Monday, July 7, 2014

I Swear It Wasn't My Idea

My regular Sunday evening gaming group recently had one of those unavoidable lulls that come from being adults with lives. One member, who had been away for four years teaching English in China with MPC, had, on his return been running an awesome game based on 14th century Chinese politics. Unfortunately, he had to step out again for two months to teach an accelerated Chinese language course at Goshen College. Knowing that he'd be back in two months, and that we all wanted to be ready to get back into the China campaign as soon as he was available, the inevitable question became "What do we play until then?"

Two months is exactly the wrong length of lull for most gaming groups--too long for a one-shot, not long enough for a new campaign. It was however, just about right for trying out a new game. The group is pretty solidly committed to D&D 3.5 and/or Pathfinder for all of their extended campaigns--it's what everyone likes and is familiar with. They like to play around with modifications to those core rules, but convincing them to try anything else (even other editions of D&D) seldom succeeds. Given the short timeframe, I was able to get them to agree to try something new (with some caveats)...

We played Dawn of Worlds, a collaborative world-building game in which the players take on the roles of deities shaping a new fantasy world. Paul King agreed to sketch out a quick base map for us, and I threw down some House Rules to accommodate the facts that we (a) wanted it to fill up a minimum of six 4-6 hour gaming sessions and (b) we were playing with a much bigger map than the rules describe. The caveat mentioned before in order to convince everyone to play was me promising to run a Pathfinder game based in the new world that we collectively created when Dawn of Worlds was done.

We had six players, with an average turn-out of five per session for six weeks. The results were...weird. You can read the full account of what happened to this world in the following articles:

  1. A History of the First Age
  2. A History of the Second Age
  3. A History of the Third Age
  4. A History of the Fourth Age
  5. A History of the Fifth Age
The tl;dr version of the end-product can be summarized as...

A Steam Punk (complete with trains, airships, electric lighting, and firearms) version of the Roman Empire. Where the Romans are cat-people who lost the ability to procreate and are steadily aging to extinction. The Empire is beset by attacks from numerous Colossi (pulled strait from Shadow of the Colossus) and Kaiju, and peopled by penguin mobsters, terrorist pangolins, kindly undead grandmothers, mercantile tardigradesbutterfly rail-barrons, millenia-old humanoid cephalopods, free-willed ideas, and sentient plants (in fact ALL plants are sentient, and at least five species are mobile enough to be available as player characters).

We finished the world, and had two weeks left while we waited for the China game to resume, and will probably be using this to fill in any other days where the current acting GM can't make it. So I found myself in the position of having to run a campaign in a world, not only not of my own creation, but not really cohesively edited either (save for whatever small editorial license I took in documenting it as we played). This was a world spun from the imaginations of six very different individuals with no initiating theme and many competing visions. The end product is actually pretty interesting (at least there are no dwarves), and has a lot of dangling plot-hooks (the mafia, archaeological societies, lost civilizations, giant monsters, an empire in decline), but I expect this game to put all my improvisational skills to the ultimate test.

Like it says at the top...IT WASN'T MY IDEA.

But I'll run it anyways.