D&D Campaign Idea: Wilderness Survival + Player-Driven Plot

(This is a repost/slight reframing of something I posted on Facebook earlier today).

An intriguing campaign idea came to me as I was falling asleep last night… this may be why I’m feeling so tired today.

The PCs are fellow travelers on the road to a “gold rush”-type place across the continent. But their past is on their tail, and their dreams are still unfulfilled.

Also, they may or may not have a map.

It would be wilderness survival with an overarching plot determined by two questions the PCs answer:

What are you running from? What are you running to?

More details:

  • This is somewhat inspired by the research I did for Mavash re: crossing Faerûn on foot. It occurred to me that running or playing an overland adventure — which was focused on the travel, not the destination — would be kind of fun.
  • I think I would probably use Faerûn as the continent being crossed, but only because it’s a familiar environment for a lot of players, and would help in creating personal plot hooks. I am not interested in whether or not it cleaves to Forgotten Realms lore, except as it pertains to the characters. The “gold rush” place would be entirely my own invention, though, though you’d probably be leaving from some place like Baldur’s Gate.
  • What I mean by “wilderness survival” is actually using the mechanics in D&D for things like overland travel, foraging, weather, getting lost, exhaustion, exposure, etc.
  • I am also interested in making a game out of the fiddly resource management stuff that everyone tends to gloss over, i.e. equipping, encumbrance, tracking food rations and arrows, etc. I want it to matter if you have enough rations to get to the next city or a tent to sleep under.
    • I have the idea that as the players level there will be less of this, because those levels should allow them to “get ahead of the game.” Nobody wants to spend levels 1-20 rolling Survival checks every day to see if you get to eat.
  • I am expecting a lot of emergent plot via the characters’ histories and how they react to the challenges they encounter. I am very much trying to combat my tendency to overprep. That said, it would depend on a level of player investment that is more typical of a make-your-own-character larp than a TTRPG.

I think this could be fun, if played right — and if player expectations are set correctly! Then again, I am the sort of person who installs tons of survival mods in otherwise perfectly good video games, so I also admit this may not be everyone’s cuppa.

Is this the sort of game anyone else would be interested in?

Image credit: Denise Jans on Unsplash

Author: Lise

Hi, I'm Lise Fracalossi, a web developer, writer, and time-lost noblethem. I live in Central Massachusetts with my husband, too many cats, and a collection of ridiculous hats that I rarely wear.