By way of participating in the RPG Blog Carnival for May, I thought I’d jump in with talking about campaigns I’d like to run, and man, are there a lot. Unfortunately, probably a lot more than I’ll ever get to, but that’s just the way of things. So, to impose some structure on my excessive campaign desires, I am going to give an example for each suggested facet of the topic from the introductory post to this Month’s carnival. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Specific Campaign Pitches: Okay, first of all, this is a game that I probably want to play in more than I want to run it, but I’ll take what I can get. I was recently reading the archives at Monsters & Manuals and saw this post talking about Conquistador companies and it reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for a while, probably originally inspired by Penny Arcade’s Acquisitions Incorporated. I want a game with a fairly advanced, slightly cosmopolitan setting, more late medieval to early renaissance than my usual preferred early dark ages. Something more like Warhammer’s Old World (especially Marienburg) or Waterdeep. But this is not a game of citycrawling or courtly intrigue. Oh no. This is a game of expeditions into dangerous wilderness and ruins for glory and wealth. Mostly wealth. There’s something interesting to me in the idea of taking an explicitly anachronistic, even banal attitude to a fantasy world. So, adventurers would actually be professional adventurers, formed into companies with shares spelled out in contracts, clauses regarding funeral arrangements, business plans, et cetera. I wouldn’t want to tip entirely into parody, but something about the inherent irony of the juxtaposition of real world, modern approaches to fantastical, mythical things would be fun. In the background would be a “kitchen sink” fantasy setting with the cliché elves and dwarves and halflings and humans and whoever living in one multicultural empire, “magic as technology” would make an appearance despite (because of?) my usual distaste for it, and many of the ridiculous rationalizing of D&D tropes that occurred in late 2E would be fully embraced. To balance this, the actual expeditions would be insanely, nightmarishly lethal, and the only viable option for success would be thorough preparation and lateral thinking. I think a DCCRPG style funnel approach would be especially fitting, and would make sense with players in the role of “expedition managers” with a stable of recruits. All of this is even more amusing to me now that I’m in business school.
Systems or Settings of Interest: I really want to run Burning Wheel some time. Reading the rules got me all hot and bothered, and the emotional mechanics for elves and dwarves just really *get* Tolkien style elves and dwarves in a way that I would love to see in action. I don’t know if they lead to those characterizations working in play, but reading them definitely conjures up exactly the right feel. At one point I actually said “If I ever run D&D again, I want to do it with Burning Wheel.” Obviously I was foolish and wrong, but I would amend that to “If I ever want to run a high-drama epic fantasy game focused on character motivations, I want to run Burning Wheel.” But secretly, I might want to play Burning Wheel even more than I want to run it.
Gamemastered in a Particular Style: So, obviously I’d really like to run my own damn game “Book of Threes”. A few things have held this up: getting more into “Old School” gaming than indie gaming recently, having an actual game to play instead of just amusing myself with design, and stalling out on what exactly the point of play for this game is. So, I’ve got a great idea of the ‘feel’ I want to go for, and some notions I’ve borrowed from indie games on how to set up tense interpersonal relationships, but I feel like the game lacks a driving “this is what you do in this game” impetus for players to fall back on. I need to figure that out, and then figure out how to tweak the game mastering rules (which are mostly a modification of the Apocalypse World game master rules) to reflect that. And since I’ve been so focused on Fellhold, that’s been way on the backburner for awhile. But I’d still like to work it out and get that game finished.
Dream Team: Hahah, just kidding
For Particular Groups: I lucked out and got most of my RPG group “dream team” into the Fellhold game. That being said, I have a few friends that I would specifically like to get together for some hippie indie gaming with themes and shit. And some other friends I’d like to play something openly competitive and tactical. There’s some overlap there, of course, but I know some play styles and games just aren’t gonna do much for some people.
Lists: Monastic warriors; Sikhs; Desert Nomads; Djinn; Mongols; Rakhshasas; Sinbad; Sorcerors; Islands; Gnolls; Pirate Kings; Junks; Fishmen; Dagon; Garuda; Lizardmen; Dinosaurs; Wandering Judges; Factions
Pretty Much Like This
And for something completely different, a mash up of Gonzo D&D flavored Cartoons, but with taking themselves entirely seriously, and without the G/PG gloves on: Thundarr the Barbarian; He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; Thundercats; Pirates of Dark Water
This Guy Makes Awesome Supplements
How You Pitch That Campaign: I dream about producing a small, attractive supplement with quality art and layout that strikes *exactly* the right balance between interesting ideas to steal for your game and not being an overly wordy poor attempt at pseudo-fiction. I envision the meat of it being tools to make homebrewing easier and better, and then some ingredients to include in your brew if you want (specific locations, cultures, et cetera). Kinda like Vornheim, but for whole setting creation. I’m sure I’m the umpteenth person to have and express this wish, and someone has probably already made it and made it good. But yeah, that would be the ultimate “pitch” to me.
Genres that Lure You: There’s just something about that Grim Darkness of the Far Future Where There is Only War that feels like it ought to make a hell of an RPG with the right treatment. But the published 40k games leave me cold. Actually “leave me cold” is not fair. It’s more like "make me want to smash the book into my face and wonder why, oh God why was this written this way?!" That being said, I’d like to run something like Dark Heresy with a different ruleset (my last thinking was a hack of Apocalypse World, but when I came to that decision, I thought everything should be a hack of Apocalypse World. If I start considering it more seriously, I will probably be more amenable to other ways of doing things). My histrionics aside, there are some really cool rules in the Fantasy Flight 40k games (well, in Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader, the two I have) – things like corruption as well as insanity, the rogue trader profit/purchasing system is a really cool way to easily simulate a large business empire in a way that drives play, that sort of thing.
Okay, and maybe a Sultan from Geek Chic
Using Interesting Tools: The sad thing is that the “interesting tools” I most yearn for right now are the oldies but goodies – I would love to be able to play a game at a table, with physical paper maps, hand written props, et cetera. Sometimes I fantasize about using miniatures and making some cool dungeon terrain and the like, but mostly I just don’t want the artificial constraints imposed by playing online. I feel like a lot of the old school stuff I want to make a focus (player mapping, creative combat without relying on fancy rules, et cetera) loses usefulness in a Google+ Hangout. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to play a weekly game with good friends scattered across the country far outweighs all the downsides, but at the end of the day, it’s still an acceptable substitute, not the real thing.
Campaigns Avoiding Certain Problems: This may be cheating and falling back on setting of particular interest, but Torchbearer looks like it handles the resource management issues of D&D not by abstracting them away, but by making them the focus of the game. I sometimes feel like the nasty, brutish, and short phase of low-level old school D&D is the part I like the most, and it sure sounds like Torchbearer delivers on that, but I haven’t gotten a full copy of the rules yet, and I certainly haven’t played, so who knows? It might go too far into "focused design" to make for good sustained play, and it might be too similar to D&D for "taking a break" from an ongoing D&D campaign, but that's okay. If nothing else, hopefully there will be some tools to rip off for future homebrewing.