Why I Love TTRPGs

I’ve started running a 4E game using my Crusade Beyond the Door. The original campaign idea was to turn Stargate: Atlantis in a campaign framework: using magical gates the party would jump to a new world each week fighting the Nephilum menace some weeks while others solving local issues. Using the 4E build in power levels over time they would rise to challenge the Nephilum and save Creation Beyond the Door just as SG-1 defeated the Goa’uld and the Atlantis gang defeated the Wraith.

But my players got to the first world, defeated a party of nocturnal elf slavers (negative image drow: pasty white skin, black hair), secured the people in a new village, and defeated the revenge party of slavers. They also recovered the alternative Genesis that splits when the Nephilum lead the people beyond the Door and a second set of control rods (my DHD analog). They were all set for my expected end and returning to the city of giants.

But they didn’t.

Instead they decided they were protect the worlds beyond the door and they will protect this world. Instead of returning they have decided to build a castle at the local door (on the hill with the chalk horse carved into it) and train the locals to fight the slavers.

Oh, and in the grand tradition of the crusades a bunch of second sons are now going to have their own fiefs.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I play TTRPGs and not MMORPGs, CRPGs, or write my own fiction (well, I do the later but you get the idea). I had 30 levels of 4E mapped out roughly and now they won’t happen. While my events will happen in the background and change the world they may later go on to interact with for now we are playing a very different game. All because four people not the DM decided this was the way to play in my creation.

Right now I love my players…because even if their idea wasn’t mine I suspect the game will be more interesting because it is ours and not just mine. It is my world but their story.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Random Campaign Idea: The Last God

At the dawn of time the gods who inhabited the Astral Sea warred with the Old Ones from beyond the known universe. Aberrant monsters of the Far Realm they sought to unmake creation. The gods were hard pressed and imbued the mortals with their powers to join in the battle. In the end the Old Ones were driven from the moral world and it’s parallels as well as the Astral Sea. However, many gods fell and a handful of openings to the Far Realms permitted the servants of the Old Ones to corrupt creation.

For a time the gods worked to heal the world and mortals hunted down the fell servants but the Old Ones were not permanently deterred. Again the Old Ones struck and were defeated yet more gods fell. Like the tides breaking upon the shore each war ended with reality preserved but more of the gods, and often their planes within the Astral Sea, destroyed. Each time more of the Old One’s servants remained behind.

Now, a thousand years after the last war, the world awaits its fate. The Last God imbues his servants with the power to destroy the aberrant monsters while runepriests join mystery cults dedicated to fallen gods to learn their powers. Other mortals, knowing that the gods are spent and the defense of the world falls to them, have taken to walking arcane paths and making fell pacts to garner power to defeat the Old Ones and their servants. The Fey wilds have sent forth their own champions and even beings of Elemental Chaos have stepped into the world to prepare for its next defense.

Yet even before that can begin the world must be cleansed of the corruption left by the Old Ones, including the promises of power to persevere against them or even among them. It seems no place is pure and no power lies uncorrupted.

This idea comes from two primary sources and one secondary source. The primary sources are James Raggi’s how to make D&D metal and Palladium Book’s Old Ones. The secondary source is Charnel Gods, a supplement to Sorcerer which has no web presence that I can find.

The principle idea behind the setting is an ongoing war for the universe between the gods and Cthuvian Old Ones. As the gods beat off each attack their numbers diminished faster than their ability to regenerate. Now, the Last God prepares for his final battle by empowering servants, while men try to claim both the powers of the fallen gods as well learn the powers of creation directly.

Meanwhile, these wars have corrupted the world itself. Most power is now seduced by servants of the Old Ones and the world wars among itself as much as it tries to heal and prepare. The characters are new heroes rising to fight the corruption of the world only to risk seduction by it. Those who persevere beyond that seduction can rise to defend creation itself.

I originally conceived this for my restricted classes and races 4e campaign.

Random Campaign Idea for Fourth Edition

Being in a 4E game winding down this week and next I was trying to think of what would make an interesting 4E campaign idea. Having loved Jeff Rirnt’s Fourth World idea I wondered if I could adapt another pop culture property to it. So I present:

Crusade Beyond the Door

The hermit told you of a holy relic, the door frame of stable of Bethlehem, and a strange property it had. Tonight the stars would align just as they had the night of Christ’s birth. In fact, this was the first time they would since that holiest of nights. In aligning the door frame would be filled with a door not of wood but of the spirit and give access to another world.

“We can walk bodily into heaven,” one of your party asked.

“No,” he said, “for that is the provence of the Lord and the greatest of the prophets alone. You, instead, can walk into a world in need of the light of Christ even more than this land.”

So you thought. You remembered the brothers from Venice who disappeared into the desert in search of the Grail. You remembered Baldwin and his success in succeeding Thoros of Edessa. So you came, along with your companions and others to that dark cave on the night in question.

And there the hermit was suffused in brightness and revealed to be more than a hermit but Sariel. As he stood before the frame it rippled with light.

“Beyond this doorway live men lead astray and enslaved. Beyond this doorway men are enslaved by those decended from the daughters of men seduced by those of the host of heaven. Beyond this doorway lies a destiny greater than you can know and a crusade of great holiness,” he declared to the assembled host.

And with that you stepped through the doorway into a great courtyard in a dark building. You soon realized you were alone in a dark and abandoned city on a great island. Yet one of the wizards among you also realize they could open the doorway by a set of runes. Now you prepare to step through it again to seek the destiny Sariel proclaimed.

Initial characters are members of the First Crusade who have stepped through a magical gate into another realm. Initial classes allowed are Cleric, Paladin, Avenger, Invoker, Fighter, Ranger, Warlord, Warlock, Wizard, Bard, or Sorcerer. Actually, I’d consider omitting Ranger as I don’t see it fitting the Crusader theme. Divine classes should fit a generally medieval Catholic Christianity.

Adventures generally are found beyond the gate in the City of the Nephilim. Beyond the gates are lost tribes of man, ruins and remenants of races from before the Flood, pagan gods and their followers, and most of all the Nephilim themselves, the children of angels and the daughters of men. They both rule and feed upon men creating a climate of fear. Yet men, being men, are not united against them and having been so long removed from the light of the Lord lack the faith to do so. Allies and friends among them can provide new and different characters covering all of the available options you wish to allow. This would be a great campaign to try out The Chatty DM’s ideas about changing characters in the campaign without character death (at least I think it was his idea).

The thirty level story arch is mostly likely to follow the war against the Nephilim. Heoric tier adventures would be finding items, making friends and allies, and locating information about the Nephilim. By the paragon tier the surviving members of the host (which should include the PCs) should begin overcoming second tier threats such as the pagan gods and evil men in order to allow good peoples to unite. The epic tier will be the quest to take the war to the heart of the Nephilim’s empire and the defeat of their Emperor themselves (and learning the secret of his paternity in the process).

Monday Pointers: March 23, 2010 Edition

D4:Customizing 4E – “Old School”
MJ Hanish at Gaming Brouhahah has some notes on optional rules from the Fourth Edition’s Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 and some campaign restrictions to get a more old school feel out of the current WotC game sold under the D&D banner. He includes core ideas and then some specific recommendations for a Moldavy/Cook or AD&D game. With a lot of people who have never played the older editions and the upcoming new red box knowing how to adapt fourth to our style is worth investigating. If you disagree, try MJ’s last paragraph.

D6:Raggi gives the perfect standard for OSR membership
Playing one of these games is pretty much the only requirement to be “one of us.” No matter where you came from, what you did before, doesn’t even matter if it’s your favorite sort of game. You play the game in good faith, you’re one of us, and fuck anyone who tries to impose greater “membership requirements” than that.
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D8:Feeling Old School
A interesting thread on RPG.net requesting descriptions of old school games other than D&D. With some specific requests. Head on over and share your knowledge.

D10:Musings on Sandbox Campaigns
Bat in the Attic has some interesting points about running a sandbox campaign. I think the second is the most missed point about sandboxes. They exist without the player characters and the GM should have an idea of what is happening outside of what the PCs do. Then, if the PCs run into those plans by NPCs you get plot.

D12:Realms and Remembrance
Having gotten a great response to his Secret Origins post of inside facts about the original Marvel Superheroes RPG Jeff Grubb decided to follow with one about the early publishing history of the Forgotten Realms.

D13:Red Box Bryan College Station
Bringing out the D13 to toot my own horn again, I’m working to start a monthly BECMI game inspired by Red Box New York, Red Box Vancouver, and Red Box Calgary. I’ll also be using Meetup to promote. Expect a longer post on my Red Box Network idea later this week (or not…we all know me).

D20:How the Red Moon Came to Glorantha
I found Greg Stafford’s personal site recently and it has some interesting articles. This one, on the genesis of White Bear, Red Moon was a revalation. As someone who learned of Glorantha from gaming it was odd to find out the part of the world that has dominated, almost to the exclusions of all others, wasn’t originally conceived as part of that world. This only reinforces the drive to create “My Glorantha”.

D100:Speaking of the Mythmaker
Allen Varney, in his rotating spot in the High Adventure column at The Escapist profiled Greg Stafford. In light of my mission statement/subtitle here I have to share this quote:
Roleplaying is one way for us to stimulate that mystery sense. Furthermore, its tropes activate all kinds of deeper curiosity and let us exercise both beneficial and gruesome fantasies that lie dormant in us. Choose anything from great heroics to serial murders – what greater opportunities do geeks like us have than to seek these while sitting at a table of friends? Are we heroes as a result? Nah, course not. But we are friends with shared thoughts, and that is good for the soul. And when we romp through those tropes, something deep inside is exercised – the mystery stirs.
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So, we start another week. Last week was my best ever in terms of numbers. While I think the fact that I posted five days running might have something to do with it I have to bow to the reality that my TARGA posts got the numbers. Still, to new readers welcome aboard. I hope you find my material interesting to enough to stay. And that Miss Manners post is still getting hits.