One of the best ways I've found to meet people and make friends in a new city is to start or join a regular gaming group. Last week was the first session in a D&D 3.5 campaign I'm directing, using the Forgotten Realms as a campaign setting. We had three PCs:
Borya, a Fighter from the Moonshae Isles;
Rolen, a Monk from mysterious Calimshan; and
Nakor, a well-to-do Rogue from Sembia.
I thought I'd start the first session off with a bang by having the PCs begin on a ship attacked by undead while heading right toward jagged rocks! Here's a brief recap below:
The Sword Coast is a perilous land, full of sudden threats and unseen dangers. Terrible storms, pirates, monstrous creatures, and even worse things make travel a risky endeavour for the unwary. The farther North one goes, the more barren and savage it becomes, with few outposts of civilizations still secure among the frozen frontier. But with great peril lays the rumor of great reward: mines veritably spilling forth gold and gems, tombs of ancient rulers full of strange and valuable artifacts, and forgotten strongholds of ancient civilizations guarding magickal relics. Power, fortune, and glory draw many to the Sword Coast and its interior. A caravel named Waukeen's Grace has stopped at several ports in the South to pick up passengers heading to the Sword Coast. Will you be one of them?
[25 Ches 1372 DR]
Across northern Faerun, the snows have given way to Spring rains and both settlers and adventurers venture forth after the long Winter. Aboard the small merchant caravel Waukeen's Grace, several such passengers have set sail for the famed Sword Coast to seek their fortunes. Notable among them are Borya, a warrior from the Moonshae Isles who wields a massive greatsword; Rolen, a monk from mysterious Calimshan; and Nakor, a well-to-do fellow from civilized Sembia. For several days the voyage was routine and sedate.
One night, the ship was caught in a sudden and unexpected storm. For hours it was driven off-course, lost in wind and rain of unthinkable force. The ship's captain, a gaunt hook-nosed fellow named Bryne, stayed at the tiller, but all passengers were ordered below-decks to ride out the storm.
In his bunk, Rolen tried to sleep but was constantly irritated by water dripping from above. The destiny of these three adventurers changed forever the moment that realized some of the dripping liquid was not water; it was blood! Rolen leapt out of bed to investigate. Carefully climbing the ladder to the main deck, he could just make out a prone figure laying near the tiller. Returning below deck, Borya and Nakor were roused and all three adventurers prepared for danger and ascended upwards.
On deck, it was hard to see or hear anything above the terrible gale. From out of the darkness, a ghastly figure emerged: an undead abomination, composed mostly of bone with little flesh remaining! Nakor and Rolen engaged the creature and its companion, while Borya responded to a scream from below-decks and witnessed a cabin boy, Tazi, being chased by another fleshless fiend. On deck, Nakor and Rolen struggled to keep their balance as the ship was pitched and tossed by the waves. Rolen spent several seconds dazed from hitting his head on a railing, but together, they managed to destroy one of the creatures. Below deck, Borya made quick work of the horrific entity chasing Tazi by cleaving the creature in twain with his sword. He quick joined his companions above and together they destroyed the last one as well.
Before they could gather their wits, however, Nakor, manning the now-spinning tiller (as Captain Bryne was dead), realized there were rocks dead ahead! With an enormous show of strength, he managed to steer the ship enough to avoid a direct collision, but the rocks left a deep gash in the ship's starboard hull. Rolen was thrown into the freezing water and struggled to reach the surface, and soon Nakor appeared to be sharing his fate. Borya took quick action: breaking a wooden ladder rung to help him float, he threw Tazi over his shoulder and leapt into the water. Several tense seconds passed, but working together the adventurers managed to survive the crash and make their way safely to the shore of a nearby island. Borya even took the dangerous risk of returning to the sinking ship in order to successfully save the ship's injured patron, a priest of Waukeen named Illanus. An ominous unnatural fog rolled over everyone in an outward arc, but the only visible effect was that the body of Captain Bryne became animate and lurched away.
[26 Ches 1372 DR]
It was a cold and miserable night, but with some luck and persistence the adventurers managed to start a fire, erect a crude lean-to, and survive until morning. With the storm lifted and daylight revealing their surroundings, the adventurers and the two crew they managed to rescue realized they were on the shore of a small island with a dense, almost jungle-like interior. A strange black tower could be seen just barely jutting out over the treetops with a mysterious red glow coalescing near its crest. The adventurers focussed on finding food, salvaging what washed up on shore from the wreck of the caravel, and looking for better shelter. Rolen and Nakor made two brief incursions into the jungle but turned back after narrowly escaping injury at the hands of primitive pit and spear traps.
The adventurers and their two vulnerable charges face a mystery that grows deeper at every step. What caused the unnatural storm that drew them here and wrecked their ship? What is the strange red mist and how does it bring the dead back to a mockery of life? Who . . . or what . . . resides in the strange black tower? And perhaps, most crucially of all, how will they escape this foreboding island?
DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY (March 26, 2013)
Obviously, having undead boarding a ship during a storm is not a 100% original concept (Pirates of the Caribbean was on my mind). But it did seem like a fun, novel way to open a game compared to the usual meet-up in a tavern or clear adventure hook. Here, the adventurers only goal was survival. I was impressed that the trio of adventurers managed to rescue not only Tazi, but Illanus as well. The players were told that I'd run a short adventure of two or three sessions, and then we could decide whether to have someone else direct, stop there, or move on to a full campaign. I decided an island adventure would work well, as escaping it would allow a good sense of completion if that was all there was going to be, set up things nicely if someone else was going to direct later, or serve as a memorable beginning to a long campaign.
As I write this commentary, we're now 31 sessions into the campaign. It's funny, but I just realized that none of the PCs who started this session are still in the game: Borya's player only did this first session, Nakor's player disappeared suddenly after several months of steady gaming, and Rolen's player decided to play a different PC named Markus (and, last session, switched again to a character named Sha'Dar). However, two of the characters who first appear next session (Fargrim & Cain) are still around.
In any event, I'm really happy people seemed to have fun and that the campaign has lasted as long as it has. Having a regular gaming group was one of the things that made Toowoomba feel more like home for my wife and I.