Παρασκευή, 5 Απριλίου 2013

Human Slaves Of An Insect Nation, Part 10-Games I won't Get To Run



Human Slaves of an Insect Nation, Part 10-Games I won’t get to run

Everybody gets a crazy idea stuck in their heads sometimes. Isaac Newton was absolutely convinced that a mysterious gas/element that burns everything but exists only for microseconds at a time existed, even as he kept the theory of gravity in the backburner. A dude called Kevin Eastman and his BFF, Peter Laird, thought it would be fun to make a story about teenage turtles with ninja skills and Renaissance painter names.

Some Japanese dude thought to himself: Imma make me a game that’s kinda about abortion, but it’s mostly intended as sociopolitical commentary! For kids!


Of course, unlike those people, my own crazy ideas will never produce anything (with the exception of a few bitchin’ tabletop campaigns, that is). But still, it does a man good to dream and vent to the internet from time to time…

I mean what else is there to stop a dude from going on a rampage?

With that in mind, here’s the…

SHAPESCAPES LIST OF GAMES I WILL NEVER GET TO RUN (and why they are unworkable)


For a Fistful of Credits-Stormtroopers on the lam


The premise: Following the events of Return of the Jedi, the Empire is collapsing and the Stormtrooper Army is disbanded, according to High Chancellor Leia Organa’s decree (sole heir to the Lord of the Armies, Darth Vader).

The players take on the roles of jobless Stromtroopers, who have somehow missed out on all of the important events of the first trilogy. Jobless and with a skillset no longer suited for the shifting social and political Galactic scene, they are forced to perform odd jobs for a number of employers, just to survive.

The Plot: After causing a bit of a diplomatic episode and finding themselves caught in a bundle of trouble, the Stormtroopers are contacted by a man calling himself Eddar Rem, who offers them substantial amounts of money for a number of operations and odd jobs that border on black ops.
During the campaign, it is later revealed that Eddar Rem is one of Emperor Palpatine’s six clones (a failsafe setup in the unlikely event of his death, to keep the Empire from collapsing). Eddar is, however, not interested in playing along in this dog-and-pony power show. If anything, Eddar Rem is a Sith paintjob of Professor Farnsworth, 

Good news, everyone! I close my eyes and I see worlds burning, set alight by the fire of their own ignited stars!

Madder than a hatter and with a portion of the Empire’s original resources at his disposal, Eddar Rem plans to complete Palpatine’s most nefarious plan yet: a planet-smashing superweapon, powered almost exclusively by tapping into the Force, capable of FTL travel!

Codenamed Warworld George.
The players soon find themselves responsible with bringing about the beginning of another trans-galactic conflict, caught between a secret war between the Emperor’s clones and hunted by the new-found Republic!

How will they shape the history of the Star Wars Universe? What will become of Eddar Rem? Will they finally find a steady job that doesn’t entail all this history-altering bullshit? And where the hell are Luke Skywalker and the Jedi in all this?

Why this would not work: Well, for starters, I could not find a group that would want to play this kind of game. Science Fiction campaign crowds are hard enough to find as it is, but Star Wars rpg players in a strictly non-Jedi game? In Greece? Forget about it, man!

The other huge problem is that I am not familiar with Star Wars canon, beyond the original trilogy (no, that other one did not happen). As a result, I would have to fill in the setting blanks myself, either through painstaking world-building, or by winging it as I went along, which would create a wildly inconsistent set-up that would fall apart when examined too closely.

And lastly? This campaign is way too specific and limiting. Sure, it’s supposed to be a comedy and the characters will get to go across the Galaxy in quest for jobs, but how long would this joke hold up? Two sessions? Three, tops? This idea needs a hell of a lot of retooling and repurposing, but first, it needs the proper gaming group.

And by that I don’t mean Star Wars nerds. They usually try to beat me up when I explain the goddamn premise over drinks.

Sigil’s Finest- Cops in Dungeons and Dragons

“We can still holler and shout but we have to light the lamps that shed the light on corruption, injustice, ineptitude and abuse of power. When we do, you will see the villains scurry into the woodwork the way roaches do when you turn on the light.”




The Premise: Sigil is the city at the very heart of the Multiverse. It is the City of Doors, the waystation through which every intelligent (or in some cases, borderline intelligent) being in the cosmos crosses at one point in its life cycle or another.

It is a hive of activity and the multiversal center of commerce. It is also sorely lacking in any form of organized government, with the exception of the local rulers and, of course, its mistress, the Lady of Pain.


A thing that even the gods have learned to fear.


But even she, in her awesome power, appears to be unable (or unwilling) to maintain order. And all this crime and anarchy isn’t exactly ideal for business now, is it?

The players have either chosen or drafted into the Sigil police force. They have been trained, armed and prepared to deal with illegal activities and to quell civil unrest where it may be found. To right wrongs, or simply look the other way where the situation demands, as they delve deeper into the heart of the city and learn more about the inner workings of their factions.

Featuring such distinguished criminal organizations as the Slaad Mafia 

A loosely-organized, mercurial organization made by creatures that embody the very emdobiment of chaos.

The Tanar’ri Bottle Street gangs


“How you expect to run with the wolves come night, when you spend all day sporting wit' the puppies?”

And, of course, the Baatezu Sextates

“A fiend gotta have a code”

The Plot: There isn’t a plot, not really. The players (police officers) deal with cases, crack down on druggies, fight off monsters and keep the peace, sandbox style.

Why this wouldn’t work: Well, because I suck at sandboxing. And because players have a very hard time grasping the idea of playing cops. Most people like to play games to act out power fantasies, not to establish order. Sure, they might have some fun making enemies and righting wrongs, but they would have a VERY hard time coming to terms with the idea that they play as officers of the law.
Mostly because it reminds them of the real world, I suppose. And in a bad way.

Masquerade: The musical!-A Naked Gun approach to Vampire: the Maquerade

Jazz Hands! Chaaaa!

The Premise: I fucking hate vampires. I consider them glorified leeches and I find the stupid popular Vampire the Masquerade rpg to have an idiotic premise aimed solely toward getting dudes laid with goth chicks, while at the same time maintaining the myth that mankind would allow such a thing like vampires to exist in the entirety of its history.

Vampire the Masquerade maintains the myth that a vampire elite is pulling the strings of a world conspiracy (tinfoil hats, anyone?) and that the players are members of factions whose sole purpose is to maintain secrecy, while waging shadowy wars against each other. There’s also a bunch of horseshit about there being ancient vampires predating the Deluge (called the Antediluvians) who are essentially undead Super Saiyans and the entire game plays out like a grim and gritty version of goddamn Pokemon, except you drink blood because edgy.

So Masquerade is, essentially, a parodic take on all this: the Masquerade is presented as a barely workable organization, ran by senile and half-mad bastards who won’t give up their reins on power. The world (armed with the internet and its surveillance culture) begins to close in on the vampire conspiracy and the players have to maintain a semblance of a social life while keeping up with their dog-eat-dog social vampire surroundings.

The Plot: The players begin as a bunch of initiates who find themselves trapped in the archaic, unworkable mess that is the Masquerade, tasked with eliminating evidence from fringe journalists that could put Vampire society on the map. 

While all this is going on, an Antediluvian vampire rises from his eons-long slumber, his perceptions of the world severely out of date and himself exceedingly senile. The players, finding themselves in his presence upon his awakening, are tasked with escorting the venerable (and powerful) ancient and teaching him about the 21st century via hands-on approach.

Why It wouldn’t work: Because I hate vampires as an idea too goddamn much and I’d probably destroy the entire setting three gaming sessions in. Then again, maybe the players would get bored of the senile ancient that talks like Grampa from the Simpsons and ditch him in an old folks’ home or something.

Also, hate campaigns aren't exactly great ideas either. They might get off half a dozen jokes, but they aren't exactly entertainment material. Nobody comes to your games to see you masturbate in fury, after all.
 
Go! Unlikely Hero Sentai!-Misfits: the RPG

“Look honey! Monkey-men! Say hi to the monkey-men, guys!”

The Premise: Accused of a number of felonies, a group of teenage aliens are tasked with community service as protectors of a backwater planet at the ass-end of the Galaxy (namely, Earth). The world is apparently a hotbed of alien activity and the Pan-Galactic government, caving in under pressure by a number of Non-Governmental Organizations requesting aid for Underdeveloped Planets, decides to send the delinquents to save it.

Featuring Nog’Gorloch as their probation worker.

The Plot: Forced to disguise themselves as teenaged natives to Earth, the juvenile delinquent aliens are robbed of their Hive-Net connections and high-tech gadgets, while desperately trying to get chummy with a bunch of backwards apes.

During their adventures, they come to terms with their roles as protectors of this world and their awesome responsibility, as they slowly unravel a far deeper, more sinister conspiracy that implicates even the current Galactic President himself!

Why It wouldn’t work: This would need a very specific group of players, who would be able to play out the part of juvenile delinquents and unlikely heroes, but would also love to pilot giant robots (striking ridiculous poses at irregular intervals considered a plus). It's a game that requires the players to find their own reasons for fighting the good fight

In short, this is a very character-specific type of campaign that asks way too much of the players than it should. This is supposed to be something to help you pass the time, not a character study.

 Streets of Carthagen-Scarface with superpowers.

This is our city now, Sentinel. Your kind is no longer welcome here.

The Premise: Following a super-storm, the fictional city of Carthagen is nearly destroyed and pretty much cut off from outside help, a veritable no-man’s land, ripe for the taking. After the world’s foremost supervillains escape the San Quentin Penitentiary under the guidance of a mysterious figure known only as The Face, they move in to the abandoned city and turn it into their very own protectorate.

With no one to stand in their way but the city’s few and helpless superheroes, they set the foundations for their criminal empire. A world of violence, crime and barbarism if born from the rubble and rebuilt in their image.

The Plot: The players take on the role of relatively unknown supervillains, stuck in the lowest rungs of their criminal society, looking for a chance at fame, power and fortune in Carthagen. Their goal is to rise to power, to grow their own little criminal empire, while facing off against the city’s heroes and the greater villains, who want them destroyed.

On their way, they ally themselves with Vladimir Tsukanov, the last surviving head of the non-powered criminal families. It’s up to them to either dethrone the powers that be or to save Carthagen.

Why this wouldn’t work: Like Sentai, Streets of Carthagen is heavily player-based. It relies on the fact that it’s a sandbox game that will be driven by the group, rather than by the Storyteller. The original idea was that I would let them loose to either kill or be killed, but any attempts at this pretty much flopped in the span of a single session.

Besides that, Streets of Carthagen is very loosely defined, plot-wise. The players will be the ones that drive it and will have to get themselves in their own little spots of trouble or overcome their problems, with me as the arbiter. In short, not the kind of game I am used to running.

Need to work on that, stat.

Defenders of the Jade Throne-Wuxia Conspiracies

Jade, steel and wire-fu.

The Premise: In the land of Chrysanthemums, the Jade Emperor reigns supreme from his place upon the Golden throne. His personal elite guards, the White-Jade Dragons, are tasked with keeping the peace in matters pertaining to royalty or the sacred Bureaucracy. Each masters of one of the Elemental Martial Arts Styles, the White-Jade Dragons are considered the infallible and unbeatable hand of the law.

But when the White-Jade Dragons are assassinated by a group of masked martial artists, their students are tasked with finding their killers and enacting revenge!

The Plot: Defenders of the Jade Throne is essentially a murder mystery with government conspiracy thrown in. The players, each a student of the White-Jade dragons is a master of one of the lesser elemental styles. The campaign is based on the premise of the players both trying to crack the mystery, as well as in pulling off impossible stunts.

Of course, as it is par for the course, the conspiracy behind the murder of their masters runs far deeper than they originally thought. As the players seek to unravel the mystery and avenge their fallen teachers, the Jade Emperor finds himself threatened by a far more sinister plot! Will the players save the land of Crhysanthemums and put an end to the coming conflict before it’s too late?

Why this wouldn’t work: Besides the fact that I am not exactly comfortable with these kinds of campaigns (not that I couldn’t make it work), the idea behind running this is based on the fact that I am going to be using the extensive Martial Arts system of Exalted.

Now, for those of you not in the know, Exalted has pretty much the best, most comprehensive and awesomely presented Martial Arts style system in any rpg. Ever. 

The rest of the system however sucks balls, as it is a convoluted mess that drags the game down with it. My hopes rest with its 3rd edition and the hope that they don’t fuck it up this time.

Forever Winter-Ice Age Dungeons and Dragons

The Premise: Once upon a time, there were great cities, sprawling metropolises of glass and stone that stretched up to high heaven, power by the fire in the world’s core. Once, mighty wizards bound sky-spirits and made great metal birds fly across the heavens.

Once, the world was warm and winter was but a scary story to frighten unruly children.
It had been the time of the Ethergaunt, the time when man was little more than cattle.

The Plot: Forever Winter is a story dealing with mankind’s attempt to build itself a civilization out of the ruins of the previous masters of the Earth, the ingenious and now extinct Ethergaunts. After shaping the world according to their whim for uncountable millennia, mankind finally revolted against its masters and destroyed them, leaving the killing frost to cake their cities and erase them from history.

The players are part of a party of adventurers that are chosen for their prowess to delve into the wastes of the Ethergaunt cities and bring back with them the powerful artifacts of their one-masters, to aid mankind in its constant struggle for survival.

Forever winter is a low to no-magic campaign that leans heavily on survival of both the players and the tribe itself. It might also fit the post-apocalyptic niche, but only barely.

Why This Wouldn’t Work: It’s a game about a grim and dark world that kills you with snow, where you need to scavenge to survive for the good of the tribe rather than personal glory. If you haven’t caught on yet, it’s not what most players are going for.

Plus, this thing is brutal and grim in every way that isn’t fun. If this is going to become something playable, it needs much more content that’s more…engaging to make it worth considering.

The Ark of Wonders-An Arabian nights themed fantasy campaign

And all around them there was fire and billowing smoke spilling out from the gaping maw of the earth…

The Premise: In a world built by the djinn, the most valued resource is the soma, a material shaped by thought. The djinn, lords of the elements, immortal and impossibly bored, trade this fine material in exchange for tales to excite and titillate their senses.

A mortal man may choose to attain the vaunted title of Storyteller, to gain fame and fortune unequaled, to dwell among the djinn as an equal. That is, until he bores his masters with trite.

Provided he can escape the caste system and the very cities that he was born in, to reach the vaunted City of Brass, where the gods dwell at the center of the world…

The Plot: The players are mere mortals who choose to adventure for the sake of one of the world’s 
most renowned Storytellers, to gather experiences for him to weave tales for his masters’ enjoyment. On their travels, they will see the Shifting City and travel across the Powdered Glass desert to the long-lost city of Leng. They will fight the rakhasa, the lesser demons of the world and meet forgotten gods. They will be crowned saviors (or damned as destroyers) of distant empires.

And if they play their cards right, they might just make their way to the City Of Brass, to the citadel of the gods themselves.

Why This Wouldn’t Work: There’s no reason for it not to, come to think of it. Need to sit my ass down and start working on it, is all!

The Wastelands Within-A Promethean: The Created Campaign 


Warning: Contents may be worse off than advertised.

The Premise: The Created are creatures born from dead men and women, reanimated either by unspeakable science or black magic. Considered anathema among the mortals and to the Earth itself, they look for refuge and the means to become, once again, truly human.

This is the kind of game that sounds great on paper, but faces serious problems in execution. It presents itself as a personal post-apocalyptic setting, when it in fact isn’t: this is the perfect game for a post-apocalypse.

The Created players start off virginal and without any knowledge of the world around them and its history, piecing together the story of the disaster from the survivors, while looking for a way to become accepted and to belong.

The Plot: Ever seen Blade Runner? No? Read the book? The Earth is a desolated, blasted landscape, populated by a fraction of mankind’s pre-war population. The people are wary, frightened and clustered around what little population centers of food and technology remain. 

The Created need to prove themselves as both survivors and champions to the terrified, distrusting mankind. They will discover ruins of cities, venture across irradiated wastelands and fight the Cancer Cowboys, Created powered by nuclear energy. They will meet creatures that have risen from below the ground and choose to either subjugate mankind or to join its ranks.

Why This Wouldn’t Work: The premise is bleak as fuck and grim to boot. Maybe if I sold the game to the players as a weird, grim version of our world it would fool them, but not for long. Promethean is way too dark and before I can get to do things, I need to tone down the existential horror considerably.

Once again, this is a player-centric game, which also requires the proper group to run it.

Addendum:

Holy shit, I got a ton of these, now that I’m going through my old notes. Maybe I need to write them down. Maybe something can come out of them after all.

Those that aren’t nonsensical and shit, that is. And there’s a lot of those.

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