Roleplaying Campaign Shortlist

Spoiled for choice

I’ve got so many RPG books that I’ll never get a chance to bring to the table. Here’s a shortlist of games that I’ve been thinking of recently, and I wouldn’t mind running as a GM – listed in no particular order. I will update this page as my mind changes and I read new (old) stuff.

A) Hubris – A World of Visceral Adventure

A savage, post-apocalyptic fantasy setting backed by the “Dungeon Crawl Classics” ruleset, this is gonzo, metal roleplaying dialed to 11.

“Legend states that Hubris was created from the fetid corpse of a long-dead god. Hubris is a land of terrible creatures, grand inequality, strange and cruel gods, dangerous magic, opulent nobility, destitute commoners, people that have become corrupted and turned to savage beasts, constant wars, and worse.”

Random tables for everything, dangerous magic, brutal combat, crit/fumble tables, this is a game about the ridiculous, and I’d use DCC to run it. Expect frequent player-character death, and funky dice.

B) Better than Any Man

A “weird historical fantasy” game, set in 17th-century Germany, during the Thirty-Years war. This is an “alternate history” of Earth, where magic and the supernatural exist. Dark, serious tone, strong horror themes and mature content. Uses the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules, to which I would add the “Weird Magic” system from Eldritch Cock. Humans only.

“The Swedes are invading! Sorcerers have taken Karlstadt with the aid of unearthly creatures! In Würzburg, the Prince-Bishop schemes to retain control of his domain. … and yet darker forces gather… Thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – will die before the week is out. Can a group of luckless adventurers change the course of the events? Profit along the way? But what can they possibly do against those who consider themselves Better Than Any Man?”

Expect frequent player-character death, cosmic horror, and house rules.

C) Yoon-Suin: The Purple Land

“Yoon-Suin – a region of high adventure shrouded in ancient mysteries, opium smoke, great luxury and opulent cruelty.”

An old-school DnD game (ruleset TBD) set in an exotic city surrounded by jungle, alongside the “god river”. Filled with the likes of slug-men, self-mummified monks, liquid golems, poisoners, tea shops and opium dens. Tons of random tables to create a unique campaign every time. Expect frequent player-character death, fragrant teas, and tropical diseases.

D) The Midlands: Low Fantasy Gaming

A Conan-style swords-and-sorcery game set in a “points of light” setting called The Midlands. A beautiful hex-map backed by random tables and adventure hooks. Uses the “Low Fantasy Gaming” rules, but that’s not strictly necessary – any OSR game would do fine.

“Humanity shelters behind isolated, walled cities, struggling for opportunity amidst the trackless wilderness, plagued by skorn, thuels, & monstrous beasts. Despite the dangers, the wilds beckon with crumbling ruins, lost treasures & forgotten secrets.”

Expect an age undreamed of, an age of high adventure, of heavy crowns resting on troubled brows. Also frequent player-character death.

E) Mutant: Year Zero

A post-apocalyptic game where you’re young-adult mutants forced to make hard choices in order to survive.

“Mutant: Year Zero takes you to the world after the great Apocalypse. Humanity’s proud civilization has fallen. The cities are dead wastelands,winds sweeping along empty streets turned into graveyards. But life remains. Among the ruins, the People live. You are the heirs of humanity – but not quite human anymore. Your bodies and minds are capable of superhuman feats. You are mutants.”

Expect desperate feats of survival and soul-crushing moral choices as you try and keep your community alive. And perhaps frequent player-character death.

F) The Last Days of Anglekite

“The world is dying. Everyone knows it. Her skies are green and sickly. Her forests are dark and foreboding. Her clouds billow and roil across the sky. The scent of the end hangs in the air, and the touch of death has burrowed into the bones of every living creature, including the people of the Crater Basin and the last great city of the living, Anglekite.”

Using the Dungeon World rules, adding Perilous Wilds and Grim World to the mix. Expect to be asked “What do you do?” a lot. Channel your inner Dark Souls for this one.

G) The God Machine Chronicle

What is the God-Machine? That question doesn’t have a single, easy answer, but that doesn’t stop people from asking. The World of Darkness is layer upon layer of mystery, but what is the mechanism that keeps it all moving? Is there a design in play? And what happens to those who think to use the Machine for their own ends?

The God Machine Chronicle is a modern horror game where the players uncover the “truth” behind the nature of reality itself. It’s up the GM to decide exactly what that means when they design their campaign. This game would sit comfortably alongside others like Unknown Armies, Kult, and Fear Itself.

Instead of using the “Chronicles of Darkness” rules, I would use the (far-simpler) Cthulhu Deep Green rules, themselves an adaptation of Cthulhu Dark by Graham Walmsley. As you discover more about The God Machine, your Insight goes up. The Exposure mechanic in this case would be how much The God Machine is aware of the players, and thus how pro-active it will be towards them.

H) Hot Springs Island

Prior to this expedition, fewer than a hundred of the adventurers recruited to explore Hot Springs Island have made it back to us in one piece. However, every man and woman savvy enough to stay alive has returned with bags of treasure and a whole bard’s worth of stories. They spoke of steaming jungles filled with magical plants, lost ruins, ravenous creatures, and vengeful, feuding factions. We compiled their firsthand accounts, polished them off with a bit of wild assumption, and wrote it all down in this book—A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island—for people just like you.

And who are you? The management at Claymore Bank’s Mercantile Expeditions subsidiary would not refer to you as slaves, or indentured servants – the correct designation is Adventurer. Your participation in establishing a colony for Claymore Mercantile in the Swordfish Islands will be rewarded. The opportunity is yours, adventurer.

Using the rules from Into the Odd, be prepared to be purchased from one of the many overcrowded hellholes that is a Bastionland gaol, shipped north to Hopesend Port – the last port of the north. From there, you’ll be loaded below-decks into one of the their convict transports, transported to Hot Springs Island, and from there to work off your debt to the company as an Adventurer, digging up ruins and Arcanum for the company’s bottom line. Expect frequent tropical diseases resulting in character death.

A good opportunity to research and cherry-pick some historical details from the History of Australia and the First Fleet.

I) Hostile / Traveller

Inspired by movies like Outland, Blade Runner, and Alien, this gritty, near future setting presents a universe of mining installations, harsh moons, industrial facilities, hostile planets and brutal, utilitarian spacecraft. Games feature down-to-earth characters, such as spacers, miners, explorers and rover drivers – the folks who get things done out here in the lonely and hostile star systems of the American Sector in 2225 CE. None of the habitable worlds are a paradise and most aren’t remotely Earth-like; there is always a kink that makes life tough, whether it’s the biosphere, the seasons, the radiation, the atmosphere or one of a score of other deadly effects.

Using the Hostile setting with its star maps, worlds, hyper-corporations, careers, skills, equipment and so on, the game would be powered by Cepheus Light, itself a distillation of Traveller type games.

I would also mix in tools from Stars Without Number, notably the factions system, world tags, system points of interest, adventure creation and seeds, and the one-roll GM Tables. Kevin Crawford is a damn genius.

Expect player-character death (or mishaps) during character creation

Which one would you pick?

What game appeals to you, and why?

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