Any of these campaigns I’d like to run! Let me know.
City of Masks
For my part, if a man must needs be a knave I would have him a debonair knave…It makes your sin no worse as I conceive, to do it à la mode and stylishly.
—Anthony Hope, The Prisoner of Zenda
The canal-crossed city Ilrien has many names; the City of Masks, the Floating Court. You know it as the City of the Great Game. Noble families manoeuvre for power and influence; hearts are broken in glittering ballrooms; duellists fight on tiled rooftops by the light of the moon. As a coterie of noble retainers attached to one of the Great Houses, you are a part of a hidden world of scandal, secrets, and intrigue. Uncover your rivals’ plots; host lavish masquerades; claw your way to the top.
System: Court of Blades early access
Appx. N: The Three Musketeers, Romeo and Juliet, The Book of the Courtier, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Wolf Hall, the Discworld series, How To Tell If You Are In A Regency-Era Novel, Dishonoured
Player buy-in: Fantasy renaissance courtly intrigue.
1. Assume nothing. 2. Never go against your gut. 3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control. 4. Do not look back; you are never completely alone. 5. Go with the flow, blend in. 6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover. 7. Lull them into a sense of complacency. 8. Do not harass the opposition. 9. Pick the time and place for action. 10. Keep your options open.
It is the second half of the 20th century. Paranoia is a survival trait. You are soldiers in a colder war; a war of secret treaties, hidden agendas, and paracausal horror. Years ago, the USA entered into a pact with 𝙼𝙰𝙼𝙼𝙾𝙽, the first dealmaker, for global hegemony. The Soviet Union, not to be outdone, has begun a programme of artificial godmaking in secret closed cities to achieve occult parity — a project codenamed SOVIET REALISM. Now, they fight in the shadows, an eye for an eye: by espionage, sabotage, covert action, assassinations, or spec ops. That’s where you come in.
System: 「 field studies 」
Appx. N: The Karla Trilogy, The Sandbaggers, the Metal Gear franchise, Black Monday Murders, Ronin
Player buy-in: OCCULT COLD WAR HYPERPARANOIA. Conspiracypunk. Blood spilt in airport bathrooms.
Say it, reader. Say the word ‘quest’ out loud. It is an extraordinary word, isn’t it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope.
—Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
You are a little mouse-knight and the world is very big. The Low Rushes hold many mysteries and dangers; between rival kingdoms are uncharted wilds and strange ruins, prowled by bandits and older threats. That’s where mice-errant come in. Wandering knights who take on jobs at each town, you might be motivated by adventure, riches, or the chance to do the right thing. Take your needle-sword and step into the unknown.
Appx. N: The Tale of Despereaux, The Borrowers, Mouse Guard, The Wind in the Willows, Detectorists
Player buy-in: Cosy small-scale fantasy. Mice are small; to survive you’ll have to be brave and clever and a little bit lucky.
Something to Burn
He turns off the techno-shit in his goggles. All it does is confuse him; he stands there reading statistics about his own death even as it’s happening to him. Very post-modern.
—Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
It is the 22nd century, and the singularity has failed. Millions of deactivated nanobots float dead in the air, and humanity has spread across the solar system, much of the Earth uninhabitable. Since the Franchise Wars ended eight years ago, the system has become dominated by zaibatsu, immense megacorporations in an uneasy peace. Androids, required by law not to have an inner monologue, are ubiquitous—despite rumours they can “trip the wire” and become conscious. And now comes something nobody expected: the return of the Warminds, superintelligent AI whose self-improvement was mysteriously interrupted. They are powerful; they are strange. Most people live slowly suffocating lives in franchised territory. But some make a living on the margins, doing the dirty work: bounty hunting, space-hulk salvage, search-and-rescue, search-and-destroy. That’s where you come in. See you, space cowboy…
Appx. N: Cowboy Bebop, Alien and sequels, Snow Crash, Blade Runner, Neuromancer, CHOKEPOINT
Player buy-in: Sci-fi horror. You’re drifters who live under constant and crushing pressure, always half-a-step away from disaster. You lead dangerous, violent, and unstable lives under the shadows of crushing monoliths of power. You want to get rich; you’ll probably die trying. The alien monster was capitalism all along! Do you get the metaphor? Do you get th
Over the Hills
Are you sure / That we are awake? It seems to me / That yet we sleep, we dream.
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Wode is a strange place, half in shadows and halfway in light; a realm of tricksters and riddles and brave adventurers. Look: a reiver rides through the night, flintlocks in her belt, clutching a lump of cold iron; vines of ivy and rose slowly strangle Wildwood Manor, abandoned for generations, while strange shadows flit behind the curtains; the Lord of Misrule, flowers in his hair, bells on his toes, throws his head back and laughs, showing off the shreds of raw meat in his needle-sharp teeth. The Wode is old and strange and beautiful and dangerous, from the Brigand Roads to the barrows of the Underking. Dare you venture into the unknown?
System: Maybe Beyond the Wall?
Appx. N: Fairytales of all kinds, Tam Lin and other folk ballads, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Over the Garden Wall, the Reynard cycle, The Wildwood Chronicles, early editions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, the Wormskin zines, T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, the paintings of Richard Dadd and Arthur Rackham and Theodor Kittelsen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, The Green Knight
Player buy-in: Fairytale fantasy.
Everything stays, / Right where you left it. / Everything stays, / But it still changes…
—Marceline, Adventure Time
Strange things happen in the Sunder, a world of magic and machinery. It is a world of windmills and monsters, drowned cities and lost treasure, of gunpowder, swords, and bows. Settlements are bastions of warmth, rest, and safety, cozily ramshackle. The wild places in between are home to crumbling ruins, forgotten secrets, and treasure. You are one of the people who venture into those wild places in search of secrets and silver. You would probably call yourself an “adventurer” or “delver”. Everyone else calls you “ratcatcher” or worse. But you wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Appx. N: Ghibli movies, Adventure Time, Samurai Jack, Moomins, the Zelda series
Player buy-in: Ghibli pastel fantasy. Post-post-apocalypse. Flowers blooming from arrow-wounds. Dungeon delving’s a hard, dangerous, and violent life. You’re desperate runaways and outcasts; you wouldn’t do this if you were a normal person.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, / Nor public men, nor cheering crowds, / A lonely impulse of delight / Drove to this tumult in the clouds.
—W.B. Yeats, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
In a world recovering from untold destruction, you are an ace pilot in a roving mercenary ‘flying circus’. You take your life in your hands every time you leave the ground, but nothing can match the thrill of fighting for your life high above the clouds in a machine made of canvas and prayer. Not too long ago, the imperial powers which once ruled Himmilgard wiped each other out in a War to end all wars. A generation later, the world is starting to recover, but it’s still a lawless and dangerous place. That’s where you and your friends, travelling from town to town in brightly-painted biplanes, come in. Whether wandering heroes or ruthless killers-for-hire, you pull off spectacular stunts and fight desperate aerial battles for the sheer reckless joy of it.
System: Flying Circus
Appx. N: Biggles, The Red Baron, Crimson Skies, Porco Rosso and Howl’s Moving Castle
Player buy-in: Dieselpunk biplane dogfighting.