Once again January has snuck up on me and dealt extra backstab damage, so it’s time to pretend that my B-string campaigns are something anyone else would ever actually run and re-“gift” them to you.

As usual, I expect the real gift will be the comments section where everyone else piles on with their backburnered campaign ideas.

These ideas are great for a new game for the new year, or for spare parts for inclusion into an existing game. Enjoy!

Garden Gnomes:

Gone are the days where gnomes are able to roam the forests safe from the incursions of man. Some still give it a try, but they’re viewed like survivalist Amish by their urban cousins. Most gnomes instead spend their days as ceramic statues and their nights tending their new garden homes. Other fantastic creatures have followed suit, so that pewter dragon statuette on your desk may be a real dragon in disguise. While many of these covert creatures live in peace with their surroundings and neighbors, others wage a twilight war for territory and resources. Still other groups seem to be peaceful but use loathsome tactics like creating mind-controlled human zombie slaves to advance their positions. While peaceful, gnomes’ history of being guardians and nurturers makes it hard for them to turn a blind eye to these abuses and often find themselves building alliances and manning the front lines in defense of their new lifestyle.

Apocalypse Cats:
1374886_catThough we’ll discuss this in terms of the newish Warrior Cats game, this campaign concept would work with any game in which PCs are split into distinctive “clans” (so anything from White Wolf would work fine as well as other settings/systems). In a “crucifying Elminster” event, the clan territories are bought and plowed under to build a new resort. Since the area is home to several large colonies of feral cats, the actual construction is preceded by a mass capture/relocation program. Between the two events, the clans are decimated and widely scattered.

A handful of groups, each consisting of a few representatives of several clans, manage to find new safe havens and, cut off from others of their kind, reforge a new society with new traditions and a flavor all their own. Perhaps one group migrates to the city and becomes a two-leg savvy clan of garbage-pickers; another gets sold to a group of scientists, are experimented on and manage to escape and live in air vents and inside the walls a’la The Rats of Nimh; and another finds shelter in an abandoned mansion where the veil is thin, dealing with hauntings and cthulhoid entities. As GM, you provide the locations and allow the players to play out several non-sequential generations each impacted by prior play.

Once you’ve reformed all the clans the players find interesting, they’re called together once again by visions or technical savvy or whathaveyou, and these new clans (plus any “NPC” clans you wish to add) have the task of rebuilding a new set of communal territories with each player making a new character from one of the new clans. Like all “crucifying Elminster” games, this campaign allows a GM to run a game without the overhanding shadow of lore, and allows the group to make the game uniquely their own. As mentioned above, this campaign could be adapted for any setting where the PCs come from distinct “clans”, all that needs to change is the particulars of the event that scatters the old clans and forces their survivors to work together in a vacuum.

Nothing to be paranoid about:
127749_shadyIt’s the future. Mankind has dotted the planet with dozens of massive independent arcologies. One of them is home to the PCs who are employed as troubleshooters…
Or freedom fighters, or journalists, or whatever. The important part is that before play, you have a session for planning out your own arcology. Pick a city or invent a new one. Since arcologies are independent, you can set it up however you like. Choose it’s system of government, it’s ecology, it’s economic details, it’s history, it’s construction, the major problems it’s facing. Whatever details are useful or your group finds interesting. Then decide on a theme for the PCs. Government agents? Maintenance men? Journalists? Freedom fighters? An arcology facing a dangerous infrastructure collapse requires very different characters than one with a rash of mad prophets, or one with zombies. Run using your favorite appropriate system and when Chicago Arcology’s problems are solved (or it falls over into Lake Michigan) it’s time to make a new one and move on.

What about you? What campaigns have you backburnered? You’ve already told us about the new game you ARE going to run for the NYNG contest. What was your runner up?

About  Matthew J. Neagley

First introduced to RPGs through the DnD Red Box Set in 1990, Matt fights an ongoing battle with GMing ADD, leaving his to-do list littered with the broken wrecks of half-formed campaigns, worlds, characters, settings, and home-brewed systems. Luckily, his wife is also a GM, providing him with time on both sides of the screen.

4 Responses to GMing Concept Garage Sale, 2013

  1. My runner up and still a strong possibility for 2013 is as follows:

    For ages and ages the alliance of Gardval has watched the mountains of Zorag and the realm of Urgath they encircle. Urgath is a realm of evil, ruled over by a cabal of sorcerer priests that worship a dark god who dwells in the capital of the kingdom. After long and devastating war the alliance of Gardval and the realm of Urgath reached a stalemate and the dark forces were contained in their realm. Since then the people of the alliance have kept their watch. But the last skirmish is slowly drifting out of living memory and some folks are thinking about having a closer look at the forbidding mountain fastnesses that crown the mountains of Zorag. What will they find there and how will the world be changed by their discoveries?

    It will be an old-school hexcrawl where the players can choose between different ways of entering the evil realm and looting it. Will they aquire an official license to explore and salvage artifacts, having to pay a tenth of all riches recovered and any powerful and potentially dangerous items? Will they join one of the religious orders of fanatical paladins out not for loot but to destroy every last remantn of the evil empire, slaughtering everything they meet and destroying potentially dangerous items? Will they operate on their own, dodging official patrols of the alliance, religious crusaders and remnants of the evil realm to find the most valuable of treasures and sell them on the black market? These are some of the possibilities as well as the main mystery of the setting, what actually made the evil realm collapse.

    I have toyed with this idea for some time and the new Deluxe Tunnels&Trolls kickstarter has given me another reason to do this campaign, but it is still on the backburner and maybe someone else would like to take parts of it and run with them. I have always wondered what would happen, if an evil realm like Mordor would collapse from inside but no one would notice for some time because the game of watching each other across the border had become so old no one was really paying attention any more. It is abit of a mix between Mordor and the UDSSR sort of thing, where the players suddenly find out that behind that border they have been warned about for all their lives does not in fact lie an evil realm full of bloodthirsty monsters that will come out at any moment, but just a few remaining Orcs, Humans and Goblins, trying to make ends meet in a realm that has overreached massively in the arms race with the alliance on the other side. Moral questions can be asked when the paladins of the good sungod slaughter the orc population of a farming village because “clearly they are orcs who live in the evil empire, so they must be evil, right?” and the evil realm even is a pretty good reason to put lots of dungeons and underground complexes on the map, former military installations now slowly falling into ruins. Conventions of fantasy literature and gaming can lovingly be turned on their head or played to the hilt, depending on the preferences of the players, and even apart from all this stuff, it could just be a damn good hexcrawl with weird monsters, ruins and treasures aplenty.

  2. Greek Mechapunk:

    This one is somewhere beyond alternate history in the far-out reaches of history terribly gone wrong.
    Take the trojan horse, the Antikythera mechanism and the idea of Archimedes, to incinerate ships with sunlight concentrated by large mirrors and combine them. What do you get? Why, large wooden warmachines trying to set each other on fire with beams of concentrated light or maybe just plain old greek fire.
    Now imagine that the different cities of ancient greece had, after bitter war formed a loose commonwealth and the giant mechas are now used in duels to entertain the people, at the panhellenic games and other competitions between the different cities. The pilots of those warmachines are now heroes and celebrated like stars. But behind the scenes rages a shadow war, where the newest secrets of mathematics, physics and chemistry, developed by the formost philosophers of Hellas are stolen by highly paid professionals to ensure the victory of a certain champion in the next greek mecha duel. So you have a campaign of industrial espionage, where shadowrunny charakters, kitted out with weird technology in a distinct antique style try to kidnap famous philosophers or steal their newest ideas, to promote the success of famous sport stars that duel each other in wooden mechas that set their opponents on fire in a spectacular way.

    And then imagine that the peace between the cities is slowly breaking apart and another civil war is about to begin. Will the heroes of public mecha duels once again return to killing each other in earnest? Or are the friendships and rivalries of a lifetime as participants in the sports circus enough to unite them and seek for some other solution?

    High drama and high action are sure to come out of this tangle of ideas I have, so far, failed to turn into a workable game of any sort. But maybe there’s someone else out there who finds the idea of greek mechas and industrial espionage appealing.

  3. Last night, I started a campaign in a fantasy setting. The players were told that they were friends attempting to get to a city that was essentially “The Las Vegas of DnD”, But they were a few gold short of their financial goal. They look for help wanted ads and came across a simple task. An elderly ex-adventurer wanted a pest in her basement killed. Fair enough…

    They enter her house and are escorted to the basement and are told that she will give them their payment in gold, and a piece of pie when they return. Upon heading down the stairs, however, they will quickly find that this is no normal quest. Her basement is a vast cavern that has several exits and tunnels leading in and out of it. It’s prety much a mega-dungeon! If the party goes back upstairs, she explains to them that when she bought the house, she had no idea that the basement was so huge. She then proceeds to tell them that this “Pest” is a Gremlin King who has made his home down there, and has been making it hard for anyone to use the cavern as a passage to wherever it leads.

    The key here is having fun with the crazy idea that this mega-dungeon is a little old lady’s basement. For instance, I put a chest in one of the rooms, which contained nothing but buttons and knitting supplies.

  4. a world where a brash young wizard used his last wish to wish for a Ring of Infinite Wishes… and it was granted. but the ring never grants more than one wish to a person before leaving them, and is said to never grant exactly what you want in exactly the way you mean it, no matter how many barristers and fiends you consult. and so it has leapt from person to person ever since, wreaking havoc wherever it goes…

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