My D&D Campaign: Cimmeria

I gave a brief description of my D&D campaign world previously, but have written nothing on it since.

I got involved in the Gurutama posts and I felt that writing about two different D&D worlds might get confusing.

The result is that there’s very little on the blog about what I actually do in my biggest hobby and that frankly seems a little stupid.

There are other reasons why I avoided describing my current D&D sessions besides the confusion between Cimmeria, the campaign world I use now, and Gurutama, the campaign world I’m building.

First, I’m not always the DM for my group. Sometimes my best friend DMs a campaign based in the Aegean where the other players and I oppose an evil conspiracy.

Should I be writing about those sessions here as well? Bringing a third campaign world in? Its already a little difficult for some of the other players to keep track of what’s happening in each campaign. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people who aren’t playing and taking notes on this stuff like we are.

Second, there is an immense amount of existing information for Cimmeria that makes it a little difficult to describe the sessions to a newcomer.

For example, there is an NPC called Astyanax in Cimmeria. He is a prominent member of the Alliance opposing the evil guys.

I say Astyanax and the players all know what I’m talking about because they’ve interacted with him in the past and with his father, Hector.

There’s a mythical parallel to Astyanax as well. The mythical Hector was the greatest hero of Troy who died defending his city. After Troy was conquered, the Greeks killed the mythical Astyanax.

The Hector in my campaign died just like his namesake, but Astyanax lived on. He is now the greatest defender of his city in his father’s place. He might end up dying like his father did as well.

So imagine that level of explanation for not only the people, but the places and objects in my campaign. Everything has a history and I try to DM in a way that makes that history relevant.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to write stuff here about Cimmeria, but I’ve got explain in a way that anybody can understand the topic.

Not really different than how anything should be written when you think about it.

-Mister Ed

How D&D Works With Absentees

Freshman Dorm Desk
A picture of me not sitting at my desk in my Freshman dorm.

So I wasn’t at my group’s weekly D&D session this week.

We play almost every Sunday, but last night I didn’t go because I really wanted to work on my Alexander paper.

So what happens when I can’t go to D&D?

Before we had a set time for our sessions every week, D&D rarely happened without me.

I’m the DM for my group, but I’m also the one most often organizing when, where, and what we play.

I’m not saying our group is an autocracy, I’m just usually the one making suggestions that the group approves of.

But we’ve had a set time for playing on Sunday for a couple months now. Everyone expects us to play then.

Fortunately, I’m not the only DM for my group anymore either.

One of my friends also DMs a campaign set in the pre-historical Aegean islands. The political scene of the his campaign parallels the accepted version of real events, but there’s a lot of freedom for the players to impact the world as well.

So when I can’t make it to a session, my friend runs his campaign.

What happens to a player’s character when that player can’t make a session?

There’s a couple of different options.

#1 The character can fade into the background and do almost nothing during the session. We’ve used this a few times and it works decently.

#2 Another player or the DM runs the character. I like this one best, but sometimes a character’s battle tactics are too complicated for someone else to pick up for just one session.

#3 The character is removed from the session for in character reasons. Maybe the character gets sick. Maybe he has to go home and check on his family for a few days. Maybe he has a business he runs in town. This option doesn’t break immersion, but it does cut the absent character out of any important action during that session.

I haven’t gotten the specifics from the group yet, but when I was gone this week they did #1 or #3. I’ll figure out what happened with my character next time I can make it to a session.

I won’t be playing next Sunday either as I’m doing some Easter stuff. I’ll do my best to have a D&D post ready for you on Monday though!

-Mister Ed

Mapping Methods

Room 2 of the Lich Shade dungeon drawn using graph paper with notes on it.
Room 2 of the Lich Shade dungeon drawn using graph paper with notes on it.

There a lot of different styles of DMing in D&D and other roleplaying games.

You can wing it and come to each session with very little prepared.

You can come up with the adventure for each session in the week before.

You can also do what I do, make up the entire campaign before starting it.

Between each session I have almost no creative work to do for D&D. My campaign has been running for close to three years now and I’ve only had to design one adventure out of about a dozen since then.

It’s nice. I don’t need to spend extra time on the game for me and my friends to have a lot of fun.

I have started to run into a few issues though.

When I wrote the campaign I imagined my group would still manage to meet in person.

That proved to be horribly wrong. We have in person sessions about once a year now.

When I drew all my maps they looked like the one pictured above. I’d make them on a piece of yellow-green graph paper.

When they reached a room I’d draw with a wet-erase marker on a battle mat I brought to each session.

When the players defeated the monsters in one room I’d erase and draw the next room.

Dry erasing was easy, but creating good maps in our current system is a little difficult.

My group now plays over the internet using an internet browser program called Roll20.

Roll20 is really great. It has everything a tabletop has. You can even turn on a feature to see your dice roll across the table.

However, I can’t just grab a pen and draw on my monitor as easily as I draw on the battle mat used previously.

I suppose I could do that if I was used to creating digital images, but I’m not.

Instead I’ve taken to making lame looking maps or using a cool mapping software piece called GridMapper.

The second room of the Lich Shade dungeon made using GridMapper.
The second room of the Lich Shade dungeon made using GridMapper.

GridMapperĀ is extremely simple. You pretty much just click to change stuff.

I can easily build maps in GridMapper. They don’t look amazing because it doesn’t come with preset images like trees and stuff, but they’re functional just like my dry erase mat.

GridMapper has one issue, it has a maximum image size. Easy to get around though, I just make two images and glue them together for really big rooms.

I’m slowly converting all my old pencil maps into GridMapper maps for Roll20 now.

That’s it for now!

-Mister Ed