Appendix A: Shared Campaigns

Coordinating a regular schedule of D&D game sessions, to keep a campaign active and vibrant, can be a challenge. If the campaign’s only Dungeon Master or enough players aren’t available, the next session might have to be postponed, and repeated problems of this sort can endanger the continuation of the campaign.

In short: in a world filled with distractions, it can be hard to keep a campaign going. Enter the concept of the shared campaign.

In a shared campaign, more than one member of the group can take on the role of DM. A shared campaign is episodic rather than continuous, with each play session comprising a complete adventure.

The largest shared campaigns are administered by the D&D Adventurers League and overseen by Wizards of the Coast. You can also create your own shared campaign for a school D&D club, at a game store, a library, or anywhere else where D&D players and DMs gather.

A shared campaign establishes a framework that allows a player to take a character from one DM’s game to another one within the shared campaign. It creates a situation where almost nothing can prevent a scheduled session from happening. The roster of potential players can be quite large, virtually ensuring that any session has at least the minimum number of characters needed to play. If everyone shows up to play at the same time, multiple DMs ensure that everyone can take part.

In order to be successful, a shared campaign needs a champion — someone who takes on the responsibility of organizing and maintaining the group. If you’re interested in learning more about how to run a shared campaign and seeing how the Adventurers League handles certain issues, then the rest of this appendix is meant for you.

CODE OF CONDUCT

Time and time again, the core rulebooks come back to the point that the most important goal of a D&D play session is for everyone involved to have fun. In keeping with that goal, it’s a good idea for a shared campaign to have a code of conduct. Because people who don’t normally play together might end up at the same table in a shared campaign, it can be helpful to establish some ground rules for behavior. On the broadest level, everyone in a shared campaign is responsible for making sure that everyone else has an enjoyable time. If anyone feels offended, belittled, or bullied by the actions of another person, the entire purpose of getting together to play is defeated. The basic code of conduct for a shared campaign might be modeled on a similar document that another organization or location uses. Beyond that, some special policies might need to be added to account for what might happen at the table when players and DMs interact. As a starting point, consider the following material, which is excerpted from the Adventurers League code of conduct. During a play session, participants are expected to …

  • Follow the DM’s lead and refrain from arguing with the DM or other players over rules.
  • Let other players speak, and allow other players to get attention from the DM.
  • Avoid excessive conversation that is not relevant to the adventure.
  • Discourage others from using social media to bully, shame, or intimidate other participants.
  • Make the DM or the campaign’s administrators aware of disruptive or aggressive behavior so that appropriate action can be taken.

Designing Adventures

Designing adventures for a shared campaign involves a different set of considerations than designing for a standard group of players. Most important, the adventure must be timed to conclude when the session is scheduled to end. You also need to balance combat encounters for a range of levels, since a wide range of characters might be experiencing the adventure at the same time.

Adventure Duration

Every adventure in a shared campaign begins and ends in the same play session. (If a group of participants wants to take longer to finish and all are willing to do so, they can exceed the time limit.) A session or an event can’t end with the adventure unfinished, since there’s no way to guarantee that the same players and DM will be available for the next session.

Typically, adventures in a shared campaign are designed to take either 2 hours or 4 hours. In each hour of play, assume the characters can complete the following:

  • Three or four simple combat encounters, or one or two complex ones
  • Three or four scenes involving significant exploration or social interaction

Within these constraints, it can be difficult to create open-ended adventures. A time limit assumes a specific starting point and endpoint. A good way to get around this restriction is to create an adventure with multiple possible endings.

Location-based adventures also work well with this format. A dungeon presents a natural limit on character options, while still giving the players choices. The adventure could be a quest to defeat a creature or recover an item, but the path to achieving that goal can be different for each group.

For more narrative adventures, try to focus on simple but flexible encounters or events. For instance, an adventure requires the characters to protect a high priest of Tyr from assassins. Give the players a chance to plan out how they want to protect the temple, complete with authority over the guards. A few well-fleshed out NPCs, some of whom might be suspected of working with the temple’s enemies, add a layer of tension. Consider leaving some details or plot points for the DM to decide. For example, the DM might have the option to pick which member of the temple guards is the traitor, ensuring that the scenario is different for each group.

Combat Encounters

Design your adventure for one of the four tiers, as set forth in chapter 1 of the Player’s Handbook: tier 1 includes levels 1–4, tier 2 is levels 5–10, tier 3 is levels 11–16, and tier 4 includes levels 17–20. Within each tier, it’s a good idea to use a specific level as a starting point. Assume a party of five 3rd-level characters for tier 1, five 8th-level characters for tier 2, five 13th-level characters for tier 3, and five 18th-level characters for tier 4. Use that assumption when creating combat encounters, whether you use the encounter-building rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide or are making an estimate.

For each battle, provide guidelines to help DMs adjust the difficulty up or down to match stronger or weaker parties. As a rule of thumb, account for a party two levels higher and for a party two levels lower, and don’t worry about balancing the adventure for parties outside the adventure’s tier.

Rewards

Adventures in a shared campaign that uses variant rules for gaining levels and acquiring treasure (such as those described below) don’t include experience point awards or specific amounts and kinds of treasure.

Character Creation

A shared campaign’s guidelines for character creation might include definition of which races and classes players can choose from, how players generate ability scores, and which alignments players can choose.

Player’s Handbook plus One

You should think about which products players can use to create a character. The Adventurers League specifies that a player can use the Player’s Handbook and one other official D&D source, such as a book or a PDF, to create a character. This restriction ensures that players don’t need to own a lot of books to make a character and makes it easier for DMs to know how all the characters in the campaign work. Since a DM in a shared campaign must deal with a broad range of characters, rather than the same characters each week, it can be difficult to track all the interactions and abilities possible through mixing options freely. We strongly recommend this rule for any shared campaign.

Ability Scores

For generating ability scores, we recommend allowing players to choose between the standard array — 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 — and the option presented in “Variant: Customizing Ability Scores” in chapter 1 of the Player’s Handbook.

Starting Equipment

For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, it’s a good idea to require that beginning characters must take the starting equipment specified by a character’s class and background.

Variant Rules

A shared campaign might use some variant rules to handle certain aspects of the game. The Adventurers League, for instance, has variant systems for gaining levels and acquiring treasure. These “house rules,” presented below, serve as a sort of common language, ensuring that the rewards all characters receive are equivalent no matter what kind of adventure a character experienced.

Character Advancement

In a shared campaign, characters gain levels not by accumulating experience points but by reaching experience checkpoints. This system rewards every character (and player) for taking part in a play session.

A character reaches 1 checkpoint for each hour an adventure is designed to last. Note that the award is based on the adventure’s projected playing time, rather than the actual time spent at the table. The reward for completing an adventure designed for 2 hours of play is 2 checkpoints, even if a group spends more than 2 hours playing through it.

If a character completes an adventure designed for a tier higher than the character’s current tier, the character is awarded 1 additional checkpoint. For example, if a 2nd-level character completes a 6th-level adventure designed to take 2 hours, the character reaches 3 checkpoints.

Playing time might seem like an odd way to measure experience awards, but the concept is in keeping with how a shared campaign is meant to work. A character played for 10 hours reaches the same number of checkpoints, whether the character went up against a dragon or spent all that time lurking in a pub. This approach ensures that a player’s preferred style is neither penalized nor rewarded. Whether someone focuses on roleplaying and social interaction, defeating monsters in combat, or finding clever ways to avoid battles, this system gives credit where credit is due.

Using Checkpoints

The number of checkpoints needed to gain the next level depends on a character’s level:

  • At levels 1–4, reaching 4 checkpoints is sufficient to advance to the next level.
  • At level 5 or higher, reaching 8 checkpoints is needed to advance to the next level.

At the end of a play session, characters must level up if they have reached enough checkpoints to do so. The required number of checkpoints is expended, and any remaining checkpoints are applied toward the next opportunity for advancement.

Individual Treasure

In a shared campaign, each character receives a fixed number of gold pieces upon gaining a new level. (This gain represents the treasure a character might find in a standard adventure.)

As an additional benefit, characters are not required to put out gold to maintain a lifestyle. Instead, each character begins with a modest lifestyle, which improves as the character attains higher levels.

These benefits are summarized on the Individual Treasure table. Ways for characters to spend their treasure are covered in the “Buying and Selling” section below.

Individual Treasure

Level GainedLifestyleReward
2-4Modest75 gp
5-10Comfortable150 gp
11-16Wealthy550 gp
17-20Aristocratic5,500 gp

Magic Items

Characters earn treasure points from adventures, then redeem those points in exchange for magic items. The list of available magic items is agreed to and compiled by the DMs running the campaign.

Gaining Treasure Points

Each character earns treasure points based on an adventure’s tier and its intended playing time:

  • 1 treasure point is awarded for every 2 hours played in a tier 1 or tier 2 adventure.
  • 1 treasure point is awarded for every 1 hour played in a tier 3 or tier 4 adventure.

As with the variant rules for gaining levels, this award is based on the adventure’s projected playing time, rather than the actual time a group spent at the table.

If a character completes an adventure of a tier higher than that character’s tier, the character receives 1 additional treasure point for that adventure.

Creating an Item List

The DMs of the shared campaign should work together to compile a list of magic items that players can purchase. The magic item tables in chapter 2 of this book and in chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide are the obvious starting point. Choosing which items to allow or ban is a matter of personal preference, just as it is for the DM in a standard campaign. Involving all the DMs helps to ensure that the list meets everyone’s expectations. When in doubt, disallow an item; it’s easier to add it to the available items at a later time than it would be to remove it from the game once it has been handed out.

Naturally, the list of available items is longer for adventures in the higher tiers, and the point cost of those higher-tier items likewise increases. The Magic Items by Tier table provides the details.

For instance, treasure points from a tier 1 adventure can be spent on items from tables A, B, C, and F. Any item on the first three tables costs 4 points, and an item from table F costs 8 points.

Magic Items by Tier

Magic Item TableAvailable at TiersPoint Cost
A1-44
B1-44
C1-44
D2-48
E3-48
F1-48
G2-410
H3-410
I3-412

Spending Treasure Points

Players must spend treasure points at the end of a play session, immediately after determining whether their characters have gained a level. The order of these steps is important, since a character might enter a new tier because of the level gain.

Players are entitled to choose any approved item from one of the magic item tables available in the current tier. Treasure points can be spread across multiple items.

Many items cost more treasure points than a character can earn in a 2- or 4-hour adventure. To buy such an item, a character can make a deposit, spending treasure points on the item until it’s paid off, at which time the character gains the item.

Buying and Selling

Characters can use their monetary treasure to purchase anything from the equipment lists in chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook. In addition, the Adventurers League allows characters to purchase potions and spell scrolls, as detailed below. A spell scroll can be purchased only by a character who is capable of casting the spell in question.

Potions for Sale

PotionCost
Potion of healing50 gp
Potion of climbing75 gp
Potion of animal friendship100 gp
Potion of greater healing100 gp
Potion of water breathing100 gp
Potion of superior healing500 gp
Potion of supreme healing5,000 gp
Potion of invisibility5,000 gp

Spell Scrolls for Sale

Spell LevelCost
Cantrip25 gp
1st75 gp
2nd150 gp
3rd300 gp
4th500 gp
5th1,000 gp

Selling Items

In a shared campaign, characters are not entitled to sell items they find on adventures or equipment they purchase with their personal funds. Weapons, armor, and other gear used by enemies are considered too damaged to have any monetary value.