Monday 20 September 2021

The Three-Mile Tree Campaign: Update 1

Patrick S was interviewed in this Joe Rogan style marathon, and spent some of the first section describing my campaign. I have avoided APs for this game, but thought I would do some semi-regular updates on progress. Not all of it will be interesting, I suspect, but I will conclude each update with sections on rules tweaks and lessons learned. Here is the first update, in any case:

I have been running a weekly campaign since roughly the end of January. We have missed, I think, only one or two sessions in that time. That makes just over 30 sessions so far.

It is now Day 72 of the campaign, in-game.  

The campaign is set around a megadungeon inside the trunk of a 3-mile high tree, and the town at the tree's base, Abermawr. The PCs have explored most of level 1 (70ish rooms), a tiny bit of level 2, and a bit more of level 3. They have also carried out a daring raid further up, to a horizontal tower position on the tree trunk. And they have explored some of the area immediately around the tree and Abermawr, going as far as the village of Tremadog, whose womenfolk all disappeared after running away one morning with an army of dishy, silver-handed drummers. 

The players are Patrick StuartSolomon VKDan Sumption, and Theo. [Come on Theo, start a blog!]

Character rosters:

Solomon VK

  • Gnaeus, Roman Cleric, Level 4 [deceased]
  • Xanthippe, Roman Fighter and wannabe Amazon, Level 3 [deceased]
  • Aurelia, Brythonic Fighter, Level 3 [alive]

  • Amyntas, Macedonian Fighter, Level 1 [deceased]
  • Men-Kheper-Ra, Egypian Magic-User, Level 3 [?] [deceased]
  • Kemnebi, Egyptian Thief, Level 5 [?] [deceased]
  • David of the Web, Brythonic Thief, Level 1 [deceased]
  • Finan of the Hammer, Brythonic Fighter, Level 3 [?] [alive]


  • Argyros, Greek Cleric, Level 1 [deceased]
  • Bomilcar, Carthaginian Fighter, Level 1 [deceased]
  • Another Carthaginian Fighter whose name I forget, Level 1 [deceased]
  • Stymatos, Greek Magic-User, Level 2 [?] [deceased]
  • Octavius, Roman Cleric, Level 3 [deceased]
  • Flewyn, Brythonic Thief, Level 4 [alive]


  • Laren Dar, Etruscan Fighter, Level 3 [deceased]
  • Pupli Artnli, Etruscan Cleric, Level 2 [deceased]
  • Wolvela, Brythonic Fighter, Level 2 [?] [deceased]
  • Padraig, Brythonic Fighter, Level 4 [alive, current Maru of Nortia]

The list of slain NPC hirelings and henchmen is truly too vast to catalogue, but the current roster is:

  • Vultumma, war pig
  • Bronwen, test pig
  • Laren, horse
  • Aron, adolescent boy, mostly looks after the party's house
  • Endelienta, elderly maid, also mostly looks after the party's house
  • Bolton and Regan, two of Finan's 'jumblies'
  • Yauseen, level 4 Assyrian Dwarf henchman, entitled to a half share of proceeds
  • Elen and Julitta, Aurelia's 'Amazons'
  • Illtud, Marcus and Hywel, Flewyn's Celtic cronies
  • Sal the Salamander, an amnesiac salamander

Sworn Enemies

  • A tribe of shrew-men, now all slain (or are they????)
  • A tribe of woodwoses - active enemies
  • A tribe of earwigmen - on-again, off-again foes
  • A crow-woman called Drest, lover of a crow-man wizard killed by the PCs
  • Phersu's gang, an NPC party, now all slain
  • Titus's gang, an NPC party, now all handed over as living sacrifices to the druidesses of Abermawr


  • The wizard Tathyw, expert in identifying magic items and purchaser of giant insect corpses
  • The wizard Alpin, rescued from robbers
  • Psionic freshwater shrimp, set free from within the tree
  • Salammbo, Carthaginian woman who owns the main hostelry in Abermawr
  • Sophisbana, Carthaginian woman who trades in jewellery and gems
  • Djem-Slen, a female elf spectre


  • The druidesses of Abermawr, who respectively venerate the tree's Rootedness, capacity for Growth, great Strength, Cyclical nature, and the fact that it is Home to Many Living Things, and to whom collectively the PCs pay an 8% tithe on all treasure brought back from the tree.

Incomplete List of Major Achievements

  • Casting a porcupine-quilled demon into the sea
  • Slaying a seal-woman pirate queen
  • Ridding the lower reaches of the tree of foul invasive mold
  • Founding a cult based on the prophecies and incorruptibility of the first Maru of Nortia, Pupli Artnli
  • Rescuing the wizard Alpin, who was besieged by crow-man robbers
  • Building a temple that attracts converts to the cult of Nortia

Rules Tweaks

I would not call these house rules, exactly, but I have fiddle with some of the knobs, so to speak:
  • Death is at -1hp, unconsciousness at 0. I have previously sometimes allowed PCs to survive comatose beyond -1hp, losing 1hp/round until the negative respective value for their initial hit points is reached (so, for example, a character with 12hp would be unconscious at 0, dead at -12). I've decided that since this doesn't happen for monsters, and what's good for the goose is good for the gander, PCs should not have this 'grace period'. It has worked fine. Lots of PCs have died (almost one every two sessions on average), but this has just meant that the players have become invested in their overall enterprise rather than the fates of individual PCs.
  • Random initiative: both sides roll 1d6 at the start of combat and the side which is highest goes first. If one side is surprised, they automatically lose initiative after the surprise round. This makes winning surprise rolls very important (as it means getting two rounds of free action before opponents can react), but if the PCs plausibly make preparations for not being surprised, they automatically are not. (For example, walking into a room with spears prepared to stab anything dropping from the ceiling would automatically mean not being surprised by a giant spider falling on their heads.)
  • You have to bring treasure back to town to get the XP, rather than having to spend it, but you don't get XP for jewellery, magic items, etc., unless sold and converted into coinage.
  • XP for monsters kills is awarded on return to town.
  • Critical hits (natural 20) do double damage - roll once for damage and then double it, rather than two dice. This can make them super-deadly.
  • If you get lots of XP in one go, you can go up more than one level. So, for example, if you are a level 1 Fighter and get 8,500 XP in one session (unlikely, but you never know) you can go straight to level 4. This is actually important in helping new PCs catch up a little bit, XP-wise, with the existing ones.

Lessons Learned

  • You can easily run a weekly campaign even in the modern grown-up world of supposedly busy diaries if you put your mind to it and have some self-discipline. Most of what you're 'busy' with is checking emails, dicking around on social media, or watching Netflix. Don't deny it.
  • D&D is a lot better when run weekly, although the players still forget or misremember an awful lot in the gap between sessions.
  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks. There are lots of bells and whistles with roll20 but I basically do the same thing I do when running a game in person: scrawl basic maps with the 'draw' function, using letters to indicate where people are (F for Finan, A for Aurelia, etc.) and blobs to indicate objects.
  • Levels 3 and 4 may be the most 'dangerous' levels in that the players at that stage seem to become falsely confident about the robustness of their PCs, leading them to make foolish choices.
  • The PCs will always end up building things very early in the campaign - basically, as soon as they have disposable wealth - and if what they build is not a pub, it will be a temple.


  1. I can confirm the build-a-pub aphorism. Genre and setting appears to be irrelevant.

    1. There is a lot more to say on the point of PCs building stuff. Definitely a blog post on that coming.

  2. Gosh, I had forgotten half of this. Thanks for the reminders! At some point I'll write about the campaign from my perspective.

    Poor Tosutigus, if only he'd lived another week then he could have been immortalised in your blog post. Ah well, The Jumblies will avenge him with the seal-woman's knife!

    Incidentally just as I joined the first campaign I played in after my 30-year sabbatical, the players were building a pub. (In fairness, they were colonising a new land, after the rest of the world had fallen under a deadly pandemic, so town-building was quite an important part of things and there were detailed rules for it. Which made it all the more painful when our nemesis tricked us into thinking we were ambushing him and, while we were occupied with that, razed the town to the ground)

    1. BTW you've inflated the levels of my Egyptian characters a little - Men-Kheper-Ra, AKA 𓇳 𓏠 𓆣, only got to level 2 and Kemnebi to level 4. You are, however, correct in saying that Finan is currently level 3.

    2. Was MKR really only level 2?

    3. Yeah, he spent a long long time at level 1. Levelling up is a slow process for magic users!

  3. "D&D is a lot better when run weekly, although the players still forget or misremember an awful lot in the gap between sessions."

    So true! And it's hard to remind them of things too much because often I don't want to make things too obvious and I'd like the information gathering to really remain in game. Still something I struggle with.

    1. Yeah, to be honest I think you just have to go with it and remind them. That's what I end up doing.

  4. And I thought I was a killer DM...

  5. "The PCs will always end up building things very early in the campaign - basically, as soon as they have disposable wealth - and if what they build is not a pub, it will be a temple."

    As the meme goes, why not both? Most pantheons have a god of alcoholic revelry in some guise or another, and they're often the kind of god that adventurers would follow.