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A4 Series #3

Having developed the setting and generated an overall story plan for the campaign, the next step is getting the players involved and creating their characters. The importance of addressing these two early elements is that it gives the players some direction in creating characters that “work” for the setting. Every GM has their preference on how to handle this phase of campaign building and this is my typical approach. Since this scenario is set up as a fantasy setting, we will use the D&D5e rules for any mechanical references in this presentation.

First, I give the players a general feel for the setting. This can be as simple as giving out just the basics of geography, climate, denizens and culture. (If you remember, our setting has rocky hills and mountains in the area along with a large inland freshwater lake, essentially an inland sea. With the higher elevation common in our region, the climate is common for that altitude and therefore a bit cooler. The region is dominated by Humans and Halflings but Dwarven and Elven communities are nearby as are adversarial races like Orcs, Goblin-kin, Giants and Ogres. And this is more of a rural setting with fairly active trade between population centers both by road and across the lake as well as a shared faith in the Seven Divines.)

Second, the overview delves deeper into the regional races and their social structures. Humans have a Scottish Highlander flair clans of related families ruled by Chieftains. Over this is a Kingdom layer with swaths of lands given to Dukes and Archdukes to whom the Chieftains swear fealty. Halflings are a primarily family-based people with little in the way of dominating leadership. They live alongside the Humans and generally are accepted as part of the clan structure. Elves and Dwarves are more rare travelers, with Elves coming from forested lands to the west and Dwarves from the mountains to the north. Half-Elves and Half-Orcs can be found although both are extremely rare and Half-Orcs are treated with a great deal of distrust and suspicion.

Third, classes are addressed for the players. Each one is defined as to its role in the setting’s culture and, sometimes, with a style of play in order to help the players build their characters in the setting.

Barbarians: These typically are more of a berserker-style. Socially, they are treated as “blessed warriors” for the divine powers but also as dangerous homicidal maniacs. They are revered — but preferably from a distance.

Bards: They are lore-keepers of the people and their stories and tales inspire the Humans and Halflings with tales of the heroic deeds of the past and the traditions of the people. Often, they are consulted in trying to deal with conflicts.

Clerics: The dominant religion of the setting is that of the Seven Divines. Other priesthoods will be met with suspicion or even outright hostility.

Druids: Nearly unknown in this region, as it is dominated by the Seven Divines, this class does remain a possible choice for Elves or Half-Elves.

Fighters: These are very common as most people have some basic knowledge of wielding weapons in order to defend themselves. Armor typically is no heavier than chain mail, with plate being virtually non-existent. Given the hilly and broken terrain most fighting is on foot and there is no significant cavalry.

Monks: These are not the eastern-style open-hand combatants. Monks in this region are specialized non-armored skirmisher fighters who are more focused on using weapons than straight unarmed combat.

Rangers: These are common given the rural nature of the area.

Rogues: They take more of a “scout” orientation in this rural setting. There is a powerful guild in the main city and there are street thieves in the western trading city.

Sorcerers: These magic-users are uncommon but not unknown. It is more likely to find them in the rural lands than in the cities.

Warlocks: These are far less common and generally looked down on or met with open hostility. The devout and especially the clerics of the Seven Divines look down on these individuals and their dark pacts.

Wizards: There are two competitive schools, one in each of the major cities. The eastern city (and capital of the region) focuses on Evocation, Abjuration, and Elemental types of magic while the western city focuses on Summoning, Divination, and Enchantment types of spells.

Using this established setting material is key to having logical characters in the campaign. Having clearly defined boundaries for races, classes and archetypes allows the players to be informed of expectations of the game. It can be unintentionally frustrating to both the player and GM to have a fish out of water character, like a second-story rogue in a wilderness setting for example. Don’t be afraid to have limitations in order to keep the flavor of your setting intact.

Until the next installment …

Good gaming!