Friday, July 6, 2012

2 more quick game ideas

I use to be an adventurer like you, until I took an arrow in the knee (or, CSI:  Pavis)
Premise:  The cast plays the part of city guardsmen in a major fantasy city (Pavis, Waterdeep, Minas Tirith, etc.). In this setting, there are no patrol men, investigators, or crime scene technicians. There are only guardsmen, sergeants, and captains.

This game can go many different directions. Players can take on the part of those guardsmen lucky enough to clean up after adventurers. They have to talk to innocent bystanders, find ways to placate the citizens from outright revolting against these supposed do-gooders who take on bounties hunting down monsters, and figure out how to rebuild whatever was destroyed by the adventurers. Perhaps, the cast were all seen as either bumbling idiots or did something to irritate their supervisor. Now, their job is to go out and stop adventurers from breaking laws. (I’m sorry, Mr. NPC Necromancer, casting "raise dead" is against the law. I don’t care if he’s the only person who knows the whereabouts of a missing “magical” sword.) The game can also be run as a straight up crime drama with the cast going after Big Bads and little evils. Classic monster tropes like vampires, werewolves, and a guild of thieves play into this send up. All in all, the cast is on the side of the law. Whether that law is more The Shield, Magnum Force, or  Dragnet is up to the GM and players.

Starting Point:  The cast are assigned to a guardhouse ("precinct") and work a shift together. Let's face it, we all know the excitement is going to occur during the evening and late night hours. That should likely be the shift they work. Then, again, this setting isn't likely to have unions stating when employees can and cannot work. Instead of late night/early morning phone calls, there will be other “lesser” guardsmen banging on doors to wake up the cast. That leads to irritated neighbors and more opportunities for role playing.

Basic Assumptions:
1.  This is not a sandbox setting. The stories are all based in the city of choice. There may be occasional forays outside the city, but these should be minor occurrences and not major plot points. That is the work of the army or adventurers.
2.  Magic is somewhat common. While a setting that uses magic to replace modern technology would likely break the setting, Vancian magic is quite okay. A setting with magic being less common could be interesting from the standpoint of giving the cast an edge if they have a magic user or two. However, it also means villains that can cast magic have a higher threat rating.
3.  Technology stopped with plate armor and crossbows, in other words, standard D&D.
4.  No psionics
5.  While magic does exist, a list of what is legal to cast and illegal to cast will need to be developed and delivered to the players before the game begins. Knowing that information, what happens if one of the cast is a magic user and eventually needs to use that illegal spell they secretly learned in order to solve the case?

System:  Any system will do. Pick your favorite fantasy setting and go!

For an alternate take on crime drama and investigation, check out Robin D. Law’s Mutant City Blues. Yes, it is designed for something more modern day and involving superheroes. However, his treatment of how to run a crime scene investigative game is good. I like more die rolling than this game does, but I’ve stolen plenty of ideas from it.

Links of Interest for I use to be an adventurer:

Thanes of Whiterun (or, What's the matter, someone stole your sweatroll?)
Premise:  I'm blatantly stealing this idea from Lowell. On his blog, Age of Ravens, you can read his wife's write-up of a session he ran of this idea using Hollowpoint. I played in that session. It was all types of awesome. The setting is Bathesda Softworks, LLC's Skyrim. The cast are all thanes for the Jarl of Whiterun (or low fantasy setting of your choice). Thanes in this setting, are more or less, troubleshooter, ala any '80s action TV shows and movies, and work for the local jarl. The game is set before the events of the video game, but will move through a similar storyline, including the choice of joining Ulfric's rebellion or not. This game will give the players the opportunity to enjoy the realm of Skyrim, while making the setting their own.

Jarl Balgruuf the Greater charges the cast with maintaining the peace in his lands (Whiterun Hold). His hold benefits by being in the center of the realm, having a major river flow through it, and sitting upon a major trade route. He understands the desires of freedom expressed by Ulfric Stormcloak and the benefits of working with the Empire ala Jarl Elisif the Fair. This means that the players will be asked to cross territory lines to deal with situations outside of Whiterun.

The end of the first season should have a major moral twist to it that forces the group to choose between the Empire and Ulfric. Leading up to that decision, the cast will be approached by both agents of the Empire and Stormcloaks, asking for their support. When the cast makes their decision, they are effectively also making the decision for Jarl Balgruuf. They are, after all, his thanes and when he hears what they were put through, he will follow their lead and cast his lot in with their choice.

Season two would pickup with the cast being brought into the fold of whomever’s cause they decided to support. By the end of the second season, the cast will have begun helping take over holds (and maybe they were successful in a few attempts?) and the kingdom of Skyrim is on the brink of an outright war amongst the Jarls.

Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, the cast will need to get involved in helping decide who will be the next high king.

Starting Point:  Why hold back? Start the game in Dragon’s Reach with the jarl handing the cast a situation to handle.

Basic Assumptions: 
1.  This setting can be more sandbox than CSI:  Pavis. Yet, it is definitely set up to be a quest-driven game, at least in the beginning.
2.  Players may not be Dovahkiin and the GM is free to drop them from the game, being naught but legend.
3.  The GM is allowed to alter what happens and how the NPCs behave in the game, versus the video game. When the players are in doubt of motivation, they can ask if the GM has changed the NPC’s motivation from the video game. While the GM should answer either “yes” or “no,” they are not obligated to state how or why it was changed.
4.  The video game storyline involving Alduin and the end of the world is not part of this game.
5.  Horses, can, in fact, enter cities.

System:  This is another game where any system will work.

For an alternate take using a system that plays with trust issues, take a look at Cold City. In using Cold City as inspiration, I would suggest making each of the cast have a different hold as their point of origin. All of them have been sent to Whiterun Hold as agents for their individual jarls, who have their own agendas and their own thoughts on choosing the Empire or Ulfric. When the ball goes up, whose side will the cast be on?

Links of interest for Thanes of Whiterun: