Posted by : David Guyll August 14, 2017

The Short Answer:
Back when I ran the original A Sundered World campaign, I barely did any planning at all: I mostly made up shit as we went in response to what the players did. The players said it was the best campaign they ever played in, so from then on I ran games doing as little planning as possible.

This meant less work for me, less wasted prep, and it was easier to adapt to random shit the players did (and they knew they could do things without worry about me wasting time or trying to nudge them back on a kind of plot railroad).

The Long Answer:
Some six or so years ago, after a string of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns and one-shots, a couple friends and I are sitting around a table thinking on what to play next. This was back when I kept buying lots of role-playing games, because I'd been wanting to make my own game and figured it would be useful to at least read other non-D&D systems and ideally play them.

After running through a variety of options—CtulhuTech, The Dying Earth, Dark Heresy, I think Exalted, and a few more—they just wanted to keep on playing Dungeons & Dragons.

So I had them roll up characters and pitched this campaign idea I thought of even further back, which was basically pirates in the Astral Sea/Astral Plane. They liked the idea, and that campaign soon exploded into what would become A Sundered World.

Prior to running A Sundered World I read and ran a lot of adventure paths and modules, changing them up here and there but usually not too much (I did draw from background ideas from time to time, and even whipped up some side treks). When I wanted to plan my own adventures I used the official shiny published stuff as examples, which meant a lot of writing and planning and mapping, most of which ended up not being necessary.

For A Sundered World I took another approach, which was to just make almost all of it up as we went along. The first session had one character (Lothelle) show up in Hammerfast, a dwarven city, in search of a weapon that would end a war between the elves and fomorians. She goes to a library and learns about an island with an abandoned elven city: the player decides to follow this lead on her own (could have been other options but she ran with that one) and on a whim I have her run into the other character (Danh) when she gets there: he's just been waiting there because the spirits told him to.

They explore the island, fending off a few twig blights and run into—again, on a whim—the inert husk of a copper horror, mostly overgrown by vegetation like the robots in Castle in the Sky. I'd been wanting to use clockwork horrors for quite some time (since early 3rd Edition I think, whatever year they appeared in one of the Monster Manuals), just never had the chance and figured why not let's see where this goes.

(Fun fact, the various Legionnaires that form Antikythera's Legion are based on the old D&D horrors.)

They keep exploring and find the elven city, and while checking out various towers a copper horror activates and attacks. They find an arcane locked door, which prompts Lothelle to make a bunch of Arcana checks to "hack" it (I envisioned it like hacking a door in Mass Effect 2, with glowing glyphs and shapes and everything) while Danh tries to keep the copper horror at bay since it's too high level for them to defeat: take that people that kept saying 4E was too easy!

Lothelle manages to get the door open, they both duck inside and then she seals the door. But, the machine keeps on coming, blasting and slicing at the door with bladed mandibles, so she's again stuck playing door-duty, using her magic to constantly reinforce the wards while Danh looks for a way out. They find a pair of trees which house owl spirits, and they end up sacrificing themselves opening a gate to the moon so Lothelle and Danh can escape.

The whole thing was tense and crazy and they could have died because I wasn't pulling any punches (and also their characters weren't pivotal to some larger plot), but it was also driven entirely by the players' actions and it was all shit I made up as we went. I did this for another fifteen or so sessions, and in their words it was the best campaign they'd ever played in.

This campaign completely changed how I plan and run things (which luckily meshed really well with Dungeon World's default assumptions), though nowadays I do a bit more planning and when I'm running a module or adventure path (like say Age of Worms) I tend to change them up a lot more, to the point where I've completely replaced entire dungeons. It's great because I do less work, what prep I do is less likely to be wasted, and I can better respond to what the players do.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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