I’ve been running roleplaying games for most of my adult life and it didn’t take me long to figure out that great stories don’t grow on trees. A good GM borrows ideas. A great one holds up Ideas ‘R’ Us with a .45 while wearing a Reagan mask.
A couple years back, I ran a game based on Leviathan Wakes, the amazing first chapter in James S. A. Corey’s Expanse saga. I stole basically everything except the character names. It took only the barest minimum of effort to transplant the core ideas into the Eclipse Phase setting. I got a solid three months of (mostly) weekly play out of that one and the end of the game made a great excuse to make my players read more hard sci-fi. Thanks Dan and Ty. I owe you guys a beer.
My latest game is no exception. A while back, I started reading multiplexer (the incomparable Emily Dresner)’s Dungeonomics, an amazing blog on the intersection of D&D, economics, and absurdism. Nearly a year ago, she posted a campaign seed for the (then) brand new edition of Dungeons & Dragons called The Lich Kings of Avalon. This brilliant piece takes the uncertainty of feudal succession, mixes it liberally with the near-limitless magical power of your average fantasy setting, dumps in a healthy dose of her own delightfully ridiculous bureaucratic conceits, then drags the whole mess out to its (il)logical conclusion. It’s one of the best campaign seeds I’ve read in a damn long time. Go check it out. No, I mean now. Seriously. I’ll wait.
See what I mean? She takes the good/evil dichotomy of traditional fantasy storytelling and turns it on its head. Suddenly, being the “good guys” isn’t so cut-and-dried. Your players can choose to support an undying regime that advocates stability at the low, low price of your very soul, to become the medieval fantasy equivalent of religious extremist terrorists trying to overthrow the most stable and prosperous regime in the world, or somehow try to split the difference. When I read it for the first time, I was blown away.
I’ve been sitting on the campaign seed for about a year for one reason or another, but my schedule’s finally cleared up a bit and I’m going to give LKoA a shot. So, for the next few months, expect to hear a lot about it. My goal here is to document my creative process in adapting the seed for my own nefarious purposes, writing adventures in a morally ambiguous setting, and rolling with my players’ inevitable punches. Stay tuned….
M. Hamhock out.