Tuesday, April 28, 2015

DM's Notebook: Meet the Party

Warning: This blog post is a behind the DM screen journal for my campaign set in a homebrewed campaign setting. If you are participating in this campaign and read further than this your character's life is forfeit. You have been warned.

This campaign has been going on in one for or another for a couple of years now, ever since the 5e playtest. So what do you as a reader need to know coming into the campaign?
  1. The setting is a quasi-medieval fantasy world, but gunpowder weapons do exist, specifically single shot pistols and old-timey grenades. A few lawmen carry six-shooters.
  2. Every 1000 years the barriers that protect the Material Plane from the Infernal and Celestial Planes weakens. During this time the deities turn mortal and fight each other for domains. The last campaign took place during this time.
  3. The Campaign is done online, so most of combat and interactions are done in the "Theater of the Mind" style.

Current World Overview

It has been over a hundred years since the world nearly ended. In the wake of the battles between the Divines and Damned the world was reshaped. The ocean receded and land long since lost has returned. In a bid for power several countries were conquered by dragons and thus began the Dragon War. An uneasy truce was created, but it can only last for so long before the dragons do battle yet again.

Meet the Party

Paladin Jourmond Dal(Connor)
Half-Elf, Paladin, La
wful Neutral

Paladin of the Divine of War, Duo, this man has set his eyes on becoming an Assassin in the City-State of San. His deity is one of my previous player's characters who was one of the last guild assassins left when the previous campaign ended.

My plan right now is to let the assassin's guild to eventually show themselves to the party in some way. That way he can get a feel for them before 

Ranger Nym(Liz)
Half-Elf, Hunter Ranger, Chaotic Neutral

Nym was the product of the love between two star crossed lovers who worshipped different deities. After her father died, Nym was exiled from her tribe due to her ability to use magic. When she tried to return she found out that the tribe was wiped out by giants and has been on a quest for vengeance ever since.

I've already started introducing elements of this story in the campaign sessions.There are some elements that I have carried over from my previous campaign.

Nicolai "Scar" Ironscale(Travis)
Black Dragonborn, Barbarian, Lawful Evil

Barbarians known as the Iron Circle killed his family and he was kept as a slave. Eventually he used his intellect to convince the Iron Circle that he was more useful as a soldier. When the moment was right he helped start a coupe resulting in him taking over, naming himself leader in the process. Eventually disgruntled people under his rule tried to have him killed and he was forced into exile. Now he is looking for a way to return.

This storyline gives me a bit of troubles with the idea of how my world works, but I accept the challenge. A few locations on the map I've made haven't been flushed out. Adding an antagonistic new nation to take on the party will be interesting to say the least.

Sawyer(Steve) Red Dragonborn, Eldritch Knight, Neutral Evil

From the volcano city Vula, Sawyer's family were allied with Inferno, the Red Dragon that created their race. In order to prove himself to his family that he can be a great warrior he has decided to go on a quest to prove himself.

Most open of the four storylines, which makes it the most challenging to work with. Though storylines about warriors gaining a name for themselves is a classic tale going all the way back to Beowulf.


This party is going to be something to watch out for. The world of Celestine might not be ready for them and they might not for it, but it cannot be said that they won't leave their mark on it.

See you next time where we'll talk about the Broken Hammer Arsonists.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

World Building: Working in Realism

So I recently started up a new campaign set in a setting that I've built over the course of three years and spanning two other campaigns. This campaign has changed a lot since its inception, starting out as an incursion from the infernal realm to the apocalypse. Before I didn't do much preparation with the setting, but now I've gotten a bit more inspired. Today I will be going over what I did to create the city states of my world.

This might be a bit overkill, but sometimes its necessary to do research.


The world of Celestine has gone through a major upheaval in the last 150 years. Many of the original cities and villages have since been destroyed or abandoned. Out of the three original political powers from my previous campaign only one still exists and it is a shadow of its former self.

Instead of having giant kingdoms like I originally had most of the political powers are now City-States with most of them having little interaction with each other. The reason for this is that no City-State should require trade with another in order to survive.

For my example City-State I am going to focus on Elv, the City of Canals. If it isn't apparent this city is based on Venice.

Building Rome in a Day

Do not search how long did it take to build Rome, the result is about one million days (over 2000 years).

A better indicator might be what the Dungeon Master's Guide says on page 128 in the section "Building a Stronghold". Building a palace or castle will take roughly 3 years in my game world. Building a City-State shouldn't be too much longer than that.

The city of Elv was established as a trading outpost on a lagoon. After several years of good business the trading outpost built itself into a center of trade for the region. Elv wasn't built in a day, but it was built in several decades.


Realistic populations are hard to gauge, historical references to famous City-States range from 60,000 to 100,000. While I would prefer to use real world numbers I found that the Dungeon Master's Guide also had an answer, up to 25,000. I prefer the 25,000 number myself even if it isn't realistic it does seem a lot more reasonable when trying to maintain a city.

Elv has around 23,000 people, with numbers inflating and deflating due to economic and seasonal changes.

To Battle!

In Warhammer 40,000 and several other fictional universes seem to have a trouble with scale of military conflicts. For reference I used Writing-World.com's article on keeping Fantasy armies realistically sized. I used a simple equation, 7% of the total population of the city could be drafted into the army without too much risk to destroying the city's economy.

With this in mind there are about 1610 people maximum could be deployed in the Elv military, we'll say that 800 are typically kept during peace time. Looking to the Player's Handbook a poor lifestyle requires 2 sp to maintain per day. So to keep this military strength would require 2000 sp per day. Which would cost around 64,000 gp per year to keep the military at this strength for the city. That seems a bit reasonable. I would like to pay the military enough for a modest lifestyle, but that would have been 300,000 gp per year. A possible way to mitigate this is with indentured servants and slaves.


Building a world is tough business. Its not necessary to go this in depth, but this does help me keep track of how big the world is. Feel free to take these tidbits to your campaign:
  • Cities aren't built in a day, but the can be in several years.
  • Population of cities should be sustainable.
  • Keep army sizes sustainable as well. An army should rarely reach more than 7% of the total population.
As always post any comments, questions, and critiques below.