The Tanius Campaign Journal - Prelude
It had been years since I donned my Dungeon Master cap. Back in the early 2000s, I dabbled in Dungeons and Dragons (First Edition) as a player and later as a DM. There were even some ambitious attempts at custom “verbal RPGs”, including a Pokemon-based game which devolved into Pokemasters ordering their Pokemon to try to headshot opposing Pokemasters instead of the Pokemon they were supposed to be fighting. Ah yes, times were simpler back then; home-grown rules ran rampant, dice were fudged, and generally good times were had.
For the last 16 years or so, I had largely left that part of my life behind. I still occasionally participated in what might be the nerdiest past-time on the planet. Over the last couple of years, a group of us gathered every 4-6 weeks for some beer, barbeque, and old school First Edition D&D action. A little over a year ago, life whisked me away from my home in the mitten state to the weird shores of Austin, Texas. While I considered the move a large lifestyle improvement, it represented an anticlimactic end to my involvement in our little campaign and my D&D career.
Or so I thought…
“You wouldn’t happen to know anybody who has an open spot in a D&D campaign, would you?”
About a month ago, I received a text message from a friend completely out of the blue. Even more surprisingly, he was asking if I knew anyone running or looking to start a D&D campaign. I had a few friends at various points in their own campaigns, but I wasn’t sure they'd welcome the hassle of integrating a new player. The second part of that text, though, stirred something inside of me I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Just a few days prior, I had an off-the-cuff discussion with Truck about the possibility and requirements of running a D&D campaign. We ran through some hypotheticals and storylines, but ultimately determined neither of us really had the bandwidth to do a real campaign justice. Besides, we hardly knew anybody with the availability (or willingness) to schedule a regular weekend brunch. How would we get a group to regularly participate in a D&D campaign? But after a night's sleep, I decided it couldn’t hurt to ask, so I emailed a couple of my nerdier friends to see what might happen.
Here's what happened: they emailed their friends, and those friends emailed their friends…
The Rules of War
Within a week’s time we had managed to pull together six players who were EAGER to start a campaign. After a discussion with Truck about how terrible and poorly-planned this idea was, we naturally green-lit the campaign. With myself at the helm as the primary GM and Truck working behind the scenes on big-picture plot points and insignificant logical consistencies, we met face-to-face on a free Sunday afternoon and plotted the party’s demise.
We decided that while familiarity is good, First and Second Edition had a lot of issues we didn’t want to deal with. Most notably, a level 1 character in these earlier editions could hardly talk and chew bubblegum at the same time; apparently there’s a reason the flailing-about phase of the hero’s journey is often done in a montage. Unless the party was up against the most mundane threats, it faced a long and brutal path to achieve basic competence. So we ruled those editions out.
Third Edition piqued our interest, but after some digging we decided we had some philosophical disagreements with some prominent characteristics. The biggest issue was the incredible ease with which players could acquire magical items and the prevalence of high-powered, ultra-cheesy (good for food, not for gaming) builds. We think that Dungeons and Dragons should be a fantastical- but-realistic quest for glory; Third Edition seemed less like Dungeons and Dragons than like Dungeons and Dragonball-Z . So we ruled it out as well.
Fourth Edition seemed similar to Third, but even further pared down. I am a big fan of streamlined rules, but it seemed a bit TOO simplistic. Coupled with the same gripes about abundant magical items, and it was time to look forward.
Finally, we sank our teeth into Fifth Edition, and it didn’t take us very long to fall in love. It retains many of the advanced combat mechanics of the middle editions, but removes pointless (in our opinion) restrictions on character/class creation. Better still, it maintains the gritty “realism” of earlier editions. Perhaps most importantly, it seemed to allow for quick progression from early- to mid-game, which would let us to quickly move on to more interesting encounters. The decision was made, and we crowned ourselves co-Dungeon Masters of a Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Figuratively, for now. Literal crowns might take some time.
The Journey Begins
Just two weeks after that fateful text was sent, we had rolled characters, created our first set of encounters, and completed a high level design of our campaign. Of course, one of our mottos at Questionably Qualified headquarters is, "If You're Going to Fail, Fail Publicly". So we decided it would be best to share our journey with you, the reader.
As the events of The Tanius campaign unfold we will be writing a narrative recap of the party’s greatest deeds and worst mishaps. Alongside the narration we will try to include some meta-game discussion of both the campaign and Dungeons and Dragons as a whole. Who knows? Maybe you'll dip your toes in its murky waters someday!
The first step of any journey is always the most difficult, but we hope you'll join us and thoroughly enjoy the epic adventure our heroes have embarked on.
Editor’s note (Truck): Co-DMs is incredibly generous. Weems does 95% of the work and I assist by coming up with fantasy names, plot points, and occasionally some maps. It’s a lot of fun, though!