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Help Me Design a Very Meta D&D Campaign Detting

Reynard

Registered User
Validated User
I am a ways off from actually running the game, but I want to get started on world building and sandbox filling now.

My idea is very roughly: this is a D&D world and everyone (players and their characters, anyway; maybe literally everyone)knows it. It want to go ahead and lean into Player Knowledge and D&D Tropes and the like, while still making it a fun experience that has the same capacity for drama and meaningful experience as a "normal" D&D campaign.

There are a couple of options as a baseline that I see off the bat. First, there's the "players are transported into their D&D campaign world by their wizard DM" a la The Guardians of the Flame (but with less rape). Or the adjacent D&D Cartoon setup. I kind of like the idea of people off playing a D&D LARP that turns real as the setup, but that's neither here nor there at this early stage.

Another thought is something I remember some poster here coming up with (I wish I remembered who to give proper credit): There IS No Dungeon, in which the campaign tuns out to be like the 3rd iteration of the Matrix or whatever. Leveling and powers and spells and all the rest are a function on mastery over the Matrix and your monsters and big bads are AI. Plus there's the potential for some side fun in the "real world" hiding from squiddies and the like (for which i would use an entirely different game system, perhaps something FATE related).

Finally there's the set up that the players are playing players playing the game, like a Knights of the Dinner Table RPG or something. You don't play you, you play Bob The Power Gamer who plays a Paladin Warlock or whatever.

So the first part of this is: do you have any other ideas on what sort of initial conceit will support a very meta-D&D campaign? Have you ever played such a game or something close to it? Do you have recommended reading or viewing? Thanks!
 

devlin1

Human Paraquat
Validated User
Have you seen Goblin Slayer? Because Goblin Slayer plays with standard fantasy-gaming tropes in some really (to me) interesting ways. Characters sorta have in-fiction levels (rankings in the Adventurers Guild, which definitely correspond with competency), spellcasters always know a limited number of spells and are aware of how many spells they can cast each day (to the extent of saying "I can cast three spells today"), there are capital-H Heroes (not the protagonists) who are tackling world-shaking threats while the protagonists fight smaller threats, etc. There's even a mythology that involves the gods rolling dice, and dice imagery shows up in the opening title sequence.

It's not without its issues -- especially the first episode, which has a, uh, severe tonal shift, and there's some real bog-standard anime fan-service in there, but apart from those things I really enjoyed it. I know it's a manga too, and a light-novel series, but I've only seen the show.

Sword Art Online has some similarities, too. The characters are real people trapped in a fantasy-themed, fully immersive VR game for whom things like skill points, attack animations, and cool-down times on their powers are very real-life considerations. It's more a take on MMOs than anything else, though.

Oh, and I support this meta concept 1000%.
 

Afterburner

Remarkably expressive bandages
RPGnet Member
Validated User
So the first part of this is: do you have any other ideas on what sort of initial conceit will support a very meta-D&D campaign? Have you ever played such a game or something close to it? Do you have recommended reading or viewing? Thanks!
Recommended viewing: Is It Wrong to Try and Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

It's an anime that does exactly what you describe, only for MMOs. So it's not a one-to-one correspondence, but you should be able to mine it for ideas. The characters in the anime freely use game mechanic lingo like levels and stats, the Gods and Goddesses of the anime literally update the character stats of their followers by messing with a tattoo on the followers' backs, the characters level up, gain new abilities, there's a literal Adventurers Guild which exists to hand out quests and missions to adventurers, and on and on.

It's also just a pretty good anime series over and above all of that. Very upbeat and positive.
 

JohnBiles

Registered User
Validated User
You might check out X-Crawl if you can find it, where Dungeon Crawling is like a reality show/sport, if I remember correctly. Not sure if it's still 'in print'.

Ahh, it is! Goodman Games made it.
 

Stattick

Electronic Thing
Validated User
Another thought is something I remember some poster here coming up with (I wish I remembered who to give proper credit): There IS No Dungeon, in which the campaign tuns out to be like the 3rd iteration of the Matrix or whatever. Leveling and powers and spells and all the rest are a function on mastery over the Matrix and your monsters and big bads are AI. Plus there's the potential for some side fun in the "real world" hiding from squiddies and the like (for which i would use an entirely different game system, perhaps something FATE related).
That was probably me.
 

Terrible Tony

Member
Banned
Validated User
My only contribution would be a series of math puzzles in a dungeon where the adventurers have to use the collection of otherwise unused magic swords in their backpack to solve equations.

"Let's see, this door is a five. So we've got a long sword +3, a battle axe +3 and... Frank, do you still have the dagger -1?"
 
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