Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The City of Lives new campaign premise

As I've mentioned over the last few posts, I'm starting up a new City of Lives playtest campaign. Now, The City of Lives is about politics, espionage, and class warfare, as I've explored in the previous campaigns. However, there are also a multitude of other Realms out there, worlds filled with strange and exciting adventure. This new campaign explores the possibilities of the other Realms, in a model I call "Treasure Hunters For Hire."

Inspired by Warehouse 13, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and, yes my own Terra Incognita, the premise for "Hunters" is simple. The PCs are an elite team of "retrieval specialists," trained to travel to distant Realms and locate powerful magical items—known as "relics"—and return them to their employers for use, storage, or destruction. The notion is that every adventure will take them to a new Realm, each with its own strange physics and socials structures that they have to negotiate (like Star Trek), while tracking down magic items that are ruining everyone's day (like Warehouse 13). It's an opportunity to explore my universe more thoroughly, and to experiment with different play styles.

My first City of Lives campaign started out with a very traditional D&D setup: the PCs were all called together for a job, and ventured into a dungeon (for lack of a better word) to locate a particular treasure. However, I cocked it up, not understanding how dungeon-crawls are meant to be run, and letting my players fill the party with strong-willed, volatile characters who had no reason to stay together whatsoever. As the campaign went on, we abandoned the dungeon-crawling and monsters, and ended up exploring some of the less interesting parts of the City. It wasn't a complete failure, but it certainly wasn't a great success.

Next was the espionage-themed campaign, focused on tightly-knit characters and social conflicts. The stories centered heavily around the City and its themes, with only one (much loathed by the players) venture out into the Realms. This was great fun, and highlighted the themes of the campaign setting. However, my players grew bored with "only fighting regular people," "having everything be political," and "never leaving the city." And hence, our new campaign model.

The most difficult part of this so far is coming up with something new for each adventure as I start planning things out. Entirely new worlds and magical relics each week... it's a tough mandate. For the earlier CoL campaigns, I relied on stuff I had already worked out about the world, and for Terra Incognita, I based everything on existing myths and legends. I worry that I'm not going to come up with anything terribly interesting, and end up with a series of worlds that all look like British Columbia (as in Stargate SG-1), with relics that come down to various kinds of doomsday devices. I'm going to have to work very hard to keep things fresh.

Next time, we'll start examining some of the Realms I'm going to use for the new campaign, in the same format as our handful of Realm examples from earlier this year. See you there!