The Keep: Introducing My New Campaign

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1041

In Barbossa, the PCs are the monsters.

Today I share some thinking behind my new campaign, which gets its second session tonight. I’m very excited!

The group is part of a monthly drop-in D&D event run at a local cafe in my city.

The first session went well, despite me forgetting to bring the adventure.

With session number two, players will be playing their official campaign characters.

I offered pre-gens for session one so we could jumpstart play. A couple players will be bringing new PCs, and the others are tweaking the pre-gens to their liking.

The Setting

The Keep, as this campaign is tentatively called, is built on the south end of a large island in Duskfall.

The island is called Barbossa. Here’s a snapshot of the current adventure area:

The map is a bit hard to read as a screenshot and with the darker palette. I use Hex Kit and it offers mouseover labels, zoom, and scrolling for easy map use.

Home base is The Keep, which is in hex 2152.

Hex numbers make it easy to build the world and track details.

In Campaign Logger, every hex gets a tag.

For example, #2152. That gives me an instant, linked catalogue of every hex. I can use search/filter and tagging so I can find any hex by keyword and contents.

The Plot

I’m using B2: Keep on the Borderlands as the basis for the first campaign phase.

It’s such a great adventure. Sandboxy, a home base, and an interesting plot.

Hex #2151 has the Caves of Chaos with all the humanoids in their caves.

Last session the PCs explored #2151 and #2152 looking for a special plant to heal their employer.

#2251 has a lizardfolk mound the PCs discovered. And over in #2149 there’s another mount belonging to the snakefolk.

Lizardfolk and snakefolk are dire enemies.

The PCs traded with the lizardfolk: medicine for the special flower. Quest complete.

But with a complication.

A snakefolk spy brings back news of the PCs’ visit. The snakefolk king wants to know what the PCs traded to their hated enemy.

Unless the PCs intervene or cause a ripple that changes the king’s plans, my Loopy Plan is for snakefolk warriors to steal the medicine. Which would result in a retaliation. Tensions will escalate into war if left unchecked.

However, I digress. Back to the larger plot.

In #2449 you’ll see a fort. It’s Guido’s Fort.

I’m integrating another great classic adventure into this campaign: B5 Horror on the Hill.

In this module there’s Guido’s Fort, The Hill, and a hobgoblin king.

For this campaign, this king saw constant warring among humanoid tribes in the area.

And he saw the terrible zero sum game being played. If left unchecked, the tribes would soon be depleted to almost nothing.

And the king knows darker forces of a Dusk Lord are coming. Without strength of numbers, the region will be lost.

So the king called a special meeting together with the leaders of all local tribes.

The meeting was held in the valley of the Caves of Chaos.

Tribal leaders of kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, serpentfolk, and snakefolk warily attended.

And against the odds, a fragile truce was struck.

All leaders felt the terrible attrition from constant skirmishing.

They also fear the Dusk Lords and do not want one to take over the region.

So a truce with the hobgoblin king as overall leader formed.

And this is bad news for The Keep.


Two centuries ago, the Buzanti sailed to Barbossa and built a keep on the southern end of the island.

The keep was to help resupply ships carrying troops to Ezoris. It was also to be a beachhead for eventual conquering of the island.

But soon after the final keep stone was laid, people started dying. A strange disease spread that clerics could not cure.

The disease spread to neighbouring clans of humanoids. These clans were nearly wiped out by the plague.

The Buzanti abandoned the location, warning all naval traffic to avoid the area. The Keep became barren ruins.

Local clans declared The Keep cursed and forbade anyone from entering the dead place.

Fast forward two centuries and shipwrecked people discover The Keep and decide to make it their home.

The nearby jungle proved very hostile. But strangely, no foes pursued explorers back to the ruins.

Thus a standoff emerged. The Keep residents stuck close to The Keep and left the jungle alone. Humanoid clans continued to declare the ruins and immediate environs cursed.

Enter the PCs fifty years later. Shipwrecked as well, under a year-long contract to serve their employer, the party broke the status quo last session by venturing into the jungle questing for a special flower.

How will the Hobgoblin King react to this news?

One domino is soon to fall, as the serpentfolk intend on breaking the truce by stealing the medicine.

How else will the PCs trigger conflict between humanoid tribes?

I hope to find out tonight!

It’s the Party’s Job to Screw Things Up

I’ve based the campaign plot on the idea of setting up a sandbox in equilibrium.

As the PCs quest, explore, fight, and negotiate, the equilibrium dies.

It could be that the PCs find the Caves of Chaos and wipe everyone out.

Or perhaps they’ll find Guido’s Fort, sail across the river, and clean out The Hill.

As advance scouts of the approaching Dusklord reach the region, and the necromancer villain dwelling in the Caves of Chaos become aware of the PCs, they’ll react.

Can the king keep his truce and unleash his minions upon the Keep?

Will the necromancer support the truce or does he benefit from resumed hostilities?

And will anyone prevent the Dusk Lord’s scouts from reporting back on the valuable and delicious resources in the area? In Barbossa, it’s the PCs who are the monsters and they strike fear into the locals!