Friday, March 13, 2009

Campaign Framework: The One of a Kind Campaign

We're taking a break from our Fantasy Trip campaign, and I'm setting up a D&D campaign based on a "one of a kind" model for magic and monsters.

The basic idea is straightforward enough: in this campaign, each spell, magic item, and monster in D&D is unique (with a few caveats). 

There is, somewhere, a wizard with "Bands of Sirellyn" in his spell book, and he guards it carefully. And rumor holds that the wizard Hovanast, famed for his knowledge of the spell "Detect Magic," entered the Tomb of Horrors never to return. Did he take his spellbook with him, or is it still in his abandoned tower? Yet another legend holds that the dwarves came and took Hornung away to their dismal holds. It is said that his spell book went with him, and it is the only place you will find "Hornung's Random Dispatcher." 

There is, somewhere, a lonely deserted place where the sphinx troubles travellers. And that vile red dragon, the Kingsford Worm, has so plagued the once prosperous town of Kingsford that it has been all but abandoned by goodly people. 

The Girdle of Giant Strength went down in a shipwreck off the coast of Hob's Cove. An old man at the pub in Mistlemoor brags to anyone who will buy him a drink that he knows where the Hammer of Thunderbolts can be found.   

The devil will be in the details, of course. How will races be dealt with? Are magic spells really completely unique? Can they be, given that anyone can copy a spell out of a spell book if they can get their hands on it. And so on. I'll talk about my take on how to deal with the questions in later posts. 

6 comments:

  1. I was just thinking about doing something along these lines recently. I like the idea of a frostbrand sword being THE Frostbrand Sword, and using it to kill THE Red Dragon. I'm interested to see how it works out for you.

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  2. Hi! I'm definitely planning on talking about how things work out. The thing that really pushed me to move forward with the idea was that I recently grabbed the 4 volume Wizard's Spell Compendium and 4 volume Encyclopedia Magica sets on Ebay. I thought it would be a fun way to put them to all to use. They're written up for 2nd edition, but I think they'll work fine in our campaign (which will use the BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia version of D&D).

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  3. An intriguing idea for magical items but would a few powerful wizards not have accumulated all spellbooks over time?

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  4. Hi Kent,

    Good point. I can think of a few things that will/would help keep this in check. One would be that I'm using a modified version of the "Spells Known" tables from the Holmes rules. This means that the vast majority of wizards would only be able to master a dozen or fewer spells. They'd have to pick and choose when a spell is worth putting the effort into. Another check will be that a lot of spells are basically lost. To collect these spells, wizards would need to first find out they exist, then find out where they were last known, then track them down and maybe find out where they now sit. And then they'd still have the task of going out to get them. Also, it's a low level world -- there won't be many high level characters alive out there, so that also limits the likelihood of any cabals of master wizards who've collected all the good spells.

    Those are possible in-game justifications. The out of game justification is actually just that I'm comfortable with just sprinkling a little bit of handwavium around and pretending it isn't a problem. To some extent, there's a mismatch between what the rules do and what is going on in the world. The "one of a kind" thing is, for me, mainly a DM's tool. I expect that the world is a little different -- spells aren't entirely unique (they can be copied, after all, so how could they be). They're just rare. There are so many of them, so widely scattered, and no one has enough knowledge to have collected them all. Wizards are secretive and protective of the few spells that they do have. And so on.

    But different wizards would probably actually have copies of the same spells, in some cases. But the PCs won't start with duplicates, and everyone I introduce will be duplicate free, as will spell books. Any mixing and matching that arises through play will be fair game.

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  5. a lot of spells are basically lost. To collect these spells, wizards would need to first find out they exist, then find out where they were last known, then track them down and maybe find out where they now sit. And then they'd still have the task of going out to get them

    I like this. Players better appreciate things they have earned. There is a good structure to your idea and it makes sense.

    I did once almost eradicate magic in a campaign and it felt like a much needed shower but I'm a huge Vance fan and love my imps and perplexities so I invited it back in.

    If the act of copying was difficult or dangerous or resulted in inferior cantrip-like versions of the original then the uniqueness could be preserved somewhat. Anyway its all food for thought.

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  6. If the act of copying was difficult or dangerous or resulted in inferior cantrip-like versions of the original then the uniqueness could be preserved somewhat.

    And I like this. I imagine a fun "spell copying misfire" table could be built around this idea.

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