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Growth of a Campaign

Getting Things Started

by Et Al
Jan 02,2003

 

Getting Things Started

Have you ever wondered how other Game Masters gather together their stray thoughts, images and ideas into a coherent campaign? Do they come up with a large epic storyline and orient everything towards it? Or do they focus the campaign around the Player Characters, and let their motivations carry the story? Or do they do something else entirely, like string together random encounters and BS their way through it?

This column will detail the development of a game to be run in either February or March of 2003. It will detail the original inspirations, the development of the campaign goal, NPCs, locations, and even major scenes. After the campaign begins, it will follow the first stories of the campaign as the players push the boundaries and orient themselves in this new world.

Details of system will not be the focus of this column, and no discussions of dice systems or minutia like game mech will be presented. System details will be kept to a minimum so a wider audience may find use in the column, rather than only players of a certain game type.

It is my personal hope that everyone finds this column an interesting read and a view on how someone creates a new campaign. Also, I hope for feedback via the forums. I want to know what readers think about my campaign, and what you might do differently.

So here it is. A lazy Game Master cribbing notes off his old gaming buddies to throw together a game for his current gaming buddies. In my defense, my "Braintrust" lives in other states, and this is best way me to keep an open dialog about our favorite topic (and to have an excuse to brag about the cool games I'm playing in now). I'm lucky enough that they will not only put up with me, they also help me make some of the best games I've ever run.


Et Al:

The way this campaign will be developed and presented is through a series of conversations between one Game Master and several brainstorming partners who will not participate in the game as players (Et Al). The conversations are most often via email, but chat and phone discussions may be included. Each article will have a narrator and will combine the discussions about areas of development for the game around a central theme.

Et Al currently consists of four people. As the discussions develop, the group may grow, and as new members are added, they will be detailed.

Rich

Rich is myself, the Game Master of the game in question. I have run games for over a decade, and enjoy action packed games with strong character development and high drama. I have little skill (or interest) in puzzle creation or battle strategy. I also have little free time, which is why I have so often depended on my braintrust to assist with the growth of my recent campaigns.

Hiro

Hiro, or Norwood, is the key contributor to the discussions. He is an English major at a college in Tennessee. He is very well read, an accomplished poet, and has a unique view on story structure and NPC creation.

J

J, or Breitzman, is a student at an art institute in Chicago. He has a wild imagination, is a world-traveler, and knows lots of helpful tidbits, from sailing practices to field hockey rules.

Grover

Grover is a resident in the Miliwaukee area. He is a student of folklore, and is condering the pursuit of a masters in folklore. He is a skilled writer, and his ideas for Changeling have wowed me. Although we never gamed together, we have shared many emails back and forth about games.

What Is It All About?

The campaign will be a modern setting "Werewolf" game that includes much more than just werewolves. Before you White Wolf haters tune out, let me say this campaign will run very differently than a normal Enviro-warrior, Eco-friendly, Animal-spirit-lovin' game. It will even come into direct conflict with those ideals. But since Ethan Skemp accidentally gave the original inspiration for this kind of game, which is taking a more Norse approach to the game and less Native American (it was an answer he gave during a forum at DragonCon several years ago). Also, the campaign fits well within the Werewolf rules system and mythology, so that's what I chose.

What if the government found out about Werecreatures? What if they really had their crap together, and not only knew the monsters existed, but they also found out about the Delirium (the ability for most werecreatures to create such fear in humans that they forget what they saw)? Could you imagine a Black Ops team consisting of werecreatures? I did. It made me tingly.

So, I had this idea about a Black Ops Werewolf game about four and a half years ago. Back then, I pregenned characters for my old group and charted out a yearlong game that ended with the group "saving the world" (woo, groundbreaking ending there, eh?).

Along the way, the pack became involved with the struggles within the Norse pantheon. They discovered a tribe of Werewolves was dedicated to Fenris, the one creature who most wanted Ragnarok. The Agency they worked for (Project Odysseus) was torn apart by the conflict between the Fenrir (followers of Fenris) and the Einherar (servants of the Aesir). In the end, the Draupnir (the pack) was nearly broken, but came together to save the world from Mutually Assured Destruction as the Fenrir tried to target the U.S. with Russian nukes.

This new campaign takes places over a decade later. The players are the descendants of the original Draupnir, and they pick up where their parents left off, dealing with their loose ends and finding out who they are (or were). As the pack develops, they will begin to take up the mantle of their parents and fight to avert Ragnarok, to hold the line for another generation.

Step One (The First Email):

I verbally spoke with each potential player about the concept of the campaign, and each expressed interest. I typed up an email detailing available parents, and sent this to the players and the Braintrust:

I wanted to give you guys a rundown of available PC "parents" so you could see what type of changing breeds you can play in the Legacy game. The Team, nicknamed Draupnir, had many members. I have listed all the members who could have children (the Team had two metis, who are sterile). If you have any specific questions about one of these NPCs, feel free to ask.

Team 7:

Sloane (werebear)

Sloane was in his first year of college when his First Change came. His life changed from being a freshman in an Ivy League school to an unwilling recruit in a secret war. Although Sloane was never a conformist in regards to The Company, he was loyal to his team. He and Chance rarely saw eye-to-eye on things, but Sloane did his job. He was the first member of the team to retire from service. His closest friend was Donovan Mallone.

Chance (werewolf)

Chance was given the "Nikita Treatment" after his First Change. The CIA offered him execution for murder, or the opportunity to fake his death and join their ranks. Chance was transferred over to Black Ops to lead Team 7. Chance was the example of the gentleman spy, with many ports of call. His oldest sons were twins he named Freke and Gere, after the twin wolves of Odin. Chance died on a mission in Southeast Asia eight years ago.

Leyeir (werewolf)

Leyeir was born a wolf, and after her First Change, she was picked up by the Black Ops organization in Massachusetts. She was taught human ways in her unit, and learned quickly. She was originally a member of

Team 6, but joined Team 7 after Team 6 was nearly destroyed. Leyeir fell in love with Seth. Leyeir was a serious Garou who never truly grasped concepts like sarcasm. After her unit disbanded, Leyeir and Seth stayed on with the organization as instructors.

Elijah (werewolf)

Elijah was born in Utah, and raised strictly as a proper Mormon boy. After his First Change, he ran away from home, thinking he was the Devil. He was caught by a Black Ops Retrieval team, and brought to Boot Camp.

Elijah was the Unbeliever of the team. He believed only in his God, so the totems and other magics surrounding Team 7 didn't faze him. Elijah was killed during an attack while the Team was at a base in Antarctica.

Lauren and Virgil (wererats)

Virgil joined Black Ops by walking up to a hidden base and signing up. The brass was impressed enough to admit their first ratkin to the group. Virgil was the surviving brother of Siamese twins, and he lost an arm in the operation to separate the twins. Virgil was a deadly member of the group, and specialized in poisons. He was also killed in Antarctica.

After Virgil died, his sister was found to also be ratkin, and she was brought in to the Team. Lauren's codename was Easy, and she could out drink every member of the team. Lauren played hard and partied harder. She began a relationship with a member from another team, and left service to return to New York nine years ago.

A.J. (werelion)

A.J. had his First Change at a high school football game, in the fourth quarter, on the field. A.J. was the strongest member of the group, and the best athlete by far. A.J. was a solid friend and approached life with a casual style. A.J. also died in Antarctica, and his position was filled by Sloane.

George (werewolf)

George was brought to the team by his own father, a wealthy military industrialist supporter who thought his son could find better counseling in The Company. George was a very twisted teen. He was detached and withdrawn most of the time. Joining the team was his salvation. He became a triathlete, honed his driving and piloting skills, and made true friends. While he never completely healed, while with Draupnir, he lived as close to a normal life as was possible. George left the team after Chance died. Soon after, George's father also died, and he inherited the family fortune. George now lives on the Team's private island called Valhalla.

Donovan (werewolf)

Donovan joined the team after the disaster in Antarctica. Born in Scotland, he had his First Change in Boston. After he was arrested, the police found he had no papers. Don had lied about his age and joined the merchant marines. The Company took him from the Boston PD, and he was brought to Boot Camp. Don was a trained boxer before joining the team, and he was the team's hand-to-hand expert. Don was very close to Sloane, and seemed to look to him for advice and leadership. While Don was strong, he always acted as if he was unsure of himself, or incomplete.

Don followed Sloane's example, and was the second member of the team to muster out. After leaving The Company, Don traveled to Asia.

Monique (wereraven)

Monique was the Team's Goth chick. Strong willed and free spirited, Monique was a headache for the officers of the organization, but an incredible scout. Monique hated The Company, but knew she had no escape.

She began a relationship with Sloane, but was killed during a mission by man who used dark magics to take the form of a werewolf although it wasn't his heritage.

Rasputin (werewolf-human)

Rasputin, or Razz, as his friends called him, joined The Company instead of going to prison for several counts of petty larceny. Razz was a talented werewolf and an effective spy for The Company. He became involved with a Kinfolk named Kelly Lee, and she became pregnant with his child. Kelly was shipped off to Hong Kong, and Razz was stationed in Miami. Years later, Razz was turned by a vampire and became an Abomination. He went AWOL and lived alone as a miserable creature until Lauren begged Odin to remove his curse. Odin transformed Razz into a normal human, and he has been in Asia raising his child.

Both Hiro and J expressed concern over my characters allowed. Norwood summed it up with:

I think this touches on my concern of having new players take on the (forced) role of the scions of previous player characters. What if the new players aren't interested in the previous characters or their new characters aren't similar enough to the last characters to have a meaningful connection? Again, Rich, do you think this will be a problem. I would hesitate to run such a game because it wouldn't be the most thrilling idea for me to play in. Maybe if I knew the previous players and could relate to them, but to just come in cold?

Have any of your players expressed concern over playing one of the children of the previous pcs?

I replied:

Of course its all in the packaging. The approach I've given the players is that they find out they're descended from a Black Ops group, and one of the old members of the group brings them together. I've left their character development very open once they choose a parent.

* Cary is very excited to be playing the daughter of Greg's old PC (Chance).

* Josh is playing the nephew of William's old PC (a metis not mentioned above).

* Marc is playing the son of one of Jeremy's old PCs (Sloane).

* Greg is playing the daughter of an old NPC (Leyeir).

None of the troupe has expressed concern about the campaign backdrop. Perhaps they're taking me on faith, or perhaps I'm not explaining it as fully to them as I am you guys, I don't know. Either way, it hasn't been a hurdle at this stage of the development of the campaign.

Luckily, Norwood put it to bed with:

Ah, well, it's a non-issue then.

So, now the BrainTrust and the players have the format for the potential PCs. The next article with detail the first players submissions and conversations, and the overall storyline discussion between the BrainTrust. Of particular note is Hiro's idea for modernizing the concept of the Norse World Tree, or Yggdrasil.

- Et Al

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What do you think?

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