I’d like to present some aspects of my campaign here, mostly NPCs. So I guess I should talk a big about my campaign world first.
First of all, I’m lazy. I really dislike unnecessary work. So I figured I could as well use a published world, and the one I know best is probably Forgotten Realms. More precisely, Forgotten Realms as described in the 1st edition grey box, pre-avatar nonsense.
Except Forgotten Realms has a lot of issues. Some I will deal with as I go, but I already have some changes which are more or less set in stone.
The PCs at the center of events
There’s no way Elminster, or Khelben, or whoever else is going to play deus ex machina when the PCs fuck up. They are here somewhere in the background, they are famous archmages, semi-legendary even, and most of all they are busy as hell, or gone insane, or just gone. Anyway they won’t turn up. Even if the PCs go looking for them.
On the other hand, when the PCs grow powerful enough, the archmages, or arch-Harpers, or arch-whatever won’t bully them into their own agenda. Oh, some of them may try, but there’s no way the PCs are going to be bystanders while NPCs have all the fun.
Oh, and the same goes for the gods, obviously; they are real, at least real enough to grant spells to their priests, but they have better things to do than growing avatars.
The PCs started play in Daggerford, and at the time of their graduation to level 3 they have never been more than 3 or 4 days’ walk out of the town. Even in such a small area, there are lots of things to see, and lots of adventure opportunities.
Oh, and even though Daggerford is at an important bridge on an important trade route, it’s just a small backwater town. In fact it’s so remote the troops from Waterdeep didn’t even stay there after the battle around Dragonspear Castle in 1356.
As a side-effect, I have got rid of all these former adventurers with their stashes of gold hanging around. Most people in Daggerford, as everywhere else, are trying to make ends meet; most of them have not handled gold coins in years, if ever.
Of course I have added some stuff around. Mostly, I have inserted the Temple of Elemental Evil in the notheastern Misty Forest. The PCs have not been this way yet, maybe they will visit the temple and maybe not, but they are being dragged into temple-related events at the moment. More on this later… ;-)
Sure, the Harpers are around, as well as the Red Wizards or the Zhentarim. They are far less important than in the published material, though.
First, this kind of worldwide organizations would require a very efficient communication network. This probably means lots of high-level spellcasters. And I don’t want those to be around in my campaign. Basically, in my world, you don’t find powerful wizards everywhere; Daggerford has two, plus a couple of apprentices, and it is only because the Duke has a court wizard that there are so many.
Second, even though these groups exist, their agenda is probably somewhat different from the one shown in the official Forgotten Realms. For example I have always pictured the Zhentarim as an unscrupulous merchant company; they generally don’t crave political power, except when it makes sense from a business point of view. I also want to keep the Red Wizards mysterious and threatening, the way they were in the 1st edition campaign set, not the merchants of magic depicted in 3rd edition.
The 1st edition Forgotten Realms pantheon is actually quite usable, as long as it is used as a base for a much larger population of gods. The “official” gods are merely the most commonly known, but there are many others with more or less important followings.
I have changed a few gods to make them fit with my ideas; the most important change I can think of is that I can’t see Myrkul as the bad guy that is often depicted. Granted, he has a kind of a murderer aspect; after all, he gets all the godless or apostate souls for himself. But his main duty is to allow all souls safe passage to wherever they go after death. This reflects on his priests; many of them wander around, claiming and burying the bodies of the dead nobody cares about. I guess this makes Myrkulites very important in case of a plague or some other murderous event.
The church of Bhaal, on the other hand, sounds like a lot of interesting bad guys to me. I have not yet used them, but I hope I will.
The future as of 1356, that is. :-) We are still at the start of the campaign and history has not really diverged yet, but I’m quite sure it soon will. At the moment, it looks like some kind of coup is ahead in Calimshan (not sure exactly what and who and how, news will get distorted over such a distance anyway). And Northmen raiders may well soon raid the coast around Waterdeep, maybe even close to Daggerford. And I’m sure other unplanned events will happen as soon as I think of them.