Skip to main content

Two Groups in the Same Campaign: Madness or Brilliance?

For years I have been planning an Asian-inspired campaign, in fact, since before D&D 5E even came out. Originally it was to be a Pathfinder campaign. Instead, something better came together out of a combination of 5E, some homebrew, and the Forgotten Realms Kara-Tur setting. The campaign concept evolved over a period of years to become a group of monster hunters in Asian-inspired Kara-Tur somehow getting caught up in the Blood War, the eternal war between demons and devils. I knew to do this right it was going to take a lot of homebrew and a lot of prep. In the end, there are 3 custom races, 7 custom classes / archetypes, a whole new weapon set, and several house rules. Prep involves coming up with lots of place names and character names in a setting I am not particular well-versed in, either specifically or by genre. To save myself a lot of work, both of my Roll20 groups play different parties in the exact same campaign.  Prep once, play twice.

Half the prep is a wonderful thing. It turns out, however, that running two groups through the same campaign has far greater advantages. As GMs, we all put together those interesting fights, only to have a quick series of failed saves or critical hits skew the fight into something different than we planned. We've all had players miss clues and drag the campaign off in unexpected directions. The question lingers: was it bad design or was it just a crazy random happenstance. Now with two groups in play, I often get those answers. I learn what is design and what is random.

A good example was a recent mission that both parties undertook in the town of Trunau. Something was killing commoners in one part of the city. They needed to figure out what was killing, find it, and kill it. It is a classic trope: investigate, locate, and kill. Both parties followed the same rough path through investigation, each clue leading to the next. One party had great luck at determining most of the special immunities and resistances of the monster. The other party had no luck.  Both parties ended up camped out in the middle of town at night trying to catch the creature. However, one party upset the local guard captain so badly that a PC was temporarily jailed, while the other party followed rules of honor and kept in the guard captain's good graces.

In the yokai fight, one party made most of their saves. The summoner failed and had to stay back during the fight. They knew very little about the yokai and charged into melee, killing the monster quickly, but still getting badly hurt by the tentacles flying in every direction. The second party almost entirely failed their saves. Being frightened, they couldn't move in on the creature. The summoner instead summoned a giant snake onto the monster which easily grappled it. The snake then moved the yokai within range of the PCs so they could attempt to hit it. This party had several PCs with little or no ranged weapons and it was a challenge.  Unfortunately, despite the much longer fight, the yokai couldn't seem to hit anything and the PCs mostly walked away unscathed, with the giant snake taking most of the damage.

By seeing the different ways this investigation, hunt, and eventual combat went, I learned a lot more about the overall design. I learned where things pulled the PCs in a consistent direction. I learned where dice rolls made a huge difference and where they didn't matter. If I were writing this campaign to share, running two or three groups through it simultaneously would have been the optimal approach for testing the design. By choice, I would run 3 groups through: 2 to test the initial material, and a 3rd to test the material after I made some tweaks.

Now this approach isn't for everyone. Trying to run two or more games at the same time takes some serious time commitment and organization skills. It turns out, it also takes some thorough notes to keep the parties straight and the information that the parties know separate. It is a real challenge, but if you are up for the challenge, there are some definite advantages that come out of it.




Comments

  1. I did this in college. A lot of prep work as this was pre-internet days. I ran it as one evil party and one good party as a bi-weekly. Group 1 one week, group 2 the next. Many times they focused on trying to undo each others progress and not progress the story line. It all culminated in one glorious battle around level 15. Might have been on of my best sessions ever, from a players stand point.

    I've been fortunate enough to have players from both those groups in my main game for 20 years now. All campaigns and adventures hinge on how that dual party game turned out. I call it 'Turn of Events' adventuring. All the campaigns/adventures I run lead up to our are a result of what took place during the dual party game.

    By the way, evil won in about 12 rounds.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

5E Starting Gold and Equipment for Higher Levels

The DMG has a rough recommendation for starting gold and equipment for higher levels, but with my groups running one-shots, we wanted to nail it down to level by level. Here's my DMG-inspired table.

Generally I allow equipment to be traded in during character creation for half book value, where applicable. I also, as a GM, offer to make custom magic items for players who can't choose. A list of magical items by rarity can be found here with stats available in the DMG. I also generally allow players to buy healing potions (2d4+2) for 50gp and greater healing potions for 250gp (4d4+4). PHB items are available at book cost at creation. I do not allow other equipment to be purchased except in game.

This is generally based off the "high magic" campaign.


LevelStarting GoldStarting Equipment / Magic Items1-160gp  OR Standard starting equipment2210gpStandard starting equipment3285gpStandard starting equipment4365gpStandard starting equipment5455gpStandard starting equipment65…

Top 10 Things to Know for the New Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Dungeon Master

There is no doubt that D&D 5E is pulling in a lot of new players. Unfortunately, this exacerbates the problem of needing more Dungeon Masters (DMs), and luckily more players are jumping in to be new DMs for games. If this is you, then this article is for you. Let's cover the top ten things to know as a new DM for 5E, well, besides the rules, which come in convenient book form.

You need 3 books: The Players' Handbook (PHB), the Monster Manual (MM), and the Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG).
You can get started with just the first two, but the DMG will teach you a lot of important skills and give you a lot of needed advice.
Learn the rules, but don't sweat it when you get them wrong.
Learn the rules as best you can before hosting your first session, but don't feel bad when you don't know a rule. Even experienced DMs take many session over months to learn a new rule set. Ask your players for help, make a ruling, and make a note to revisit it after the session. Keep rea…

An Unexpected Gender Experiment

When I resurrected my gaming hobby several years ago, I did it as a father bringing his 4 daughters and wife into the hobby. For me, this was a really cool experience and I wanted to share it so I started this blog, the Pink Dice Chronicles. Now, years have passed, daughters have grown up and moved out and it is me and friends just playing now. Along the way though, I found that I wanted to help more people in the hobby, so I started a twitter account, and the PinkDiceGM twitter handle was born.

On twitter, I accidentally started an unexpected gender experiment. I left off anything to indicate my gender, not on purpose. With a name like PinkDiceGM, I must be a woman, right?   So the experiment began without me even noticing it.

Now I've been around the internet (been online since '92) and I know there are always jerks and trolls. Twitter is no exception. When I ran into jerks here and there, I did what I have learned to do. Engage politely, and then block if needed. I had to d…