"Secrets of the Mistwater"
A Complete "Sandbox" Campaign for Levels 1-12
Having It's Own Rule System or Compatible
With Any Fantasy Role Play System
I am currently working upon the manuscript and maps for publication of the campaign which I have Dungeon Mastered for my players for the last year, tentatively entitled "Secrets of the Mistwater".
This will be a complete campaign setting with a large City Map, a Towne map, several villages and settlements, an "Outdoor" Map, and no less than six dungeon locales. It will feature all original art, some of which is complete as I write, and will be a "sandbox adventure" in the truest sense of the word.
It is a challenge but I am attempting to add several design elements to this book which I hope will make it a welcome tool to any seasoned Game Master and his or her players as well as to novice players.
One of these ideas is a complete set of simple rules that allows anyone who purchases the game to play it "as-is" without buying any other rule set. I have the rules system written and will not preview it yet but it is less than ten pages and will decidedly favor "rules light" playing. However, the creatures and treasures will be familiar enough that any system like D&D can be used.
Another feature I am building into the game is that each dungeon locale will have a keyed map that has alternate encounters depending on the level of the player characters when they actually enter that dungeon. I struggled with how to make the map truly open and not railroad players in a certain direction, because I really wanted the party to be able to go anywhere they wanted at any time.
Normally, this would lead to trouble if they decided to explore a ruin that was beyond their level of skill or ability. As a veteran DM, I'm well aware of the methods one can use to discourage a group from entering an area but I did not want the "Mistwater" campaign to use these methods--I wanted the players to feel they could go in any direction fate or choice led them so that it would unfold naturally.
The solution I came up with at this point was to have a dungeon key for each map that provided different monsters and treasure that a DM could choose from dependent upon the power level of the adventuring party at the time they enter the ruin. I call this the "Level Neutral Dungeon Approach." Basically there will be a room description that will be the same for any adventuring party but below this a list of encounters. with treasure, that will match the level of the Party.
The Devil will be, of course, in the details, and I'm still working it out right now. Feedback is therefore much appreciated, reader!
The real challenge as I see it is to not let the dungeon map and encounters become too generic, and to ensure that story flow is kept. As an example, if the players are to visit an ancient barrow that is a reputed haunt of the undead--if they decide to visit it at 1st level, there will of course be skeletons and zombies and similar monsters. But let us say they decide not to go there until much later in the saga--any map I had designed for 1st level players will be useless at that point. With a "Level Neutral Dungeon" key, I have stats for undead monsters much more commensurate with the level of the party when they finally do arrive...mid level parties might encounter wights where a higher level party would meet a vampire.
Now there will still be some areas clearly marked "Don't Come here Till You Can Kick Some Ass", but only two, and part of the mounting tension of the campaign will be players getting to a place where they feel ready to brave the ultimate lair. But for the most part, a DM running this book will have at his or her fingertips at all times the preparation for any course of action the players may choose.
There will also be XP awards for "Quest Objectives", so that sessions that involve mostly role playing can help level up characters as much as dungeoneering.
The campaign is a locale within my larger, private world of Rysanthis--it will include world setting material such as holidays, customs, culture, and calendar, as well as major myths and known legend. However, this will be inserted in such a way as to either be of easy use to the DM or set aside in favor of his or her preferred setting. If the campaign setting is well received, I may begin work on an atlas of Rysanthis as a published setting.
The Rysanthian setting is one I invented about six years ago and have been playing with ever since. I originally created it as a realm to introduce my kids, then 11 and 12, to fantasy gaming. It was also to be the setting for some stories I began to write but did not finish...life and work intervened, alas.
Some Rysanthian differences are race, culture, and magic. In Rysanthis as I envisioned it, I created my own races and did not use any Tolkienish patterns. I was inspired by a little of everything from Tekumel to Sci Fi and sword and sandal flicks, not to mention my own readings in myth, magick, and lore. In Secrets of the Mistwater, since most will be coming from a D&D or LOTR fantasy background, I make exception so that the campaign will be compatible with D&D. I did this with my AD&D campaign that the Miswater locale was originally played by, but added the caveat that in Rysanthis is that magic comes from a source which only the Faery races can use and not be corrupted. All magic use by humans is considered "Dark Arts" and is Dragon Magic. leading to evil alignment. But the Elves have a different psyche and spiritual relationship to Illuvion, the central Deity of the Rysanthian setting, and so can use magic without being turned to the dark side and falling under the "Dragonspell".
So, in this setting, a party would have clerics or warriors/paladins of Illuvion and his Temple but no human magic users. However, I do plan to make this optional and set up the module so that straight D&D can be played to one's content.
And what of the themes of the Mistwater campaign? I can promise lots of adventure, perfected by having run a very skilled group of players through this campaign. There is a deposed King who has gone missing with an heir who lurks somewhere within the environs of the Mistwater, a great fresh water lake with many ancient secrets. There is an ancient elven ruin unashamedly based upon Tolkien's Menegroth with plenty of peril and gold to whet the appetites of any party of adventurers. There is intrigue and betrayal within the Temple of Illuvion, the subterfuge of the Dragon Cultists, the oppression of the people by the tyranny of a despotic Overlord and his evil sorceress Queen. There are many ancient relics whose magic will tip the balance of power. There is a mysterious and forbidden isle where the forgotten past of Rysanthis is revealed. Encounters with angels and avatars, the testing of the moral fiber of any lawful party (the setting is geared towards lawful or neutral groups), visions and stronghold building--I have aimed at this setting having it all!
I have a great deal of material already written and will be finishing it up by the Fall I hope.
And as usual, I would love to hear your thoughts!