Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Ultimate Game (Blog Challenge!)

Yeah, this blog is still running πŸ˜€ Done with the Weltschmerz, too (for now). I'm just stressed between exams and all over the place. Still with lots of gaming in my head, but not so much in my fingers right now ... Anyway, +Adam Dickstein wrote a November Blog Challenge over at the Barking Alien and it's actually posing a question I've been asking myself every now and then. Here it is in his own words:
"I'm wondering if I've already run my greatest campaign, or is my greatest campaign yet to come? Would I know it if I saw it? What would it consist of?"
and 
"So, what would my Ultimate Campaign look like? What would yours look like?"

Not an easy question (being a challenge and all) and I'm not sure what my answer would look like, say, 10 years from now. But I'll give it a shot anyway. Let's see where this leads.

Genre/Setting

Pseudo-historic, gritty and epic, low on fantasy and low on magic (but with both present).

Or something like that ... Oh damn, DM ADD? Again?! [source]
Approach

A sandbox campaign with several stages:

It begins somewhat 550 AC, somewhere in Europe, the Roman Empire is down and the Germanic tribes start to take roots, forming the roots for what would be kings and noble families in the Middle Ages. And that's what the characters will do. They'll explore the lands their parents claimed for fame and glory. Adventurers in the beginning, leaders after that and legends in the end. The players build here the foundation for the next game ...

... it gets a bit vague after that, but I imagine it would be great fun to see how the descendants of those legends fared through history. The High Middle Ages come to mind, something like "Knights & Sorcery". It'd be the same sandbox, but centuries later and with new threats and horrors (and maybe some old coming back?). Territorial disputes, epic battles, the crusades ... old magic and monsters, the fay court still strong, but fighting a losing battle against Christianity. Stuff like that.

And once those characters got old and that part of the campaign cycle comes to an end, it'd jump to the 17th century, early 18th century. Cloak & Dagger, gunpowder, 30 years war, again with the descendants and in the same sandbox (expanding, growing and changing over time, I believe). Might have pirates, too.

I know it's crazy in scope and way too big. But we have that Dark Ages game going already and there is hope. I also have a plan ...

Pace

Pace is a problem. I like it when things have the time they need to unfold and I like to give players the time they need to get wherever they are heading. The only pressure I like to have in the game is the narrative. But that might be a luxury from my youth, where we met every Friday to game for hours and hours .. a luxury I don't have nowadays. So ideally I'd be able to have 2 games a month and some Play by Mail in between to keep it focused on the juicy bits during our face to face gaming.

Players/PCs

I like to have players that invest in the game and the story (well, who doesn't?). It's also necessary to play on a regular basis for people to get accustomed to each other, ideally becoming a group of friends over the course of a campaign (or at least a good team). It's good to just gather and have fun from the get-go, but for me there is a layer where the players start getting good at a game (player skill?) and go beyond beer & pretzels. This is where I want to get again.

Early stages of group formation ... [source]
Characters ... well, as mentioned above, I'd like to instill a sense of history for a couple of strong, individual characters and there descendants. One character per player and it's more about scars than about dying (if they get old enough, that is).

System

If you've been around this blog, you know my answer must be "highly customized and DIY". That's the "plan" I was talking about above: if I write it, I get to test and play it. That's often worth a campaign or two and usually gets more experienced players interested. Another aspect is that if I want to explore a specific idea or concept, I'll make it an adventure module and offer play-tests for that, too. Sounds easy, turns out to be quite challenging but also rewarding and intense.

So that Dark Ages game I talked about above? That'll be Lost Songs of the Nibelungs, of course. It'll be done and ready next year (I think). The first supplement after that would be about the Domain game when the characters hit level 10 in Lost Songs (title: Lost Kings of the Nibelungs) and after that it's epic (like "Beowulf"-epic) level adventures (title: Lost Legends of the Nibelungs).

Once the core rules are done, I'm thinking about exploring other epochs, just like described above. I hope it'll keep being that easy to find players interested in playing and testing those games, because as long as that's the case, I will also end up playing them!

Maybe it happened already?

And that's it. I already had the pleasure of DMing three great campaigns in my 24 years of gaming. I never managed to top my first campaign, though, and it might be that I already had my Ultimate Campaign. It might be that I'll never manage to have something like that again.

But who knows? For now I'll keep trucking. Writing Lost Songs is a great experience and it might not come as a surprise that I never felt that close to any other set of rules. Writing your own game is something I'd recommend to every DM out there.

To grow with a set of rules like that, to see it develop in play-testing and as the campaign unfolds, to see it all through, I think that's my Ultimate Game right now ...

And now I must get back to learning. I have a tough month ahead. If I get the chance, I'll take the time for another post or two this month.


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