I watched High Fidelity the other night with my wife. It’s a movie in which the main character, played by John Cusak, is a music geek in love with vinyl. The movie’s peppered with his top five lists (both of music and break-ups) and it got me thinking about my own top five lists with regards to gaming. And so here’s the first of them: my top five, all-time unfilled dream RPG campaigns.
1. Spycraft d20
The d20 game of spies and espionage had me hooked from the first page. It shares the same base mechanic as the game that inspired d20 — Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition – but it’s been updated for the modern world. It’s over-the-top, James Bond-inspired action is supported by first-rate rules, rules that illustrate the d20 concept at its best.
My dream spycraft campaign would involve a private organization waging a secret war against all manner of threats. It would combine the cyclopean horror of Delta Green, arch-villains, and more traditional militant threats. Some of it would be drawn from the source book Shadowforce Archer, but it would be mostly of my own design.
2. Amber Diceless Role-Playing Game
Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber are some of my favorite fantasy novels of all time, and the game created to support it is almost as inspired. As its name implies, there are no dice rolls in this game – everything basically comes down to a “rock-scissors-paper” sort of game mechanic based on character stats and a heavy amount of role-playing. I’ve got both the original Amber DRPG game and its follow up, Chaos Knight and I’ve got the perfect campaign story arc to go with them. It involves lost children of Amber who know nothing of their true parentage, and who are being hunted by an enemy who knows their lost secrets … and seeks to exploit them.
3. Greyhawk: The Fall of the Great Kingdom
Back in the 1990s, TSR commissioned – but never published – a massive sourcebook for the World of Greyhawk known as Ivid the Undying. It was later released as a net-download, and it has sat in my gaming closet ever since. Written by Carl Sargent, the book numbers hundreds of pages detailing the fall of the corrupt Kingdom of Aerdy, the infamous “Great Kingdom”. I’ve long wanted to run a role-playing-intensive campaign against the backdrop of the kingdom’s fall, with the characters constantly struggling with backstabbing court intrigue, betrayal and absolute madness. It wouldn’t necessarily be a game with evil player characters – one can imagine a few sturdy souls trying to mitigate the effects of the collapse – but it would probably be a lot more fun with a few lawful evil types running around, trying to increase their power while preventing the collapse. Gives me goosebumps.
4. All Flesh Must Be Eaten
The undead rise from their graves to devour the living. A handful of individuals must stand their ground against the unrelenting collective zombie horde. In high school I loved zombie movies, especially the “Dead” trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) and the far funnier, but still extremely disturbing, Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. I’ve longed to run a zombie campaign for a hell of a long time, and have been slowly formulating an idea in the back of my mind: the players find themselves playing characters in our own home town of Easton, Pa., and must struggle to deal with the dead who’ve risen from “Cemetery Curve” down on Route 22.
5. Call of Cthulhu
I’ve been kicking around the idea of a 1920s-1930s era Call of Cthulhu campaign. I want to set it in Pennsylvania, my adopted home state, which is one of those places that can get very strange, very quickly once you venture a few miles off a major road. The adventures would revolve around a group known as the Saturday Club, a collection of occultists hell-bent on stopping the Mythos from corrupting our world, which would be based in the fictional town of Eastburg, Pa.
And the rest…
There are other ideas I’ve got rambling around inside my head, although nothing as solid as the five listed above. I’d love to run
An extra-planar campaign set in D&D, using a hodgepodge of magical rules from different d20 systems to keep my players guessing. That’s something I might work into my existing campaign.
I’m also eager to play the “Realmbreaker” campaign that my friends and I have been talking about for years – it involves a band of evil adventurers destroying large swathes of the Forgotten Realms (a campaign setting we despise). Imagine Elminster with his head on a pike, and you start to see the attraction of this campaign.
I’d love to try Hackmaster — why fight hack’n’slash when you can just plunge into the genre whole-heartedly? I like the superheroes-in-WWII premise of Godlike, but I desperately need a campaign book to run it – I just don’t have the time to adequately research a game set during the war. There are others as well – I’d enjoy a Battletech campaign or a Battlefleet Gothic one – but naturally there’s never quite enough time to play them all. So I’m stockpiling them, looking for ways to sneak them in along side my regular game, and thinking dreamingly of a paradise in which I could game 24 hours a day…