Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Campaign Ideas for an Online Game

So I was asked nicely by some friends of mine if I would run an online rpg for them. They've been getting together to play MMOs and generally bs on Wednesday evenings for the last several years. I've been wanting to see what the challenges are of doing a game using G+ or other set-up. I put together a quick set of ideas I think would work both for their group and for the limits of that kind of game. I'm also starting to look around and see what kinds of tools are out there. Here's what I passed on to them...  

OVERVIEW
So here are the game possibilities I've put together. I think these would work for an online audio-based game. I’ve steered away from anything requiring too much role-play or too much combat. I’ve focused on systems with simple and easy to register game mechanics. I don’t want to track too much. You guys will have a lot of freedom and choice within the game, but I will probably be a little looser about saying “no” in order to keep things running smoothly.

Ideally this would be a 6-8 session story, likely with an arc running through it. How that falls out will depend on the players and how well doing this over G+ (or whatever) works. Go ahead and pass this on to the group- including those who haven’t said one way or the other yet. If there’s a clear concensus about what people want to play we can go with that; otherwise at some point in the next few weeks I’ll putting together some kind of voting system. I did put some alternatives in case people wanted broader options.

SUPERHEROES: YEAR ONE
Premise: Each player chooses an existing superhero they will play. This can be from any universe (DC, Marvel, Milestone, Amalgam, etc). The premise will be that while there have been supers for a short while, they’re relatively new. You will play these heroes in their early days, with the founding of the group as a starting point. You don’t have to stick to the existing details of the character- you might want to changes details about the origin, switch genders or races, modify the source of their powers, etc. The characters you pick will establish some of the premises of the world (if you pick Zatana, then we know there’s magic; if you pick a thawed out Captain America we know that there were secret heroes during WW2).  

Of course you’re also going to be lower-powered beginning characters. So even if you choose Superman or Adam Warlock, you may have some of those powers but fairly constrained. I will be writing up the characters based on your input- so you’ll have a chance to establish what you want to focus on. We’ll establish a campaign city depending on the player choices.  

System: We will be using Mutants & Masterminds 2e. That’s a fairly simple d20 based supers system, requiring a single die roll for most elements. You can easily find the pdf and there’s also a nice pocket version out there. Please note that we’ll be using second edition and not the more recent third edition if you choose to buy anything. I’ll be using material from the Ultimate Power sourcebook, but reserve the right to veto certain powers and abilities.  

Alternative: As an alternative, the group may want to decide to pick heroes from one particular superhero universe for consistency. If that happens then I’ll try to bring in classic elements from that.

THE STARS LIKE ASHES
Premise: A sci-fi game with a slight Firefly vibe based on the rpg setting of Ashen Stars. Players take the roles of “Lasers,” freelance law enforcers. They operate in the Bleed, a region of space once controlled by an empire known as the Combine. This wild space has largely been left to its own devices. A great war which ended mysteriously forced the Combine to refocus on the core worlds. Still, some order has to be maintained, even if by mercenaries. Navigating between disparate planetary cultures and races, the Lasers balance ethics and the need to make a buck. They have a dangerous existence- answering desperate calls for help but finding themselves more often unwelcome than wanted. You can see more about that on the product page here. 

System: We won’t be using the Ashen Stars/Gumshoe rules. I’ll just be borrowing the setting. For mechanics I’ll be adapting that over to the FATE system. It has a fairly abstract story-oriented set of mechanics. The RPGs Diaspora, Spirit of the Century, Legends of Anglerre, and The Dresden Files all use this. You won’t have to buy anything; I’ll put together the homebrew adaptation. You can find a copy of the FATE SRD on the Evil Hat, Inc website.

Ashen Stars has non-humans as a character option. At most two players in the group will be allowed to play non-humans. Not all of the races listed in Ashen Stars will be available.

Alternative: The other approach would be a straight Firefly game, using FATE.

LXG 1937
Premise: This would be two-fisted pulp action in a slightly alternate universe 1930’s. Characters will be talented adventurers or perhaps even possess some mysterious powers. I picture this as being a globe or nation trotting game, based on high adventure as the group takes on world threats. Might lift a little from Crimson Skies for the setting, or even just a world with a slightly more steampunk flavor. Eldritch adversaries of horror in this kind of game can still be taken down with gumption and a tommy gun.

System: This would also use FATE, probably Spirit of the Century primarily since that’s their pulp version of this. I would also probably borrow ideas from White Wolf’s Adventure! Rpg and some others. 

Alternative: Players might want to play out agents in a thriller setting in another era. 1950’s post supernatural apocalypse (Day After Ragnarok); 1960’s spywave (James Bond crossed with Night’s Black Agents); or modern (Delta Green). While some might have fantastic elements, I won’t be doing horror as I don’t think that works well with this set up.

THE NIGHT WATCHMEN
Premise: Players take the role of city guard in a fantasy city. The attempt to keep the peace while perhaps advancing their own interests as well. The actual genre background could be anything (steampunk, high fantasy, more medieval)- determined in this case by the city creation session. We would begin with a session in which we would collaboratively build the city. I would use a variant on the systems from Microscope and Dresden Files to structure this process. I’d manage that session and keep things directed so we’d end up with a playable setting.

Your characters would work to maintain order, uncover conspiracies, limit the Thieves Guild, and most importantly- keep adventurers from burning the whole place down. I imagine the city would work best as a crossroads (like Lanhkmar) with several distinct cultures and/or races. Players could come from all walks of life, perhaps some having been sell-swords before taking an arrow to the knee. I see this as a hybrid procedural/networking/adventuring campaign. 

System: Once again using FATE, with the magic handled as abstract and fairly low powered. I’d borrow significantly from Legends of Anglerre for this.  

Alternative: If players want a less conventional fantasy building campaign we could do something with samurai or ninja fantasy; in either case the group would collaboratively build a clan that they all come from and hold positions of authority in.