I wrote this up with vague plans to run a Season of it at some point, and I liked it enough to publish it. This is designed for use with The World Wide Wrestling RPG, second edition.
In my copious spare time I’ve been kicking around an idea for a West Marches style Electric Bastionland game. Short explanation: Electric Bastionland is a deeply weird minimalist urban exploration fantasy game; West Marches is a campaign style in which there’s a large pool of players who self-organize self-directed game sessions, designed to lessen the load on the GM. The driving motivation for Bastionland PCs is paying off crippling debt (oh, so it’s a reflection of 2020!) which works just fine for a player-driven game.
Since I’ve been wanting to play Bastionland for a bit, and since West Marches is an intriguing campaign style, I was pleased to realize I had a good match on my hands. Here’s how I put them together and started fleshing the idea out.
A bunch of random games I’d like to run that could be campaigns of whatever length, in no particular order.
- Bookhounds of London, in Arabesque style. This itches my GUMSHOE urges. Fortunately Night’s Black Agents won’t be out for a while so there’s little competition for that chunk of my brain.
- Ashen Stars is also tempting, but a bit less so. I’d probably rather play this than run it. A bit of space opera would be fun.
- Some kind of superheroes maybe. Also more something I’d like to play. Icons, DC Adventures, not Champions probably. I keep wanting to do an emergent superhero world.
- Barbarians of Lemuria for sword and sorcery. Simple system, looks fun. I don’t even have a world in mind — I think you could probably just ad lib one.
- Day After Ragnarok, speaking of sword and sorcery. It’d also be nice to give Savage Worlds a good workout.
- That old Warren Zevon Buffy game I always wanted to run but never did.
- Nostalgiapire, now that I have Vampire: the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition. I can’t imagine that it’d take more than four or five sessions to get the nostalgia out.
- The further adventures of The Black Library, my Dark Heresy conceit in which the Inquisitor is the guy who holds onto all the dangerous books. Which is to say most books. In this story arc, he is trying to retake his library from the dangerous Chaos servants who were his last set of agents.
- My fairly politicized not yet written up D&D 4e setting. Sort of Eberron in flavor, but with universities as another power axis and not so much of the magitech goop.
- Smallville, probably without the DC Universe trappings. I just wanna try the relationship maps.
If I think of anything else I’ll add it. I’m sure there’s something I want to use Reign for.
(Not Fringeworthy, that’s different.)
Use Nemesis, which is fairly simple and free. A couple of nomenclature changes — Madness Meters are Stability Meters, and most difficulties are fairly low. Things are weird but not alien weird. The Unnatural track is the Fringe track. Trump dice are likewise Fringe dice.
There is no supernatural, but there is fringe science, obviously. Those versed in fringe science might go above 5d in a given stat. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nina turned out to have 6d in Body, and Dr. Bishop has 6d Mind. Perhaps more.
Regular combat still exists. Right now the show looks more procedural than actiony, which means firearms should be deadly, which I think they are in Nemesis. However, the interesting combat scenes are scientific. This works more or less like regular combat.
1. Declare your character’s action. The show’s set up with one main scientist, which works fine — everyone else does supporting actions, which feed back into the scientist’s work, giving him bonus dice.
2. Roll the appropriate dice pool. Narrate accordingly. Sometimes it’s going to be science skill vs. science skill (can we figure out how to undo this dimensional transposition before it explodes in downtown Boston?), and sometimes it’d be science skill vs. something else. I think the whole tank scene in the pilot was vs. tactics, for example.
3. Damage is to be contemplated. Could be physical. Could be time ebbing away. Possibly losing a fight results in Stability Meter checks. Mostly I think I like time passing; a lot of this stuff is going to be mad science on the clock, since it’s a procedural show. So it’s… when you run out of wound boxes, you’re out of time or the experiment failed.
You don’t have weapons. You have centrifuges, which get statted up the same way.
The moral equivalent of running World’s Largest Dungeon for 4e, at present, would be to just run the module series. WotC is gonna put out three modules for each tier; H1 and H2 are the first two for the Heroic tier, and when H3 comes out that’ll get a campaign to level 11. There’ll then be P1, P2, and P3; followed by E1, E2, and E3. These are all announced.
Each module comes with play maps. I mean, come on.
If I’m going to draw maps, I want them to be old school maps. Black lines, graph paper, no shadows, no textures. You can pretend this is because I am unartistic if you like; you will be correct in large part. Still.
Just about nothing does good old style maps. Dundjinni is really oriented towards neat battlemaps. RPG Map Maker is unpolished and is a paint program rather than a draw program. Map Tools is nice but is also more of a paint program, I think.
So OmniGraffle. You can set up a nice old school graph grid and you can include that grid when printing or exporting images. Snap to grid is easy. If you do everything as lines, it’s not too hard to add a hole in a wall. I figured out how to do round rooms. Caverns and river lines may be hard, but I’ll cross that obstacle when I come to it.
I begin to have a sneaking suspicion that my tabletop gaming inclinations are back. In full force.
The old school D&D guys (you know, the people playing first edition AD&D or blue box D&D or whatever) are way into the megadungeon concept these days. Big massive dungeons with dozens of levels and hundreds of rooms that can contain an entire campaign. Or multiple campaigns.
And when I say “way into,” what I mean is 30 page threads about dungeon mapping and design considerations. I’m talking an entire forum dedicated to megadungeons. There’s some serious thought going into this stuff — people theorizing, diagramming dungeon layout to determine the linearity or lack thereof of a dungeon, so on and so forth.
Plus maps! Hardcore.
I am reminded that when I was sketching out Tarnished Brass in my mind, I was trying to come up with a rationale for a dungeon crawl, although it promptly got all political on me. 4e makes a better system for a dungeon crawl than Reign, though.
Those inclinations I mentioned earlier seem to be very retro at the moment. Although neo-retro. I keep wanting to take old school gaming and put fins on it so it can go faster.
This is just another one for the hopper.
The system and setting is Over the Edge, with a minor setting tweak; the D’Aubainnes are not quite as powerful in international terms as they are in vanilla OtE, so they need to worry more about maintaining a delicate balance between the USSR, China, and the United States.
The campaign framework: there’s a United States consulate located in The Edge. The D’Aubainnes are not currently allowing the United States to have an embassy in Freedom City, although Russia does have one. All PCs work for the consulate, whether they’re American citizens or local employees. Preferably mostly the former, I think. Obvious archetypes: the consul himself, who could be a bright young kid looking to make his name at State, or a cynical veteran, or someone being punished for a screwup elsewhere. The CIA rep under cover as an agricultural attache. The press attache/PR spokesman/cultural activity organizer. (“Hey, kids, wanna learn baseball?”) The US citizen who sought and was granted asylum in the consulate but can’t return to the States for complex legal reasons. The local working as a secretary.
PCs deal with the interesting and diverse problems that US citizens bring to them; I’d have a lot of room to drive stories. Also plenty of room for the PCs to drive their own stories. I’d expect plenty of espionage stuff. Mystic shit depends on the degree of player desire. Some horror, of course.
Influences are Charlie Wilson’s War, The Quiet American, etc.
But I did just shell out $4 for a PDF of Against The Giants so I could convert it to 4e.
Edit: the tournament characters included in the back of the book are named Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter, Cloyer Bulse the Magsman, Roaky Swerked, Frush O’Suggill, Fonkin Hoddypeak, Flerd Trantle, Redmod Dumple, Faffle Dwe’o-mercraeft, and Beek Gwenders of Croodle. So there’s my money’s worth.