A few weeks before the 2014 end of year holidays, I made my usual group a double proposal: Give D&D 5e a honest try and invite my 12 y.o son Nico to play with us. (Remember Nico?)
I had no adventure ready, my plan was to slum it one-shot style with pre-generated characters, like I did a few years back teaching D&D at the New York Comic Con. When I presented the PCs, my players decided to make their own instead.
Yan made a dwarven monk that used to be a pirate. He called her Redbeard. Frankie made a forest gnome ranger and pathfinder named Mush. Nico settled on “Jack” a half-elven warlock who faked being a noble before fleeing. Seeing that everyone had spent the time making these cool characters, I decided to produce a gaming experience that went a little further than a context-free random dungeon.
I took out twelve index cards and asked everyone to come up with places, NPCs and themes for the upcoming game. I instructed them to come up with evocative sounding names whenever possible. I also contributed three cards to the mix, as I was as much an active participant of this game as they were.
Here’s what we came up with (there’s more than 12 as some extra cards were created as off shoots of others)
- Tropical archipelago
- Active volcano island
- Storm tides, created by the world’s three moons
- Hostile, underwater humanoid civilization
- Hidden jungle village (gnomes)
- Old Gnome sage
- Savage Fauna
- Rampaging displacer beasts
- The Fetid Lagoon
- Ereborn, Port of Storms
- Ereborn’s most notorious fence
- Lovecraftian Ruins
- Alien Constructs
- The arcane mentor from Afar
We came up with those in about 30 minutes. All in all, we made characters and created a setting in less than two hours.
I quickly realized that we created much more than the elements for a D&D adventure, we created a whole campaign setting.
A few weeks later, while having lunch with people from Wizards of the Coast, I told this story… and they all looked at each other and said.
“You just recreated the Isle of Dread”