8 Campaign Pitches and Ideas for Your Single Character Race D&D 5e Game

I don’t have anything against the Petting Zoo People trope as a general rule. If you or your players are super excited about playing Tabaxi or Loxodons or Leonals or whatever, I completely support that flavor of fun. That being said, there’s more and more of a push in the direction of character options for characters who get further and further away from looking like they might fit into the stereotypical medieval Fantasy Land setting. I imagine that heroes, by their very nature, are kind of weird people. Otherwise, they’d get jobs rather than while away their hours stabbing evil monsters and looting forgotten tombs, right? But can you imagine being the poor beleaguered inn-keep when the elephant man, a furry blue giant, an upright-walking iguana, and a literal devil come walking into your establishment? Where are we keeping the torches?

When I started playing this game, Elf and Dwarf and Halfling were all character classes, and those classes stopped advancing way before humans. Humans were the default adventurer, and if you whether you wanted to be a “fighting man” or a “magic user” and advance beyond–I think it was 6th level, though lend me your grognard expertise if you remember better than I–the end of the Elf or Dwarf character advancement chart, you were going to have to come to grips with the fact that you were going to have to play a human. Just like real life.

I understand that waking up every day and working and eating and everything as a human being gets tiresome. When you get to the table to roll some dice, you want to be anything but. I mean, sure the Variant Human is probably the single most popular character race in 5e today, but it seems like as soon as you forbid that extra feat at 1st level or–Gods forfend– give every race a feat at 1st level, everyone starts flipping through the options and ogling the weird stuff.

I’m running a playtest for one of the adventures I’m going to put up here “soon™” and the first character pitched was a Tiefling druid. Okay. Non-optimal, but flavorful. Then I got a Tiefling warlock. Alright…I’m sensing a theme. My third player, not wanting to be left out rolled up a Tiefling barbarian. Blink blink. Oops, all Tieflings?

I don’t have a problem with that and I certainly want my players to build characters that they think are cool. However, if I’m going to run a party of all Tieflings in a long-running game, I’ve now got brain-bytes that must be spent on crafting a narrative that in some way reflects the relative implausibility of three members of a small minority ancestry all coming together to go on an adventure. I mean, I don’t have to, but I like things that are story-shaped so I’m going to.

That’s where this group of campaign pitches came from. I started thinking about fun campaigns that might involve parties of adventurers that are all the same character race. Those weird options in the PHB and beyond are loaded with flavor, and if we decide to not engage with that in some way we run the risk of letting that race be nothing more than a static +1 or +2 to a couple stats and maybe some Darkvision. So, let’s build some narratives that hinge on that flavor. See if any of these grab you.

Torsdelf Redeemed (Dwarves)

The doom that came to Torsdelf, if the sages’ record can be believed, did not announce itself with drums or horns. No word was sent, no challenge made. Those who ran spoke only of the fear that came before it, the dread which gripped hearts of stone and crushed them to rubble. Our people, fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandams, fled and saved themselves. They saved us. We built a new home and delved deeper, but a grudge unanswered is a flaw in the stone of our tradition. Torsdelf is a question that demands and answer. We will answer it as tradition demands, with iron.

Politics: Low

Roleplay: Medium

Magic: Medium

Combat: High

Lethality: Medium

Buy In: This is a treasure hunt, plain and simple. You’ll start in a grand Dwarven city, get your history lesson as you decide what you need to accomplish your goal, and then forge off into the wilderness to find and reclaim Torsdelf. If that means that you go like an adventuring party, that’s cool. If you want to bring some followers and wagons and suchlike, then we can run it like a caravan. The juice here is going to be clearing this big Dwarven ruin, fighting or working with the factions that have moved in, and then slowly bringing it under your control. Think of it like a mega-dungeon fused with a Kingmaker/Birthright realm-building game. That said, I need characters who care about Dwarven tradition and are willing to undertake a perilous, possibly suicidal quest to reclaim a lost city from whatever was powerful enough to chase away…a civilization. If your Dwarf looks at this prompt and goes, “What’s in it for me?” they’re probably not going to have a good time here.

A Dream of All Night Falling (Elves)

Our wisest feel the change in the air, taste it in the water. They see it in the land. The balance is shifting as a leaf in autumn falls, drifting to the forest floor. A force rests its thumb on the scales of life and death, and the time of growing things, living things, fades with every setting sun. We have stood apart, menhirs before the passage of centuries, while young kingdoms spring up, rise to greatness, and crumble into dissolution. It is not in our nature to bring this trouble to the mayflies. Ours is to seek it out, apply our art, and restore what has been twisted to the natural order of things. We dispatch a delegation to treat with Silrenession, the first of the Baelnorn, the Mad Prince of Undeath and Bringer of Night Without End.

Politics: Low

Roleplay: High

Magic: High

Combat: Medium

Lethality: Low

Buy In: This is going to be a high-power, epic campaign. We’re probably going to start reasonably high level. You are, after all, the chosen delegation from the Elven nations to go and see why this inconceivably powerful Elven lich has gone off the rails and is now trying to usher in a world of undeath. You don’t send level 1 adventurers to do that kind of thing. So, I’m going to need to know “why you?” I want you all to represent an Elven homeland, so I’m going to be leaning on you guys to supply setting details for your sect of Elves. I’m marking Low on the political slider here not because I don’t want you to get embroiled in politics, but because I want to foot-stomp that you are all a strong, independent troupe of Elven heroes that aren’t going to scarper off to recruit an army to deal with the situation. The war that looms is the fail-state. If it comes to war, then there’s a good chance that the combined forces of the races in the world will fall like wheat before a scythe. If you aren’t on board with being a covert diplomatic strike-team foiling the machinations of an unapproachably powerful force for evil, then this will not be fun.

No Place Like (Gnomes)

There’s no place for Gnomes in these lands. The tallfellows don’t understand our wanderlust and out enchantment over every secret the world holds. They live bereft of joy, worrying about every eventuality and possibility. They never pause to appreciate the happy circumstance. They can’t take a joke. It’s not like the old days. That’s why we’re going to pack it up and head back to the other side of the hedge. That’s right. Back into the Feywild. Perhaps the Good Folk there have forgotten why they banished us in the first place.

Politics: Medium

Roleplay: Medium

Magic: High

Combat: Low

Lethality: Medium

Buy In: This might be another kingdom builder, or it might just be a tit for tat with inscrutable fey. What it certainly is, however, is an excuse to get way more fantasy than we typically do. Let’s push into the Feywild from the very start and get to finding the truth of fairy tales, bargaining with the Gentry, ducking Trolls, claiming singing swords and talking harps as treasure. If you aren’t willing to explore a story about exile fey trying to earn their way out of exile, and you aren’t onboard for wondrous setpieces against a backdrop of magic run amok, then you should probably give this one a pass. My Gnomes are weird, and this one isn’t going to win you over if weird Gnomes aren’t interesting for you.

The Wide World (Halflings)

It’s risky business going out your door. You step out onto the road, and if you don’t mind your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. I remember home with fondness. The little hills and rivers. The neat little homes and the smell of baking bread. The gaffers told us that the wide world was no place for a halfling. Better to keep to the shallows of home than risk the unknown deeps. Sod them. Let’s have an adventure.

Politics: Medium

Roleplay: Medium

Magic: Medium

Combat: Medium

Lethality: Medium

Buy In: This one’s going to be pretty classic D&D, but colored by a Tolkien-ian tension between the comfort and familiarity of home and an excitement about the wider world. I need you all to build me some young, local halflings. Your itchy feet will bond you together, so I think we might be yoinking some Dungeon World character bonds to tie you all together. Or we can pilot my deck of 52 bonds that I’m working on. That might be cool, too. Long story-short, I want eager young heroes off on their first whirlwind adventure in the greater world. Exploration is going to be big, but so too is navigating the fish-out-of-water story of being small adventurers in a big world. Expect to get swept up into bigger events, and then to show the world that small heroes shine all the brighter.

The Plural of Wyrm is War (Dragonborn)

Look at them there in their shining plate. Shaking in their stirrups as we stand across the field. The sun catches upon our scales and they flash fire. They cannot help but think of fire, you see. How can you when you stand arrayed against the blood of dragons? We are the Scale, last of the Free Companies of Satrovaxinar. We take the coin of princes and potentates, sign the charter of heroes and heirophants. This newest campaign however, arrayed in service to the Ember King of Edenmark, looks to be a dirty one. Our seal is affixed, our company’s honor is on the line, and so we commit ourselves to winning the war against the Rebel…while we look for a way out of this mess.

Politics: High

Roleplay: Medium

Magic: Medium

Combat: High

Lethality: Medium

Buy In: I miss the Heroes of Battle book from 3.5. There’s something fabulous about a wartime campaign, especially when you aren’t entirely sure which side is the right one to back. I need you guys to build me officers in this Dragonborn mercenary company, the Scale. You’re far from home, riotously exotic in this part of the world, and committed entirely to the honor of the company and the Dragonborn to your left and right. The feedback loop of this game is mostly going to be about committing forces to engagements and then acting as the forward operating special-forces group for the Scale. Expect to clear the way for battles, disrupt fortifications, sabotage siege equipment, assassinate tough opponents, and yes, fight in the tumult and melee of big engagements. We’ll use some Matt Colville stuff for this, but I’ve got some stuff to tide us over until Kingdoms and Warfare launches. Mostly, though, expect a lot of political maneuvering and twisty-turny plots that are going to be happening in the back and foreground. You’ll need to fight smart if the Scale is going to survive.

The Inheritance Game (Tieflings)

Your birth was no accident. Long ago a bargain was struck, and in the fullness of time payment was rendered. Now it is time for you to uphold your end of the bargain. But will you? The Fiend whose power tainted your blood has called in the marker, but you did not make the bargain. You had no choice in the matter. So when Lachesis of Strix comes to collect her due, you weren’t going to go quietly into that good night. You went anyway, of course. Lachesis is not the kind of Fiend you can actually say no to. Blood calls to blood. That’s why, when you awoke in the black cell, you struck up a bargain of your own with the others Lachesis is holding until the time is right. Bargains cut both ways.

Politics: High

Roleplay: High

Magic: Medium

Combat: Medium

Lethality: Low

Buy In: This is a big ask. I need you to have a character with an ancestor who made a deal with the Devil and profited. Lachesis kept her end. I also need you the player to be okay with me taking your character and doing the “you all wake up in a cell together and decide to work together.” Lachesis needs you all, but working together you guys are going to be able to twist away and try to turn the game back on her. What does she need you for? What do you stand to gain if she doesn’t get what she wants? This is a discussion that I want to have with each of you individually, because the thought of three to five Tieflings makes me super excited about the conflicting stories that we can build together. I’m not saying I want to make a PVP party here, but I want you all to kind of have some cards that you hold close to your chest in order to throw them down for a dramatic reveal later. This is going to be a twisty one.

The Way of the Clans (Orcs)

Our ways are not theirs. They shelter in stone houses and hide behind skins of steel, fat and safe beyond the reach of troubles such as ours. We are not savages. We are the people of the edge. On the edge of their maps, on the edge of starvation, on the edge of a knife. The Warchief is dead, and with him the peace between the people of war. You are called to the place of decisions as we lay our greatest hero to rest. You represent the Clans with every step. You are all different–in clan, in character, in experience– but you all agree that Ruutok Glad-Of-War cannot claim the banner of the Warchief. He will take us from the edge and over to ruin.

Politics: High

Roleplay: High

Magic: Low

Combat: High

Lethality: Medium

Buy In: There’s been a lot of talk about Orcs and their problematic background. What better way to give Orcs a fair shake than play through a story where we figure out together how Orc society looks when there are no humans muddying the waters. I want you guys to tell me about Orcs. Build a tribe that you hail from, a clan, a homeland, a little bit of traditional lore, and then make an exemplar of that tribe. Then we’re going to figure out how to ensure that a stereotypical bloodthirsty Orc does not rise up to take control of the Clans. We’re going to play out the trials of succession. There will be political machination and dungeon delving, ritual hunts and lethal combat. Let’s see what Orcs are really made of.

No Country for Old Kobolds (Kobolds)

Every season the humans push further into our territory. Every year we must scurry further into the dark to avoid the light of their torches. We are running out of dark. The Master in the Dark, the Worm Who Sleeps will not wake to save us. Not before we are all killed by humans. We will not wait for that to happen. We will divert them. We will push back. We will make them stop.

Politics: Medium

Roleplay: Low

Magic: Medium

Combat: High

Lethality: High

Buy In: You are going to help me build a tribe of Kobolds desperate to buy their resident Ancient Dragon the time it needs to awaken from its torpor and save them. You guys can help me build the network of caves and passages that you call home. We can talk about what kind of resources you have access to, and then we can decide on a course of action for how this struggling little society of draconic humanoids is going to survive in the wake of outward human expansion. Who will you turn to for help? Will they come? Can the humans be bargained with? Will they keep their promises? We’ll have to play to find out. You’ll note that there isn’t a call for a single Kobold hero up there. I expect attrition will be high, but your next character will always come back at the same level as the previous. So, if you lose your level 7 Kobold Paladin, your new Kobold Samurai will also be level 7. Hilarious hijinks and lethal difficulty have to sound fun, though. Otherwise, this one’s going to fall flat. You guys are up against a world that hates you.

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