Forgotten Realms.
I am running two separate groups through this campaign, the Defenders of Khelb, and the Brotherhood of the Moon, as well as a West marches style PbP game, where players can explore “the other side”, playing an evil or conflicted vistani tiefling, servant of the vampire Lord Strahd Von Zarovich in the Barovian Marches.
Even if I am threading each group with inter-related background threads, each group is free to decide their path by themselves. I want my players to become the new Elminster, the New Alustriel, the new Blackstaff or the new Drizz’t of the 5th Age, and allow these powerful new individuals rising into the new 5th Age to have written their own stories, and possibly, much later at higher level, interact with each others with different agendas. This can’t happen with only one group, hence the reason why I run this campaign that way.
I am aware that my non american native accent can sometime muddles clues and verbally shared information (or even written one as my style or grammar may be… odd).
Please do not hesitate to ask for clarifications or point out editing needs.
My propensity of not influencing the die rolls may be read by some as being “against” the players. I am not, I am merely an adjudicator of the rules, but I usually do not play the NPCs as "scoobidoo’ monsters meant only to provide comic relief until the next boss fight. Every random encounter is not just dropped there for XP. Every sentient NPCs is able to use his or her own intellect, and is not just there as canon fodder. The most important to me as a DM is to drive a world that lives and evolves beyond the characters, and it is up to the group’s choice to impact each event in the way they want. There should be some kind of logic and sense to most sentient creatures’ choices, however alien.
Once decisions are made, and actions are attempted, there is no going back to change choices and there should not be expectation of leniency from me if players overestimate the group’s capabilities. Dice results are not going to be changed to accommodate favorable outcomes. I do not shy away from TPK, when characters-driven circumstances lead to it. The world will just continue to evolve and new characters may attempt again to write their name in the legends.
I have no problems managing a split group if the circumstances and players’ choice leads to it. Splitting the group will not change the strength of the rolled encounters (which are tailored for groups of 4 characters), so survival will depend on each character’s style. *
I do have a vision of where the world is going, and you, with your character’s choice of actions, can make that vision change. There is no predetermined outcome for the world or any of the characters.
What you chose to do together matters.
This is, in my mind, the true essence of RPGs.
So if you believe this campaign will be a fit for you, head out to the Campaign’s Wiki to learn more this campaign’s home rules and background.