One of the conceits of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is that each character class falls into a power source. Over the past few weeks, weâ€™ve been discussing and exploring ways to fit each power source into your own personal settingâ€”but what if you want to go a different direction? While itâ€™s usually a good idea to offer as many options as possible, 4th Edition lends itself reasonably well to running campaigns that use a single power source for all characters, creating a unique feel for your campaign setting. Today weâ€™ll look at considerations for this kind of campaign.
One of the chief issues with a single power source campaign is that your players will almost certainly be limited in their options for class selection. For this kind of campaign, therefore, itâ€™s particularly important to ensure that your players are on board with the idea from the outset. To be perfectly clear: currently counting all character classes from all official sources, a player with no restrictions can select from over twenty distinct options; limiting your campaign to a single power source can drop this number to as few as four choices.
In other words, make sure your group is okay with this beforehand, and make sure everyone communicates their intentions to minimize redundancyâ€”while there are several options for building each class, with a group of five players thereâ€™s a very good possibility that you will have more than one player interested in a given class. Try to ensure that your players give each other enough room to make unique characters within the restrictions of the campaign.
Martial Campaigns could represent a group of soldiers on the front lines of a war, or could be used in a low-magic setting. You may opt for a gritty feel, or emulate the epics of grand heroes of old. A martial campaign can be very easy to conceptualize, but it does present certain challenges on a mechanical level. Moreso than any other fully fleshed out power source, the options for players are limitedâ€”there is no controller class in the martial power source, and with a group of five players, one or more party roles will be a little redundant. Fortunately, there are enough builds for each martial class to make it likely that no two characters will feel identical, but as Dungeon Master you will need to be somewhat more aware of the makeup of your party when designing encounters.
You will also need to decide, if you have a low-magic setting, precisely what variety of fantastic creatures exist. Be careful not to restrict racial options too heavily in a single power source campaign, as you are already limiting your players fairly severely. Talk to them before beginning to ensure that any additional restrictions are acceptable.
Arcane Campaigns, by contrast, represent a high-magic environment. Perhaps your campaign focuses around an arcane academy, or perhaps magic is so common in your setting that everyone uses it in some form. Whatever the underlying reason, an arcane campaign will generally have a high fantasy feel, with magical creatures and fantastic terrain being everywhere. Arcane campaigns have the largest number of available classes, and cover all player roles, so your players should hopefully not feel too restricted in their optionsâ€”especially since any race fits quite well into the high-fantasy feel.
Divine Campaigns involve a heavy investment of time into detailing your pantheon, as the gods themselves will almost certainly play a vital role in the campaign, as will their servants. Divine orders of a single deity might send out a group of faithful to accomplish a specific purpose, or a group of aligned deities may each provide one of their servants towards the task at hand. Traditional foes for a divine campaign could include demons, undead, or the servants of dark gods, among other things, though thereâ€™s no need to limit yourself to these. From a player perspective, much the same as with a martial campaign there will be some doubling up on at least one class, though unlike the martial campaign each player role is represented among the divine classes.
Primal Campaigns are keyed to a setting without so many of the trappings of civilization. Your playerâ€™s characters belong to a tribe in the hinterlands somewhere far from cities and more civilized life, or your campaign world itself may have no such places. Itâ€™s even possible to have them hail from cities and reject the ways of the â€œcivilizedâ€ world. Itâ€™s important not to think of primal characters as foolish or ignorant, especially when they are to be the core focus of a campaign. Campaign hooks could include fighting off threats to the natural world, or following the guidance of a patron spirit or spirits. In this kind of campaign especially itâ€™s critical to ensure that you have a very strong sense of the spirits that exist in your setting. The Primal source is heavy on controllers currently, but should have enough options to give a full party choices when creating their characters.
While there are other power sources available now or in the near futureâ€”the psionic and shadow sources, for example, and more to come as more material is releasedâ€”the above should provide a good sense of what is available and the kinds of things to consider when you decide to run a campaign focusing on a single power source. If your players are up for it, a single source campaign can be exciting and an interesting way to create a memorable world.