Monday, September 27, 2010

Random Campaign Kernel

Following up from a thought experiment Risus Monkey presented here. Pick three rpg books at from your collection and construct a campaign setting featuring all three. Three random items are:

Spycraft, Foundation Transmissions, and Goblin Markets.

REBELS OF SORCERY: At war with the magical surveillance state
The Empire of the Hours rules the land, controlling carefully the everyday lives of its citizens. By carefully and measured control of the forces of magic, the Empire maintains peace and extends the Encircling Wall slowly outwards, bringing new realms and lands under its sway. Guided by the Calculation Philosophies of the Foundational Prophecies, the Arcane Cabinet stands secure in its right and necessary success.

But not all magic lies under the control of the Empire. The Arcane Actuaries and Rectors of Mana cannot account for everything. While some sites and ways lie outside the Encircling wall, others bubble up within the Empire. Most dangerous of these are the Goblin Markets, moving sites of wild magic where creatures from the other side deal in terrible treasures and forbidden arts. Such things cost dear, but to those wishing to throw off the yoke of the Empire of the Hours must take such risks. Can the powers of cobbled together hedge magic stand against the systematized workings of disciplined wizardry?

Players take the role of either rebels from within the walls or agents from beyond. The group must uncover plots, release chained gods, find ancient artifacts, subvert the rituals of control, make contact with other cells, recruit new agents and so on. While they have picked up a scattering of skills and talents, which may not be enough. The Goblin Markets serve as places of refuge within the Empire-- doors appearing the uncertain alleys and abandoned sites. But even there they must be wary against the Empire's Rector-Informers and the native Goblins and other creatures. Gifts and powers may be available, but the agents must wager much to gain them.

Genre: High-magic fantastic espionage and subterfuge.
Style: Gritty to an extent-- heroic in the face of constant threat
Theme: Bringing down an Imperial central authority which has chained and controlled magic for itself, creating a planned and regulated sorcerous society.
Inspiration: The Invisibles, Perdido Street Station, Rats and Gargoyles, Face in the Frost, Children of Chaos, even Harry Potter

Disgraced Mystic: The character once served in the ranks of the Thaumatological Assayers, but a simple mistake combined with a lack of political acumen forced them out. Now they use their former knowledge against the Empire-- but their face is known making any move that take even more risky.

Prodigal Daughter/Son: Until the day they dragged her father away into the Ivory Vaults, she had no idea of his rebellion. That saved her then, but now she seeks to avenge that loss having found his secret notebooks detailing the atrocities and vulnerabilities of the Imperial forces.

Shamanic Agent: The Empires pushes outwards slowly and inexorably. Some have fought openly against it, and failed. Some have taken a more careful approach, sending in agents armed with subtle, different and powerful magics in the hope of finding some way to save their homeland.

Goblin Tradesman: A specialist in the art of negotiating with the creatures from the Other Side, loosely called Goblins. He's always managed to stumble into the market, no matter where it is. A risk-taker who fights against the wizards lords mostly because it is the biggest gamble of all.

Godtouched Noob: Even the divinities have been subject to the powers of the Empire of Hours. Some small gods fled and hid themselves away, to awaken later. This character finds himself on the run for reasons outside his control-- as the Conjurers Generale seek to rip out his god...and his soul with it.

Cursed Supernatural: Some wild magics still exist and manifest from time to time. This character has been struck by one of those-- perhaps suffering a transformation under the light of the full moon. Such uncontrolled manifestations are highly illegal and carefully watched for. Joining the rebellion offered the only possible safety for him.

Idealist Cell Leader: He dreams of a better world, where magic can be used freely by all for the common good-- rather than being controlled and regulated by the authorities. While he hopes to open everyone's eyes to the true face of the Empire he know that task won't be easy...or without blood.


  1. Nicely done. "Magical Surveillance State" is ace.

  2. Very, very cool. Makes me think of Hellboy II, Stardust, and Neverwhere. :)

  3. Glad you guys like that-- it was fun putting that together.

  4. Awesome idea - and read. I may have to give this a try.

  5. I think it isn't a bad approach-- possibly good for a nice short term or feet getting wet campaign. BTW Derek, did you hear that Privateer is going to re-release Iron Kingdoms as a non-d20 rpg?

  6. I like the idea just as a way to practice writing and thinking outside the box. It reminds me of the writing competition we did years ago in the Village.

    Yes, I am very curious to see what they do...

  7. Speaking of that Iron GM competition, apparently a convention in Las Vegas is going to do a formal version of that.

    "Iron GM is a national competition that turns adventure creation into a competitive sport. A challenge of wits, stamina and creative potency, Iron GM compels Game Masters to excel for players.

    Once we reveal the three secret ingredients, GMs have one hour to craft their adventures. Players have one hour to build characters. After hours of fun, players rate GMs on special scorecards using tournament-tested criteria. The victor wins a FREE trip to Gencon Indy, courtesy of Neoncon.

    At Iron GM Game Masters clash in epic combat for prizes and a title shot, while players reap the fruits of their battle. Register to play Iron GM at Neoncon today."


  8. I've seen other Iron GM events but I was never able to participate. The closest that I've experienced is a round robin convention game where you pass the GM duties off after a set period of time, riffing off the previous GM's work.

    I would *love* to actually try Iron GM. Sounds like a blast.