Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Challenge

Years ago I ran a long running D&D game which we named Fire Pass Keep. The game ran over a couple years with a core group of players (Austin, Trevor, Jen, Mike) and a couple other players who joined the game for periods of time before departing. The game was in a home brew world I had created and was set-up as in "Books" and "Chapters" for a story progression standpoint.

My approach to running RP has always been "Theater of the Mind" in style, rarely placing models on the table and always tied to an overarching storyline driving the "plot" forward. The players have filled the role of "actors in the play" or more accurately "independent characters in the story" who directed their own path's in relation to the overarching storyline. I find this a great way to run a game as it allows the players to operate "off the rails" and make their own choices within the world but still experience the impact of their actions as the story progresses around them. This allows a tremendous amount of freedom for character actions (both individually and as a party) and really rewards them as they act within the storyline, while not overly punishing them for pursuing goals outside the storyline. Overall it was a great deal of fun and the game developed in ways we all enjoyed. One of my players (Austin) posted a writeup from his character point of view that can still be read online here.

The game wound down around mid-campaign due to a number of issues in scheduling and other life issues (marriages, babies, moving, etc). We all still talk about the campaign from time to time, but we have all drifted to other gaming venues and activities over the years. I have moved more heavily into miniature games and have not revisited the RP arena in many years at this point.

Recently Austin and I were talking and he issued me a challenge. We both have fairly rigorous life and family schedules but he was getting a rather strong urge to revisit playing a character in one of the stories in my head. The challenge was fitting some solid RP into our crazy lives. He posed the question:

"Would it be possible to frame a RP campaign over several hours spread across three weekends, with those weekends spread across 3-4 months?"

I was intrigued. Trevor had also mentioned recently that he and his wife (Jen) were hankering for a revisit to a solid RP game with me running it. The three of them plus another 3 acquaintances of Austins brought us to a party of 6. My intrigue turned to facination, and after only a couple seconds of contemplation I decided.....

Challenge Accepted!

Now I need to start wrestling with the creative side of my brain to work out the game. First there are some challenges:
  • Timing: The story needs to neatly fit within 3 sessions of ~6-8 hours each.
  • Players/Characters: The story has to encompass 6 active characters in a party. Timing may preclude a "group comes together" scenario and may require the party being pre-formed. I also need to decide between pre-generated characters vs character generation by the group.
  • Story: The story needs to be exciting and engaging, I want us all telling stories about this for years.
  • Setting/Background: I need to decide where to base the story. Do I set it in my homebrew D&D/High fantasy world? Do I set it in one of the other pre-created Fantasy worlds? Do I create something new?
  • System: I will probably use D&D 3.5 as the setting, as I am fairly certain we are all comfortable with the system and have the books.

I plan to visit this from time to time on the blog as I plan out the game and then again when we get the gaming sessions in. I have a whirlwind of ideas surrounding this, so I expect it will be interesting to see how things settle out. 


  1. I have followed your blog for a long while now. However I was never a big Malifaux player, so I was just about to remove you from my feed... Now... I'm super excited to hear about your D&D campaign! Woot!

    1. Vyrrk, thanks for the reply! I'm glad to see your excitement, I am looking forward to getting things laid out and then see how the campaign goes.

      As for other games, I foresee a drastic decrease in the overall Malifaux content. I will still post some content from time to time as I get Malifaux Classic games in, but certainly less than the past 2 years. I recently picked up FF X-wing which my daughter is very interested in and plan to write a bit about that as she and I learn the game. Wild West Exodus should be arriving within the next 5-6 weeks, so that will be a new game to review and write about as well. Then next May/June I am scheduled to get Wrath of Kings, so that's yet another new game to play around with.

      Lots of good gaming without the negativity Wyrd has brought along recently! And tats all beside the secret playtesting projects.....

  2. Its funny to me that you are looking at RP now as that is exactly where I sort of "retreated" to as I left Malifaux.
    I had joined a Pathfinder group for my first RP session in over 20-some years. (2nd edition D&D was last thing I played... And it was still the CURRENT edition. :) )

    I have not been able to make it much lately due to work, but one other game that I tried that I actually liked more than anything was the Doctor Who RPG.

    Now, admittedly, I am a bit of a Doctor Who fanatic that has seen every episode every made...

    But, what I liked was that the entire system and mechanics of the game revolve around the storytelling and Role-playing aspects, rather than fighting and stats. (There is a little of both, still)
    You get "story points" for doing clever things that are completely SUBJECTIVELY given out by the DM for doing things that either help the story along or are at least entertaining.
    And, as someone that knows the history of the Doctor, I love that I could play a crotchety, but wise old man like the 1st Doctor(William Hartnell) or a cynical and sarcastic Doctor like the 6th(Colin Baker).

    The last time we played, the session was "new doctor who" stuff and I was actually Amy, from the latest series and a girl we play with was Rory, her boyfriend. I spent the session "judging" him and quite enjoyed myself.

    Anyway... Looking forward to reading more of where this takes you.

    DaveB (Gruesome)

  3. I always did love playing in the Fire Pass Keep games. It was too bad we had to end them as we did. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

  4. Hi ho!

    Some suggestions for you…

    Instead of having either pre-rolled characters that remove to some degree the sense of ownership from players, or having player-generated characters that make it harder for the DM to fit into the story, how about a compromise: come up with 6 character archetypes that serve as constraints on our creation. So you could have Guardsman/Arcane Tower student/Heironodon novice etc. that will let you plan on which story lines you can introduce, and we’ll be able to make a guardsman with a penchant for vodka and bear wrestling just the way we want. Maybe this time Trevor will take Power Attack for his fighter. ;)

    Similarly, for the “putting the gang together” trope, why don’t we do that via email or blog post? That’ll serve to acclimate my friends to your (unforgiving) game world, and let us hit the ground running when the first session rolls around. We’ll have introductions, individual and group motivations, and starting locale taken care of before lunch.

    And if you want to be bold (Challenge Mk II), the interim between sessions can be used for social interaction vignettes that hook us into the following session. The “putting the gang together” would be the model for interludes between sessions 1&2, and 2&3.

    Because what you’re trying to do isn’t hard enough.



  5. Looking forward to reading more about how this goes. My close RPG buddies have similar issues with schedule(Jobs, Health, Babies, general life issues), so this sort of approach to gaming is more of what we try to do over the last few years.

  6. Play by email and play by Skype are options that allow for busy people to be able to feel engaged and get the campaign up and running. The free and subscription based tools for running these games are excellent. Again best of luck in seeing this through