Thursday, August 30, 2012

Campaign Notebook: Ghost Hunters

My wife loves the TV show Ghost Hunters - she's always loved stories about the supernatural, and peoples' pursuit of it, and answers to life after death (now that she's Christian, like me, we have those answers, but the shows remain interesting and that's not necessarily on-topic anyhow).  It occurred to me that the only way she might play roleplaying games with me (she doesn't really enjoy the concepts of D&D or RPGs in general) is if I develop a campaign specifically focusing on ghost hunting - which I have plans to do.  I'm not sure what system I'll use yet, since I want to use something rules lite so it's easier for her to learn (Do I need a Modern OSR-related hack, or do I go with a different system built for horror games or use... shudder... slimmed-down GURPS?  Perhaps CoC will serve me best, now that I think about it.).

Anyhow, I would begin the campaign much as the TV show, with one investigation after another, which progressively get more obviously supernatural.  Eventually, after all this leads to success in the characters' lives, the government takes notice, or perhaps a large corporation, and begins to investigate them and what they do.  This in turn will lead to ever-scarier investigations, and perhaps put them in the middle of some shady business deals or even a warzone or two if the government is involved.  And perhaps those employers want to enlist the aid of the supernatural for their own ends?  The possibilities are endless!

PS - The Campaign Notebook series of posts are a way for me to keep track of my inspiration for campaigns so I can get the ideas out of my head, on "paper," and under control.  The side effect is you get to see what some of my possible future campaigns will be!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Campaign Notebook: The Repository

I've always loved the idea of the Hollow World setting that TSR put out about 20 years ago (and it's various literary inspirations, like Pellucidar).  In particular I liked the idea that the Immortals saved cultures on the brink of extinction by moving them to another place where they can thrive, in whatever relative fashion.  Then I thought, what if the cultures were literary archetypes or even specific characters or places?

What this idea has done is give me another idea, a moment of inspiration, after reading a little about the Appendix N kickstarter that's going on for DCC.  I've always wanted to run a really gonzo campaign with whatever system suits my fancy (and for this one, it's probably going to be Pathfinder, since I have so many sourcebooks for the players to snatch from).  I call it The Repository, or The Library.  It's where all fantasy literary ideas go after they're published for so long and forgotten about, or only cared for by a segment of existing readers (take, for instance, various cult Appendix N titles).  The "world" would be populated by characters, places, cultures, etc., that exist within fantasy fiction - all fantasy fiction, whether set in the modern day or in some forgotten time.  Think of it like looking in on a sort of "Neverending Story" of fantasy literature.  It's the supreme fantasy mash-up.  You could have Conan-esque barbarians alongside elves alongside technomancers alongside psi-warriors alongside evil Cthuloid cultists alongside Arthurian faeries alongside mythological heroes alongside kobolds alongside Harry Dresden alongside Buffy alongside.... well, you get the picture.  Any idea, literally any idea, made possible by the various permutations of the D20 System and its plethora of genre sourcebooks and settings, will be possible, including monster classes.  It will be a campaign limited only by the sheer imagination of those involved.

Sure, there will be imbalance.  We'll handle that as it comes.  Sure, it creates too many options.  That's part of the fun.  

Think about it - how fun would it be to mix a class like the Psion from the Complete Psionics Handbook (3.5E) with a cool prestige class from D20 Modern or even... choke... D20 Star Wars or D20 Fading Suns?  Yes, I think this could be a great idea.  How would Pathfinder's Gunslinger work with a similar shoot-em-up style of class from the various 3rd-party Modern supplements?  Let's go one step further.  How about using the Troll monster class from Savage Species and combine it with Fast Hero from D20 Modern or something equally offbeat?  What about an aasimar with Jedi as the base class, who later takes levels in the Horizon Walker prestige class or learns spells like a Sorceror?  I just sold myself on this with that one!

Oh yes...  This will require some house rules.  But imagine the pure insanity.  Dice flying everywhere!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fantastic Languages

It is my experience that there are generally three schools of thought on languages in RPGs. 

School 1:  D&D Vanilla-ism
Codified languages based thoroughly on race and boxed for convenience by the rules of the game from setting to setting, varying only slightly.  Examples:  Common, Elf, Dwarf, etc.  Detailed, but without detail.

School 2:  Who Cares
Some groups could care less who speaks what, they just don't really give a thought to it.  They want hacks, slashes, loot, and survival.

School 3:  Details, Details
Here's where I fit.  My game world is defined in part by its languages.  I don't want it to be terribly easy for the PCs to communicate with someone else from a different nation.  I want language barriers to reinforce that it is a fantasy world that changes with the actions of the party and others.  Should all the PCs instantly speak something so bland-sounding as Common?  No - but they'll probably speak Karthaginian, since it's the most widespread empire on the map.  There are probably going to be individual languages found within that same empire, as well, since it stretches so far.  The folks in Megiddo speak Megiddian, there's the dead language that was once spoken by the Voori (Vooric), and perhaps local dialects of Karthaginian spoken in Antioch, Pergamon, or Pangkot.  Just within the area south of one of the main bodies of water in my game world, you have the following: Xotathi, Phyrgilian, Lengite, Kombolo, Kongese, Uccastrogi, Aktenshepolite, Seljuk, Kanaima, Ongian, Yezidee, Haemodite, and Khapuran.  

And then I get the urge to do something really weird - well, it is sword & sorcery/sandal/weird/pulp fantasy-influenced, right?  Here are a few I just dreamed up - not sure what, if any, game mechanics are going to be involved, but I'm going to work some of this into the magical background of the game.

Black Speech:  A tool for evil beings, sorcerers, and priests of dark gods.  Strangely, it can enhance the efficacy of evil magic (that is, magic used for evil purposes), but also opens psychic doorways to things that lurk in the Outer Dark, influences that can creep into the psyche and possess the speaker.

Red Speech:  The secret language of vampires, hidden from mortal eyes at all costs.  Even learning this language can bring strange urges to mortal minds.

White Speech:  The language used by the priests of the Nameless God of Megiddo, the only pure and benevolent god in all the lands.  It is used to cancel any effects of the Black Speech, and for divine rituals.

Vooric:  A dead language, once spoken by the extinct Voori people, but preserved through the undead speakers that still exist within the Necropolis of Voor.  It has a pictographic alphabet, and it is necessary to understand many of the rites of the Voori practiced in the mountains depths.