Beginner Box Campaign Idea

For a few weeks now I’ve been running over an idea in my head for a kind of long-running campaign using the Pathfinder Beginner’s Box.  The idea combines several different types of campaigns, and then throws in a few ideas of my own.


  • There’s a method of Old School play that treats the Basic D&D box as a complete game (in other words, it ignores the Expert rules or Advanced D&D).  Meaning characters could never advance beyond 3rd level (and yes, 3rd level characters would take on dragons and other powerful monsters…very well prepared 3rd level characters, that is).  So I’d run with that concept, using the BB (and the PDFs put out by Paizo).
    • I’d use only the 4 core classes.  The barbarian would be excluded because allowing it would just open a can of worms (“You allow barbarians, why can’t I play a paladin/druid/ranger/whatever”).
    • Only items, spells, gear and monsters from the BB and GM/Player Pack PDFs would be available.
    • I’m torn over using the Sandpoint setting or implementing one of my own.  On one hand, it’s ready made and fits the theme of only using stuff from the BB.  On the other, it feels a bit too canned.  If I could find an unmarked map of Sandpoint and the surrounding area I’d probably go with using Sandpoint.  If I did use the Sandpoint map, I’d change the scale from 1 inch = 1 mile, to 1 inch = 1 day of travel.
    • All that said, I probably would make a few additions, such as allowing multi-classing (but only one other class) and adding a few feats that fill in some gaps.
    • I’d reserve the right to add other things as the need arises, such as down-time activities or allowing PCs to build keeps in the wilderness.
  • So, by definition, this would be an E6 style campaign, since the BB only goes up to level 5 (well, I guess technically it’d be an ‘E5’ game).
  • The campaign would be driven by player exploration of the world (or a bound part of it), West Marches style, rather than by an overarching plot or storyline.  There’s no NPCs handing out quests left-and-right, no BBEG to defeat, no need for mighty heroes to save the world (yet again).  Also, adventures take place in the wilderness, not in town (though they may, perhaps, take place below the town).  This means the game could continue, theoretically, forever (or, at least, until the players or the GM gets sick of it).  This also immediately frames the campaign in the context of opportunistic murder-hoboes looking to get rich, rather than shining heroes destined to do great things.
  • I’d like to keep a running chronicle of the game, rather like the chronicles of Rythlondar, only using a blog rather than a newsletter.  The blog would not only chronicle the PC’s adventures, but provide information on house rules, equipment lists, active characters, dead characters (with means of demise, of course), maps of adventure locals (but only showing what players have discovered so far) and other pertinent campaign information.

And my own peculiar ideas, some new, some old:

  • Old D&D campaigns often had dozens of players, who would drop in and play when they could.  While I can’t scrounge up dozens of players, the idea is that there would be a large group of players, some regulars and others more casual.  But they’d be welcome to drop in when they could, creating a rotating pool of players.  However, given that we have such a small player base to work of off, this probably won’t pan out.
    • Related to this, every player would be encouraged to manage a stable of characters with varying levels of experience.  The idea is that rotating characters allows all players to continually access all levels of content in the campaign, gives them backup characters in case their ‘main’ character is busy for an extended period of time and helps to cushion the blow of loosing an experience character.  Also, if Johnny Busyguy suddenly has a free day and shows up to the game with his 1st level dude, the other players can pull out their low-level characters and hit up the Goblin-murder Dungeon together.
  • Ideally, every game session would begin in town and end in town.  This will make it easier to introduce new characters as players rotate in and out of the game.  However, I’m not sure how that would work out in practice.
  • Max character level, per the BB, would be 5.  Once a PC hit level 5, that character’s player could keep playing the character (until fate catches up to them) or retire the character.  There’d be no benefit to retiring a character, other than bragging rights, perhaps.  A roster of retired characters would be maintained in the chronicles.  Once a character is retired, they leave for the civilized lands, taking all their treasure with them (excepting, perhaps, magic items…see below).
    • 5th level characters that keep adventuring select an additional feat for every 10,000 additional XP accumulated past 5th level.
  • Every permanent magic item is unique in the world.  That means there’s only one Bag of Holding, only one Ring of Protection +1, only one Longsword +2.  These items would be carefully tracked by the GM.  Known items would probably be listed in the chronicles, whether in the possession of PCs or NPCs.  Things like scrolls, potions, wands and other consumable magic items would not be unique, though they may still be rare.
    • While the PCs would be free to sell their magic items, it’d be nearly impossible to buy one on the open market (though potions, scrolls and the like would be available for sale).  Of course, selling a permanent magic item means it likely would be removed from the campaign forever.
  • Campaign time would be tracked in one week increments (hopefully simplifying the tracking of game time).  If players return to town after only a few days in the wild, it would be assumed that they spend the rest of the week in town relaxing, repairing gear and otherwise preparing for the next expedition into the wilderness.
  • PCs will be assessed a “lifestyle” expense on a weekly basis.  Currently I’m thinking of 1% of accumulated XP in gold pieces, payable at the end of the week (though this is subject to change).  This fee covers such things as: room and board, “entertainment” expenses, equipment maintenance and repair, training expenses, taxes, tithes, bribes, protection money and the like.  It would not cover the purchase cost of weapons, armor, equipment or magic.  If players eventually build a stronghold outside of the city, they would no longer be subject to the lifestyle fee (though they’d have to pay maintenance on their stronghold).
  • Using the official BB character sheet as a guide, PCs would be restricted to a maximum of 30 inventory slots.  Also, all wealth, including coins, would be tracked through inventory slots (100 coins per slot).  This is to enforce hard, strategic choices in game play:  do you drop all your gear to carry as much treasure as possible, or do you forego 200 GP of treasure to carry a couple extra days rations, just in case.  The use of containers (like backpacks and pouches) would be assumed, to help simplify things a bit.
  • A few house rules, to help streamline gameplay and increase lethality a bit:
    • Confirmation rolls are not required on critical hits
    • Diagonal movement uses just 5′ of movement, not 5’/10’/5’/10′
    • AoEs are square-based, rather than trapezoidal-based per standard Pathfinder
    • Dying characters don’t get a Fort save every round; they just loose 1 hit point per round until another character stabilizes them

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11 Responses to “Beginner Box Campaign Idea”

  1. ronaldsf Says:

    This is a nice set of house rules, ones I might borrow from if I ever get players who are looking for a certain old-school feel in their Pathfinder.

  2. David Jenks Says:

    “AoEs are square-based, rather than trapezoidal-based per standard Pathfinder”

    There are no AoO in the BB, unless you’re re-introducing them. (Arguably, they’re there in extremely simplified form.)

    I tell players they can use the (FREE!) Hero Lab BB software to create characters. This eliminates a ton of hassle. As much as I adore your BB additions, Ed, I like having a codified, standardized method of chargen that also *tells players when they messed up* (by over-/under-spending skill points, feats, etc).

    I 100% ditched any ties to the Paizo setting, and have no regrets. 😉

  3. ravenbow Says:

    My current campaign originally launched with the BB and a mixture of your forum addons as well as my own. It was relaunched this year as a hybrid BB/DnDNext E7 campaign with many of these points. I tried to finish a short campaign with the BB but my players are older (mid-302 to upper 40s) and they just could not stay excited about Pathfinder rules once we added more “Core” to the BB. Neither could I. Half the group had never played before and the others were AD&D and 2E players.

    The rule you posted that made me look up my account info so I could post was the inventory slot restriction; I do almost the same thing with one change of note. They get 3 equipment slots per point of STR.

    One other thing of note is I grant each character an extra Hit Dice of HP per level. I tend to inadvertently beat on them and they like the additional pool.

    • edowar Says:

      I thought about basing equipment slots on Strength, but decided to keep it at the 30 slots on the character sheet, just to keep things a bit simpler and more uniform.

  4. ravenbow Says:

    Hmm. Can’t edit comments. ages are Mid-30’s to upper 40’s*

  5. Steven Warble Says:

    I wish the Beginner Box went to 6th level, not 5th, just because I think the 2nd attack that Fighters gain at 6th level is a really fun way to make them the pinnacle badasses of the campaign. If I was to stick to an E5 limit, i would definitely come up with a Fighter only Feat that let them gain a second attack.

    • edowar Says:

      I thought about going to 6th level. Certainly, it’d be easy enough to do using the Transitions pdf Paizo put out.

      However, I felt if I capped levels at 6, it’d be a no brainer for spellcasters to multi-class (per my house rules). All they give up is one 3rd level spell in exchange for an entire set of level 1 class abilities…not a big deal if the level cap is 20, but fairly powerful if the level cap is only 5 or 6.

      Granted, capping at level 5 sort of creates the situation in reverse for fighters and thieves. They give up relatively little in terms of 5th level class abilities in exchange for 1st level spell-casting. As with any changes, I’d have to watch it and see how things go and adjust accordingly.

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