I’ve started a forum thread over at the Wizards LFR forums to discuss some of these ideas. Feel free to weigh in there, or in the comments here, or both.
With the announcement of D&D 5th Edition, we here at Roving Band of Misfits are thinking about all the changes the game has in store. Since we have played a lot of Living campaigns (Living Greyhawk, Living Forgotten Realms, Ashes of Athas), we’re wondering what a 5E living campaign might look like. Here’s my wishlist for what I would like to see in a 5E living campaign.
The region system in LG was a bit of a mixed bag. Various physical regions in the real world corresponded to regions in the game world. For example, PA/NY/NJ corresponded to the region of Keoland. The region you were in restricted the types of modules you could play. There were about 20 “core” modules every year that people in any region could play, and each region published around 8 “regional” modules each year that could only be played in that region. In addition, regions were grouped together into “metaregions,” and there were about 6 modules that could be played in any region in the group.
If that wasn’t enough modules for you, then depending on where you lived, you could travel to a different region and play the modules associated with that region.
By contrast, in Living Forgotten Realms, there were technically regions and regional modules, but there were no restrictions on what modules you could play where.
At first, it might seem that the LFR system is better: less restrictions means more people playing more D&D. However, in LG, regions had more flavor. You really felt like you were a citizen of that region, and you had a pretty good sense of your region’s storyline.
To me, the biggest advantage of the old LG regional system was that it encouraged small conventions that people could travel to in order to play out-of-region modules. In addition, these conventions usually had one-time “interactive modules” that could be anything from a massive battle to a role-playing experience. With the advent of LFR, these small conventions all but died out.
I’d love to see a new 5E living campaign that brought back a lot the regional flavor that made the LG community great.
In LG, each character started with 52 time units. Every time you played a regional or metaregional module that was in your home region, this cost you 1 TU per round (so 2-round modules cost 2). Core modules and out-of-region modules (if you traveled to that region) cost double. You were allowed to create a character whose home region was not the region that you yourself lived in, so that if you traveled to that region, then your character would spend only 1 TU per round for the modules associated with that region. When your character ran out of TU’s, you couldn’t play it again until the next year.
There were some definite downsides to the TU system. If you played with a group of friends, and your character ran out of TU’s before they did, then you could get stuck where you were unable to play with that group again until next year.
However, this system did have a lot of advantages. It allowed TU’s to be used as a resource that you could spend. Imagine that you played a module where your wizard met a powerful archmage. The archmage will allow your character to study under him (gaining some kind of tangible advantage), but your character will have to stay with him for a month (costing 4 TU’s). Do you do it? Maybe you even have to decide before you know exactly what the advantage will be. These kinds of interesting character and roleplaying choices were a lot of fun.
Here’s an idea: maybe to partially deal with the issue of friends not getting to play together when one runs out of TU’s, have a system where when you DM a module, you get to allocate 1 TU to any of your characters. I’m not sure if that would be too broken…
This may sound strange, but I really miss the Adventure Records from LG. After each adventure you would fill out a piece of paper that listed the XP and gold awards, as well as any other favors or item access that you obtained in the module. Essentially, anything that in LFR appears on those little slips of paper was all written on a single 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper.
Also, it was very rare in LG to simply be awarded a magic item. You got access to an item, which you then had the option to buy for actual gold pieces. Plus, most magic items were extremely expensive, so you had to choose which items you bought very carefully.
Now, there was a lot of magic item imbalance in LG that is not really present in LFR. However, in LFR right now, gold is pretty much irrelevant. So I’d hope there is some kind of middle ground, though this will of course depend on how magic items are set up in 5E.
Modules for Many Players
Assuming 5E keeps the 1-30 level range, that is lot of levels to write modules for. In LG, it was common for modules to be written for only two or three APL’s (average table level). I remember being really frustrated as a new LG player that I couldn’t play the awesome APL 10-14 module I heard people talking about. Not only couldn’t I play it at the time, but given the TU system and how long it took to level up, it might be a year or two before my character was even an appropriate level to play it!
I think LFR has the right idea now by having their modules be tier-wide. So there are Heroic tier modules and Paragon tier modules. I think there might eventually have been Epic tier modules as well, instead of the one module per level model they have now. By having the module be written for an entire tier, it allows many more players to play many more modules.
I think it’s a good thing to allow a player (not a character) to play the same module twice. Again, this allows more players to play more modules, and likely reduces the overall number of modules that need to be written. In addition, I think something like “MyRealms” modules (with some tight restrictions) could work as well.
I think both LG and LFR got some things right and also some things wrong. My hope is that whatever living campaign ends up coming out of 5E takes the lessons of the past to create a sustainable model for a fun campaign. I can’t wait!