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 Post subject: A new campaign
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 4:57 pm 
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My last campaign played on for some amount of time before, as sometimes happens, attendance dropped off for real-life matters and everyone got busy and went their separate ways. Recently, the remaining group members and I came to the decision that we'd rather start a new campaign than attempt to patch up the old one.

Unfortunately, said group couldn't then reach a consensus on what it is they would actually like to play and it was once more given to me to run with something. As my last game was a high-mythology/fantasy I'd like to run in a different direction in this one. Something darker and grittier - though keeping a cinematic edge to it. That's one of the things TROS has done very well in my player's hands.

For the time being, consider this thread a sounding board. I've only got the broadest notions of what I'd like to do, and no real plan for yet achieving those ends. Feel free to suggest or dissect as you please.

My immediate instinct is to sneak back into an era I know best and set another medieval world up. The funny thing being, of course, that my players have never had an actual medieval world with it's politics and influences.. because they've always insisted on playing D&D type games where equality tends to be the norm, everyone walks around with piles of gold, and vague polytheism that has each deity compete with one another in ways that no one can truly comprehend.

While I don't believe I want to actually fool with a medieval Europe - something that would require a lot of research on my part and too much research on behalf of my players - I would like to keep many of the elements intact. Yes, I know I run the terrible edge of Yet Another Copy and Paste Earth, but in my experience that can work in your favor as a narrator if you don't have the time to write dozens upon dozens of pages for a sourcebook (or if you don't think your players will want to read them)

I'm sitting on a darker pseudo-Europe, with themes of poverty, inequality, cheapness of human life, violence, power, control, etc. all played up. Emphasize the schemes of those in power and how those in control can affect the common man. Europe spent much of its time in what was essentially institutionalized anarchy until things began to consolidate.

As well, I have a distinctive feel for the way in which the supernatural might be presented.. and I'm considering ways to bring it across as somewhere between a World of Darkness approach of things on the edge of our awareness/hidden in plain sight... and a Lovecraftian/Cthulhu "things which man was not meant to know" type magic. I want encounters with the dark to be unique and scary. Possibly with some blend of grimm's fairy tale type material, done up in a suitably horrifying fashion (anyone read the Witcher, or the polish stories it's based on? Excellent for that). The role of the predominant Monotheism(s?) v. ancient paganism will be a nice backdrop for it all.

Mood is very very important in this sort of scenario.

Beyond those sort of mood/thematic elements. I've got nothing and all thoughts, comments, and suggestions are happily welcomed.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:20 pm 
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KazianG wrote:
Unfortunately, said group couldn't then reach a consensus on what it is they would actually like to play and it was once more given to me to run with something.


Have you had a look at the threads on Shared Setting Creation? This is the way I run my new games now. When I get a chance to game. * sigh *

Naturally I have a fondness for TRoS in a medieval setting with our main campaign being set in the French city of Lyon in the 14th century. TRoS is a great choice for a medieval real-Earth campaign.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:42 pm 
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Was actually skimming through the Price of Freedom board a bit ago. It's an interesting concept. I spoke to the players some about what they were in the mood for, which is what brought me into doing a dark medieval with occultish overtones.

Typically though (particularly with two new players in the group) they tend to enjoy exploring the setting and its mysteries (I've been known to put some interesting things in the background) as much as whatever meta-plot exists in the background, so I tend not to include them in the detailing of the campaign once the general idea is agreed upon and set in motion. I usually wind up GMing/narrating/etc for this group, so it usually works out.

In this case, I'm wanting to experiment with something of a sandbox style game. However, my project is a bit ambitious. I want to layer the story in such a fashion that they can romp across the landscape pursuing their individual SA-based goals and drives, while at the same time having a greater plot running in the background that will overlap and have them swept up in simultaneously. I think it was on these boards somewhere that I read about the idea of putting multiple factions in competition with each other in relative balance and letting the PCs upset said balance.

Off-hand, I'm thinking about having the PCs work on their own goals and such while building up to some manner of conspiracy or power struggle in the background.. eventually culminating in a civil war or the like (with all of their contacts, social standing, and so forth somehow having been tied up with various factions allies, and others that will be affected). I think the key to that sort of plot is generally letting them build ties to the world around them so that they then begin to genuinely care about the allies, resources, etc that make up the place - rather than shipping them off on a "SAVE THE KINGDOM!" quest.

Indeed, I'm intending to set it up that - whatever the conflict is towards the end of the campaign - it won't matter to me which side they are on, per se.. thus allowing them to fight for one of the parties involved, or stand aside and try to profit from the situation in whatever way they can.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:11 am 
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I just wanna share, I tried to that many times before, but it never worked as good as I wanted it to.

When I start a campaign, I wanna have the players involved right from the start. What I learned from having failed at this sort of GMing is this : never think of a plot if you ain't got the characters, and always play a plot that your players (not their characters) want to play. Plus, it's also a matter of SAs. Plan the plot with your players is what I want to say, but offer them a setting.

If you wanna play medieval earth, May I suggest three skeletons to you :

1- The empire of Charlemagne. Amidst the ruins of the late Roman empire, many warlords have attempted to rebuild it to it's former Glory. It's a game of glory and conquest, loyalty and betrayal. It's a very plain setting. Catholic faith is the only mainstream religion all across Europe.

2- King Arthur. Utter Pendragon the Christian just died, and young Arthur has taken the throne as high king of all England. The king has left searching for the grail and the kingdom is divided between the christians and those who hold the ancient celtic beliefs. Amist the conflict, the fey and the druids wonder what does the future has in store for them.

3- Robin Hood. William the Normand have recently conquered Britain, and the saxon nobility have had their land and privileges revoked and given to normand nobles. The king is gone crusading, his brother John Lackland occupies the throne and is hosting great parties as the saxon are starving, noble and peasan alike. Can a civil war be averted? But how can peace prevail, if the saxon and the normand don't even speak the same language? How can the kingdom organise it's defense against her enemies?


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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:49 am 
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Mmm... Sandbox, exploration and politics. Sounds like my kind of game. :)

However, I didn't quite get what kind of advice do you ask from us? Setting suggestions?

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:28 pm 
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I'm still at a very conceptual stage. I've got vague ideas for the "mood" and "feel" of the campaign, and I know how I need to format it (in this case, a sandbox with layers of plot going on that the PCs will be free to pickup, ignore, or watch in whichever way they see fit).. What I need now more are ideas/concepts/plots/theories - the stuff that helps fill in the blanks and achieves what are effectively the goals I've outlined for the campaign.

Particularly because I am going to have to have a lot of diverse little microquests and elements littered around so anything I put in for my "main" story in the background (which will somehow tie into the PCs - lucky for me one of them is going to play a politically minded character, thus lending validation to what I wanted to do anyway. See below) won't immediately stick out in a "old man in a tavern sends you on the plot" kind of way.

It's a smart group, and they like their puzzles. Obviously, as the campaign progresses and they become deeper involved, the background plot will become more obvious to them, and will begin to shift focus to it and the way the group itself needs to accomplish its own goals during whatever the crisis is. But I hope that's someway down the line, and between here and there I need to write a dozen little individual plot hooks that can be dangled for entirely separate adventures that can either hint towards, or throw them off the trail of, the original.

I also need to develop that background plot and decide what said crisis actually is. Civil war sounds interesting, but I need to figure out how it comes about, and in such a way that it is a hint of something more sinister and more complex than a rogue Baron gathering his allies against the king.

Did I mention I still have to write up the setting? I've got my work cut out for me.

In my favor though - one of the players has already expressed his desire to "try something new" and he's going into territory that my players have oddly stayed away from. He's creating Landless nobility. It is a D&D throwback, I think, that they tend to create wandering adventurer freemen.

Third-born son of a relatively poor and backwater noble family, he's off to seek his own fame and fortune and gain land and title by his own right. He's also got something of a back story about serving under other nobles in various military campaigns and so forth. I couldn't have asked for a better character to have to pick sides for the civil war idea.

Will he choose to defend the land against the possibly corrupt rebel? Or will he assist the rebel in the overthrow of the king? Will it be more entertaining for me to make them both relatively good men and make him choose? Or is it better to have them both morally repugnant and let him decide which devil to make his bed with? Or - more likely - make them each both good men doing terrible things. What if we put his family on the opposite side he chooses? What price is he willing to pay for his quest to make his own destiny?

And so on. He's also the perfect vehicle to allow the characters to interact with the faces of the two sides directly - I can envision either side actually speaking with him at court, and so forth. The rest of the players have yet to make characters or solidify their ideas, but I have some idea of their leanings.

Also, because I have a couple brand new players, I am going to adapt the Infamous Caravan Adventure - which none of them have ever actually read or played - and turn it into a prequel adventure as an intro to the campaign.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:26 pm 
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Our current game is bordering on the possibilities on a civil war. All the characters are members of the court with different responsibilities, agendas, promises and debts. We could almost call it "What's the Price of Loyality?".

So, my suggestion would be to set a social class requirement. I know Michael pulled our forum game off with all slave, artisan, warrior and priestly castes mixing nicely, but having similar social class REALLY makes it simpler GMing-wise.

OR you could make something like this: http://paves.planet.ee/rpg/cardinal.pdf

I mean the Connections column. Having one's relative position between the factions determined beforehand is a great way to introduce immediate conflict. I mean, you could easily have a high court official with "huge debts to the underworld boss" connection.

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- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:14 pm 
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If you want to go historical without smothering yourself in research, I recommend a period of history that isn’t well-known. Some research on your part would do, and you can wing the rest without anybody ever noticing your mistakes.

For players mainly used to D&D-style campaigns, JackJack’s recommendations of the early Middle Ages are pure gold. Before 1000 AD, feudal structures were not yet fully developed, with the result of a much more egalitarian society than how we envision the Middle Ages. The right to carry arms was not yet narrowed down so much, and even noblemen were expected to be polite to freemen – who still outnumbered the serfs. Former D&D-players might feel more at home in such a somewhat egalitarian setting than the traditional view of the Middle Ages with its very clear-cut class differences.

A possible setting that comes to my mind is the eastern fringe of Charlemagne’s Frankish Empire in about 790 AD (before Charlemagne became Emperor). It is a little-known period in a little-known area that would still serve perfectly for dark, occult overtones. You see, in the area that is now the eastern half of my homeland of Austria, the Franks were at that time facing the Asian steppe nomad people of the Avars, who had settled in what is now Hungary in about 600 AD. Now the Avars were a people with a religion and customs very different from the native Europeans, whom they raided, and this difference could well be played upon as something sinister – a whole people in service to Cthulhuid gods, or something like that.

At the same time, many of the Frankish subjects were still barely Christianized, and even many of those who were still used to pray or even sacrifice to their old Germanic gods and spirits alongside the Christian God. These remnants of the old faith could also be given a dark, mysterious twist.

Also, there were next to no towns, only villages and primitive earth-and-timber fortresses, scattered far and wide over a thinly populated land of vast forests and forbidding mountains (i.e. the Alps) enclosing sheltered valleys.

You can add colour to the setting by the rare foreigner, either from more urbane and cicvilized Italy, or even by a hyper-civilized Byzantine Greek – who could even be played almost as Orientals, with a distinct old-but-degenerate-culture-with-dark-secrets twist.

Anyhow, that’s what comes to mind right away.

The minor noble who is out to win lands for himself could be woven into the setting as having travelled to the eastern border of the Empire for exactly this reason – winning reknown and ultimately land in the (both defensive and offensive) wars against the Avars. The civil war could be about a treacherous or over-ambitious commander of the border: Is he merely trying to do what he believes is best in the war against the Avars, even against Charlemagne’s express wishes? Is he only out for his own gain? Or – worst of all – has he possibly been corrupted by the Avars’ dark gods?

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:07 pm 
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Michael, you are a genius. Anyway, thanks for fleshing out that setting. Now, even I actually want to play in it =D.


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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:42 pm 
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I always love reading his posts. Ill do some research on the area. If I don't use it this time I'll certainly find a use for it on day. I recently had some toss a copy of vampire: dark ages at me as well that I'm finding very interesting - I just don't have much of an interest in vampire stories. I think I read on here somewhere that someone had been doing World of Darkness conversions with TROS?

Would be very interesting to play indeed. A WoD flavored Highlander game based in TROS rules would be interesting as well. Oh no. I feel writer's ADD setting in.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 12:17 am 
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Grettir wrote:
A possible setting that comes to my mind is the eastern fringe of Charlemagne’s Frankish Empire in about 790 AD (before Charlemagne became Emperor). It is a little-known period in a little-known area that would still serve perfectly for dark, occult overtones. You see, in the area that is now the eastern half of my homeland of Austria, the Franks were at that time facing the Asian steppe nomad people of the Avars, who had settled in what is now Hungary in about 600 AD. Now the Avars were a people with a religion and customs very different from the native Europeans, whom they raided, and this difference could well be played upon as something sinister – a whole people in service to Cthulhuid gods, or something like that.


Very nice!

One point I would raise regarding historical or pseudo-historical campaigns is that it can be difficult for native English speakers to create a medieval environment that doesn't feel like a small slice of medieval England. My suggestion here is that if your research on a non-English speaking medieval culture is limited to one book make it a book on their laws. You can get a good idea of what a culture emphasizes -- and what it struggles against -- by the laws it creates. This in turn makes it easier to create an authentic feel in your gaming for that culture -- without going anywhere near a stereotype.

Grettir may have a better suggestion but for this campaign you might look at The Saxon mirror: a Sachsenspiegel of the fourteenth century By Maria Dobozy:



I have a copy of the book and I have to say you could build whole scenarios around many of the individual laws:

"No one shall raze a village building by reason of any type of crime unless a girl or woman has been raped in it or brought into it after the rape. It shall be condemned or cleared legally... All living creatures present at the rape shall be beheaded."

"A Christian man or woman who is without faith and practices magic or mixes potions and is convicted must be burned on the pyre. A judge who does not sentence a person for a crime draws upon himself the same penalty that is applied to the perpetrator."

"All murderers, those who take by force a plow or something from a mill or a church or a churchyard, as well as traitors and murderous arsonists, and all those who use their deputation to their own advantage shall be broken on the wheel."

Crime and punishment are one of the cornerstones of a culture.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 6:57 am 
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Thanks all for the kind words. :oops:

Ian’s recommendation to read the laws of the time is very good – as they are often very specific, they give an indication of what was really going on in an age on a day to day basis. The Sachsenspiegel is extremely interesting, but a bit late for the early middle ages, mirroring the situation of (roughly) the 12th to the 14th centuries. I’d recommend the earlier Edictus Rotharis.

The Edictus Rotharis is a compilation of laws by the Lombard king Rothari from about 650 AD and thus closer in time to the era I have suggested. The fascinating thing about it is that it shows how very much Lombard (and thus presumably also Frankish) society, though Christianized on the surface, was still given to magical thinking and their old Germanic ways. There are a lot of laws about magic and (ab-)using amulets and talismans. Also, the laws about carrying and using weapons show how dangerous and vioent the age really was, and those about honour, slights to honour and duels mirror that the early medieval Germanic society was still much more egalitarian than what we are used to think of the middle ages.

Now if only I knew of an English edition of the Edictus… :(

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:29 am 
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Grettir wrote:
Now if only I knew of an English edition of the Edictus… :(


The History of the Langobards by Paul the Deacon translated by William Foulke in 1907



Not the same thing but free and helpful!

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 23, 2010 10:24 pm 
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Free and helpful is always good.. and helpful, it turns out!

I need to learn German (among..fifty other things)

Ever get the feeling there's just not enough time in the day to research everything you'd like to?

The more I look around, the more I become fond of a dark-age germanic feel. I think I'll investigate further into those roots.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 10:16 am 
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Hi all,

KazianG, if you use the Civil war campaign arc, please make any choice a REAL difficult one, and this decision WILL affect the balance of power.

On Higgins idea of having only 1 social status available, i slightly disagree, I would define the middle ground and allow some limited variance from it.
Afterall would the Master Merchant, wealthy as sin, really be Landed Nobility?

Yours

Simon Burling


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