Monday, November 19, 2012

Junkyard Necromancy

"What is the most resilient parasite? An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate..."

I see it every day.  An excitable game master runs straight to the internet, carrying TNT and a plunger, to blow up their existing campaign because they absolutely *must* run that new game system or bring their players to a new setting.  You can't run a long term campaign without effective coping strategies for the gamer attention deficit disorder.  This is a serious problem, my friends, I know it well.  Ideas are a two-edged sword yielding creativity and madness.  How's that expression go, "I'm not just the president of the hair club for men, I'm also a client…"

My name is Beedo, and I have a problem with gamer attention deficit disorder.

My own coping strategy involves classic project risk management - Gamer ADD is the risk, and you either need to mitigate, accept it, avoid it, or transfer the problem.  I created a section on the blog called The Junkyard to park ideas that are exciting, but I don't want them to take up too much time and capsize the boat.  Getting them down in print is a coping strategy - I just tell myself I'll get back to them, someday.  Here's the Junkyard's mission statement:  This is the place where I put campaign ideas, notions, and high concepts that just haven't gotten built.  Yet.

Sometimes though, one section of the junkyard gets pretty full, and a towering mound of discarded ideas threatens to topple into the orderly little campaign next door and introduce some real collateral damage.  I had an epiphany this weekend that a half dozen or more ideas I've been circumnavigating are all about the same type of campaign - in fact, one campaign could include them all!

It's alive!
Arise, you dead ideas consigned to the junkyard, arise, and live again as a stitched together frankenstein campaign!

I've been sketching out a small horror sandbox adventure.  The initial launch of the campaign involves the players acting as marines on a small merchant vessel or privateer in the mid-17th century.  It could start in Jamestown, Bermuda, or somewhere in the Caribbean (Port Royal, or New Providence), but takes the group to the Carolina coast to investigate a derelict Spanish galleon adrift in colonial waters.  An abandoned, derelict ship is such a classic horror locale.  Before all is done, there are French pirates, hostile natives, and a reawakened heathen blood god of the Aztec world.  Assuming the players survive or flee, there's a good chance they'll have their own sloop and be free to start cruising around a Caribbean saltbox breaking things.  Yo ho, me hearties.

The back story of the galleon involves a Spanish witch hunter escorting a dangerous artifact back to Castile (and ultimately the Vatican).  As these things are wont to do, the wrong person messes with the artifact and madness, bloodshed, and death ensue, turning the ship into a floating abattoir.  I've often mused that a cool way to kick off a horror sandbox would be to inherit the library of a retired or recently vanished monster hunter like Solomon Kane.  The journals detailing his exploits and unfinished investigations allow a group to follow in his footsteps.  So why not put the guy's journal and library right on board the derelict ship?  The players can come out of this first adventure with a ship and a long list of journal entries describing eldritch horrors and lost treasures discovered by this Catholic witch hunter across the Spanish Main.  Time to raise the colors and set sail.

I mentioned that a number of my recurring campaign ideas have coalesced around this particular adventure, it's nice to realize the convergence.  Pirates, guns, ships, and weird horror.  Here are some of the many older posts littering the Lich House involving the theme of a 17th century sandbox for the Age of Sail:

The discussion of Gamer ADD and risk management was here:  Winter is Coming, and so is Gamer ADD.  Now I just need a name for the new campaign (although Goblins of the Spanish Main is kind of catchy, even if there are no actual goblins…)