The Backwater Gambit: Campaign Diary, 0

 

I’ve begun my first ever game of Dungeons & Dragons. I grew up with DnD watching others play, talking about it, and embracing nearly all the other aesthetics in that orbit (fantasy fiction and movies, heavy metal, more than a little sci-fi, and a love of monsters) but never was able for one reason or another to play. 

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As an adult, I’ve discovered I’m very much a fan of role-playing. The television shows I enjoy are fantasy stories, the movies are adventure quests, the games I play are more about exploration and narrative than about murder and mayhem, and the literature I most enjoy reading and writing is centered around world-building.

So why not give DnD another shot?

Like a fool, I decided to jump into the deep end; I decided I’d start out as a Dungeon Master. I got the fifth edition rulebooks (Dungeon Masters’ Guide, Player’s Handbook, and Monster Manuel), asked an annoying amount of questions to my peers who were gamers, watched and am watching a ridiculous amount of YouTube videos, and asked a group of friends if they’d be interested in playing. 

I have settings, NPCs, stories all over, and a central campaign goal. I just need to play. So I hope to find out if I’m a success or a failure as a DM. Most likely, I’ll be middling-to-poor, but I’m more concerned with improvising and having fun.

There will be three elements to this campaign diary:

  1. The world I’ve made
  2. The story made by the players
  3. The pragmatics of play

I will recount the worldbuilding I’ve done, how the players created a unique story within it through their choices and character history, and how the actual gameplay–mechanics, goals, results–turned out. I’m going to update this campaign diary hopefully as often as we play including successes, failures, quirks, questions, digressions, and, of course, progressions. I would hope it entertains but also might become a resource for other beginner gamers.

So for this first entry, here is the world…

***

The Backwater Gambit

We begin where any good story begins or, rather, where many and most stories begin, the middle of nowhere.

Map

The county of Larrissone (map made using Inkarnate)

This backwater isn’t quite the last stop before wilderness or unexplored lands, but rather a marquisate whose governance faded away as the margrave’s bloodline thinned. Too far from any major city or trade route and lacking in natural resources, Larrissone is a state lacking claim or broad rule. The small hamlets and villages are barely self-sustaining and content to be ignored in their little part of the world.

However, there is a history here for those who wonder as well as machinations by some, both of good and ill intent, looking to make something of this decayed county. 

 

The County of Larrissone

In this not so much forgotten as never considered region, there stands a squat tower lording over a shallow but wide lake.

Tower of Usury

Usurer’s Tower

This is the Usurer’s Tower, once a debtor’s prison run by the margrave. Although no longer in official use, nearly all locals know it is occupied by some power. Local thugs are frequently hired as guards or jailers on brief contracts, however no one can recall seeing any prisoners ever arrive or depart. The hirelings themselves find their memory fades after a few days released from their duties. Every two weeks new guards replace the former unit, and every week a quartermaster brings provisions to the front gate for them.

Bas Eldritch

Bas Eldritch

A day’s walk east is the county’s largest settlement Bas Eldritch, a town of almost six thousand souls. It is the cultural hub of Larrissone home to nearly all known races but dominated by humans with an oddly high number of half-elves. The town houses a fairly active local market, four taverns, several small temples, a leper hospital, and a large central estate once belonging the margrave but now mostly abandoned used by the locals for civil council needs.

Foxon

Foxon

A days walk northwest through wooded marsh and forest is the village of Foxon where roughly a thousand souls live either quiet agrarian or stoic, hard mining lives. There is one temple, a market square, a ramshackle inn, and a school. To the west and across the Lazaran River is Monton, a hamlet of barely five hundred souls.

Monton

Monton

A village similar to Foxon in design and decor, Monton’s one claim of pride is a central statue of the last margrave and a large estate just south of town once a summer home for the ruling family. It has since fallen into disrepair and disregard, something the townsfolk ignore out of shame for being unable (unwilling?) to maintain it.

Corse Ruins 1

Corse Ruins

Mostly forested, the highlands of Larrissone are home to the ruins of the Corse, a people who existed before the margrave’s family came to rule. Little is now know or remembered about them, whether they were a culture or a cult depends on who you ask, their learning, and their mood at the moment. There is one military base in the highlands, Crix Outpost, the lone spar of civilization from outside the county. Crix is the fort where misfits of Glencliffe’s militia are sent.

Crix Outpost

Crix Outpost

If one were to follow the Lazaran River south for five days one would arrive at the Free Hold of Glencliffe, a small city and widely considered the last mark of civilization in the region. East of Glencliffe over the mountain chain abutting it are organized territories and lands of city-states and nations. 

 

Chapter 1: The Usurer’s Tower

Our heroes awake bound and in prison cells. They are groggy and sore. They have no memory of how they arrived here or even where here is. The last memory each player has, they were in Glencliffe. Filled with confusion, anger, fear, and anxiety, the players’ primary concern is to get out. As they escape, they’ll discover who imprisoned them and why, where they are, and, perhaps, if they want revenge.

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