An illustration from my own campaign

It occurs to me that I haven’t yet posted about the game I’m currently running. Now, I don’t want to inflict a tedious game journal on you, but rather I’d like to use the opportunity to discuss a little theory and practice.

The intrepid party of adventurers began with an exploration of B1 In Search of the Unknown, but that soon turned into a side-note for the main story. The local town, it turns out, was threatened by brigands, and the town leaders seemed quite content to maintain the status quo. A little more digging turned up the fact that behind the bandits was a witch (using, albeit unknown to the PCs at that point, a new NPC character class of my own invention, so they got treated to all sorts of off-kilter magic and powers that they’re still trying to sort out). An encounter with a black dragon proved that the witch had her own enemies, as did an encounter with a diabolical lawyer (complete with gum-popping succubus for a secretary) who offered some assistance in their fight against the witch in exchange for… well… let’s just say signatures were involved. And during all this investigation of plots-behind-plots were repeated forays into the dungeons of Quasqueton, with the PCs trying to figure out how the dungeon played into everything else.

This brief thumbnail sketch, I think, demonstrates what I’m trying to achieve in this campaign and how I’m getting there. I’m trying to give the game as much of an “old school charm” as I can, and I’d say it’s working. We have the greater-evil-behind-the-bad-guys theme that the early Greyhawk modules used so well (hill/frost/fire giants in turn controlled by drow), as well as the non-monolithic nature of evil (the drow riven by internal rivalries and beset by their own external foes in the underoerth such as the illithids). We have the “old reliable dungeon crawl” close to hand in case the PCs get restless and decide to simply go kill things and take their stuff (in their case, they very properly saw the potential to gain treasure and experience in the dungeon to improve their chances of taking on the bandits and the witch). We have the gee-whiz factor of completely new and unknown magic and powers; my witch isn’t to be found in any rule book or magazine article. There were also a number of very memorable NPCs (I tend to do different voices for my NPCs, so that’s a lot of fun for me). Plus, I tried to introduce more than a little humor in places (the succubus secretary, a faerie dragon named Flibber who ended up joining the party as an NPC, etc.) and was not too uptight about introducing the occasional anachronism (the devilish attorney, for example, used an intercom and had a modern office tucked away in an interdimensional space). I was very consciously not trying to maintain a “pure” setting so much as a “fun” one, and I think my players (none of whom had played AD&D before) are really liking the approach.

Now that the PCs have resolved the witch story arc, and they’ve reached the mid-level range, I’m going to be shifting the action over to the City of Greyhawk (right now the PCs are in the Tenh/Pale region) so I can repeat the process, but only more intensely this time, with the City and Castle Greyhawk, forays into the Wild Coast and the Pomarj, etc. Good times!

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.