The Burbling Lake

My Creative process

I have been behind posting new blogs, because, as you know if you are a regular reader, I am building a new campaign.   I have actually started another post, but it has stalled, so I figured I’d post about what I are doin’!  Before, I posted about how I build settings…and how I really use kind of a middle out system now.  Well…in this post, I’m going to walk through this creation.  There will probably be a few minor spoilers for my players, but nothing big, and besides, they know my dim view of metagaming! 🙂 

Please Note:  This is me trying to make a coherent and presentable presentation of my most recent creative endeavor…so…read it, then think about it….

First, I need to tell you that I have worlds and worlds of worlds always floating around in the back of my brain.  I kind of view it as a slowly undulating lake with these ideas floating to the top then sinking back down, with the occasional mutation or crossbreeding of the ideas.  And then there are the bubbles of toxic gasses.  Those create some very dark and twisted PC or NPC ideas that may or may not ever see the light of day.  A lot of these are PC ideas, that just Don’t Play Well With Others!  So, whenever somebody wants to change games, I am usually up for a new setting.   I just go sit by the lake a while and see what floats by!

Anyway, this setting has show up a few times.  It has recently been morphing into a Savage Worlds setting, but the desire was put forth for my current favorite Epic Game system, RoleMaster Standard System so I dredged it up and started examining it.  The Earliest iteration of this setting was a Roman trading outpost, near the edge of the empire.  From there, I decided I wanted to have an isolated setting, but I wanted to have places to explore…so…The Schism.  This isolated the city and it’s surroundings…I have a few ideas for what happened, but I haven’t decided exactly, but I do know what will be found beyond the ridge, and I have already worked out how to actually get back, but that is too big a spoiler.

Then I debated about having a King or ruling noble…or just the old office of the governor, and came up with a compromise that leaves a reasonable  but ineffective government.  The Grand Council was actually going to be rotating seats every year, so over 20 years all 20 seats would be replaced…but that just seemed to long, so I settled on having them all be re-elected at the 10 year point.  Of course, game takes place near the upcoming election…instant plot hooks!  It becomes almost ShadowRun Super Tuesday type setting (if you don’t know what that is, you can look it up, or I’ll gladly discuss in comments).  Of course, at the same time, Something is beginning to harass the outer settlements…and they need someone willing, or desperate enough to go deal with it.  On top of all of this, there is a war brewing between the Head of the local crime family, and one of his rivals.  Why?  Because that gives me three main story lines in the three quite playable settings: Politics, Crime and Exploration (even dungeon crawl…just don’t tell my players:) )  This is one of the main things I have discovered between Epic and Episodic RP: Epic, the world happens whether the players interact with it or not.  In Episodic, the stories revolve around the players.  Because this is epic, the players will get guidance or taskings, but they can always find their own things, or choose a single story-line to track to the end.

In a bottom Up style, I would detail each story line, (at least) the main characters and the point along that the players interact with; the adventures.  In a top down, I would eventually, define the interactions of all of these story lines, the main parties to the stories, which would include goals and desires…In my style, I create a general direction each one is going.  I see where they each link.  People are created as I need to carry the story along.  Specific locations and goals, the same.  I can do this without much trouble.  Whether it would work for you depends on how fast you can come up with fill in.  Also, some refs will find this much to haphazard.  But it works for me.  I still need to create some detail for particular pieces, but I spend time just visualizing the setting and the people, and imagining how things will play out.  For whatever stories the players are not following I generally assign a couple of dice rolls to see how things are progressing…something like:

01 – 40: Papa Delahni and family are stalemated by the upstart

41 – 90: Papa Delahni and family push back the upstarts

91 – 98: no real progress in made on either side

99 – 00: Monkey wrench! (A brassy is killed so the Policia are suddenly against both sides, a politician decides to get involved and starts offering support to one side or the other….

So, for me..that sets the stories up.  Now, I need some unique setting pieces.  SO I brainstorm…what makes this a unique place?  Well, it has two moons.  Yeah!  Good idea!  How does that affect their calendar?  hmmm…starts getting complicated…Wait!  One is stationary, so it has no effect on the dates!  Cool!  Why?  Welllllll…Oh!  It’s not a heliocentric setting!  GEOCENTRIC!!!  classical setting given the original concept, but how can I make it even more obvious without saying…oh…the universe revolves (except for the big moon which doesn’t) around the planet.  The sun!   Yes!  Not only does it revolve around the planet, but it has another axis that it revolves around!  From this point, the cosmology is all just string of consciousness, throwing out things that I don’t like, leaving open some possibilities (Is there a beanstalk to the stationary moon? Why?  is that relevant?  OH, a whole new story line…probably for higher level characters!) but discarding others (The moon is actually a giant observational lens…the world is under a microscope, literally!  no…overdone and i can’t make it not hokey…)

Now, the hard part…I have two players who are quite urban-centric and would easily work into the criminal story line (one of whom may have some exploration potential).  I have one character who could go Politics or exploration route, and I have an exploration character who would work into the criminal and maybe the political…I have ideas where these story lines will all intersect, but they don’t for a while.  So…Throw them together with disparate reasons to arrive at the same place…and then set up several hooks, and let them play.  I half expect them to stay together because they are PCs, but if they don’t…well, I have a few spare rails lying around, and a couple of fairly powerful engines…and I am ready for the train wreck and to deal with the aftermath.  I could have steered the players to create a single story line character type, and it may end up that way, but, RMSS allows for such extensive character detailing, that even if they all choose one story line, after a few levels, they could fit that mold.  And if it ends up that a character won’t fit, then, well…we will probably make a new character…but if many of them don’t work…

Hey!  I have an idea for a campaign!  It starts at an abandon outpost…the characters do not know why they are there….


5 thoughts on “The Burbling Lake

  1. densaunders says:

    Perhaps oddly, the most interesting thing I took from this was the ‘toxic bubble’ ideas of characters that do not work well with others. You have mentioned before about difficult players, but I would be interested to know what you think of difficult characters. Perhaps that would be another post though.

    On note of the main topic; do you ever write down the ideas or do you find it best just to leave them in the back of the mind?

    • I only write them down when it is VERY striking. otherwise, I just let them marinate. I hadn’t thought of problem characters. That could be worth some thinking and might well be another post…

  2. densaunders says:

    I’ve seen few that haven’t made the game unbearable for other people, and short of “You die. Horribly” I haven’t seen it handled before.

  3. Malkyn the Chary says:

    The questions you’re asking yourself as ideas occur are enlightening; thank you, that’s helpful for the critical thinking process.

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