Campaign Concept: The Fallen Estate

May 20, 2018

An ancient family's house has fallen into disrepute, its estate descended into ruin. The village in the shadow of the old house is in disrepair and beset by beasts and bandits. Rumors hint at shifting shadows, experiments of flesh and necromancy, and foul artifacts from across the world roam the grounds. The chill, choppy waves crash against the skeletal stone, threatening to undermine the foundation with each passing day. And yet, somewhere in the weary old stone comes a whisper, a vocation, and the so-called heroes arrive seeking glory, treasure, or clarity to the ineffable echoing in their own skulls.
 

 

After seeing some chat on the D&D Facebook page, I got sucked into the idea of adapting the video game Darkest Dungeon to D&D. Others have homebrewed some interesting rules to pull from and I have some of my own homebrew that I could use. The question is: Would anyone want to play?

The concept: A gothic West Marches style campaign based around a village fallen into ruin as dark forces rise around it. Players could manage multiple heroes (one per quest, though) and by returning treasure to the village (to gain experience), they improve the prestige of the village, attracting better merchants and other services. The oppressive atmosphere incurs character flaws and madness effects as they delve deeper. Extended downtime and multiple characters expand on crafting and other downtime activities. The alternative inventory system (see Darker Dungeons) means managing goods is a tactile, important element for character and village advancement. Loot tokens (see previous post) combined with multiple characters encourage balancing hoarding resources and the chance for big gains in loot.

 

 

West Marches-style means character goals drive plots and quests and DMs build around character goals while pushing out the border of the known into the old keep, decrepit dungeon, overgrown woodlands, shipwrecked coast, and bandit infested roads. The use of dodge rolls (instead of hostile attack rolls) and spell intensity rolls (instead of saving throws) means players are constantly acting in the game, even when defending. Lingering effects, injuries, illness, and stress mean players have to balance character advancement with longevity, too.

I'm rather taken with this idea. It puts a lot of narrative thrust into character's hands but in a thematic, structured way. It also maintains an eerie, tense vibe that high fantasy sometimes struggles with. Maybe other systems can do this vibe better, but I know there is a lot of love for D&D. I can also see how less used character options like cleric of war, monk of the long death, rogue scout, and the like might get a little bit more use in this kind of game.

So, I thought I'd put it out there. I'm not sure when timing will come up, but I was interested in feedback. Thanks!

 

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Comments from G+

Kelly Collins-Cunningham

I love the setting. I could get behind a good Gothic setting and all the character ramifications, but someone is going to have to run around in a negligee and heals and it's not going to be me.

 

Caleb Alexander

+Kelly Collins-Cunningham Thanks Kelly! I love this kind of setting and with all the games afoot at the moment, it seems like a way to bring more people to the table. Going to fiddle with the idea and track down input from other DMs over the next week or so. I mentioned it to Samwise who runs a Monday night session, and just heard from Catheryn who will be running D&D at Cab Comics. Sorry for the delay in responding!

 

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Sources

Image Credit: Red Hook Entertainment

Darker Dungeons, v1.3
The West Marches, Matthew Colville
Darkest Dungeon Game

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