Friday, November 16, 2012

History as a Campaign Starting Point (a la Chris Perkins)

Okay, so I read the The Dungeon Master Experience written by Chris Perkins over at the Wizards of the Coast site.  I have found this to be a terrific source of ideas and inspiration and I love the write-ups from his Iomandra campaign.  Personally, I find his plot ideas quite inspiring.  A couple months ago he threw out a poll to the readers ( and it went like this:
Hey DMs: Which of the following events from world history would make the best hook for your campaign?
  • The Spartan stand at Thermopylae
  • The assassination of Abraham Lincoln
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall (and the Soviet Union)
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • The Black Death
  • The burning of Rome
  • The Trojan War
  • The French Revolution
  • The Alamo
  • The Salem witch hunts
Hmm, well if I had to pick one to base a campaign on it would be the Salem witch hunts.  Lots of room for wandering about and getting into situations.  Plenty of just the sort of intrigue and mystery-solving I love, plus lots of secret supernatural goings-on.  From what I've read of the game Dogs in the Vinyard, it would be perfect for this type of game.  I'd probably set it in a slightly alternate history, slightly fantasy version of ye olde New England just to freshen things up a bit.

But, wait--you could steal from the Paranoia game and make the party a group of traveling witch hunter "troubleshooters" who's job it is to root out anything "unnatural"--but, just as in Paranoia, every single PC must have a hidden "unnatural" side and ties to forbidden worlds/societies.  The group could include witches, half-vampires, lycanthropes, half-fey, demon-possessed, changelings, reanimated dead, etc., each with ties to others of their kind, secret societies, etc.  Thus they must at least appear to carry out their missions, hide their personal secret, support others of their kind, conduct secret society missions, and deal with all sorts of social and political intrigue.  But wait, it needs a about "Righteous Fear"?

But then I thought, "hey, I know some history stuff too!".  Thus Chris' idea of taking a historical events and using that as a campaign hook really appealed to me as an intellectual exercise.  So without further ado, are a few events from me:
  • Last Days of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (fantasy version): The holy kingdom was retaken from the infidels/heathens/monsters, and you have the honor to hold a small fief.  But the glory days are past and the kingdom grows weaker with each passing year.  The situation is complicated, with marriages and alliances with the infidels, conversions of heathens into allies by both sides, friends and family going native, and newcomers looking for fief of their own--or yours...
  • Fall of Berlin (fantasy or sci-fi version): It is the final days of the empire.  As the enemies of your civilization close in, the political in-fighting intensifies amid the distant thunder from the battlefields.  Struggle with combat at the front, carry out missions behind enemy lines, weave skillful political intrigue, and desperately seek safety for loved ones before it's too late...
  • Settlement at Jamestown (fantasy or sci-fi): Finally, after a harrowing journey across an almost unimaginable gulf, you have put down your first roots in the new land.  The oppressors are far away now, but so is home and family.  In addition your supplies are looking less and less adequate and the surrounding land seems devoid of sources.  And there's something moving out there beyond the perimeter...
  • Trail of Tears (fantasy or sci-fi): Your people were sold out.  The Others lied to your people, but outnumbered and outgunned your choices were exile or extermination.  Now the long journey begins into territory unknown with only what you can take with you. The territories are not as empty and inviting as advertised--and The Others have lied and are coming for you again...

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