For over five years, I’ve worked at a tech startup writing code. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure to run a game of Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition for my coworkers during our lunch break. Many of those players had their first experience with tabletop RPGs at our one-hour-long games. So far, we’ve been playing almost every week for five straight years. This series is a recap of our adventures, the drama, and the communal storytelling we’ve shared in a world that I’ve called “The Beneath.”
It all began in the small town of Doivengsvar, a trading town on the edge of Clan Bloodhammer’s lands. The Beneath is a world completely underground. It is so vast and deep that most who live here never see the sun above the ground, and have never met someone who has. Clan Bloodhammer is a powerful Dwarven clan that has fallen upon some hard times. They have a complex and bloodied history, hence the name.
Doivengsvar lies on the trade route between the capital of the Bloodhammer’s demesne and the great city of Darkvale. Here, they trade in mushrooms, fish, spices, and armor. Doivengsvar has fallen on hard times, trade with the city of Darkvale has dried up in recent months, and the road has become dangerous. Strange creatures have moved into the caverns adjacent to the town and the mushroom farmers have not returned in days.
In this town is a guild house of the legendary Company of Darkvale, a world-famous adventuring company for hire. Our adventurers are members of this Company, which makes it simple to bring new players to the table. I began this campaign as a play if you want to table, and we’ve certainly seen a rotation of different players over the years. The Company of Darkvale made it trivial to introduce new players, as their characters could simply be other members. Finally, it was simple to remove a character if the player missed a week or stopped playing; that character was simply off doing another job for the Company.
Back to Doivengsvar on the border of Clan Bloodhammer’s kingdom. Rharg, son of Rhone the King Below, has arrived in Doivengsvar. Prince Rharg has arrived to take direct command of the town and solve the trade problems. To this end, he presses the local Company into action and forces them to take a quest. He tells them, “A group of ambassadors was due to arrive, but our scouts report they were taken by fish people. You will rescue them, or you will not return alive. If you do, treasures are yours.”
This is the start of our campaign. From here, I had a couple of experienced players join with 1st-level characters they created. I also printed off a handful of randomly generated characters if a new player just dropped by the tabletop play. This was long before the COVID-19 pandemic, so everyone was in the office pretty much every day.
As we go through the recaps, I’ll also share some of my thoughts on what went well for this sort of weird group. First of all, we only have an hour to play. It’s on our lunch break during work, so it shouldn’t be too heavy or involved for players to join. The goal is to simply sit down with some lunch, hang out, and play some tabletop RPGs. To that end, it was important to me to design an in-game structure that would facilitate the easy drop-in nature that I wanted. That’s what the Company of Darkvale is for. A new character shows up, and everyone has either met them, heard of them, or they present a badge of office for the Company.
This in-world structure of the Company of Darkvale allowed me to introduce players seamlessly, but it served an even more important purpose: to give quests. We have only an hour to play every week, so we can’t spend a lot of time talking or trying to decide on what to do especially at the beginning. The Company of Darkvale allowed me to give quests directly to the players in the story.
In the next post, I’ll talk about how I prepped for this campaign and share some of my DM prep notes and maps. Thanks for reading!