July 28, 2010

Garhelm - My Homebrew Campaign Setting

My next few posts will detail a campaign setting I created a few years back for D&D 3.5.  I viking_helmetnamed the world “Garhelm.”  Why?  Because it sounded cool.  (To this day, I’m waiting for someone to tell me that it means “small scrotum” or something in a foreign dialect.)  I designed the kind of game world in which I would want to play.  It unabashedly borrows from several cliché sources, such as Howard’s Conan stories, the Conan the Barbarian movie, Norse mythology, Lovecraft, classic D&D demons, and more. I also designed the world so I could fit just about every Necromancer Games module I owned into it.

   I ran two short-lived campaigns in Garhlem, both of which ended for various reasons.  One was a face-to-face game that involved players from different states.  We didn’t meet often, so we had only about three sessions.  The other campaign was played online via ScreenMonkey.  This was before the days of Skype, so everything was chat-based.  Suffice it to say, it was very slow.  So, both of those campaigns had logistic obstacles, but, in both cases, lethality was the final campaign ender.   It’s frustrating enough when your PC dies, but even more so when you seldom get to play and/or the play format (i.e., online) is sort of inherently frustrating to begin with.
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I learned a couple things from these campaigns:
  • Be upfront about the death rate in the campaign. If there is going to be a high body count, let your players know from the start.  Then they can pass on the campaign from the get-go and irritation can be spared by one and all.  I made sure to do this with my Rappan Athuk campaign.
  • Seemingly small mechanic adjustments added for campaign flavor can come back to haunt you.
I no longer use this setting, opting instead for the game world sparsely alluded to in Bard’s  Gate and the Rappan Athuk module.  I would like to revive Garhelm one of these days (with a few tweaks), but who knows if that will happen.deathdealerII
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