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I'm just wondering if it would be possible to combine two campaigns - specifically The Dragon of Icespire Peak from the Essentials Kit and The Lost Mines of Phandelver from the Starter Set - into one large one. The two campaigns I mentioned take place around the Sword Coast in the Forgotten Realms with each having the same little town that the PCs can use as a base: Phandalin.

The quests were meant to each be separate campaigns and have their own objectives, and were not meant to be a continuation of each other in the way that Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat campaigns were.

Is there a way a DM could combine these two campaigns into one large one where the PCs would have to undertake quests from both?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking a yes/no question, or are you asking for brainstorming on how to do such a thing? Because the second is, in my opinion, considerably off-topic as a subjective brainstorming exercise, while the former is trivial. (Of course you can, it's your game.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    May 3, 2023 at 1:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak I think it's on topic to ask whether combining two pre-written campaign scenarios in this way is practical, and what challenges one can expect when trying to do so. If someone has attempted such a feat before, they could give a good experience-based answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 3, 2023 at 1:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Maybe. I haven't voted to close yet. But the specificity of naming the two campaigns, and the phrasing makes it look like brainstorming to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    May 3, 2023 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak Actually I think the specificity of naming the two campaigns is helpful - are they appropriate levels to mix, are they similarly themed, with the major NPC's from each interact well, will any unique magic items in one disrupt plot elements of the other... \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    May 3, 2023 at 5:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's nothing wrong with this questions imo, it asks for advice, not for brainstorming ideas. The two named campaigns work pretty good combined together and it's already been done by a bunch of people, myself included. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    May 3, 2023 at 12:35

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It is possible to combine them but it requires a lot of work

It is usually possible to combine two campaigns that take place in the same area, provided that they either take place roughly around the same time OR do not depend on the world's timeline and can be shifted forwards or backwards in time. You can either run it as two separate, equally important storylines in parallel, possibly with a shared ending, shrink the one you find less important/interesting to a series of side quests, or fully integrate them into a single coherent story. The last option is the most difficult out of the three and requires a lot of thinking and coming up with ideas that would works as the "glue" to tie them together.

You need a good understanding of both campaigns you want to connect, need to know the main storylines and any side stories you want to keep inside out, think about the places where they overlap, either how to make the overlap make sense, or if you can't, how to separate them, and where they run parallel, how to connect them in a way that makes sense. Expect to have to do a fair share of homebrewing and thinking for that.

Talking specifically about The Dragon of Icespire Peak and Lost Mines of Phandelver, I have done a similar thing to what you are wanting to do. Since Dragon of Icespire Peak doesn't have much in terms of storyline apart from just, well, the dragon, and is just a series of separate quests, I kept the storyline of Phandelver pretty much intact and just added the Dragon as a prolonged side quest loosely tied to the events in Phandelver (I used the presence of the dragon as the motivation for all the criminal activity going on since it made it difficult to do much of everything else).

Since both campaigns have lots of side quests that work pretty much independently, I also thought of ways to tie some of them into each other (e.g. the banshee from Phandelver into the orcs from The Dragon) to make it seem more like it's one joint campaign rather than 2 separate ones running in parallel.

Once you've got the story down, you will need to do some balancing, especially on the later parts of both campaigns since your PCs will be much higher level once they reach them than they would be if playing them separately. Think about the flow you want for your story, figure out the milestones where your PCs will earn levels and rebalance the parts where they will be significantly more powerful than intended.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How would you advise a brand new DM to do this? You've said it's hard work, but how do you do the work - that'd be the real answer here. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2023 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch i've said it's a lot of work, how hard the work is depends on how creative you are and how good at coming up with links between seemingly unconnected things and my answers details exactly how to do it and gives an example of how I've done the same thing, if he gets stuck at a particular point then he can ask for help with that. If he wants to homebrew his own campaigns in the future the imo this is the perfect start for learning how to do that. It's a creative process for which you can't write out a script to follow blindly. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    May 3, 2023 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think OP is looking beyond just a yes/no with is it possible. If it's possible because you've done it, then explaining your process would be immensely helpful. That's the tricky bit for people to figure out. Saying "figure it out yourself" really isn't answering the question. You're not wrong in your answer, but I don't think you're helpful, either. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2023 at 13:06
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Stick with the campaign as-is

You've told us that this is your first time DMing and your players' first time playing. I very much recommend sticking to the script (mostly) for your first go.

For yourself as DM, having a fairly clear and generally balanced prepared adventure is immensely helpful. It gives you time to figure out the general rules and learn how to apply them in prescribed situations. You can absolutely stretch your legs within those parameters, but having them will help you learn how to be creative with the system as you learn the system.

Trying to reinvent the adventure wheel and learn the ropes is going to be very, very difficult and possibly not enjoyable for you or the rest of the table.

For the players, they're learning how to play, too. If you're focusing on figuring out how to combine these campaigns into one, you might not be focusing on other things: like their characters! DMing is difficult enough without trying to make things even more complicated for yourself.

The essentials kit is going to give you a solid base, but it will feel limited because it is. It doesn't give you access to everything, so I'd definitely stick with only what they've given - unless you and your table have access to the content you're adding.

Once you've finished the campaign, you and your table can figure out what y'all like, see if there's any new content you need to get, and keep growing.

Don't be afraid to stick with published content or try your hand at a homebrew campaign. Published content has helped me learn some new tricks and homebrew lets me play with ideas I've just had in my head.

The last piece of advice is to quit when it's not working. Doubling down won't fix it - just move on and don't feel bad about it.

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