Story Arcs and How We 'Roll'
Every Story Has a Beginning
The frigid blast of air forced its way into the inn’s taproom forcing several of the patrons to shield themselves against the bitter cold with whatever they could, be it thick wool cloaks or steel shields.
The intruder—for that was what the patrons considered anyone who desecrated the inn’s comfort and warmth—took off his full-length cloak, gently shook it free of snow, and casually hung it on an empty peg on the wall next to the door.
The traveler, clearly of human stock in the middle stages of his life, wore leather breeches. An embroidered surcoat contrasted the simple tunic he wore. Around his waist, a thick leather belt supported a scabbard. In the scabbard, the silvered handle of a longsword, topped by a gem—a golden sapphire perhaps—was visible. In his right hand, he held a bulky backpack loaded with adventuring gear.
“What can I get started for you, traveler?” Kira, the inn’s half-elven proprietress inquired.
“Warm ale, please,” the traveler responded as he made his way to a small round table near the fireplace. “And please, I would also like to taste some of that famous sweet rye bread rolls your inn is known for.” He carefully placed the backpack on the floor under the table. He then took off his leather gloves and briskly rubbed his hands together as he stared into the fiery hearth, seemingly lost in thought.
A voice from a nearby table startled the traveler out of his reverie. “What news have ya to share, goodman? Tis not often we get folks visitin’ our town these days. If it pleases ya, we’d welcome word of what’s happenin’ beyond the Vale.”
“What of the news of the war?” Another man asked
The traveler turned to face the men asking him questions. From where the traveler stood, he could see their pleading faces. The people of Bear’s Head were obviously eager to hear some news of what has happened since…since, it all began."
Kira brought a small wooden trencher to the table. The sweet scent of steaming bread rolls was almost too much for the hungry traveler to bear. Kira placed the trencher on the table along with the warm mug of ale. The proprietress made her way back behind the bar and sat on a stool. She too was eager to hear what the traveler had to share.
The traveler sat down, took in a mouthful of warm ale which helped to ease the aches and pain of having journeyed for so long, and bit into a roll of bread. Did he taste butter? The traveler quizzically looked to Kira, who gave him a knowing smile in return.
He had not tasted butter in years. The taste brought back memories of happier times. Of a time when the world was not so embroiled in chaos.
The traveler sat down. He looked into the blazing hearth. In the flames, he saw images of people caught in a struggle between the Gods and the lives of mortal men, women, and children just trying to survive. He recalled faces of others he had met on countless journeys across the Realms. The granite features of a goliath barbarian whose battle-scream sent dozens of orcs fleeing in terror, of an eladrin wizard’s fiery spell destroying a horde of undead, of a halfling ranger’s well=placed shot instantly slaying a villainous blackguard atop his nightmare, of a Purple Dragon soldier who risked his life for king and country, and of so many others as well.
But where should he begin?
He sat there, staring into the flames, while Kira and the others waited patiently. He struggled to think of what to tell these good people. He had seen so much and have experienced more than any man should in a lifetime; nay, in a dozen lifetimes.
Where should he begin?
Then it struck him. The simplicity of the revelation was such that he found himself letting out a slight chuckle at his own folly.
He took another sip from the mug to clear his throat.
“Let me start from the beginning,” the traveler said.
Our campaign story arcs have been writing themselves out during the course of nearly two decades of regular gaming sessions amongst a great group of friends. With the focus always on story and character development, we weave published modules into our own story arcs to create an epic story that we are very proud of.
Unique to our campaign(s) is the fact that it is player-driven, unlike many campaigns where DMs roll behind screens, impose their rules, and force characters into certain paths because it is how the ‘module was written’, or it is what the DM wanted to occur.
Additionally, our characters and NPCs are real, not just information on paper. Most of the time, our players have taken “the [path] less traveled” and have “made the difference” in how the story ends. And that unforeseen difference is what has kept us coming back to the gaming-table for years.
Overall, our collaborative gaming techniques have created story arcs that have turned a published campaign like The Forgotten Realms into what we have often described as an epic saga or a novel we have all co-written and could be worthy of being published someday.
So, sit back and enjoy reading the stories. More important, enjoy getting to know the characters.
—Richard Rouillard (DM and co-creator of The Legacy of the Realms)
D&D NEXT PLAYTEST CAMPAIGN
Land of the Purple Dragon (Adventures in Cormyr)
Planeswalkers’ Chronicle (Planescape Adventures)
Scourge of the Sunset Vale (Sunset Vale)
Assault on Darkhold (Sunset Mountains)
CURRENT 4E CAMPAIGNS
Tomb of Horrors (Reaching Woods)
The Damagers Guild (Sword Coast)
The Shadowblades (Daggerford and High Moor area)
Shadow of the Spider Queen (Rise of the Underdark™ Adventures)
Against the Giants (Sunset Mountains)
LEGACY OF THE REALMS SIDE CAMPAIGNS