This week on the Campaign Trail I thought I’d take a look at some campaign ideas I just presented to my players. We’re half way along in our Nentir Vale campaign and I’m happy to keep going for another 10, 20, 30 or whatever number of sessions it takes to close out our story. That being said, this is usually the time I start getting serious about the next campaign and doing homework on it. For our next campaign, I wanted us to move away from the traditional fantasy setting we’ve been playing in and look at some other settings. You might think these are terrible ideas or you might like them, either way – here they are.

Part 1 | Part 2

Global Guardians

Suggested Starting Level: 5
Suggested Rules:
D20 system such as D&D 5e (with D20 Modern Rules), Savage Worlds, Mutants & Masterminds, Fate Core, Atomic Robo
Pitch I Made: You’re an elite group of heroes working to protect our world in the year 2060, from threats such as super-criminals, terrorists, evil robots, intelligent apes, etc. Your PCs would be known by their call sign and would have a lower power level than heroes like Thor or Wonder Woman, but you would be far from ordinary. The campaign would be a collection of missions around the world, grouped together with an overall story to connect them all.
Inspiration: G.I. Joe, Overwatch (Video Game), A-Team, Big Hero 6, Mission Impossible

I’ve been looking at a lot of modern rules and I think this would be a good fit for any group who:

  • Is looking to try out the real world of today or near future as a campaign setting,
  • Wants to try out a campaign without magic, any magic would just be future technology we don’t understand yet.
  • Is looking to create PCs inspired by some of their favorite action movies.
  • Wants to play in a campaign full of cinematic adventures featuring chases, heists, and standoffs in a modern setting versus the typical dungeon crawl campaign.
  • Think that calling each other by call signs like Thunder would be awesome.

Decide with your players if they want to be powerful heroes or if you’re looking more for heroes like Hawkeye, Black Widow, Roadblock, Storm Shadow, and Overwatch’s Tracer. Try to find a rule set that matches up with what they want to do. For a story focused campaign, go with Fate (or Atomic Robo if you liked Big Hero 6). If they’re looking for more realism look to D20 Modern. For heroic action with a little more crunch look to Mutants & Masterminds, D&D or Savage Worlds. If they want to create superheroes, just run a superhero campaign, let them have superpowers and go full Justice League.

Pirates on the Seas of Vodari

Suggested Starting Level: 1-3
Suggested Rules: D&D 5e, Spelljammer, Pathfinder Skull & Shackles or 7th Sea
Pitch I Made: We return to the world of Vodari, 50 years before the last campaign. A world where pirates, privateers and imperial navies fight for control of the sea. Your group of PCs would-be pirates or privateers looking to make a name for themselves on the sea. The campaign would be a collection of treasure hunts, narrow escapes and swashbuckling battles. Any naval combat would be narrative-based (see my rules), with a focus onboarding and deck fighting, rather than long-range spellcasting and cannon fire.
Inspiration: Pirates of the Caribbean, Cutthroat Island, Treasure Planet and Three Musketeers

The last campaign I ran was set in a world of islands that surround a maelstrom. We has some great adventures over 16 levels, but we never really went too hard on the pirate stuff. I’d love to go back to a campaign where the pirate stuff is the focus. A pirate campaign can work on the seas, in the sky, space or even the Astral Sea.

There are lots of available settings out there to run a pirate campaign. Here are four that I like.

Treasure Hunters of Khorvaire

Suggested Starting Level: 1
Suggested Rules: D&D 5e and grab a campaign setting book for Eberron (D&D  3.5, 4e, or new 5e book)
Pitch I Made:
Eberron is one of the official campaign settings for Dungeons & Dragons. The setting focuses on the period after a vast destructive war on the continent of Khorvaire. Eberron takes everything found in traditional D&D and changes it slightly to create an entirely different tone, combining a fantasy tone with pulp and dark adventure elements. You’ll also find some non-traditional fantasy technologies such as trains, skyships, and magic-powered mechanical beings called Warforged. Our campaign would focus on your group of adventurers, academics and criminals who are seeking fortune and glory in far off lands.
Inspiration: Atlantis, Tomb Raider, The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Maltese Falcon

I have a few Eberron books lying around and I’ve borrowed elements from the setting and official adventures, but I’ve never had a chance to run an Eberron campaign. This setting is great for running political intrigue, swashbuckling adventures, dark fantasy, pulp adventures and more. I thought an interesting premise would be to visit the outskirts of the setting as treasure hunters. This would give the players a chance to get their feet wet in this setting, without dealing with a campaign that focuses on the fallout of the Last War. The players could start at a university in the city, but would quickly find themselves trekking through the wilderness in search of a lost tomb in a far off land. There is even a tomb raiding heavy adventure set in Eberron for D&D 4e that somewhat matches this premise called Seekers of the Ashen Crown.

You could take a campaign setting your players have visited many times (such as the Forgotten Realms or Pathfinder’s Golarion). Push your players to an unmapped region in the mountains, desert, jungle or you could even have them exploring a whole new continent. Most official settings have created unknown regions to explore. If you have your own campaign world, a campaign like this could be your chance to expand your world.

If you are going to have treasure hunters then this could also be a great chance to have players try out PCs concepts they haven’t played before such as an archaeologist, explorer or pilot/captain. If you want to run your treasure hunts in a low/non-magic world, you could focus on non-magic classes or even have play an expert class who is very skill focused.

Weird West

Suggested Starting Level: 1-3
Suggested Rules: D&D 5e or Deadlands (Savage Worlds)
Pitch I Made: We combine the western and horror genres with cowboys facing off against lawmen, corrupt industrialists, mad scientists and even monsters. Regardless of what rules we use, drawing playing cards would take the place of some dice rolls. Your gang would be made up of gunfighters, faithful, shamans, inventors and hucksters (magic-users). Our campaign would focus on your group wandering from town to town and seeing what trouble they can find in the Wild West.
Inspiration: Deadlands, Cowboys vs. Aliens, Wild Wild West, The Dark Tower, The Magnificent Seven, The Lone Ranger, Firefly

You could just run Deadlands, which is a set in an alternative version of the United States of 1876 and on. Deadlands mixes the alternate history, Western, horror, and even some steampunk. Tribality’s Michael Long has done some work on the Wild West for D&D 5e with his Gunfighter and Shaman classes.

You want to set your western in space? Look to Firefly’s reavers for inspiration.

If you want more of a pure, non-mystical Wild West, check out TSR’s Boot Hill.


Suggested Starting Level: 1-3
Suggested Rules: D&D 5e, Starfinder, Star Trek RPG, Star Wars RPG (D20 or Current FFG Version)
Pitch I Made: You’re officers on a ship whose mission is to explore the unknown regions of your galaxy or you’re a crew on a small ship who scrape by from job to job on the frontier of known space. Your group of PCs would be scientists, doctors, engineers, soldiers and adventurers from a variety of species. Campaign would be a collection of missions to known or unexplored planets with an overall story connecting it all together.
Inspiration: Star Trek, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Firefly

In 2016 and 2017 we’ll have seen Star Wars, Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy movies hit theaters, along with lots of other sci-fi movies. It looks like sci-fi movies are pretty popular, but when you throw in a little fantasy things work well for Star Wars, but were not as well-received in 2015’s Jupiter Ascending. We’ll also see the release of Paizo’s Starfinder in 2017 to go along with plenty of existing rules for this genre.

If you want to run a sci-fi campaign, you should be able to find a set of rules that work for your group. It shouldn’t be too hard to find setting support for official sci-fi settings such as Star Wars and Star Trek to go with the rules. You can also just run those rules for your own galaxy.


I’d be excited about running games in any of these settings, but I think it looks like my group is most interested in Global Guardians. If you liked this, check out part 2.

Let me know what you think of these ideas and/or share your own in the comments below.