As we near the end of our epic D&D 5th edition Ravenloft campaign (spanning 2 real-time years!) and near the start of a new 5e home brew, I can’t help but want to share one simple yet paramount tip when it comes to starting a new campaign:
Make sure your PCs are the stars.
Sounds simple, right? Of course, you say, no-brainer.
The real question is how you accomplish this. One of the best answers starts with the party’s (updated and clear!) character sheets. Breathe life into your campaign by exploring character strengths, weaknesses and quirks. Start simple with something like proficient languages.
After several sessions or months, whether I play or DM – sometimes I say or hear: boy, I wish I would’ve had a chance to speak this language, use this skill, cast this spell or use this cool magic item. With so many cool ideas in your head or on paper as DM, it’s easy to forget the volumes of inspiration and adventure staring back at you from your players’ character sheets.
Fact is, both the DM and PC can always go the extra mile to actively include or improvise any opportunity to use something “cool” on a character sheet. For example, there’s a reason a character took an uncommon or strange language. As a DM, make sure an equally unusual NPC with that tongue at least shows up early, if not several times throughout the campaign to exchange pleasantries, information or insults with the goblin-speaking PC.
And as a PC – and I can’t emphasize this enough – play into the story and create the campaign with the DM. Be your characters – imagine their world, their lives, their desires. Use that lense while focusing on one cool character sheet detail.
For example, tell your DM you start chatting up the villagers of Bognil, looking for one who speaks goblin. Or one who knows something about goblin-forged weaponry like Gut-Raker, the shadowy enchanted bear claw wielded by the nearby raiding goblin chief, or one who knows some goblinoid war history, or… get the idea?
Whether you’re a DM or PC, set examples of immersive play for everyone. Start with odd little details. Create the story together. Be the stars.