Thursday, December 17, 2009

Campaign Hook - Epic Fantasy

Hey look everyone, over there! No, right here! It's a post about gaming that's original and doesn't just post links from FFG! No way! Yes way!

I'm rereading the Lord of the Rings and loving it. I'm just now realizing that I've read the Fellowship several times but always stopped for one reason or another before rereading the Two Towers. I've only read the Two Towers once! Anyway, I've been thinking about how to make games thematically more like Tolkien fantasy. Clearly a lot of games use mechanics to inch their way towards LotR style storytelling, Burning Wheel would probably be the most obvious example of a gaming doing this (one of the reasons I'm really drawn to it).

However, I'm talking about something other than mechanics here. I'm trying to brainstorm the nuts and bolts of an epic, heroic, very little grey moral areas kind of game. At least that's where I started. Then I realized that the ideas I've been thinking of could work in grey moral area games with lots of grit just as well (maybe better!) than heroic fantasy. Really I'm looking for epic. So what makes an epic game? Keeping in mind that this would have to work around a party of four or five players, here's some thoughts (and I'd love to hear yours as well):

  • Early on in the adventure, our heroes are introduced to a troop of heroic and valiant cavalry men. The troop is heading into the thick of things, be it war, a border skirmish, it doesn't matter. They're going against all odds and the best the players can do is give them a blessing from the cleric and wish them the best of luck.
  • The players are recruited into an army or recruit an army on their own to hold back an invading force. Invading forces are always good stuff for epic games. They have to hold down the fort until relief comes, if reliefe will ever come.
  • Word has come between the first two bullet points here that the troop of cavalry men are, by all accounts, lost in battle or to famine or ill luck. No trace has been found of them, and the locals fear the worse.
  • In the thick of things for the players and their army, the cavalry troop makes a miraculous advance on the invading force from the rear, saving the day and connected back up with the defending force.
Now my thoughts are that these points would make up the overall arch of a long campaign. It wouldn't just be one gaming session after another, instead it would be sprinkled in here and there over the course of many sessions. It's a meta-arc for the whole game. Maybe at some point they run into a lone cavalry man from the lost brigade. Maybe they have to fight off a scouting party from the invading force. There's lot of stuff you could do. I feel like campaign hooks are in short supply out there compared to how many generic plot hooks are published and explored. Plot hooks are great for a night or two, but what's to keep the group together for much longer? Campaign hooks, that's what!

Anyway, just brainstorming. Kind of random, but that's what you get at 10:57 on a worknight! Image borrowed from this lord of the rings website. It's kind of freaky deaky, but at least the image works.

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