One-Shots as Worldbuilding

Recently, one of the players in my D&D group (I’m allowed to say ‘my’ group as DM, right?) was unable to attend sessions for a few weeks. Rather than letting the group sit stagnant for a few weeks I thought this would be a great opportunity to try something different with the players that can play.

Right now we’re playing a beefed up version of The Lost Mines of Phandelver (LMOP) the D&D Fifth Edition Starter Set. I say beefed up as I’ve changed the antagonist and the final session as listed in the module should now be the end of Act 2 for our story arc and I have what I hope is a more epic final fight with a new and improved Black Spider.

Like many groups we started with LMOP to make sure we were all acquainted with the rules, comfortable with the kind of game that I will run, and all get on fine and dandy. I am extremely pleased to say that I think the group has an excellent dynamic and I feel very lucky and grateful for that.

The plan was that once we were done with LMOP we’d start playing an open-ended sandbox homebrew campaign (again, like many groups I’m sure) but I wanted to use this opportunity to try and get the players invested in the new campaign before it’s started. I am wary of falling into the DM/Writer trap and don’t want to just present them with a whole world I railroad them through so as a way to bring them into the world’s creation I’ve set up some one-shot scenarios set years before our campaign. The intention is that success isn’t guaranteed for these one-shots and the outcome will effect the setting when we come to play the campaign.

I gave the players the options of a few different scenarios and let them choose. At the moment we’re maybe half-way through Exodus of the Warforged.

It’s set (maybe) fifty years or so before our campaign, I’ll just share the blurb that I wrote for them:

You are warforged – created to carry out the will of the god-king Semkhet – and your god is dead.

A ritual has gone horribly wrong and the resulting magical energy has destroyed your god, Semkhet, and killed another. Now the capital is broken and overrun. Wild magic rips through the streets. Monsters fight and crash into one another. Soldiers turned looters who are mad enough to risk the apocalyptic danger.

With the magic binding them to Semkhet now destroyed most of the war-forged have fled in the hopes of finding asylum elsewhere.
You do not.

An old ally, Goldshadow, has sent you a message. She believes she knows how to enter the god-king’s private library. The library where you will find the secret to the creation of the warforged. You know that without that information the warforged not be able to repopulate and become the independent, living people that all war-forged dream of and the maelstrom of monsters and magic will surely destroy it. Without this information it could be centuries before anyone rediscovers the secret to creating true soulful warforged, if anyone ever does.

Facing the threat of slow extinction you have decided to turn back and head to the eye of the storm to save your people.

I did give them one (I think now fairly obvious) condition – that they had to be warforged – but apart from that they could be whatever they wanted. Depending on how it goes will effect how many warforged people are wandering around in the world once we start playing the campaign proper.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the premise and we’ve been having a great time doing something different and I love that we’re building the world together.