I’ve had an idea banging around in my brain for a while and I thought I might let it out. When I’m writing things, I like to talk about them while they’re in progress. It helps me do a couple of things that writing by myself doesn’t accomplish.
- When I write just for myself, things tend to go around in circles. I start and stop, and I end up not getting much done. I need a reason to write that’s beyond me to get much of anything done.
- Along that same line, it helps me think clearly. It gives me an audience to write towards. Having that audience helps keep my accountable, even if that accountability is only my posting schedule.
So, to that end…
Welcome to Camp Adventure!
Camp Adventure is a thing that I want to finish that’s aimed at making a 0-level space in which to play 5e D&D. It points the focus more at the characters and the story, and makes acquiring 1st level abilities the aim of a summer spent at camp. This approach makes the can-be-too-complicated rules of 5e more accessible, which makes it great for playing with kids. It also is a big help for experienced players because the change in focus and the lack of class abilities to fall back on means the characters and what they do take center stage.
I’ve got a work-in-progress document for Camp Adventure, and it’s from there that I’m going to pull everything I’ll talk about in these articles. This document will obviously grow and change over time. Checking out the draft revisions will give you a good idea of the progress (or at times, lack thereof) that I’ve made.
Behold, the Camp Adventure Draft
What Do I Have? What Do I Need?
One of the most useful exercises I can name for checking in on an in-progress design is asking the above questions. I’ve been tapping away at Camp Adventure for about six months now, and have playtested it three times.
So, here’s what I have:
Like I said above, the focus of Camp Adventure is on the characters. To accomplish that, I needed to figure out how much of the base 5e rules to present to players when they’re making their characters. To start off with, characters in Camp Adventure only have a few different things:
- Ability Scores
- Class They Want to Become
Those things give you a framework for who the character is. In D&D, everything stems from those basic things. You need Ability Scores so you know what modifiers to apply to rolls. You need a Race because that’s a central feature of D&D; it modifies ability scores, gives some proficiencies, and gives you things you can do that other people can’t. Backgrounds put some meat on the bones of Ability Scores and Race. A Background gives you Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws. It can also give you an Alignment. With those things established, you’ve got a good base idea of who a character is. Lastly, you define the class (or classes) a character wants to attain at the end of the summer. This gives the character a basic goal for play.
Those things are foundational. From there, I moved to how to build out the class abilities themselves.
When you’re at some types of summer camp, you learn how to do things by earning merit badges. Same’s true at Camp Adventure. Every class ability and skill proficiency is a merit badge, and the campers will spend the summer earning them. I’ve got all of the different badges listed out in the draft document, but I’m going to pull one of them out to give you an idea of what this looks like.
|Anger Management (Rage)|
|Armored Combat I (Light Armor)|
|Armored Combat II (Medium Armor)|
|Brawny (Str Save)|
|Combat Training I (Simple Weapons)|
|Combat Training II (Martial Weapons)|
|Fortitude (Con Save)|
|Training and Domestication (Animal Handling)|
|Unencumbered Combat (Unarmored Defense)|
|Wilderness Lore (Nature)|
I renamed the abilities to give things more flavor. Since this is a work-in-progress, some of these names are bound to change. However, I think it’s a lot more fun for a player (or character) to be able to say “I earned my Lookout merit badge” rather than, “I’m proficient in the Perception skill, now!” The latter doesn’t have as much zing to it.
So, I have basic characters, and a framework for how class abilities are broken down. Next up is setting.
It’s Literally Called Camp Adventure
The setting is an offshoot of the first campaign setting I ever made. Magical apocalypse happened X number of years ago, and rifts to other planes/dimensions/places opened up. The landscape shifted and melted like a time-lapse computer rendering. Magic entered the world. Everything in the world changed and the settled parts of it are only a few decades removed from complete post-apocalyptic chaos. People discovered runestones that would lock the land in place and stop the shifts. Now there’s a settled portion of land called the Twelve Marches, and along the southern border there’s a series of runestones that hold back the Chaoslands.
People venture into the Chaoslands to literally tame the landscape. And the kids who attend Camp Adventure are being trained to do just that. The focus of the Camp is to help kids learn the skills they need to adventure, and to help instill in them an outlook that benefits the world.
“Making the World a Better Place, One Adventure at a Time”
Help Where You Can
Leave the World Better Than You Found It
The camp itself is designed much like a traditional summer camp, but with adventuring in mind. The lodge is styled like a fantasy tavern, the cabins house groups of students who are all to adventure together, and the campgrounds can be anything the counselors want them to be, thanks to the harnessed power of the shifting landscape. There are magical wards to prevent most physical harm to the campers, and for all intents and purposes, they are adventurers while at camp.
In the draft, I’ve got some of the specific areas described, as well as a list of some of the camp counselors.
So that’s a good start to what I have. Now, what do I need?
Details, Details, Details
This is always the hardest part of any project that I want to have finished in a way that lets other people use it. When I’m writing for my own games, I can fudge a lot of things. I can make stuff up on the fly, and at the table, it works. That doesn’t work for a published project, though. In that vein, here’s what I specifically need:
- Adventures – The campers earn their merit badges by literally going on adventures on the campgrounds. I need what amounts to a plot point campaign, with narrative arcs, side-quests, and lots of interesting stuff for the campers to do.
- Stat Blocks and Such – One of the ideas of this is that players can pick from a wide variety of playable races, including stuff that’s not usually done in D&D (awakened skeleton, anyone?). But to pull that off in D&D, I need to have all of those stats written up in a way that’s balanced.
- Backgrounds – The default backgrounds in the 5e books are good, but making new backgrounds really gives you a lens through which the setting can become clear. I want a full slate of new backgrounds that really reflect the nature of this setting.
- Locations, Locations, Locations – All of the defined areas of the camp need to be written up, and in an evocative way. If I name a place “The Wailing Hills,” it needs to be wailing for a reason, and campers need to want to go there. DMs need to want to set adventures there. You get the idea.
- A Whole Bunch of Little Things I’m Not Seeing Right Now – This kind of stuff usually comes through the editing process, or as the writing is progressing. There are tons of little details like in-character quotes, items, spells, and descriptive snippets that make a final product really stand out. Those things will become more clear as I write, but it’s good to know at some level that they need to happen.
The Road From Here
I hope that this breakdown is useful for anyone who’s been thinking about how to set up a new-type game for an existing system. The various elements that I’ve written for this can be broadly applied to a lot of different systems, settings, and presentations.
I want to keep writing about Camp Adventure here, and to do that, I need to keep working on it. I’m going to try to do another write-up in two weeks or so, and keep to that schedule. If you’ve got a particular piece of content you want to see fleshed out first, let me know in the comments. Same goes if you dig the idea, etc. And until next time, stay adventurous, campers!