Before we start, a little light reading. Some context.

I used to regularly blog about gaming on Total Party Kill, and then infrequently on The Illuminerdy.

I’ve let my love of RPGs and my love of writing rubbish about them fade somewhat of late. So let’s rectify that, shall we.

The plan is, on 11th March i’ll be running the 1st session of a new, monthly Dungeons & Dragons game. I’ve got 5 players, I’ll be running 5e. This is slightly problematic, for the following reasons:

  • Only one of the players has played 5e
  • One of the players hasn’t played D&D before
  • One of the players hasn’t played in over 25 years
  • The other two players have only played earlier editions
  • I’m trying to use the current canon Forgotten Realms setting, but obviously have not bought any of the ‘plot’ supplements, so don’t really know what’s going on…

I can surmise that it’s 1491 (Dale Reckoning), and that the maps from 4e have been mostly retconned back to the 3.xe state. This is fine. I guess. I’ve not got a problem with the characters having access to out of date/unreliable maps, lore and legends. I was planning on planting a NPC Bard with the party to provide just this type of sketchy detail, until one of the players decided to stat a Bard, and he’ll be even more unreliable (sorry Matt).

I do kind of feel as though I should have an official view of “what’s actually happening/how things really are” that I can disregard at my leisure. Or, at the very least, give the players the impression that I know what’s going on.

That’s half the battle, right there.

Location: I’ve settled on The Dalelands, because a) they’re kind of iconic, b) they border on some of the more interesting lands, seas and organisations, c) I panicked when one of the players asked for a quote on how many gp they would need to travel from their current position to their ancestral home, stated as ‘maybe Tethyr’.


I want to tell my own story, with the Forgotten Realms as the backdrop, so I’ve opted for Featherdale as a starting point – It’s a decentralised area with no capital, no named ruler, a clean canvas. I can add the player characters and my NPCs in without having to weave any established characters or events around them, and subsequently move towards or away from canon plot as required.

I’ve still an amount of world building to do: I know that the player characters are oathsworn to the local Lord and his family – I need to come up with names and characteristics. I know their daughter is called Greynora, that she’s 11, and that she has a bag that she puts interesting things she finds into. I know that the family are a distant branch of a noble lineage. That’s kind of important. I also know that I want to focus on themes of honour and duty (mostly to stop the PCs from becoming murder hobos).

I’ve got the first couple of encounters fleshed out in my head, but given the XP budget guidelines, I’m 700xp over budget for a level 1 Deadly combat for 5 PCs. 

Which is fine. A TPK in the first combat of the first session will set expectations.