Tuesday, June 17, 2014

[Gamemastery] 5 Ideas for Campaigns I Might Run

My DWAiTAS game is going into stasis until we can arrange a time and space (or cyberspace) for the finale, but it's all but finished now. So, having just come out of running a campaign, it's probably going to be at least a month or several before I'm feeling in the mood to run a regular campaign again. That said, in spite of how burnt out I've become since last September, I'm not going to give up on GMing, and will probably return to campaign play sooner or later. So I've been giving some thought to what I might run as my next campaign and come up with a few ideas in various states of completeness. I didn't bother listing them in countdown order this time, so the order here is most-interested-in-running to least interested.

WARNING: GUGS members or anyone who I RP with online might want to avoid reading the following post, since they might want to sign up for these games if/when I run them, and most of these descriptions are of the spoilery variety. So only scroll down if you're not likely to be in my future campaigns:

1. Night's Black Agents: The Tunguska Menace
The popular theory about the Tunguska Event -which flattened 2000 square kilometers of forest and lit night skies in Europe and Asia for days afterwards - is that it was caused by either an asteroid or meteor bursting in the air after entering Earth's atmosphere. This much is true.
What is not widely known is that there was something inside that celestial body: a spore which has infested and mutated creatures within the blast area since the event. But fauna and flora are not the most effective hosts for the organism. It isn't until USSR scientists discover the spore in the mid-30s and experiment with it that the organism meets the perfect hosts: human beings.
After initial test subjects display violent - even vampiric - impulses, the research project is soon scrapped, the spore deemed too unpredictable for military use. But the spore survived, and lived on inside one of the project heads. Fast-forward to the present day, where the infested former researcher has now built up a vast vampire conspiracy, and is in the final stages of a plan to bring the Earth under his kind's rule.

When I first bought Night's Black Agents, I mentioned it to my friend Lizzy and she really liked the sound of it, so I started thinking about ideas for a campaign to run over IRC with her as a potential player. Knowing Lizzy is interested in UFOlogy, I figured I'd make either the Roswell Incident or the Tunguska Event the origin for my vamps. I eventually decided to loosely base my vampires on the music video for Metallica's All Nightmare Long, in which Soviet scientists discover an alien spore at the Tunguska blast site and eventually use it to instigate a zombie apocalypse in the US. I needed to tweak my idea somewhat so that the spore creates vamps rather than zombies, and so that it didn't create this alternate history where the US submits to Soviet rule in gratitude for their helping put an end to the zombie outbreak. There's still a lot of work to be put in before I'll ready to run this campaign, but I really like what I've got so far.

2. Night's Black Agents: The Hypnos Conspiracy (by Sergio Rodriguez)
In 1967, the CIA’s Project MKULTRA made a profound discovery. When dosed with certain chemicals, the human mind could be detached from the body and connected to a vast psychic reservoir, the very collective unconscious of the human race. The surveillance applications were obvious; the ability to steal information from the dreams and imaginings of The Enemy would alter the balance of the Cold War decisively. On March 13, 1968, Subject 612AC was sent “down”.
This was a mistake. Subject 612AC never returned from the dark behind humanity’s eyes. Something else did.
Project MKULTRA is closed now, ended in scandal and public recrimination. But the men who were part of that program, those powerful men who were in the room when that subject did not return; they still exist, they still live. They have moved on, starting companies and programs and networks of their own.
And within each of them is a shard of something terrible.
They have only one goal; to escape the prison of our minds. They seek to descend us all into a never ending dream, to draw their masters and brothers and full-selves out of nightmares.
It’s us or them.

Another Night's Black Agents campaign idea I'm working on, but in this case I'm using a concept submitted by Sergio Rodriguez for Pelgrane Press' Conspyramid competition.
The Hypnos Conspiracy was the winning entry in the competition, and well-deserving of the prize IMHO.
I like fiction involving dreams and the concept of the collective unconscious, I'm even working on a novel in a setting which involves the two. I didn't want to use my own story world in a campaign, but this idea has some similarities to mine, so I can run a campaign from it with a similar feel. The challenge I'm facing with this one is reverse-engineering the conspyramid: designing vamps based on the basic premise, determining which conspiracy nodes are the members of the original Project MKULTRA, where those nodes are located and what their role in the greater conspiracy is, and just how the puppet cast of a children's TV show tie in to the whole thing. (That said, just the idea of a bunch of muppet-type puppets as part of a psychic vampire conspiracy is both hilarious and somewhat creepifying.) Once I've worked out the details, I should have enough material to start a campaign. This one will probably be run at GUGS, though I might use it for my IRC campaign instead if I make more progress with it than the other campaign idea.
Side Note: I have heard from other fiction writing GMs that they like to explore their fiction ideas through RP sometimes...I think I'll can-of-worms that for a future post.

3. Kuro: Survivors
May 4th 2046, the day of the Kuro Incident. An accidental missile launch by the Panasiatic Federation vanishes mysteriously before hitting Japan. The electromagnetic storm which follows fries the control mechanisms of two airliners lifting off from Tokyo Airport at the same time. There are only six surviving passengers; three from each airliner, and each from the seats numbered 8, 9, and 3. Coincidence? Miracle? No. They were they spared for a reason. Six months later, the survivors of the Kamata crash are about to discover what that reason is...

What I've got here is a nice way of tying the PCs together at the start, with a fun prologue for the campaign where they're all boarding/onboard the ship prior to the crash. Then maybe after the six month timeskip they're all in the same support group for survivors of the crash, or maybe they're all called together by someone for some reason. Once I've worked out the reason they were spared (and by whom/what), then I'll have a better idea of how to handle the 'reunion'. But as soon as I saw the details of the Kamata crash in the corebook, I knew it was perfect fodder to build a campaign around, and if I run Kuro as anything more than a one-shot, this is the way I'd do it.

4. Timewatch: Plurality
Two years ago the Bentham Grid went online in New York City. It was a technological marvel.
The Grid links all those things unique to you - your social security number, your passport, your credit and debit accounts - and links them to one thing: your DNA. 
Through the Grid, any surface can serve as a genetic scanner, rendering credit cards and keys a thing of the past.
After the state of New York gave the police access to the Grid, crime dropped almost instantly. However, they also discovered that certain people are popping up in two places at once. These 'Pluralities' come under the scrutiny of the ISIU - the Department of Immigration Services Special Investigations Unit - and you are among those who find themselves being detained and interrogated. You don't know why there are two of you, but finding out why might be important to your future - and everyone else's...

Based on an amazing short film by Dennis Liu, this campaign would most likely use the Timewatch version of Gumshoe, and would expand upon the concept and plot of the film. The pluralities are caused by time travellers trying to prevent a future which is somehow tied to the Grid, but the players won't be the time travellers: they'll be the normal citizens whose lives get turned upside down by the arrival of their future selves. The reason for this is that I think the concept works better if it's driven by the mystery of what these future folk are up to, and what terrible future they are trying to prevent.

5. Doctor Who: Children of Time
Gallifrey was in flames. The High Council had grown corrupt and lost its way. As the Time Lords faced extinction in a final battle against the Daleks, a renegade group of Time Lords - horrified by the War and what it has done to their civilisation - took action to preserve the future of their people.
A dozen children from the Time Lord academy were sent through time - along with a couple of TARDIS seeds - in SIDRATs with built-in chameleon archs which re-wrote their biology and memories, creating new identities for them on the planet Earth.
The plan was that when the TARDISes were fully grown, they would send out telepathic signals, summoning the Children to reclaim their birthright and rebuild their civilisation, and hopefully redeem the Time Lords in the process.
You are among one half of the dozen Children who were sent out, and this is the story of what happened next...

This was the other option for a Doctor Who campaign that I considered running, before settling on the Exiles of Time idea. I even considered hinting at this plotline during Exiles - having the Children be the secret council behind the Temporal Security Agency - but decided to hold onto the idea for future use. It would be a more freeform campaign, with a potential plot arc concerning the fate of the other half-dozen Children and their TARDIS. (Perhaps also dealing with the fate of some of their own crew, in the event that not all six player slots are filled.) Since I've just finished a Doctor Who campaign, I'm probably not going to run this one anytime too soon, but it's something I'll definitely keep in mind.

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