I recently wrote and ran a Pathfinder campaign in which my friends accidentally unleashed an unstoppable race of titans upon the world, wiping out most life. Oops. Here are the maps that I made in preparation, as well as some brief thoughts about what I learned from my first wholly-homebrewed campaign. I imagine none the insights are new, but it was an experience for me.
1. Players like trivializing encounters. Let them do it as long as it doesn’t fundamentally ruin the game – part of what keeps your players engaged is feeling awesome, and if they can stand outside of a binding circle and shoot a cannon at the elemental inside to defeat it without it being able to retaliate, that will make them feel great and stay engaged.
2. An extended sequence where the players actually have to win a game of chess while keeping specific pieces from being captured (lest the players who have taken the place of those pieces die) sounds awesome for the DM, but unless your players are either really into chess or okay with taking a break from the standard game, it’s not excellent in practice. This goes double if anybody is skyping in, because they have even less to keep them engaged. On the upside, watching an entire party squabble over what piece to move is pretty amusing.
3. When things go entirely off the rails, just start making something up about castles made of stars. The PCs will be too enamored of the scenery to realize you hadn’t planned any of this.
4. If the PCs decide to skip important encounters, those rewards NEED to show up somewhere else. It’s incredibly frustrating to have the players walk into a room, ignore the conspicuous giant stacks of hay/NPCs in cages/doors to important rooms before announcing they’ve clearly found everything here, and heading out.
5. Don’t allow a player to bring a cannon. It’s dumb.
And now, the maps:
The campaign took place in a wizard’s tower that had an underground upside-down tower going into the ground a la Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Major inspirations for sequences in this campaign came from Infinity Blade 2, World of Warcraft’s Karazhan raid, Harry Potter, The Children of Hurin (or other extended Middle Earth works, I dunno, whichever one had the “Father of Dragons” in it) and Colossal Cave Adventure. It began with a tavern, and ended with the extinction of dragons (and almost everything else.)