Adam’s Retroverse DM Blog: Entry 1

[We know you all miss our show! We'll have new episodes, we promise, and until we can get back on a regular production schedule, Adam has decided to share with everyone his creative process towards the formation of a new campaign. This will be a series of posts that will come every other day or so. We hope you all enjoy!]

Entry 1: An Intro and a Recommendation

     For about a year (and some change, to be honest) I’ve been developing what I’ve considered a very exciting campaign for a group of players who are interested in it. It’s played using the D&D 5e ruleset, but the most essential component is a supplement called Lasers & Liches (L&L, and yes, DO click the link and explore). If you haven’t heard about this supplement, it’s a godsend for people (like me) who are more…eclectic in their campaign elements.

     See, I run a mixed-bag game. You’ll tend to find every element of a tabletop game if you sit at my table long enough: dungeon crawling, social/political intrigue, investigation, hack n’ slash, war simulation, explorational/historical dot connecting, puzzles, puzzles that kill you, and puzzles that make you wish something would just hurry along and do you in. That being said, my inspiration is often (very often) drawn from sources that don’t *fit* the worlds that are often paired with modules or sourcebooks. Often, I will be able to find a path of least resistance when it comes to putting medieval fantasy clothes on my tropes (thank you, Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, for, quite literally, existing as a bridge between traditional Japanese tokusatsu and traditional high fantasy for my purposes as they pertain to the current campaign).

     Other times…I find myself bending my campaign, adventures, and especially encounters in ways that, while they DO fit, and CAN be explainable, make me feel less confident in presenting them to my players. I like to worry less about what people think of an element’s plausibility (and/or complexity) and more about their opinions concerning how interactive and inspiring that element ended up being towards their experience. I want everyone to have more chances at having fun and fewer chances of being taken out of the immersion.

     It’s not that I don’t like being descriptive (why the hell would I run games…at all…if that were the case?), but its more fair to my players for me to take more time to develop and balance the mechanics of something I’m adding rather than twiddling my thumbs over a cup of coffee, mulling over how I can make a Jurassic Park clone location work. This is especially true when shoving it into a world where: a) people haven’t even been using gunpowder OR electricity in their tech (let alone genetic engineering) and b) mAgIc CaN sOlVe EvErYtHiNg (an excuse I loathe to have to use when push comes to shove). If you listen to The SpellCast D&D, you can hear for yourself what I ended up doing, and I’m fine with that solution because at least it leads somewhere instead of being the dead-end excuse that, “I don’t know, it’s magic,” can often end up being.

     Laser & Liches embraces, at its core, the vast eclecticism of the influences that governed the childhoods of those of us who were born in the 70s, 80s, & 90s. It takes what inspired us and our imaginations and makes it real for our games. Have a favorite television show you want to reference? Don’t worry about heavily reskinning it. Shove it in whole cloth if you want (don’t even have to change the names if you’re not selling anything). Want your party to be able to communicate over long distances with ease? Don’t worry about re-writing the rules of a sending stone (I have. Not fun.) to make them act more like cell phones. Hand your barbarian an actual cell phone (or not, for…reasons).

     I could wax eternal about the benefits and positive effects something like the “Retroverse” in L&L brings to D&D as a supplement, but instead I’d rather direct you to Chris Lock (@snickelsox on Twitter) and Lluis Abadias (@LluisAbadias on Twitter), the creators.

     The Retroverse is where I’m setting the new campaign I’ve been working on. I’ve never done full-on, actual world-building before to this scale and detail, so what will follow in this series of posts is my best draft, up to this date, of what I have cobbled together. You may think you only have to fill in where your characters are supposed to go, but adopting that attitude at any scale of your game’s world is a sign that you have truly underestimated a player’s ability to send their character out of the bounds of what you’ve prepared. So, I have to prepare everything, like a god. Like a god who needs coffee, sleep, and the common sense to know when he should be having either of those.