Out of a game, a campaign!

This past Sunday, Puerto Rico Role Players held its 20th Geeknic. The name of this latest edition was: Make Geeknics Great Again! (No relation to a certain political campaign, just a joke while trying to be topical!)


We’ve been doing these picnics for geeks for some time now, and I’ve written about them before on a few occasions. We went back to the Guavate Recreational Area in Cayey. Located at the end of the porcine delicacies road (click on the previous link to learn more) in the Carite Forest; we’ve held previous geeknics there, and while the location is sadly unkempt, the lush forest and the breeze just invite you to game in one of the many large gazebos.


Photo by Hector Martinez

This time around I decided to run D&D 5th edition, and while there were more players interested than characters available for the game, I ran an adventure with people I had never gamed with before. Some had experience with the current edition, others had not played D&D for a while, and at least two had never played any RPG. It was a true privilege to run this game for this diverse group.


Photo by Hector Martinez

When planning the adventure, unlike other demos I’ve done where I usually just set the game in a corner of my homebrewed campaign or just borrow details from published campaigns, like Golarion or Faerun, this time around I came up with the following blurb to introduce the game to the players (slightly modified from the original post I shared with potential players via Facebook):

“The Tomb of Ancient Heroes has been lost! The frontier town of Teauther has, for generations, been the last stop before heroes are taken to their final resting place in a secret tomb where their enemies shall not disturb their eternal slumber. But when the burial procession of Patriarch Herthedon never returned, valorous scout were sent to scour the secret trails to the tomb and find out what became of them. The scouts report that the procession appeared to have been ambushed, its members seemingly killed to a man. The Tomb of Heroes has fallen to agents of the dreaded cult of the Wyrm Worshippers. These foul servants to the dragons of the Blight Mountains seek to restore their rule over the land of Garesia. Seven brave heroes venture forth to free the Tomb of Heroes and foil the plot of these despicable servants of dragons.”

And with that a new campaign was born! As I developed the adventure, more and more details about Garesia began to take form…

I created up the adventure using the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules, but used the map and pawns in the Pathfinder Beginner Box to run the game. For characters I used the 3rd level characters from among the pregenerated characters WotC has available on their website. I printed out the Drow Rogue, Dwarven Cleric, Half-Elf Bard, Halfling Rogue, High Elf Wizard, Human Barbarian, Human Druid, Human Fighter, Human Paladin, and Wood Elf Ranger. I then printed out the spell for each of the spell casting classes using this site. Although I had a total of 10 characters, the adventure was designed for seven, so the players choose from among the previous list.


Photo by José Rafael Solis

Once the players had selected their characters I asked them to give them a name, to ignore the faction description in the character sheet (since we were not playing in the Forgotten Realms) and to read their background, personality trait, ideal, bond and flaw for guidelines on how to roleplay their characters. I also asked them to point out when they worked these details into the game, since unlike with my regular players; I was no intimately familiar with the pregenerated characters. That way I could award Advantage for role-playing during the game. Before starting the game I asked each player to meet with me in private, to briefly discuss their character and their abilities, but also to tell to each one a little secret or motivation about their characters tied into the adventure.

The characters chosen and their secret or motivations were:

Drow Rogue – You belong to a guild of assassins, the leader of the Wyrm Worshipper had dealings with this organization but ultimately betrayed them. You allowed yourself to be captured by the protectors of Teauther to join this mission and extract the guild’s revenge upon the traitor. The people of the town are sending you with the mission so you can identify the cult’s leader.

Half-Elf Bard – Just as the heroes of old were laid to rest in the Tomb of Heroes, those who have proven themselves worthy joined them in the tomb. Your teacher, despite his great deeds was denied this honor. You bring with you his ashes and you intend to leave them behind in the tomb.

High elf Wizard – The great elven hero who was among the first four entombed in the Tomb of Heroes was buried with an ancient elven tome containing many secrets of the elven people, their origins, and their homeland. This latest incident only serves to prove that the humans are incapable of protecting the tomb. You have been tasked with finding the tome and bringing it back to the elven homeland.

Human Barbarian – A member of your tribe is among the heroes laid to rest in the tomb. He was buried with a powerful totem of your people. Ever since his death great woes have befallen the tribe. You have been sent not only to liberate the tomb, but to bring back the totem.

Human Druid – While the druids were part of the alliance that broke the dragon’s rule upon Garesia, because of their beliefs and the clashes they have had with the other faiths, no druid has ever been buried in the Tomb of Heroes. You have been sent to represent the strength of the druids, but if the draconic cults seem unstoppable, it is better to destroy the tomb than to let it fall into their hand!

Human Paladin – Patriarch Herthedon was your mentor, your advisor, almost a father to you! You embark upon this mission to find his corpse, to destroy those who dared attack his funeral procession, and to restore his honor.

Wood Elf Ranger – Your clan has lived away from the elven lands for generations. Instead they have joined the humans and other protectors of Teauther and the Tomb of Heroes. Your father was guiding the funeral procession to the tomb and has not been found. You join this mission to free the tomb, but also to find out what became of your father. You are the only one that knows the secret trails to the tomb.

In those little secrets and motivations Garesia continued to develop. The heroes gathered, they learned about the drow who had been offered his freedom for identifying the cult leader and met their guide, the Wood Elf Ranger. The adventure began after five days of travel in the entrance to the Tomb of Heroes. I won’t go into much detail since we only played three of the eight encounters and faced just a few of the traps inside the dungeon. If we can get together at the next geeknic I may just try to finish the adventure. Other details they gleamed about the campaign through the game were:

  • The Tomb of Heroes was the final resting place of the four great heroes that liberated Garesia during the war against the dragons. They were one human, one elf, one dwarf and one lesser known halfling. Their likenesses were carved upon the inner entrance to the tomb.
  • They each wielded a weapon tied to one of the four elements, fire, earth, air and water.
  • Upon their death, their weapons were magically re-forged into four circlets given to the Keepers of the Tomb. The circlets allowed them to control the elemental guardians of the tomb. Each succeeding generation of the Keepers of the Tomb receives the circlet when they accept this lifelong responsibility. No one knew what had happened to the current keepers.

I had so much fun playing this adventure that even after the game ended, I could not stop writing little details about a possible campaign!  In the interest of keeping these posts manageable (and to entice you to come back for more), I’ll end today’s post here. Monday I’ll share my preliminary notes on the history of Garesia.

If you are still curious about Guavate and the porcine delicacies route, here is a YouTube video from the program Bizarre Foods, recorded there. Enjoy!

PS – The pictures from the Geeknic in this post were taken by the members of Puerto Rico Role Players during the activity and I use them here to share with you what we did during the activity. They belong to the individual photographer,s thus are not covered by the Creative Commons license and cannot be used without their permission.