Monday, July 20, 2009

A Meta-Chronology of the Game World (Part Three)

A Meta-Chronology of the Game World
Part III
Part II here

The chronology of the various games starts getting strange around this time-- in terms of both stopping and starting running and where we were in the game world. On the Second Continent, I'd moved forward about 60 years in game since the first campaign. The Third Continent I had in mind to be roughly parallel with that, but I wasn't completely sure about that. At first I tried to establish some relative chronology, but I back away from it. I knew that the tail end of the three parallel campaigns would be about the same time as the end of the Pavis 3C campaign-- just because events shared the thematic of a change in the relation of the gods to the world. However I wasn't completely sure on things and I worried that nailing it down too tightly would cause problems-- which in retrospect was a goofy conceit, given that I'm the only one with a full sense of the events.

In any case, after the Pavis game wrapped up with took a break and then I began another campaign on the Third Continent, sticking with Rolemaster but migrating over to the new edition, Rolemaster Standard System. Scott had used it and liked it, so we went with that. This would have been starting midway through the time of the Freakish Band Second Continent campaign. However, where the FB game had jumped forward several decades, this game would only go forward a few years. I did that to take advantage of things from the Pavis campaign being still fresh in everyone's minds. I'd put some ideas into motion that I wanted to play out-- looking more broadly at the Lunar Empire and the current situation. We had some shake up during the course of that game-- a number of players moving, me booting one out, and other change ups including a pretty significant multi-month break in the middle of the campaign when I hit a burn out point. I'd say we did that campaign, play-wise for a little under two years.

At the same time we had a couple of other games that fit strangely into the timeline. Shari ran for a pretty long time, at least a year, a campaign set on the Third Continent, primarily dealing with the role of mages (seen as anathema and outsiders there) and refining the structures I'd built. Originally I'd borrowed pretty heavily from the earliest (and least historically driven) version of Ars Magica-- at least the idea that Sorcerers, seen as dangerous, would gather into their own societies, but also have a united structure in the form of Covenants. I didn't mind keeping that borrowing, since I pretty much only used that conceit. Shari's game really helped establish a lot of key background details I hadn't concentrated on-- complete with a sense of thaumatology I'd only sketched in passing. In terms of timeline, it ran roughly in parallel with the other Third Continent game mentioned above.

The campaign also stands out as being the first “school” setting we played in. It makes sense as a trope and given how inundated we are with Harry Potter it may be hard to imagine when that wasn't a central point. It was also one of the first really, really NPC heavy/location static campaigns I'd seen in the genre. I'd done a little of that in Pavis, but Sherri took it in a new direction. She wasn't as good at at table running and management, her admitted weakness, but she could generate content and story that made me look a little paltry at times. It would also be the first and last time I got a chance to actually play in my own world-- to see my concepts and ideas filtered through someone else's perceptions. I enjoyed the game, but unfortunately it ended up getting scuttled. I'm a little loathe to comment on exactly why that happened. Some of it was the same negativity which had quashed one of the earlier Second Continent games and another campaign set outside of this shared world. We had a couple of players very self-driven and unwilling to work with fellow players. Plus we had at least one player who did her level best to piss all over the game if she wasn't the center of attention. I've seen a lot of games come to an abrupt and sudden end over the years-- many that I ran-- but I think I regret this one not finishing more than any other.

At some point around this time, I also decided I wanted to run a Legend of the Five Rings campaign. I'd always been fascinated by the samurai setting, and L5R managed to build a rich world without being tied to historical realities. That made it a better setting than the goofiness of the old TSR Oriental Adventures or even Bushido. Now, here's where it gets kind of weird and begins the first stage of my continued rethinking of the First Continent. I first have to backtrack a little. While I was running the three parallel Second Continent games, I got the idea to sponsor a contest at the game room. I had the map of the First Continent, broken into regions, but without any development. I had people each take an area and develop a culture and history there. I had some general notes about the history, specifically the big bads there. People generated very interesting things-- but the split nature of it all meant that as a whole nothing really fit together. Great material, but ideas which would require a good deal of work and massaging to get into shape. Eventually, for one version of the First Continent, I'd borrow some of the ideas, but generally I set a good deal of that aside.

I had, however, kept a little section of the continent for myself, with the idea that I wanted to have something with a more Oriental flavor. I'd suggested that at one point with Barry when he'd had an NPC try to reach the First Continent from the Second. At the same time L5R had come out-- first in CCG form and then in RPG form. It occurred to me that I could run an L5R game, and in my mind have it set on the First Continent, but never say so explicitly. I modified some of the concepts-- what the Burning Sands actually were, the role of Fu Leng both as a corrupter and a blockade to keep the outside world away, and the nature of the Kolat as a fragment of one of the old magical groups. I ended up butchering things further by deciding I didn't like the L5R rules and adapting it into Rolemaster. Again, as I've said, I've come a long way since then. The game went well-- I used quite a bit of the existing scenario material for L5R, including the Tomb of Iuchiban Campaign. So at least a version of Rokugan now existed in the world. We had a complete arc with that game, and then at that point I took a pretty significant break from running big things-- I think the next thing I ran ended up being the City of Ocean campaign, which was three and then two players.

It is also worth noting that at one point, I did know that all of the campaigns had at least some connection to one another-- and not just in the shared world. For example, Dave's character from my weird modern game ended up being the founder of a major familial line on the Second Continent, due to a quirk of fate and dimensional travel. I had other linkages-- but they're not so important to me now. I like the idea of a multiverse, but I don't want to necessarily push it. It is worth enough to me to know you can trace a link, a small link, between nearly all of the games I've run. Some of them share the same world, while others have someone or something which has moved over between the worlds, quietly and subtly. I also know that based on the rule of three, there have to be two other fantasy worlds close by this one, but I've never actually dealt with that. I've hinted about it, but I don't think I've ever really go to the trouble of building one of those up. There's too much good stuff available in what I still have in front of me.

Next time, the most recent campaigns, competing versions, and Lowell brings the time hammer down.