TRAIL OF THE GAMES
Play long enough and you’ll end up with campaigns that trailed off and died. Some you might have no regrets about, but others leave you thinking about what might have been. In my early years of gaming, I remember starting and dropping many campaigns. I left unfinished PCs in my wake. Then, somewhere along the line, I decided to really try to focus and finish campaigns. If they weren’t going great, I still made an effort to wrap them up. I wanted to give the players (and myself) at least some kind of closure. I think some of that came from playing in my late friend Barry’s games. An artist, he’d come in gangbusters for them- with tons of great ideas and concepts. But quickly he’d lose interest- or rather gain interest for other campaigns. I can think of at least four games, each with great PCs, that died that way.
On the other hand, sometimes campaigns stop because of outside forces. I often see GMs online complaining about bad scheduling, work conflicts, and people moving. We’ve had that with a few games- and the one which sticks with me the most is our Exalted Dragon Blooded campaign, called "Crux." It ran for a long time- and we had really excellent characters and moments. It had some of my favorite character developments, along with a strong sense of the players building up their place in a community. But the game ended up facing several hiccups. One of the couples in the game split up which cost us a player. Then later one player resented being at a table dominated by female players. He literally yelled at the table when anyone tried to plan things out. That brought the game to a halt for a long time- since booting him cost us his wife as a player as well. Eventually we managed to start again for a time, with the wife returning. But then they divorced and she decided she didn’t want to game anymore. By this point two other players had moved on, leaving us with only the GM plus two others. I’ve thought about rebooting the campaign, but I’m worried about recapturing lightning in a bottle.
The Dragon-Blooded remain my favorite Exalts in the setting; I don't like the Solars and loathe the Abyssals and Infernals. I adore the idea that these exalts are more powerful than normal people, but still need to work in a team to achieve great things. The Crux campaign had all the players come from a single house: Ledaal. Young, they ended up battling a Sidereal in the first session. That broke and tainted their destiny. Their house sent them into exile together in order to make a name for themselves. If they could forge a place for themselves, they could return. So they arrived in the outlands city of Crux, where the fortunes of their family had fallen.
This was a building game, with with a multi-layered city to explore. We had the tension of these high and mighty characters having to figure out a means to restore their place, while at the same time living day to day. As I did with the NO:LA campaign, I spent many weeks leading up to the game's start doling out snippets about the city and the world. Every couple of days I sent out a new local person, place in the city, or weird detail about. This ended up being a strong resource to play off of and explore later. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting those bits in sections. They might prove useful for gamers planning on running an Exalted campaign. Or they might be useful for fantasy city-building. Some of the concepts rework bits from other sources, but most are original.
I’ve written a general overview of Crux which you can read here. The most important concept to realize is that the city is literally built on three tiers: the Day, Dusk, and Night quarters. Each of these are massive stone disks atop each other. Originally the whole of the city rose and fell throughout the day, but that mechanism broke ages ago.
Here are two maps of the region:
And one lame map of the top level of the city: