So that gets “the history of the world” out of the way… Certainly not a complete history, certainly not even an in-depth history, but it’s a good solid, basic history that players can use to “figure some stuff out” and put things into perspective if they want or need to. It is also worth noting that my various campaigns span a large amount of “known human history”.
My very first campaigns, ultimately using a map that I still have and use in a (now) very old copy of my Judges Guild Fantasy Cartographers Field Book date back to early 80’s. I’d have a variety of “planet-hopping” at times using Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms when it was released – along the Free City of Haven and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy – but my world developed early. These tend to get lumped under the title of the “Istarian Campaigns” and they all pretty much occurred during that time frame. Characters ranged in levels, but a number made it to name level, and one survives to this day as a Godling.
Right around when I graduated high school (that’s 1987 for those who care) I made the first of my “reboots” to the campaign world. I jumped forward in time to the era of Wars of Binding. I wanted a new start, and had the idea for a grand campaign set against an ancient evil trying to take over the world, thus the “Witch-King Campaign“. It chronicled the rise of Albion (Tobin I was an NPC) and the players were at first his adventuring companions, later boon companions, and the campaign began to focus on the missions that they went on to help him and the war against the Witch King. Characters ended up name level, and the players played them, their henchmen, and eventually their henchman’s henchmen.
That campaign ran for about four solid years, until I made another “reboot” – the core group of players were mainly the same, but the characters were now often three or four steps removed from enemies and events that they were being forced to react to. So I jumped it forward in time to what I now call the “Northanger Campaign” – this was an exercise in creating my own version of the Village of Hommlet, a small town at a crucial crossroads, and the initial characters were all from it. It was actually a fair amount of fun since I mapped out the town, a ruined castle, and detailed out the surrounding terrain. This is also when I dropped AD&D as a system and started running complete house rules and the occasional alternate rules system (the Palladium RPG and Thieves Guild were both popular as I recall). This campaign ran pretty solid for a couple of years, but eventually self-destructed (along with my first marriage). While not a perfect analogy, characters ended up in range of mid-to-name level.
After this I decided to try something new again, and ended up with what I called the “Padawan Campaign” because it followed a group of 0-levels who were students at the University of Art in Dinas Fforran (and elsewhere). It was rather experimental because we followed the first nine years of studies as “a year per session” and then started regular play when they became journeymen. This campaign culminated with the events of the Tearing of the Veil (which was a marathon holiday gaming event), but which I also used to bring in a whole host of old characters and NPC’s whose fates had never been specifically resolved. Again, not a perfect analogy, but the characters were in the solid mid-level range.
After the events of the Tearing of the Veil the players were bona fide heroes of the realm with lands and titles. The “Greywake Campaign” was a combination of PBEM and TT gaming that dealt with domain management (adapted from the excellent Pendragon supplement Lordly Domains) as well as the return of the High Lord and the Mad Gods War. This was a pretty enjoyable campaign, and the mixture of PBEM and TT really created a rich experience. The characters were a mix of characters from the Padawan Campaign and the Northanger Campaign, mid-to-name level.
The “T’zarr Campaign” was set up in the T’zarr Border States as a PBEM and then continued as a TT. It was a smaller group than I was used to, merely three players (down from the seven to ten during the “Witch King” days) and I continued what was now a run of semi-experimental set-ups. The players where all members in the household of a powerful mage, working directly for him – eventually expanding out to another mages household and taking the players into a fight against a powerful vampire that threatened to infect the entire city. The characters started out lower level and progressed to mid-level in power.
With the return of some players, the next campaign moved to a new part of the world, the Petty Kingdoms, in the “Dunstane Campaign“. A somewhat rollicking campaign, the characters rambled across the Kingdom of Dunstane, getting themselves into all sorts of trouble, witnessing the rise of the Shadarin and the coming of the Blight. The last stages of this campaign were quite creepy, as the party travelled deep into the Blight, trying to discover exactly what had occurred and discovering only a countryside wide crime-scene. It was the closest I’d ever run to a “zombie apocalypse” game (even though there were no zombies, just the lurking presence of the Ravengers). The characters started out “low-level” and ended up solidly “mid-level” in power.
After a very long absence, I finally returned to AD&D in what I called the “Barrow Downs Campaign” set in lands on the border of the Grand Duchy of Soahc. A brand-new set of characters, started as 1st level, the players ran rampant with the old 1E rules (even with house rules) and had a great time. While there was a fair amount of custom content, the campaign eventually settled upon Keep on the Borderland and the Caves of Chaos as the focus. I’d decided to ignore the events of the Blight, and the setting was far enough away that I could, but events in this campaign ended up being concurrent to the coming of the Blight – and perhaps provided the opening or the key that the Lords of Dearth needed to create it. Characters ended up mostly in the solid-to-high mid-level ranges
I was really stuck by the ends of the last two campaigns, and the players had a number of characters in limbo. So I decided to scoop them all up (and anyone else the players wanted) and I dropped them in the Castle Amber. After all of the very serious and somewhat dark content and tone of the last two campaigns the gonzo nature of the module was a great change, and the players romped their way through the “Amber Campaign“. After successfully completing the module (and only semi-breaking it in the process) I dumped the party into Aquitaine (though a slightly different version that I eventually dropped) and from there they ended up being recruited to investigate a certain slaver problem. By the end of this campaign, characters had progressed for the most part to solidly to high mid-level and some name-level.
Finishing S1 in the Amber Campaign, the gaming group faded out due to various commitments. After a hiatus, I started up a small game for the family based on members of the extended Mystryvven clan. The “Mystryvven Campaign” started with 1st level characters who progressed quickly but solidly into the low mid-range of levels. The plan was always to later integrate the characters from this campaign and the Amber Campaign, but this was delayed by work for everyone and now the release of 5E.
When 5E came out we switched, and started with new characters to running the Lost Mine of Phandelver. That was quite enjoyable and from there I switched to some old 3.5E products that I’d always wanted to run – so the “Siyahchal Campaign” was started by combining the Barrow of the Forgotten King triptych as the prelude to the far more ominous Age of Worms Adventure Path. Slowly, a selection of characters from the Mystryvven Campaign and even Barrow Downs and Amber Campaigns have been brought in and converted – with the character currently sitting at the 8th-10th level range for the most part.
So that’s it, over thirty years of various D&D campaigns summed up. Countless hours, hundreds of characters, and probably upward of a hundred players over the years. All of this was interspliced with other games, with their own campaigns – my Traveller/Cyberpunk 2020 mash-up was had a number of cycles, and we played the heck out of the World of Darkness in a series of campaigns as well. None of this counts the games I played in myself either, a couple of which were run by my spouse as well as a great campaign I played in for years run by a good friend of mine.