The world has ended. The great kingdoms have fallen, and their cities lie in ruins. Far to the north the forces of Law clashed against the forces of Chaos, and were defeated. But in their moment of triumph the armies of the invading barbarian hordes overreached, and lost control of the dark powers that had carried them to victory, unleashing a magical corruption that consumed them as well as their enemies. Now the pitiful remnants of the armies of Law straggle back to their homelands, through monster-haunted wilderness, past ruined and abandoned villages. The PCs are among them, searching for means to survive, whether that is wealth, power, or just a safe harbor.
This was more or less the intro I gave my group to our new D&D campaign. I wanted to really take the game back to its roots, 1974-style, but hopefully with the advantage of what I’ve learned since I was ten. We’re using Original Edition Delta, which is a set of house rules by Dan Collins that streamline and clarify the little tan books. Onto that I’m bolting a couple of rules from DCC that I think really fix problems that my players and I have with the oldest version of the game (more on that later). I want to lean heavily into the insights of Wayne Rossi’s The Original OD&D Setting, namely that the wilderness rules and encounter charts are more in keeping with a post-apocalyptic setting than any sort of semi-realistic medieval or even pre-D&D fantasy fiction setting. The population densities and size of the marauding bandit bands and prevalence of horrible monsters don’t make sense in a well -settled area with stable government and regularly-traveled trade routes. But in a post-apocalyptic anarchy…
I also wanted to try a setting where the status quo was terrible, and there was nobody around to do anything about it except the PCs. Maybe they’d try and maybe they wouldn’t, and either way would be fine…but if they don’t, there is no king’s army or great wizard who’s going to clean it up instead. I have a strong tendency to run settings where the government is basically benevolent, and things are largely peaceful, so I wanted to try breaking sweat from that default, just to see how it goes.
I’m really excited about where this could go. I’m using Delta’s rule for starting the PCs at third level to bypass some of the initial grind that my players have had enough of in our DCC funnels. Initial play is going to be dungeon-centric, because Dungeons & Dragons after all, but I’m hoping they’ll stick with it to name level and maybe try settling the wilderness and pushing back against the tide of Chaos with “domain game” play.