Threshold: Session Zero

In November I’m going to start running an online Eberron campaign set in Threshold, a border town that lies on the edge of Breland and Droaam. Between then and now, I’m going to go through the same process I would in running any campaign: working with the players to establish the cast of characters and important elements of the story and campaign setting. The players are my Patreon supporters, and it’s on Patreon that I’ll hold the polls that determine the ANSWERS to the questions I’m raising. But I thought I’d post this first piece here, for anyone who’s interested in my process.

As we begin this story, we know one thing about it: it’s set in Threshold, a newly founded town in the western edge of Breland. We’re in the shadow of Droaam, and there’s the ever-present threat of raids. But there’s byeshk and Dhakaani ruins in the mountains. There’s merchants and diplomats happy to have a final mug of Brelish ale before crossing into the land of monsters. Dragonmarked houses are considering investments; House Orien is here, working on the western rail. It’s rough, it’s dangerous, but it’s a fountain of opportunities.

The question is: what are we doing here? We know where this story is set, but what kind of story is it? Are our adventurers here to protect the town? Are we dreaming of the treasures that could be hidden in forgotten ruins? Are we soldiers in the service of the Brelish crown, or are we reporters here to cover the story of western expansion? In practical terms, what I’m looking for here is a group patron. I want the adventurers in this story to know one another and to have a reason to be here—to identify if this is a war story, a tale of exploration and adventure, or something else entirely. Choosing a group patron will help me plan my initial adventures, and it also helps to provide basic guidelines for the characters. If the adventurers are a squad of the Westwind Raiders, they need to feel like a unit of soldiers; while if they’re a team of reporters for the Sharn Inquisitive, they’ll want a very different set of skills and abilities.

So here’s the patrons I’m putting on the table.

  • Threshold Itself. The adventurers are all people who have a stake in the town. The cleric is the town preacher. The paladin or fighter is the sheriff. The artificer or wizard is here to study the ruins, but may also be doubling as the local schoolteacher. As a party working for Threshold itself, the adventurers don’t have a boss—but they are united by their shared investment in the town and its future, and will be working together to protect it from threats—whether those threats are minotaur raiders or the overreaching greed of House Orien.
  • The Westwind Riders. Before Droaam, the Westwind Riders were an elite unit that patrolled western Breland, protecting settlers from the dangerous creatures that dwelt in the Barrens. The last of the Westwind Riders were slain by the Daughters of Sora Kell in the battle that established Droaam. Now Count ir’Blis, Shield of the Graywall, has appointed a new corps of Westwind Riders to protect the people of his domain. As Westwind Riders, the adventurers are an elite military unit sworn to protect Brelish citizens from any dangers they may face. A Westwind campaign will be focused on action, as the adventurers are constantly responding to new threats; but it may be that there are dangers that are best dealt with diplomatically, rather than with spells or steel.
  • Professional Adventurers. There are many wonders hidden in the Graywall mountains. Dhakaani ruins are merely the beginning; stories hint at portals to demiplanes and relics dating back to the Age of Demons. There’s a fortune waiting for those prepared to venture into the depths and wrest it from ghosts and monsters. With this story, the adventurers are adventurers—professional dungeon-delvers. Should this path be chosen, the next question will be if the adventurers are associated with the virtuous Clifftop Adventurer’s Guild, or the more infamous Deathsgate Guild.
  • The Sharn Inquisitive. There’s something in Threshold more valuable than gold, and that’s the story. In Threshold itself you have the saga of Brelish settlers seeking their fortune in a dangerous land and of dragonmarked ambition. But it also stands on the edge of Droaam, and that’s a realm with many unanswered questions. How secure is the rule of the Daughters of Sora Kell? Is Droaam on the verge of collapse, or is it stronger than ever? Is the border stable, or could war break out at any time? With this patron, the adventurers are a team of reporters working for the Sharn Inquisitive, and they’re here to find the truth. This campaign would have a strong focus on social interaction and intrigue, with characters needing to have skills that help to get to the truth. But uncovering that truth will be a dangerous job…
  • Mysterious Visions. Strange visions have drawn a diverse group of people to Threshold. These people have nothing in common, save for these cryptic revelations and the knowledge that there is something they have to do. What is the force that has brought them together, and what is the task that only they can complete? The adventurers in this scenario would be very diverse in their backgrounds; part of the campaign would be trying to figure out why they were chosen and who their immortal patron actually is.

These are just a few of the possible themes for a campaign in Threshold. Adventurers could be working for the Boromar Clan of Sharn, establishing an outpost for this criminal syndicate and seeking to punish Droaam for the actions of Daask. They could be agents of the Twelve, sent to represent the interests of the Dragonmarked Houses. They could be spies seeking to infiltrate Droaam. But the five campaign ideas I’ve mentioned are ones that I feel comfortable running… so these are the five that I’m presenting to my players.

if you want to help make this decision and help as I continue to develop the campaign and the characters, join the Threshold tier on my Patreon. If not, hopefully this was an interesting peek at my process as a DM!

Patreon: Threshold

Image by Carolina Cesario

Western Breland is an untamed land, a realm with untold opportunities… and unknown dangers. The Daughters of Sora Kell have laid claim to the land west of the Graywall mountains, and the city of Graywall marks the edge of their territory. But Graywall is a city of monsters, governed by a mind flayer and patrolled by trolls… Not a welcoming haven for Brelish settlers and opportunists. As Droaam grows stronger, Dragonmarked houses and Aurum oligarchs are considering western opportunities, but many don’t trust Graywall and its governor. And so they are looking to the towns springing up on the Brelish side of the frontier… towns like Threshold.

Beginning in November, I’m going to run an online D&D campaign set in the town of Threshold. The characters and the story will be ongoing, but the players will change; before each session, I’ll post a creative challenge to supporters, and the winners will get to play; once you’ve played you’ll be ineligible to play again for the next four sessions, to ensure that we get a rotating cast. While only five people will get to participate in each session, I’ll also be reaching out to supporters to help establish details about the characters and campaign, primarily through polls.

The support of my Patreon backers is what makes it possible for me to spend time on the articles on this site. For some time now, I’ve been thinking about ways to add value for supporters. I’ve considered exclusive content, and I have published a few Patreon-exclusive articles. But I dislike restricting material. Now, everyone who supports at the Threshold tier—which is $1/month above the current Inner Circle—gets a chance to play in the game and an opportunity to help shape the story. To be absolutely clear, there are going to be a limited number of seats and not every Threshold supporter will get to play. But everyone will have the opportunity to compete for a seat, and those who don’t get a seat at the table will still have an opportunity to shape aspects of the story.

In addition to this, I’m adding a discord channel at this level. This will be a place to discuss the campaign itself, as well as the articles I post on my website. I’ll drop in after I post new content, and I will have at least one scheduled AMA on the channel each month.

Now, this is an experiment. I’ve only run a handful of streamed games, and I expect this to be a learning experience. So the first four months are going to be a test period. Starting in November, I will run at least one game a month. I may run more than one session each month, but I don’t yet know the technical challenges I may face, and there’s a number of other things that could place unexpected demands on my time, so I’m only going to promise one session per month in this period. At the end of four months, I’ll evaluate the experiment and settle on a format and schedule for the campaign moving forward. I may or may not release the games to the public during this trial period, but they’ll certainly be available to supporters.

So in summary: I’m adding a $6/month tier to my Patreon, the Threshold tier. People who support at that level will have all the benefits of the Inner Circle—helping shape the content of the IFAQs and Dragonmark articles—but will also receive polls that will help shape the characters and story of the Threshold campaign. At least once each month, I will post a creative challenge for Threshold supporters, and the winners will play in the next session of the online campaign. In February 2021 I’ll evaluate the project and make plans for the next phase.

If you have questions, ask below! Otherwise, I hope I’ll see some of you in Threshold!