Starting the Campaign
The Bloodlines Campaign was inspired by two concepts, separated by years. One burst of imagination gave me the location for the campaign, while another gave me the "hook" on which to hang it. Together, they formed a campaign that has run for more than 18 months.
The Location: Cannon Beach
The first seed of the Bloodlines Campaign originated from an idea I had a few years ago while sitting on a bench in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Out of nowhere, I was struck with a thought: What would this small beachfront tourist town look like in a medieval fantasy setting? Surely the general store would still be right there on the main road through town, right? And the local pub would still be the prime hangout. Instead of an expensive hotel on the bluff overlooking the town, you’d have the home of the local magistrate and the city guards. And only a tiny bit of imagination was needed to picture the eccentric old artist in the weathered old house at the end of the lane as an eccentric old hedge wizard.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of turning my family’s favorite vacation spot into a D&D setting. I started sketching out where the important locations would be, and I imagined what kinds of creatures—fair and foul alike—lurked in the wooded hills and rocky caves around town. I even gave the town a name: Great Rock, named for the enormous stone monolith located just off shore (which is named Haystack Rock in real life). But I wasn’t looking to start a new D&D campaign yet—my Planescape game was still in full swing—so Great Rock had to go onto a back burner, for the time being.
The Hook: The Bloodline
My second inspiration came from the Birthright campaign setting published by TSR, Inc. Though I had never played in the setting (apart from a single session of character generation that didn’t really go anywhere), I admired many of the core concepts of the setting: a small number of human "nationalities," limiting the scope of the game; demi-humans possessing their own kingdoms, rather than simply scattered over the human lands; a limited cross-section of D&D monsters, particularly sentient humanoids; and the idea that the characters were the inheritors of great power from their ancestors (and potentially the gods themselves).
When it came time to start a new D&D campaign with the launch of Third Edition, I took these concepts and tweaked them to create the structure of my campaign world. First, the action centered in a single kingdom. Though the characters might know (or learn) of other nations, their homeland would be the scene of the campaign for the vast majority of its duration. Second, I limited the number of prominent humanoid races, allowing me to give each one of them a kingdom of their own—the elves had their own shrinking forest kingdom, the dwarves their underground territory, and the hobgoblins their mountain tribal lands. Third, I determined that each player character would have some genetic link to beings of power and/or distinction from the distant past: a bloodline.
The Campaign: Blackmere
Now I had both a "home base" for the campaign and a structure for the world. All I had to do was merge the two. And so was born Great Rock, a tiny fishing village on the windswept coast of the Western Province of the Kingdom of Blackmere. Founded by adventurous settlers from the ancient Empire of Tarsis, Blackmere is a relatively new kingdom (not quite a thousand years old). Named for the great black dragon slain by the nation’s first king, Blackmere is a prosperous land that soon found itself swelling from the Shard Mountains in the east to the Sea of Tempests in the west, and from the Frozen Lands of the north to the Southern Sea.
The characters would all be relatively young, having grown up together in Great Rock. To keep their ages similar, I limited the initial selection of PC races to human, half-elf, and halfling. Both dwarves and elves would be too old to treat as having grown up with shorter-lived races, and neither gnomes nor half-orcs exist in the world (as far as anyone knows).
We gathered together to roll up characters, and thus the first adventuring party of Great Rock was born:
Six would-be adventurers, ignorant of what lay hidden, both in the wide world and within their own blood.
Previous: The Characters
All photos on this page © George Vetter
All material copyright Andy Collins 2001-2008.