Growth of a Campaign
A Rough Campaign Outline and Character-Driven Stories (Part One)by Et Al
Growth of a Campaign
A Rough Campaign Outline and Character-Driven Stories (Part One)by Et Al
Growth of a Campaign, 6th Installment
A Rough Campaign Outline and Character-Driven Stories (Part One)
This is an ongoing article following the development of a campaign through emails between a GM, his potential players and a few "consultants" (a "Braintrust") as the campaign develops and progresses through from conception to execution. The players have no hand in the development of the campaign, and the consultants won't play in the game.
Rich is myself, the Game Master.
Hiro, or Norwood, is an English major, a myth lover, and a savvy web creator.
J, or Breitzman, is an art student. J is the Clodin master (read the article, you'll see what I mean).
Grover is another myth-lover, and has a cool vanity license plate.
Since we'd established the playing field, and most of the scope of the campaign, I wanted to sum up where we were. I figured the best way was to send a campaign outline out to the BrainTrust. The development of the outline helped me flesh out some aspects of the game, but kept me from getting too involved with the minutia. So, I put together the following rough outline, and sent it to the BrainTrust to rip and tear with glee:
Chapter I: Pack Assembles
The PCs meet for the first time. They are brought together by the original Draupnir in hopes of carrying on the fight to avert Ragnarok. Their new mentors are Razz, George, Don, and "Seth" (Torstain). The PCs also meet their rivals, a pack of older children of the Draupnir.
As their training progresses, they are given their first mission. They must rescue Svava, a valkyrie, and in doing so earn their own guardian, or totem.
Svava serves as their magical guide and also a source for direction in questing to save Midgard.
Chapter II: Old Enemies
Enemies of the old Draupnir turn upon their children. Department Lillith tries to assassinate the retired Draupnir, and attack the party in the process. The Ulfheunar (Skindancers) try to kill the pack as vengeance for the original Draupnir's murder of Sam Haight. The pack takes on the Roots story, so PENTEX takes notice of them. PENTEX attacks, and Valhalla Isle is destroyed.
Chapter III: Lost Items
The pack finds out about their part in the new legends. Heimdall's Horn storyline happens here, the culprits are Get of Fenris. The pack begins to unravel the mysteries of the threat they face. The chapter ends as the pack recovers Mjollnir, and brings it to Sloane (the priest of Thor trying to bring him back from the dead).
Chapter IV: New Allies
PENTEX finds the location of Odin's Eye, and the pack begins a race to recover or destroy it. Frey approaches them with a quest in Alfheim. This is his first attempt to gauge the pack and see if they might support him and attack Surt.
Chapter V: The Crossroads
Frey approaches the pack, and tells them how he wants to save Midgard (and himself) by killing Surt. He explains that another pack is questing for his sword (they are an old team from Project Odysseus and are considered MIA by the Agency). But he thinks the PC pack could kill Surt with the right weapons. Svava warns against this action, and tries to convince the pack to serve Odin instead. This is the point where the pack defines the direction of the game. Here is where the lines are drawn between the Vanir and the Aesir. I have no further designs on the game after this point.
Chapter VI: The Final Battle
The pack fights to stop Ragnarok or change it to their own desires.
I knew the end was very loose, but I figured if I developed it too much, I might end up railroading the players. Add to that the big choice of whether the players choose to side with the Aesir, or go with the vanir, and who knows where this campaign will end up?
I also included a small "To Do" list at the end of the email, and this sparked some debate on where to take the stories. The first item was an idea I had about the PCs searching for the eye that Odin gave up for infinite knowledge. I thought PENTEX might want to harness its power, and could have found it while scouring Yggdrasil looking for ways to hurt the Aesir.
* Location of Odin's Eye
(Place it) In a museum. I'd write it up as some artifact in the museum and the pack has to get in and out without setting off all the alarms. Oh, and maybe some antagonist to the Aesir know what the artifact really is and they are watching (perhaps even running) the place.
If Odin's Eye is in a museum, the idea of the chase is almost null and void isn't it? How would you structure a chase story using the museum location?
Uhm, it could be that they intercept the information from some other group looking for the eye... perhaps a pack of get they fight. This allows the PCs to learn of the eye from an opposing group, and the race is on.
What if there are several "copies" of the item (Odin's eye), in several different places and museums. Anyone who decides to make their character a little intellectual might get the opportunity to do some research, then I'm imagining something like "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", with the item hidden in tunnels beneath the museum (maybe they discover that none of the museums has the ~actual~ item, but there's a certain fake that has some hidden aspect that means the item is underneath that museum? Or maybe it's like the two-sided amulet, in "Raiders", that the bad guys have missed crucial information, and that sends them to the wrong museum, while the PC's know how long the stick is suposed to be ((to carry on the "Raiders" analogy)) and are able to find the right one at the right museum)?
The Odin's Eye plotline was progressing slowly as we batted around ideas. While I thought a chase scene for the Eye could be exciting and have a pulp flavor, it didn't seem to really connect. Then, one night, J called me on the phone, excited about this great idea he got for the Odin's Eye plotline...
I thought of this last night while watching the extras on the Minority Report DVD and called Rich (I liked it so much): What if Pentex has Odin's Eye and they are intending to use it to clone him and create their own god?
Wow, what a cool concept! Its just the "sacrilege" I wanted to flavor the world. Most of our other plots were finding lost items, avoiding or fulfilling destinies, etc. This was something rather different. It smacked of the death of Thor plot discussed previously. It had a base in Norse myths, but it was updated, had enough of a real world feel to force a paradigm shift. The problem I'd had before was that I didn't want the PCs to merrily tromp along reliving the Norse myths, but mostly copying them.
Norwood spoke for us all when he replied simply:
I like pentex clone idea better, I think.
Just to keep Chris' train rolling: maybe the Get group or a Pentex group that the pack defeats reveals that the Odin clone exists and is heading for something that will make it more powerful. Maybe the Odin clone (I want to call him 'Clodin' for some reason, but I would imagine that Pentex would just name him with a serial number: OC-4097 or something - although that would imply that there were many attempts at cloning which may or may not have resulted in more than one Clodin) is heading for some artifact that can make him stronger. The original Odin thinks that his secret is safe in this other realm, but Pentex got the info from the captured elf.
Just brainstorming, but you guys might be able to use some of this stuff.
Wow, this is a very interesting plot. PENTEX having a functioning clone of Odin would make for a cool villain. Perhaps the clone can only be made with Odin's Eye, and the PCs can kill several "Clodins" before they realize they have to destroy or steal the original matter from PENTEX to keep more Clodins from being created.
I'm not sure an army of Clodins is such a good idea. This could pose problems if they realize that Pentex might have samples of the gentic material in several labs and that the lab they are attacking is just one faclility that is working on the project. Also, my concern is that all these clones might weaken the idea that Odin is a god and not just another WoD freakazoid.
That said, I can think of a good scenario for going ahead with the Clodins. Maybe what the players could initially fight is the reject Clodins. The Pcs break into the pentex lab- they take on the lab security and perhaps 3 or 4 genetically screwed Clodins - perhaps one with 5 eyes, another one with 4 arms, and another that looks normal. However, it might have two faces or a face in the chest a la Total Recall; or something like The Thing remake or the remake of The Fly - or just like a Gibbering Mouth from D&D. Whatever. Then, when they go to retrieve the eye itself, thinking the lab cleared out, they stumble into the properly cloned Odin.
How soon should it (the Clodin story) happen in the campaign? Does it hold true to the spirit of the other stories? I like it, but I'm concerned about the shift in style this could cause. Thoughts?
I think it subtly changes some of the flavors. Then again, I'm probably a bit on the traditional side when dealing with reworking myths. I don't mind so much Pentex trying to clone Odin, that seems reasonable on their part. My concern is that they have succeeded... it's that sort of putting religion into scientific terms/power that I find distasteful.
Grover was a dissenting opinion on the idea, and threw this in:
Clodins. I'd probably dodge this. While I think it's a very cool story idea, you'd have to do it ~amazingly~ well to make it really work for everyone. I have one word: Midichlorians (or however it's spelled... Lucas paved the way for "bad idea in trying to make religion scientific")
Other items on the "To Do" List produced lesser results.
* Quest in Alfheim
Bonk an elf? I dunno.
Perhaps there is a gift or something non-tech that the pack needs or could use.
* New Location for party after Valhalla Isle is destroyed
I'd say Finland. They are very techno-savy - at least based on the amount of cellphones there. Isn't Nokia a native company?
Yes, Finland is very tech savy, although the same could be said for pretty much all of Scandinavia - for example, 60-80% of all HS students there own a cell phone. I missed the thread about Valhalla Isle, but Iceland is also a fabulous setting. It's just as tech-focused (all electricity is free because of the thermo-power plants) and it has fantastic scenery.
I will need more resources to bring the location across. Iceland is also interesting (thanks, J). Where can I find info to make this setting seem realistic?
Google? Seriously. That and an almanac. Maybe a used tour book of Iceland (or Finland). I wouldn't go ito too much depth. Maybe focus more on them being in some remote location in one of these countries, and occasionally they go into the local village/town/city for supplies or RnR.
Excellent suggestion to have the new station in a remote place.
* Who sides with whom on Vanir - Aesir conflict (see below).
My thoughts on the line-up.
Frey, Freya, Niord, Tyr (he could be pissed that he gave up his hand and lied for the Aesir), and Frigg (wants to save her husband, Odin)
Aesir (Cheaters of Fate)
Odin, Vili, Ve, Vali, Vidar, Modi, Magni, Sif, Bragi, and Heimdall
Player Character Plots - Asny Sefa
We made some significant progress on fleshing out the storylines and I was satisfied enough with their development to move on to another angle. The players had begun discussing their characters in detail. Since I had a solid world to base them in, I started having conversations with the players about what they wanted to do with their PCs. This led to the following discussion with the BrainTrust.
My bread and butter as a ST is running games has been allowing the players to have their own individual goals and storylines while running the main story for the group. I enjoy giving each player a small piece of story, or even a plotline unrelated to the main story but still interesting to the player or that character. Therefore, I'd like to give this to the players in this campaign.
While I agree that you are very good at running such games, doesn't this campaign sort of run contrary to players having "their own individual goals and storylines"? I mean, it seems as though you are intending to run the game with the whole Aesir fued thing as the mainstory arc.
I want to give small victories that are personal while the epic storyline takes place. It happens all the time in books and movies, and its not that hard to do. I just need to set up events where the titanic battles have a tie to the character's interests as stated by the player.
Understandable. It just seems that we are discussing a lot about the campaign, in perhaps a big picture, without having much to go on in terms of understanding any of these interests of characters/players. I mean, (one PC) not even having a name? That sounds very peculiar to me. I suppose it's just a matter of perspective. A lot of time spent on large story arc and background stuff with what seems like, very little chraacter creation. How can we assist in fleshing out the campaign to suite them with so little to go on? How much is really based on their desires verse us projecting what we would want out of the game as either the ST or Player? A good point. With little development on PCs, our job is harder. I do have some good material to go on, and I like things like taking the Emma story and tying it to some of the bigger plots. We will have to work without a net on a few characters because I don't have a firm grasp on where they want to take their characters. I feel solid on Emma (PC) and Asny (PC). I am unsure of where Dominic (Marc's PC) and Josh's PC will go. So, we can plan on solid background story links for two of them, and smoke and mirrors for the other two with gaps we can fill in for them when their characters develop. I know I won't have the perfect fulfilling arcs for each player, but this sweeping epic story should bring plenty of enjoyment.
Here are my preliminary thoughts:
Cary's PC (Asny Sefa):
Asny Sefa is the daughter of Chance. I realized today that I hadn't mentioned the history of Chance as related to the Aesir, but he is one of the Volsungs. The Volsungs are a family of heroes descended from Odin himself. Among their number is Sigmund (a.k.a. Sigfried from the Ring of the Nieberlung). Chance also had a magical axe. This axe burned with a fire of the gods, and was made from Logi ("fire"), one of Utgard-Loki's retainers who bested Loki in an eating contest. Chance broke the axe fighting a bane mummy, and it was reforged through Odin's magic.
I see storylines involving her lineage, meeting Volsungs of old (perhaps a personal totem?), and earning the right to carry her father's axe into battle. Cary has said she wants to play a strong figure, and giving her a goal of earning her father's axe would be a good plotline. However, since Chance is dead, who could have his axe? Is it lost, with Utgard-Loki, with Odin, or kept by one of the PCs on the island (perhaps George, who was Chance's blood brother during the campaign, and swore he would take care of Chance's kids if Chance ever died)?
Please reply with feedback, some other ideas for stories for Asny Sefa, and ways to incorporate them into the main story.
Volsungs of old brings us back to the discussion of where these old heroes are. perhaps her PC could meet a few when she finally makes it to Asgard. Or, for some reason, perhaps one of her ancestors has left Asgard at some point in time. Perhaps the death of thor has disillusioned the ancestor and now he is seeking adventures again in the world. (I'm not too sure how to tie this into her PC - perhaps a bit like the last scion in Dogma...)
I think having her meet her ancestors is a good idea, especially since she won't know them. The idea of an ancestor coming back to Midgard when Thor is killed is intriguing. What kind of hero would do this, and what could he accomplish within the stories we've laid out so far?
Perhaps he comes back to ... seek adventure. Or perhaps to do some mission for the Aesir. One could decide the Aesir are full of shit and cross over to another side. Perhaps they have some tactical information they've learned hanging about a bunch of dead blokes that might assist Asny and seek her out to give it to her. Or knowledge on where some magical item (an axe) was last seen...
Perhaps the legendary Volsungs could do several of these. One Volsung brings info to Asny and the party, another could leave Valhalla when he's fed up with the Aesir. Lots of possibilities. Maybe one of you guys could whip up an appropriate Volsung and his/her motivations, and dictate the character like a quasi-PC under your control...
As to the axe....Perhaps this is more of my own prejudice, but I think it should be some long term, if even possible, goal. My concern would be to have one player early on in the campaign gain some magical weapon while the rest of the pack/part are left with their mundane stuff to get them by. (Plus, from what I've picked up about this character, she already seems rather combat oriented. Placing magical weapons in her hands might push that emphasis even more.) Offsetting this by giving all the players magical weapons hardly seems to be considerable. By having had the axe disappear it could give her some long term goals without distrupting any sort of game balance. She can burn up role-playing time tracking down clues. Perhaps she could slowly recover pieces of it and take the initiative, if it occurs to her, to have it reforged (by the dwarves). Perhaps some sacrifice on her part would be required to bind the pieces - this representing maintaining balancing within the group when this occurs.
I agree that the axe would be hard won. I never intended to hand it out at character generation, you should know me better. At the end of the last game, the axe was whole, but with a slight altering, the Pol Pot soldiers could have broken it (the Pol Pot soldiers leeched Thor's power, and used it to kill Chance during a fight in Cambodia; this happened with the original group, and led to the death of Thor). However, does this idea overlap with finding Mjollnir and recovering Heimdall's Horn?
I would say there is an overlap. I guess it depends on how many search and rescue missions for artifacts you want to run. If there is a character especially suited for international travel (all the contacts & knowledges a la Indiana Jones) then it might not be such a bad course to pursue.
The axe. What if the father of the PC (who died, right?) got to reclaim his weapon, in Valhalla? I don't know if this happened, or how it happened, in Norse myth, but maybe a Valkyrie fetched the weapon, when it was lost (if it's powerful, this would be a legitimate deal, since Odin could have sent the valkyrie after it, so it might make a difference in Ragnarok), and, if Asny proves herself, the father eventually turns it over to her... ?
So, did George raise this PC? How much does she know about traditional Garou ways? How much does she know about the Norse? Was she raised on the island with George or more or less goverened from afar by him?
George did not raise the PC. Cary and I talked about her character last night. She was raised by her father and mother is a normal suburban neighborhood. Her father often took her on trips to meet his old college friends, George, Donovan, and Rasputin on Valhalla Isle. So, Asny knew several members of Chance's team, but never knew them as more than odd old friends. Before his last mission, Chance could have given his axe to George, or after Chance was killed, George could have traveled to Cambodia and recovered it. Soon after Chance died, so did George's wife. Her name was Lyla, and she was also Garou (George had problems). George fell into Harano after his wife died, and has been mostly catatonic. Oh, and yes, that makes the NPC from the rival pack who is George's daughter is a metis (which I'll use to explain her irrational behavior and hatred of her father). She knows very little about the Norse except she can read some of the runes, and her father taught her some of the old myths. When was her first change? her location growing up might influene who her friends were/are and how they reacted to her change. Did they know, will she tell them? Who is she still in touch with? How old was she at her first change? What was her plans for her life before the change? I think this is a good werewolf question which might be able to bring out how the change has effected the character's psyche. Oh, and what tribe (etc.) is she?
Her First Change is rather recent. We haven't scoped out her friends at this time. She hasn't figured out what her background and interests will be at this time. Her lineage is the Get of Fenris.
The campaign outline was nowhere near a final version of the campaign, but stating it was a great way to force the issue of what happens when. I was satisfied that our direction was established, and we had several sweet storylines developing. Turning the campaign towards PC development led the way to tying larger plots to player concerns. Asny was beginning to have a footprint in our world, and she was starting to be a part of the campaign. Next article, we will discuss two more Character-driven plots - Emma and Dominic, and some more quests involving Norse legends.
- Et Al