|January 6, 2009||Posted by Matthew J. Neagley|
One of the things I learned early on from my father was that it makes no sense to keep a huge laundry list of projects around. Critical projects crop up with alarming frequency, pushing less urgent projects to the bottom of the list time and again. At some point, the list can simply become too long to ever complete. He taught me this by counter example, keeping huge piles of broken items to mend, materials for projects that he “might want to do some day” and list after list of things he either wanted to or felt obligated to do.
So, of course I learned both the lesson (in the academic sense) and the bad habit. My wife pulls her hair out because I’m a bona-fide packrat. Not only do I never throw anything away, but left to my own devices, on occasion I’ll bring home other people’s garbage. “It’s just what we need! It just needs a bit of fixing up!” or “Now I have spare parts for when the chair we have breaks!” I’ll explain, trying my best to dodge that narrow-eyed “Why have you brought this trash into my house?” glare that women who love men like my father and I seem to have perfected. Of course, I’ve made good from time to time (I actually brought home a piano once) but for the large part my house looks justy like my dad’s did, just with smaller piles of someday projects.
My GMing “house” looks just like my plaster house with piles of unfinished, broken, or simply unloved projects sitting waiting in the dark recesses of my mind to be put to use. This is one of the major reasons that I keep a notebook with me at all times. During the writing of this article you can be assured that at least once I’ll grab my pen and jot down an idea or two. In my notebook I have a partial list of my someday campaigns and it just keeps growing. For every instance where I carve out the time to prep and run a game, even counting one shots the list grows a few entries longer. One of the major triple-bolded red-inked underlined and highlighted entries on my GMing naughty list is having ADD. I no sooner get a few paragraphs of prep tossed on paper for one of these ideas, and suddenly I’m inspired by another, and I flit to that one to work for ten minutes.
It’s a new year though, and while I have no intention of breaking the cycle, I will share the wealth. So here’s a few ideas for campaigns I’ll likely never actually use. Consider it a garage sale. These ideas are for sale to anyone who wants them. The price? If you use one of them, come back and comment about it.
I loved the 70′s-80′s cartoons with the wacky group of teenagers who toured the country solving crimes, playing music, or often both and Polyhedron Magazine published a d20 minigame called Hijinx that captured that genre almost perfectly. I’d been chomping at the bit to play it (with no player buy-in) when I saw the video for Kanye West’s song “Stronger”. Something about his brazen attitude and the futuristic feel of the video inspired me to run a Hijinx game with the following premise-
It’s the far future. Reality TV and celebrity worship have become such a cornerstone of world culture that all major national and world decisions are made via a public vote-in with each issue championed by a band in a massive rock and roll reality show: winner makes foreign policy. Power and money being what they are, countries started the process of cryogenicly freezing their most talented artists and thawing them out before important competitions. In the interest of fair play, bands are chosen semi-randomly from the rosters each country has on hand leading to bizzare matchups of styles and personalities. The players take on the rolls of several artist thawed out to play one of the side of a particularly important trade agreement… but something is wrong! Their thawing process takes longer and has more drastic side effects than any recorded instance of “Thaw fatigue” and they are booed offstage in a loss so devastating that their country declines to reinstate their cryo-stasis! The campaign focuses on their struggle to climb back to the top while discovering the sinister circumstances behind their failure…
Interdimensional Investment Bankers
Browsing through the movies available on FilmCow.com (creators of current internet sensation Charlie the Unicorn) I found Richard Crumb: Multidimensional Investment Banker. Taking an idea from the short story Touched by a Salesman by Tom Holt (available as part of a compilation here) I envisioned sci-fi campaign featuring a universe where criminals are sentenced to work as interdimensional investment bankers to gather the capital neccesary to support the rest of the universe’s population. Players make a cast of murderers, terrorists, pirates, and jaywalkers, then slap on a few levels/points worth of investment banker, are handed a standard-issue dimensional transporter, and punch the timeclock. The campaign centers around their exploits across other dimensions, each stranger than the last, in the attempt to raise enough capital to pay for their crimes.
Demon Red City
Let’s get this out of the way right now. Drugs are BAD for you kids. That’s bad with all caps in bold, so you know I’m 100% serious and right and you should never do drugs ever!
OK, so I have a love affair with some (mis?) information that I once received about a certain drug. According to what I was told, after use this drug will actually re-crystalize under your skin, forming nodules that are sizable enough to be seen and felt and that will eventually work their way out through the skin. Of course, never having used or even seen the drug in question, and finding no sources to verify this (though I admit I don’t want a bunch of searches for illegal drugs tracable to my PC) I can’t vouch that it’s not an urban legend. However, real or not, this drug sparked my imagination to create Demon Red City, a fantasy campaign concept featureing human brutality and the downward spiral of addiction.
Demon red City can be dropped into any given fantasy system or campaign, or it can be made a campaign in it’s own right. The starting concept is that wizards in a large densely populated city experimented with opening gates and contacting demons. Among other things, the demons they contacted brought them samples of the drug called “Demon Red” or just “Red”. It didn’t take long for the drug to filter throughout the city, from the upper echelons to the lowest dregs, and the demons kept the supply coming till a large portion of the population was hooked. That’s when the supply stopped. Maybe the demons were cut off by magic, maybe they just enjoy destroying the lives of mortals, the guesses are myriad and few people knew that weren’t torn apart by crazed junkies shortly after the supply dried up. Things would end there, were it not for a unique quality of Demon Red: very little of it actually leaves your system. The majority of it gets trapped under your skin forming tiny seed crystals. Withdrawl often causes painful jerking spasms and shivers. The tissue damage around the crystals allowing the drug to dissolve in the user’s bloodstream, starting the cycle of addition all over again. It’s bad enough that withdrawl from the drug re-introduces the drug into your system, but addicts have started tearing at their own skin and the skin of fellow addicts to get at the precious drugs inside. It didn’t take long for powerful and evil figures to discover how to refine the bodies of dead addicts into new supplies of raw drug. The more of the drug someone takes, the more violent, desperate, and delusional they become, and the more drugs in a users system, the larger and more obvious their crystal deposits are. Users with particularly large deposits under their skin look like demons themselves as if they’re being transformed by the drug. Some of them even believe that this is the case.
Characters could be outsiders, lawmen of any sort, or any of a myriad types of villians, though with the premise, villians are likely to be particularly vile.
Feel free to leave some ideas of your own in the comments section. I’m not the only GM out there with more ideas than time to impliment them.