View Full Version : First Session DM - How should I advance this story?

2011-10-30, 01:08 PM
I'm a first-time DM, and I'm going to be running the first session next week. I'm wondering how much information to give the players, and how to get them started.
Here's the condensed story, and I'll describe my dilemma afterwards:

The continent of East Coast (very similiar to the Eurasian continent) has been torn apart by wars of religion. The side of the religious extremists won and separated the continent into seven separate countries, each ruled by a religious tyrant.

I want the players to reunite the continent by finding sacred gemstones within each country, bringing said gemstones together and summoning a powerful ______ (army, creature... undecided) with which they will reunify the continent.

Now because the mission they are on is covert, and completely clandestine, I can't really do the simple, "You see a town crier saying that the prince is looking for heroes to reunify the country".
I'm not sure how they will find out about the mission.

Any suggestions?

The Glyphstone
2011-10-30, 01:36 PM
Howbout a Superhero Origin Story? Let them stumble upon a group of bandits who have just ambushed and killed some travellers. After defeating the bandits, they discover one of the travellers is still alive, but dying. His dying words beg them to find [OBJECT], and bring it to [PERSON]. When they bring [OBJECT] to [PERSON], [PERSON] explains that there are six more to locate.

2011-10-30, 01:41 PM
Have one of the players receive a note from a dying relative requesting they come to receive their inheritance before it is too late. Once there have the relative, on his/her deathbed explain what the stone is and what could be done with it. The relative is the last of a secret society that kept these gems safe from the the extremists but they were all but wiped out in the take-over. Now the relative is (as far as he knows) the last one left. He indoctrinates the PCs into the order and charges them with the order's mission: to find and reunite the sacred stones to summon the power to defeat the extremists once and for all and to unite the empire before it's too late.

Relative gives stone, dies, cue enemy forces breaking into his home, having tracked him there finally after extrating his location through torture from the other last member of his order (now also dead). PCs fight enemy and enemy now has description of PCs (have a few run away to get reinforcements).

Cue the PCs running from the law and having to use a map the stone was wrapped in to seek out the former fortresses of the order to try and piece together where the stones might lie. Some might be altogether untouched and still fighting the fight, some might be destroyed, some occupied by the extremists.

Have one or two of the places be places where one or the other PCs grew up to add extra drama as they work to save their city or visit old friends to hear how things have changed for the worse since the take-over to further characterize the extremists as the bad guys.

Best of luck! :smallbiggrin:

2011-10-30, 02:05 PM
It depends a little bit.

If you want your PCs to act on their own initiative to save the country, send them on a dungeon crawl/minor quest from an NPC, and while doing that NPC's quest they either recover one of the gemstones or find information relating to it. Make sure to pique your PC's interest in the gem by going into detail describing it, maybe it emanates a magical aura or something. Then give them the opportunity to research the gems in an old library or similar. This works best if most or all of your PCs have some kind of interest in reuniting the countries already.

If you want your PCs to act on someone else's behest, let the PCs do something that catches the attention of this NPC/group/organization. Have this new entity send them on a few minor quests to 'prove their worth', then send them on a quest for the gemstones. This works well if some or all of your PCs have no interest in reuniting the countries, giving them some kind of monetary incentive.

If some or all of your PCs are religious (worshiping good or lawful-aligned deities) you could have them visited by their respective gods in their dreams, telling them that the god wishes to see the land restored to its former glory/see the suffering end, whatever works best for that deity.

If some or all of your PCs are magically inclined, tell them about the magical nature of the gemstones. Present the gems as opportunities for studying arcane magic, and only slowly reveal the true power of the gems to them as they collect more.

Alternatively, if the party already has one gem (a family heirloom, a recently acquired item, etc) have the gem itself speak to the party! The gems could easily be sentient magical artifacts, driven to reassemble themselves and help the land recover.

Hope I gave you some ideas!

2011-10-30, 02:42 PM
How much do the PCs know? Specifically, is the gemstones bit set in stone? I could totally see each religion being a splinter sect of one primary religion. Have the treasures be various parts of the original holy text. Bonus points if the unified text calls the prophet/mouthpiece of the god who finds killing in her name an abomination.

How do they start? I'd either have them start out as generic adventurers who stumble across the first macguffin and find that it fills them with a sense of purpose, or academics who happen to luck out big on a dig. For both you and your players, your first adventure should be a prologue. Simple, self-contained, and designed to ease everyone - yourself included - into the plot rather than trying to take control of everything from session one.

2011-10-30, 04:02 PM
I would have them get hired by someone in the princes service for some level appropriate task. The guy keeps giving them work that pays decently and leads to treasure and eventually brings them into "la resistance" and as they're the PCs they eventually become the elites.

2011-10-30, 08:04 PM
During a dungeon where they are working for the tyrants, they stumble upon something that their employer didn't realize was in the dungeon: I'm thinking a document that outlines all of the evil things that the religious extremists' leader did to usurp power from the freedom-loving side of the great war. Explain that part of usurping power was making sure that the side of liberty couldn't muster enough strength to fight them - that strength of course is embodied in the sacred crystals that the tyrants scattered to the four winds. The crystals are essential to summon the only being capable of delivering the death-blow to the theocrat's reign of terror.

You could also do it like this:


2011-10-31, 12:07 AM
That youtube video looks awesome. Seriously, just start your campaign that way.

2011-10-31, 12:56 AM
It was a pretty good cartoon growing up. I'm not too keen on it anymore, but I remember liking it pretty well. :D

2011-10-31, 04:56 AM
How fast do you want to throw them into the deep end? Because that will determine things right away. If you want to string them along and keep them guessing, have one of the characters have a mentor figure who sends them on the quest for the magical thingy (or whatever) that points out where all the jewels are or something. He promises to explain everything when they get back.

In the fine tradition, he's dead when they get back and the authorities are looking for all known friends and family (oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap!:smallbiggrin:) Mysterious figure grabs ahold of them and gets them out of trouble and explains that s/he knew the mentor but now's not a good time for a reveal and sends them off to get magic jewel number 1 (or whatever). You can keep this going for awhile. Or reveal as quick as you like.

Or you could have the mentor be alive and explain everything. One thing though, players are unpredictable at times, so you need to ensure you give them plenty of reasons to want the tyrants overthrown. Some of my players tend to be rather mercenary and play that way so... I tend to make things personal. Throw in witch hunts, with the PCs as the witches. Or downtrodden minorities that the PC's happen to belong to. Ensure they have NPC friends and family... And kill them.

Even then if you want to keep it interesting... Why would all 13 despots get along? Surely at least one Pasha or Satrap is thinking how awesome the cake would be... if he could have more. It is in the nature of most tyrants to want more. Maybe there's more then one group backing them and they each have different ideas of how much your players should know. This can make for an amusing game of different figures "mentoring" different players and trying to take each other out before to much gets revealed.

2011-11-02, 02:03 PM
What would be pretty cool is having the Church be a Frenemy. By this, I mean having a covert section of the Church(es) of the countries hire the PCs to find all the gemstones and reunite the continent. After all, not everyone has got to be satisfied with the split. However, since they're only part of the Church(es) on the continent, the Church(es) will still be able to act as an enemy to them, as the majority of the Church(es) will be after the PCs to prevent them from accomplishing their mission(should they find out about it), and even the members of the section that hired the PCs will have to act somewhat neutral(or hostile, if Church(es) found out about the mission) towards the PCs, despite them being the ones behind them.

Also, if you want to shorten that campaign, you can have the covert section and the Church each already have 1 or 2 of the gemstones. Should you change your mind later, and want to have more gemstone adventures, you can have the covert section decide that they want the gemstones that the Church officially owns in their hands, so the PCs will have to infiltrate and steal the gemstones owned by the Church(es).

Sound fun?

2011-11-02, 03:11 PM
First ever campaign? Keep it simple - just tell them the idea and what needs to be done.

Remember that the characters will know how the world works before the game starts - so just go ahead and say that they're questing for x, y, and z to reunite the continent (and by the way, you've got some information to say that x is nearby).

Probably best not to bog the first session down with guessing games.

2011-11-03, 11:35 PM
I'd start small. Have them go on a dungeon crawl or other mission that ends up pitting them against their local tyrant--maybe the tyrant's servants burn down the inn/house they're sleeping in, or threaten their friends or family. Provoke them enough that they want to fight back, and have members of la resistance find them. From there, it's not too hard to work the gemstones in--maybe the resistance is looking for them.

This sounds like a pretty good campaign. Well done, especially for a first try. Good luck.