Friday, October 28, 2011

On RPG Campaigns/Settings I Would Totally GM

[As-Yet-Nameless Mecha Setting]

My vision for this setting is as follows:

One part Dune (Space politics, feudal domains, long-standing rivalries, bloody plots in the night)

One part A Song of Ice and Fire (as above, but with less mysticism and even more GRIMDARK and trolling)

One part Gundam (for the giant robots, naturally)

I freely admit, this setting is totally just my fiction fetishes rolled into one sexy package full of gritty violence and PTSD.  I do love the idea of giant robots not just as weapons of war, but as ancestral symbols of authority (The Five Star Stories, Knight Titans in the old Warhammer 40,000 Epic fluff).

System of Choice: Probably Rogue Trader, either using the internal vehicle rules (in Into the Storm) or, more likely, doing a partial homebrew system for the mecha (possibly based on that of Adeptus Evangelion, though I'm not familiar enough with it to feel terribly comfortably to saying with any certainty that I like its mecha combat rules).  I have been meaning to take a closer look at Heavy Gear, and I could probably cull some fun rules and tables from Mekton, if it came down to it, even if I'd prefer not to grapple directly with its rather '80s rules.


This may sound like a weird one because I frequently disparage Bleach, but roll with me for a second.  Bleach is a mediocre to bad story set in a really cool, fairly fleshed-out universe with reasonably consistent but not overly restrictive or arcane, or full of exceptions created purely for the purpose of creating exceptions (cough*NASU*cough) rules.

Besides that, for all the plot of Bleach lacks, its characters are pretty cool, in generally, and set some pretty creative precedents for powers.  The fact that Bleach would lend itself very well to an easy mission-based setup (Soul Society and the Thirteen Court-Guard Squads were basically built to provide structure for roving bands of adventuring PCs who hunt Hollows, deal with ghosts' problems, get up to shenanigans in the mortal realm, etc) is just gravy.  It's relatively low on my list of things I want to run, to be sure, but it's still nice to know it's out there as a possibility.

System of Choice: D&D 4th Edition, probably.  In Bleach, stuff pretty much just happens - martial techniques and magic usually work as intended (though they may not be effective against a given target, they WORK), so DH/RT/DW/BC's systems that operate around a fairly high failure percentage and spells going wildly and hilariously wrong run a bit counter to the setting.  What's more, zanpaktou limit levels (Shikai, Bankai), powerful kido (spells), and other techniques fit far better with the Encounter Power/Daily Power dynamic than DH/RT/DW/BC's high-failure-but-infinite-attempt* model for magic.

Finally, nobody ever dies in Bleach.  Just like in D&D 4e.

As an alternative, I would consider Deathwatch or Black Crusade (since Battle-Brothers and Heretics are far less subject to the high failure rate than Explorers and especially Acolytes), but for the above reasons, I think these systems fit a bit less well with the setting.  Interestingly, Orpheus could work very well for Bleach simply based on how much thematic (and thus mechanical) overlap there is between the two settings.  But Orpheus is kind of a rules trainwreck, and what's more, just doesn't have the raw breadth of content that I'd like to see for Bleach (which D&D 4e probably exemplifies best - each class has assloads of options for powers, further opened up by multiclassing, etc).  I'd consider looking at Geist: The Sin Eaters, the spiritual if not direct successor to Orpheus, but that said, I'm generally not a fan of the way World of Darkness handles dice, even if New WoD is less broken.

*(infinite until you get eaten by daemons)

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Despite lacking any real giant robots, Avatar is hands-down my favorite TV series, and I'd love to run a campaign set in the Avatar-verse.  As such, I think it hardly needs an explanation for why I want to run it.  That said, I will expound a bit more, but I'll keep it brief:

-Avatar's timeline is COLOSSAL, judging by how many Avatars statues were in the Eastern Air Temple.  What's more, the Avatar, the one of the few lore characters who spans this timeline can (and indeed, must, many, many times) die, meaning that nobody (excluding a few Spirits) is necessarily protected by causal plot armor.

-The series opens many doors but leaves many potential plotlines untapped.  In other words, free content for side-quests, if not the whole campaign.

-I want to make up my own horrible new abomination animals.  Shark-Bees, anyone?

(Edit: KillHammer beat me to this one, apparently.  I must grant props where props are due.)

System of Choice: This one would be a lot of work no matter how you slice it, because I like the idea of using D&D 4e's power scheme for Bending, but, unfortunately, because of the way powers are tied to classes, it would really mean creating at least four whole new classes (which would not be available on the Character Builder - no small downside), balancing them, creating feats and items to support them, etc.  Realistically, I would probably handle this by simply working with players to create appropriate powers for their characters as they needed them, but even that would mean a fair chunk of extra work that usually isn't necessary.

I would actually pretty strongly consider trying to find a new setting that had specific rules for custom-created powers if I had concrete plans to run an Avatar campaign, since this would allow me to leave new powers almost entirely in the hands of the players.

Ork Trek

Rogue Trader.  But everyone plays an Ork.

"Spoice.  Da foinal frontier.  Deez a' da voyagez of da Kill-Kroozah Dedkrusha. Da mission: to WAAAGH new woilds, an' ta seek out new loife and KRUMP IT GOOD!"

System of Choice: Rogue Trader.  Duh.

There are others, of course, but these are the ones I felt like about writing about right now.



  1. So many campaigns I want to play in, so little time...

    In terms of ranking the ones you listed, though, I'd probably want to go with 1) Bleach 2) Mecha 3) Avatar 4) Spoice Ork

    1 and 2 are very close, though. I think your analysis is spot-on about the show, by the way, especially in that it could be a great campaign setting and that is something I had never considered.

  2. Yeah, I think the Bleach universe could be a lot of fun to tool around in. Ironically, one of the things that makes the story weaker than it might be (the author's lack of focus on the main plot) means that non-core characters and the universe as a whole have gotten a lot of narratively unnecessary but nonetheless interesting attention.

  3. Actually now that I consider it further, I think this would be a perfect setting to utilize the "careful attack, roll 3d6 instead of d20" mechanic. Like you said, basic magic/attacks/etc require no difficulty in the Bleach universe, so perhaps 3d6 could be default for normal attacks. However, if you want to attempt something more intense (e.g. Bankai) and perhaps 18+ means double damage whereas ≤3 would mean something failing.

    It would have to be refined a lot more than that, obviously, but it's an interesting mechanic considering I was intrigued by the concept of 3d6 "careful attacks."

  4. Where is this "careful attacks" mechanic from, out of curiosity? I've seen similar things in other systems (Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, which uses custom dice, has "cautious" and "aggressive" dice that you can switch in for regular dice based on your Stance, and have higher success rates but different consequences (delay for "cautious" and crit failure for "reckless"), but I've never seen it applied to D&D.

  5. It was something someone said they used in their 4E campaign on /r/RPG. It's exactly what it sounds like, for combat players can either use d20 or 3d6 as much or as little as they want. A few other people chimed in saying they also do this, (including a couple who also adjust the crit fails and successes to match (which seems stupid to me but whatever) and that a lot of their PCs like it because they don't imagine their fighter ever missing that badly (...or something). It's not something I would seriously consider for a normal vanilla 4E campaign, but it is an interesting idea.

  6. For Avatar, I feel like Dark Heresy might actually be better as a system. Simply model them as psychic powers, and slap modifiers on the power rating for more and more difficult versions of the same power. (e.g. bloodbending a mouse vs. a human.)

    Psychic Phenomena would have to change, but I suspect that interesting tables could be made for each of the four elements. (Perils would probably be integrated into the basic Phenomena table.)

    Also, Set Dakka To Waaaagh sounds like something I would SO play. One-off session if nothing else, maybe?

  7. Avatar in Dark Heresy:

    ... maybe if you tripled everyone's Wounds. I think D&D 4e has a pretty appropriate lethality level for Avatar. However, if you wanted to run a more grimdark Avatar campaign (or did the wound-tripling thing), you're right that it'd be easy enough to whip up a few "Elemental Backlash" tables. I'd be inclined to use Black Crusade, actually, since it smooths out the rules a lot, and since it would allow you to give non-Benders Unnatural (x1 or x2, since they're now additive instead of multiplicative) in one stat of their choice to make up for the whole not-bending thing.

    That said, you would still have to make up assloads of new powers, so it doesn't solve that problem, sadly. Offhand, I don't know a system that does, besides maybe 3.5 D&D, which has rules for EVERYTHING, and thus rules for making your own spells.

    I feel like an Ork Trek one-shot would be a good birthday present for Bearmetal. Maybe next year?

  8. I would play Ork Trek. I recently put a picture of the Bork in my desktop background rotation.

    One plot line that may be fun to explore in the Avatar-verse would be the use of minor spirits as characters or stranding spirits in the material world in a way similar to how mortals can get stranded in the spirit world.

    Much as I like the worlds of Avatar and Ork Trek, I'm quite intrigued by the giant robot system, especially since I've heard you talk about how we would handle the piloting/combat aspect and how ability scores/traits would affect different aspects of the combat. I would definitely be up for playtesting such a system.

  9. So, now that I'm a bit more acquainted with Rogue Trader, and how Ships work there, I would definitely do a combined stat system.

    So, for a Dodge test while in a giant robot, you would roll against (your) Dodge + (robot) Agility.

    That said, I would want to open some other interesting options here (a high Int character or class might have the option to exchange (your) Dodge for (your) Lore: Physics). This lets you play with lots of cool stuff - certain weapon systems (missiles, whose trajectory you have to calculate on the fly because of Aiblocktonium Particles) could hit based on (your) Int + (robot) Int, others could key off of Ballistic Skill, Psychics could replace certain checks with Willpower, etc. Lots of cool options, and lots of possibilities for min-maxing or using fringe builds in weird-but-effective ways.

    Also, I would definitely be stealing Mekton Zeta's "Emergency Eject" chart. "You have time to give an extended speech before you die, and also have a significant flash-back of the important parts of your life. You wonder where all these cherry blossoms in your cockpit came from as you die."


    The class system would be getting scrapped, though. Probably would just take RT's base classes and run with it.

  10. Sure, you can be an "I can't believe you're not a Newtype." Instead of a Psychic Phenomena chart, you have an Emotional Phenomena chart, and instead of a Perils of the Warp chart, you have a Perils of the Angst chart. If you roll a 100 on Perils of the Angst, you cause the campaign to have an esoteric, abstract, and possibly Freudian ending on the spot.

  11. Also (and I know I'm waaaay late to this post) don't forget the superhero campaign! "HAWK! EGGPLANT! MOUNT FUJI! THIS WILL BE A GOOD CAMPAIGN!" "...what?"

  12. Heh, I completely forgot about that one. Someday, when we need a one-shot, Super-Osaka and the Apocrafairy will get their day in the sun.