Friday, December 23, 2011

Campaign Frames 2012: Finishing the List

So last time, I presented the first few campaign proposals I'm putting on the table for 2012. At least these are the ideas I have in my head right now. Here's the rest of the ideas #7-23.

7. Last Call
System: Homebrew based on Scion.

I ran Scion a couple of years ago and like the concept, but the system got in the way of the game by the end of it. It was pretty clear that a few more step ups in power and the combats would becoming really difficult to manage. Certain aspects and choice can make a devastating combination at the Demi-God level or above. But I like the idea and I want to run it again, with a different system.

Last time I ran a game set in Las Vegas that borrowed more than a little from Tim Powers' novel Last Call. I have a group of new players, none of whom played in that. It might be fun to rework and rerun that general campaign from them. I'd made some tweaks, strip out some of the unnecessary elements and let them go to town with the fun of playing children of the gods. Another option would be to run a continuation of the previous Scion campaign with the group that played in the first part. I'd shift things to a different city- making each campaign block about exploring that place's history and ethos (Detroit? Atlanta? Boston?). I'm a little hesitant to do that, however, because it would require either running in the original Scion system to doing some serious retooling and conversion of characters.

8. The Stars like Ash...
System: Modified Ashen Stars

I like some of the core concepts of Ashen Stars, and I think a kind of freewheeling campaign in that setting would work. I'd want to establish "Planet Noir" or "Station Gotham" asa location the players could come back to between their adventures- some kind of key industrial, trade or administrative world that they could also have adventures on from time to time. That would give me the chance to build up a stable of interesting NPCs. I think I'd probably make some of the more radical races (like the one with psionics) NPC-only and limit the craziness of the crew. I'm not sure I'd want to do an extended campaign like that, but a number of sessions could be really fun.

9. The Armitage Files
System: Straight or slightly hacked Trail of Cthulhu

The Armitage Files is a dynamite campaign sourcebook and I really want to run it. The trick will be to find the right group for it. Some players enjoy horror and Lovecraft more than others. I'd also want players who relish an investigation type game. Finally, I'd need to have a table of 4-5 to do this right- I think fewer would be too tight and more would feel crowded.

10. The First Casualty
System: Night's Black Agents, with some hacks

I really like spy and espionage games, but it has been years since I've run one. NBA offers a toolkit of cool for doing such games. I like the introduction of a supernatural threat into the mix. I'm not sure I would want to run a straight spy game in a modern setting- unless I built a more crazy mad organization substructure (like the Shadowforce Archer set up). Alternately, I could run something set in the 1960's or so and use James Bond 007.

But if I wanted to do something contemporary, combining paranoia and a clear bad guy, I would use NBA. But I might also push it forward a little bit- into the near future to add some more tech and sci-fi elements to the mix. I'd want a solid mix of action and procedural, with perhaps some cyberpunk thrown in.

Alternately, I haven't actually done a Victorian-era game, though I've run some steampunk stuff. It might be fun to do a kind of Sherlock Holmes, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Rippers mash up with the characters on the run from a dark conspiracy.

There's also the idea of trying to do a version of Assassin's Creed II with this (maybe a mash up with Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade?)

11. The Forgotten City
System: Unsure. This might be the place to try out Pathfinder.

After a prologue, the PC group find themselves at the entrance to a city. It appears abandoned, and something seems to have kept others away. The city appears intact, but many other parts of it appear locked off. There are vaults, locked doors and whole other quarters are closed. The players can set up shop there. Eventually the players will realize that in order to bring the city to life, they need to bring people here to settle: craftspersons, farmers, scholars, etc. If they can create a working community, then more parts, more places, more resources will unlock. Eventually another quarter will open, and along with it, another city gate. Except this gate exits out into another part of the world. Eventually the players will realize that the city once served as a magical trade crossroads for the continent, before some event in the distant past. The campaign would be a combination of city-building and standard campaign finding and fighting ancient evils.

12. The Night Watch
System: Homebrew, with elements of GUMSHOE.

Essentially this would be a fantasy campaign, with the players taking on the role of city guards. The twist would be that the group would collaboratively build the city at the start of the campaign. You can see a full write up of those ideas in this post.

I really like this one. Definitely in my top five of these.

13. HCI: Darkening Lights
System: Homebrew

I've run a version of this previously, you can see discussion of that here. Essentially this is a cross-genre campaign, built around a framing device. In the past this has been based around a VR turned reality breach concept. I have a couple of other frames which twist those concepts. I learned some lessons from that previous campaign- notably to establish a small pool of key frames, rather than an open-ended approach. I've also been thinking about how to maintain the stakes across the settings and to reduce the need for different system mechanics. I don't necessarily want to use a generic system, but rather an engine that can be tuned. This kind of campaign does require more sessions to play out well- and a commitment on the part of the players, so I have to think about this further.

14. Episode VIII
System: Homebrew

Last year I ran a short seven session Star Wars campaign, essentially the first film in a trilogy taking place after the end of Return of the Jedi. I'd like to do the second part of that, another six or so sessions. The only problem is that a couple of the players now have scheduling conflicts. The other four shouldn't be a problem. So I can wait for those conflicts to wrap up; kill off those characters in the opening sequence; or have someone else run them. The later might be the best idea- but that would be tough in the case of the character who has served as the Jedi mentor to another one of the PCs. I'll have to figure out about that at some point in the future. If I can't get it done in 2012, I doubt we'll be able to do it.

15. The Emperor in Yellow
System: ???

I'd really like to do a Rome or at least a Roman-analogue game. I don't think a straight procedural (I love me some Didius Falco) would necessarily work. I think the transition to that period would make the whole mystery solving think more difficult- or that might be my over-thinking it. History games aren't as interesting to people, so I would have to sex it up more than a little. I like the idea of a team of special agents of the Emperor, each with special powers, traveling across the land and taking care of evil cult and dangerous mythics and supernaturals. Perhaps putting down rival stories that outshine the Empire. Killing little gods in the name of greater deification of the Emperor. I imagine that as either a LXG or Hellboy flavored game.

On the other hand, if I really wanted to spend the time on it I could run a Lunar Empire campaign in my hack of Glorantha. The players could be members of a noble house vying for power, influence and authority. There'd be more than a little touch of Houses of the Blooded to it. I'd stress the Lunar Empire as very Roman and have a slightly deranged version of my history game.

16. Crux Redux
System: Exalted (1st Edition) or homebrew version of that

I ran a Dragon-Blooded campaign a few years ago that I really enjoyed. They remain my favorite Exalts in the setting; I don't like the Solars and loathe the Abyssals and Infernals. The idea that these exalts are more powerful than normal people, but still need to work in a team to achieve really great things appeals to me. The campaign I ran had the players all coming from one DB house- young, they ended up sent into exile together in order to make a name for themselves. They were sent to the city of Crux, where the fortunes of their family had fallen.

It was a building game, with a fairly evocative setting and the tension of these high and mighty characters have to figure out a means to restore their place, while at the same time living day to day. Unfortunately we lost one of the lynchpin players from the campaign. The group agreed to wait to play again until she could return, but that window of opportunity passed.

But I worked really hard on the setting and set up and I don't want to waste that work, so I'd like to do a reboot- starting over from scratch, with returning players being allowed to use their same character concepts. I'd have to spin the dials on the plots and the alignments of various NPCs, but it might work.

17. Touring Middle Earth
System: Uncertain, possibly The One Ring, possibly homebrew

I've had an idea for a couple of years that I'd like to do a short campaign which would be a journey across most of Middle Earth, to give the players a taste of different locations and peoples. I'd probably use the MERP campaign frame, set well before the events of Lord of the Rings. The Rangers of the North still stand, defending their lands. I would have players come from there and have to travel all the way to the far south to either deliver, find or destroy something.

This might be a chance to try out one of those OSR systems- finding one that would simulate the setting best.

18. Challengers of the Unknown
System: ???

I did a whole post on disasters and apocalypses, but I realized afterwards that I haven't really done a post-Apocalypse campaign. I mentioned a fantasy approach to that earlier- but here I'm thinking something less high fantasy, but more modern or sci-fi. I don't necessarily want to do straight post-Apoc with either of the "go to" approaches. On the one hand I like to save zombies for one-shots and horror effects. On the other hand, my friend Dave's Fallout-based campaign pretty much set the bar for that kind of thing. So how to handle this? I have a couple of ideas.

One of them includes a Summerland-like approach, where the world has been overtaken by a strange or fantastical event. I like modern fantasy and I think you could do a great campaign with one of two approaches. First, trying to figure out the world in the immediate aftermath of the event. Uncovering the new rules and logic of the setting could be great fun- mystery and survival. Second, a surviving group perhaps a year after the event decides to send people out in an attempt to discover what has happened elsewhere. I know Pelgrane has a post-apocalypse procedural in the works- I really want to see what kinds of new tools and ideas that offers. I hadn't put together the link between mysteries and this genre until I started to think about the framework.

I also really like Greg Christopher's framework in Cascade Failure. I could do something like that. Or perhaps a slight variation on that. The players planet/settlement suffers an event and the stellar background shows that some time, years, have passed in an instant. Now they have to leave to figure out why they've lost contact with the rest of the Empire. Ashen Stars has some ideas that might work with something like that. I've also been thinking about the various galaxy-spanning/destroying stuff in videogames like Mass Effect and HALO. Could I play with those concepts for a post-apocalypse game?

19. The Agency
System: Homebrew, perhaps The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game

I really like modern fantasy, and I've enjoyed running it in our Changeling the Lost campaign. But I'd also like to do a more noir take on this- perhaps with some light horror elements. I like the idea of the players being low-level mages- either in a world where magic's open or else where it lies behind a curtain. There's a lot of material out there for this, including some of the great stuff from Mage: The Ascension. There's also the strange noir set up of Edge of Midnight, although in that cases I'd want to change up the magic which seems more psychic than occult. But most importantly, I'd want the players to have a business, an agency, perhaps not even a detective one, but one that puts them in the path of high strangeness. I'd borrow some concepts from Bookhounds of London to work out the details.

20. The Open Chantry
System: ???

In reading through Novarium recently, it occurred to me that Greg Christopher had really hit on some of the elements of the setting that I enjoy: multiple characters, a building game, seasonal growth, interesting non-adventure activities, and flexible magic. I think it would be interesting to do a campaign, historical or otherwise, where the magical covenants and chantries exist out in the open. The group could take up control of a new chantry- figuring out how to deal with the location and their neighbors. There might be some resentment or prejudice, but they wouldn't have to hide themselves. Then you could have the group more active locally, deal with power struggles, and include a more dynamic organization of the orders a s a whole. The Mages would exist as a strong and independent power group, paralleling the nobility and the church(es). If you went straight historical, you could have a lot of interesting alt history material. On the other hand, if you went full fantasy, then you could do some collaborative world-building to set things up.

21. On the Expansion of Horizons
System: Pathfinder, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (3rd Edition) or one of the new OSR systems with support.

I write all my adventures and sessions, rarely do I use published adventures or modules. On the other hand, I do borrow mercilessly from other source material for elements. I've also not tried some of the new, more mechanics oriented systems. Given that I always want to hone my skills and try something new, I might break both those habits in one stroke.

I could pick one of these systems and select an adventure path. I know most of them have a series or linked set of adventures. I'd try to run these by the book- sticking to the core rules, rather than buying anything extra. I might even try one of those fancy beginner boxes. If I decided to go Pathfinder, I'd go to this excellent resource: The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: System Guide for New Players.

22. Players' Choice

So I have a number of ideas on the list, but I also have to talk to the group and see if there's anything out there that some players really want to play. Perhaps someone saw Deadlands and always wanted to game in that system. I don't picture anyone in the group having a penchant for the Wild West, but who knows? I don't have anything swashbuckling or pirates on my list, but maybe there's a strong desire for that? Or mecha?

One thing I do want to try to get off the ground this year is a "Run Club," where we get together perhaps once a month to try out one-shots of various odd-ball games like Fiasco, Time & Temp and Dragon Age.

23. Auzumel's Choice

I'd also like to get my wife's input on what she really wants to play. Generally she's good about liking whatever comes to the table- though she has some things she isn't as interested in playing. I'd like to find some things that hook her. She's mentioned a game based on relationship ties- as a secondary feature, not the foreground. But the PCs would all be recovering from personal tragedies, like betrayal or lost loves. It would be romantic in the sense of being humanist. On the other hand, she's also expressed an interest in a more classic police procedural if that could be done well. So I have to see if she has some strong ideas I haven't listed here.

For the first part of this list, see here.


  1. I love running Scion but I've only done Hero-level stuff so far. I've had the same concerns you do about the increasing power levels. What tweaks did you make to the system?

  2. IIRC- and it has been a while- the changes were first to some of the character creation options. I think I left followers out as an option- instead making that a kind of contacts thing. But more importantly, I didn't allow changes to the Speed of Relics. Even a shift of a single point for a weapon makes for a huge swing. I also believe that I modified one of the defensive abilities- based on comments from one of the Scion FAQs I'd seen.

    The interesting thing was that I'd planned the campaign as a short run thing, perhaps a dozen sessions, and doled out exp accordingly. That had the benefit of making the players feel positive about their growth, but did mean that any sequel would start them at a pretty puffy level- not Demi-God, but getting up into silly ranges. I really loved Scion, but the way they scaled things means that later stages have to go to "11".

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