The architects of the Refuge are unknown. The location of the Refuge is unknown. The age, origin, and purpose of the Refuge are unknown. What is known is that beyond the Refuge waits death, danger, and—for the brave—unknown wealth.
A circle of massive moss-covered monoliths, roughly ten miles each apart, protects a thirty-mile wide region of gentle rolling hills and fertile ground. Where the denizens of this tiny sanctuary come from is unknown, but all have a story in common—their ship ran aground, or they wandered into a dark grove, or a mist came upon them at a crossroads—and when they emerged, they found themselves here. Refugees from countless worlds, of myriad races and kinds, all drawn by an unknown power to this unknown land.
A river cuts through the Northern section of the refuge, carving a canyon that winds from the east down towards the west at a gentle southward angle. The closest the land gets to the river at any point is 50’ above it, with a 65 degree slope. The river is very wide, at least 120 feet in most spots.
There’s sufficient forests, mines and farmland here to support a modest populace, but the people of the Refuge are forced to create everything themselves, arriving only with the possessions on their person when they vanished. Some brave souls have ventured beyond the boundaries of the Refuge—and returned, fleeing, with horrific beasts on their tail. It is up to the strongest and most cunning to explore the wilderness, find more resources, and perhaps discover the secrets of the Refuge itself.
Welcome to Refuge! This campaign started back in January 2015. After a short-lived D&D 3.5 campaign with some coworkers and friends, we decided to make the jump to 5th edition. We recruited some new players and originally planned on splitting the DMing duties between SlugSlayer, NinjaManMat, and myself.
We had a world map — the World of Greyhawk — and a plan for a setting. Three hundred years after the World of Greyhawk is wracked by several simultaneous apocalypses (apocalysi?), a settlement appears out of nowhere. It reaches through time and space to pluck the exact right people to found a new civilization. Our heroes are denizens of this Refuge, and the campaign premise is simple: explore the world. I gave them a blank map and they just set out in a direction to find adventure.
I have lost more campaigns to scheduling mishaps than any other threat, so I designed this more like an MMO than anything else (hello 4th edition). Areas of the map were divided up into encounter zones, hex by hex, with average encounter levels, random encounter tables, dungeons of various difficulty, and overarching themes. The players would be able to quickly determine if they were getting in over their heads and could adjust their adventuring plans based on who showed up that day. We got ourselves a player pool of 10+ and declared that as long as three people or more could play, we’d run a session. Players only receive XP for sessions they attend. Seven days (game time) after leaving the refuge, the magic of the place would summon all characters back to base. Players could conduct a ritual over the course of a long rest to pull themselves back.
The whole point of these rules was to allow flexibility in player base while encouraging attendance. Given that the campaign has lasted two years, it’s worked for our grown-up schedules. That said, the game has changed a lot in that time–I’ve dropped both my co DMs, bent the rules on the seven-day rule, added and dropped downtime activities and war management, and shifted the player base.
In the next Refuge blog, I’ll talk about some of their initial adventures, including a lesson in player mortality and making stupid decisions.