Pandemic Campaign: Session 0, The Lonely Coast

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I’ve been wanting to start a new campaign at my FLGS. A West Marches drop in style game. Then the pandemic hit. So instead I’ve switched gears and am now running this for my two 14 year old sons. I’m setting this in my World of Eska, but on a desolate northern coastline, The Lonely Coast.


On Eska, before the Mushroom Wars, there were the Thran. Not much is known of the Thran, but they were capable of great magic. Many great and wondrous items were made by Thran. It seems these northern reaches were home to many criss-crossing ley lines, and these ley line nexus points helped the Thran make magic items. Explorers recently discovered caches of Thran items here on this Lonely Coast. Word got out, and now there is a “gold rush” of sorts going on. Our PC’s are here to get in on the action.

I’m going for an old-school sandbox hex crawl vibe here. I picked up a copy of Into the Unknown Book 4: Running the Game by O5R Games. I’ll be using rules from Chapter 9 of the DMG: Dungeon Master’s Workshop. Healer’s Kit Dependency (p 266). Slow Natural Healing (p 267). Gritty Realism Rest Variant (p 267). You can only get the benefits of a long rest in town. A silver standard economy. Slot based inventory. Going for a proper old school feel. Since there is only two players, I told each of them to make a Sidekick, using the rules from Essentials Kit.

Steal Liberally

I’m roughly basing my Lonely Coast on it’s namesake, Lonely Coast at a Glance by Raging Swan Press. As you see by my hand-drawn map above, I mimic the coastline, and add a few more islands off of the eastern peninsula. Not going to use the towns as presented here, but the geography will be much the same.

The PC’s starting town will be located around where Swallowfeld is. A rival town will be located around Wolverton. That’s it for civilization. Thick forest raises up to steep mountains. A dragon slumbers in the mountains. The only pass is patrolled by an obsidian giant.

Collaborative World Building

I recently ran a few sessions for a group of brand-new-to-D&D-players using Lost Mine of Phandelver. To help pull them into the world, I let them rename Phandelver, Neverwinter, and a few other locations. This really helped them take ownership of the world around them. So I’m doing it again. I’m leaving it to the players to name the starting town. I had pulled up a bunch of images of fantasy forests that I liked to represent the Tangled Wood. I wasn’t sure which one to use. I had pictures of jungles, temperate forests, fey woods, and more, but this was the one my boys chose:


By the looks of this, it made our setting northern. What are those huge spiky growths? There’s a hook!

The ground level view of the Tangled Wood was also chosen. So, it’s not tangled with undergrowth. Rough, irregular rock formations give the forest a maze-like feel.


Index Cards

I’ve been running a lot of my 5e games digitally. PDF adventures. My laptop serving as my DM screen. When I ran that LMoP game, I used the printed adventure. I realized that I missed the tactile. I wanted to run this campaign with 5 Room Dungeons and One Page Dungeons. Things that I could print out, or even better, make a few notes on a card.


So I started writing world building ideas on index cards. At first, this was just going to be notes for myself, then I realized this could be an excellent tool for the players as well, so I started populating a second card box for them.

The index cards I started the players off with are titled:

  • Dragons
  • Elves are Assholes
  • Floating Islands
  • Four Moons
  • Gruel Machine
  • Ley Lines
  • Meteor Strikes
  • Mushroom War
  • One Polytheistic Church
  • Powerstones
  • Warforged
  • War Machines

I hope to go into more detail on these later, and many of them are just cards with only this title on it!

For my DM’s box I wrote up a few more, some future plot points I thought up but don’t want to spoil yet. Also some random ideas that I saw on a TV show or movie that I may use someday.  Maybe not in this campaign, but something I can always pull out!

We’ve already played session one, which I hope to write up soon. I need to prep for session two, though.

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