Tick Tock – A Dungeons & Dragon Campaign Idea


Found this beautiful skeleton clock here.  I thought a skeleton clock made the most sense…you’ll see why shortly.

Recently I was trying to come up with something a little different to start off a new Dungeons & Dragons Campaign I plan on running in the next year and what I came up with hopefully fit the bill.  It’s a campaign where the players start off in a world where they just found out (Day 1 of the campaign) that they are going to die.  Here is what I put together:

You weren’t ready to hear those words; is anyone ever REALLY ready?

Like a raging wildfire, messengers traveled with due haste to all corners of the land, spreading the word…

The end of the world is coming.

The pieced together stories say a ship bearing trade goods had set sail for the island of Marcos, home of the kingdom Essaria.  As the ship grew closer to the island and rounded some large rock formations jutting out of the water, the crew spotted something very, very wrong. Now in perfect view of what should have been the castle, but instead the crew looked upon a dark, twisted, unholy and demonic necropolis in its place. Black and purple vines writhed up and down the walls, moving with an unnatural grace. Gargoyles numbered in the thousands, lining the crenelations and dark walls  seemingly as if they were manning the battlements; a well disciplined and ever ready army.

There didn’t seem any need however, as the entire structure was surrounded by a deadly, permeable red mist. The deadly part became evident as a flying seagull, attempting to find purchase on the upper tiers of the castle after no doubt a long flight over the open seas, entered the mist; its body immediately starting to convulse as every bone in its fragile body was broken instantaneously. The body fell, crumpled in a heap of indiscernible mass at the base of the castle, lost among the rocks below.

Galleons by the hundreds lined the docks, each ship filled to the brim with thousands upon thousands of dead bodies stacked like cords of wood. As the trade ship continued its course and passed the first galleon, a shiver ran down the captain’s spine when the first dead body, the one on top of the stack just…sat up. As if prompted by the first, other corpses started to slowly rise…and not before long, a low groan started to emanate, louder and louder as if in warning or protest.

The captain immediately and deftly turned his ship about, urging his crew as IF it was even needed, lest they all succumb to Davey Jones locker. The captain, his eyes never leaving the castle, waited, for something to happen, something that would swarm or devour them from the depths of the seas…but by true fate, it never came.

His eyes suddenly focused on a lone, pale figure, who stepped out onto one of the nearby crenelations and smiled. His hair was as black as oil, his eyes glowed a nefarious red. The captain, in sudden realization, that the only reason he was leaving this place, was because this creature ALLOWED it. He shivered again, while urging his crew on, lest the pale creature change his mind.

Once the captain returned to the seaport docks of his home, Woodbank, he quickly met with the local authorities and told them what he saw. The authorities, some of which have known the captain most of their lives, took him for his word and spread the news to the neighboring cities.

Sadly most took it as the tales of a bunch of drunken pirates and didn’t make any move to investigate it further or gather their defenses…until it was too late. They didn’t have much time anyway….

The very next day, hundreds of galleons were seen sailing toward the seaport of Woodbank. While the authorities may have known of the possible threat, they were by no means prepared for what was to come. A sea of undead landed on the Woodbank coast, including some that jumped out early as if in anticipation, rising out of the murky waters, with surprising determination on their dead, unthinking faces; skeletons with bones a glossy black were later found to be as hard as metal as swords and axes bounced harmlessly off their shielded bones. Ghouls and Wraiths, Wights and Zombies, completely decimated the seaport, killing each and every man, woman and child. All those that were killed are rumored to have risen up, to add more soldiers to the now ever-growing undead regime. The undead, have mercilessly continued their destruction…the sea itself continues to birth a never ending tide of undead, the ships constantly arriving and overflowing with death.  In just 5 days, 15 towns, villages and a couple larger cities have been completely wiped out, with rumors of no survivors.

The local sages say that the entire world will be destroyed in a little over a year.

Tick Tock


This wood carved clock was found here.

So basically, i was giving my PC’s an approximate 1 year left to live at MOST, unless they were able to find a way to stop the imminent death before them.

Logistically, the undead horde is currently overcoming one hex on the map each DAY. The direction is randomly rolled at the beginning of each day, so it is possible that the horde could come straight towards the towns the PC’s currently inhabit, cutting down the time of their life by as much as 80%. I also thought that since the towns would be defending, it made sense to roll a d20 defense roll for each hex (as long as there was a major town, city or castle there, to see if they could hold off the horde. If a 20 is rolled, they are able to slow down the horde for one day. The next day, if they don’t roll a 20, the hex and those towns within, will be decimated.) Keep in mind, I will not be showing the players which hexes have been taken over. It is up to them to figure out a way to determine that.

Every single hour will be tracked, which means getting a good night’s rest means 1/3 of the PC’s day was freely given to the undead to reap destruction on the land. The undead don’t need to eat, rest or sleep…so they are attacking around the clock. This system is meant for the PCs to use only what resources are necessary and not be wasteful of those good night’s sleep or short rests.  The campaign is meant to challenge the players in a whole different way, constantly looking over their shoulder, wondering which way the horde is coming…not knowing if they are just beyond the mountains or hills ahead. The PCs will know the general direction that they are coming from and know approximately how far away they could be at the beginning of the campaign, but once we start playing, they’ll be in the dark.

This is a game that will be mainly based on survival, but also in the characters reaching their true potential as quickly as possible, in hopes of stopping the horde and saving the world.  The longer the PCs take, the more of their world will be reduced to rubble, but at the same time, they need time to grow more powerful in hopes that they CAN stop the horde.  Finding that balance will be tricky.

I’m hoping the biggest confusion will come at the beginning.  What do they do now?  How can these 1st level characters transcend into powerful beings and save the world?  Where do they even begin?

Hopefully, it will be a mind boggling and new experience for my players.  Still have a lot of work I need to do on it, but it’s a start.

Let me know what you think and and advice on how to make it even more interesting!


About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called "The Fall of Astia". Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you'd like to see featured on our site.

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