by Delos

Breaking Campaign Settings

Something I have problems with from time to time is using premade settings. Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun are classic D&D settings that many know. I have no problem letting the players play in the setting. I have no problems letting them make a bit of a mess, but I do have a problem with them killing off important NPCs. I’m not talking about someone I made up for the game. I’m talking about an established king or leader within the world. Now if this leader is the BBEG that the game will end at I’m fine with it, but in the mean time I’ll make sure my players don’t either have a reason or a means to killing someone important.


It’s not because I’m worried that it will derail the plot. It’s not because I fear for the PCs life. It’s honestly due to the fact that I don’t want to have to deal with the ripple effect it will cause within the world. For those of you who never read it, Eberron is a really fun place. They have a little of everything and has a really neat flavor of adventure. Now in one game I ran, the heroes learned that one of the kings of a country is (spoilers)an honest-to-god vampire. (End spoiler) We had a very big “Let no evil live” policy and he fit the bill. So now my players are gunning for him even though he isn’t trying to harm them. Heck, he’s doing more for the country than almost any that have come before, but since the party made up their mind they went after him. Soon there was a confrontation. They fought and through liberal use of plot armor the king defeated them.

I didn’t let them win because I was scared of changing the setting. I didn’t know where to begin. Nowadays I would have no problem with it, and here are the steps I would go through if my players would try to break a setting (killing an important NPC in an established setting).

0. Be Fearless

If an NPC is so huge that he can break a setting, then the setting is going to change. It’s ok. Worlds change. When you die, the world will change. A way to measure a life is by how big of a wave they make when they pass. World leaders make a big wave in life and in death. If the idea of changing a setting still scares you, talk to your group. They can help take some of the thinking out of what needs to happen.

1. His Friends

No man is an island. There must have been at least one person/thing in the world that cared about the deceased. This person will most likely want vengeance on the PCs. Now you have a great plot hook. Whenever the action slows down you can have men with guns/wands/swords/chickens/lazors kick in the door and start messing up the place.

2. His Enemies

If this person is important enough to have friends and break a setting then he has enemies. These enemies could be allies or enemies to the players. Either way, if this setting-breaking NPC is no longer in the equation, that means that his enemies have gained something. The NPC was preventing them from either gaining something (power, loot, or the rights to a new type of cheese) or achieving something (They want to be the very best Pokemon trainer but Red was stopping them. Now that Red is defeated they can become the best Pokemon trainer ever). Now that the NPC is gone they can gain what they wanted and the setting should adjust accordingly.

3. Power Vacuum

Now that this important NPC is gone most likely they were in a position of power. When a major power dissapears there is a vacuum that needs, nay, demands to be filled. This can be achieved by the friends or enemies of the NPC or maybe a third party. If a king is killed and the country is weakened by it, maybe a neighboring country capitalizes on the opportunity. Maybe something worse comes into power, maybe something better. Either way something or a lot of somethings can come in and try to fill the void and make a new status quo.

Changing a setting during play can be scary, but it can also make for one hell of a game. Thanks for reading mates.


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