Meta-Chronology: Campaigns in my Game World
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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While I run across a number of game systems and genres, my fall back over the years has been classic fantasy. I've run campaigns in my game world for about twenty-three years now. Some of the campaigns have gotten off the ground, while others have crashed and burned. Over the years I've borrowed from a number of existing sources, settings and modules to flesh out areas. Most of the time, those sources end up pretty unrecognizable in actual play (like my borrowing of the thematic and general course of the Masks of Nyarlathotep (3rd & 4th edition) campaign for one game).

I have three continents, but there's little contact between them-- I keep them separate. I've gone back and forth, allowing some exchanges and then shutting them down, depending on my temper. The First Continent focuses on personal Will, an idea which has shifted over time and even now I've been working with yet another conception of. The Second Continent is more Material-- classic fantasy, with classic magic. The Third Continent focuses on the Divine and the mythic. Those conceptions have evolved over time.

Anyway, here's the list of those campaigns- successful and unsuccessful.

I have a companion list of other campaigns I've run outside of this game world.
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1. RPG Item: Character Law (1st Edition) [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Lowell Francis
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The very first game that actually took place on what would become this shared world as a little Rolemaster game my senior year of high school. I had a real breakthrough because despite having drawn a large continental map, I focused in one one region and came up with some structures and cultures for that area. I'd played in another GM's RM modification of the Harn setting and I'll admit that heavily influenced me. It had a richness and continuity that made play there interesting. While I'd been telling complicated stories before this, my settings had been more chaotic and less logical. I ran that for a bit and then forgot about it. In those days we stopped and started campaigns at the drop of a hat, so it maybe went ten sessions or so. Even those this was really the first game in this world, it had some continuity to my previous campaigns-- the "Big Bad" continental threats of Murkavan and Damizier came out of character conflicts from the AD&D campaign I'd run for a couple of years with another setting.
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2. RPG Item: GURPS Basic Set (First Edition) [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:4738]
Lowell Francis
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The real breakthrough with the world came in two parts. The first was the four sessions I ran of a fantasy GURPS game where people played without character sheets. I wanted something more improvisational. So I quickly drew up a map, filled in names and made up the background mostly on the fly. The game was interesting, but had a group that was hard to assemble consistently.

However, I'd thrown enough off the cuff details in there that I began to try to figure out more of the backstory for myself. Who really was this big bad, the Thonak, that I'd mentioned? Why had the amnesiac PCs been in the position they were? I went back to the map. At that time I'd picked up a number of fantasy rpg sourcebooks-- Known World, Talislanta, and even Warhammer FRPG. I began to pencil some things in where I still had blank spots on that crappy map-- thus we get places Caldumar changing, Ylaruam, better definition of Aoniae and so on. I borrowed quite a bit for my first versions of places. I've always been fascinated by the divine stuff in fantasy games so I took the Lythic pantheon from Harn and also had quite a bit of real world (Norse, etc) pantheon material-- the latter would eventually get excised out and the former would change greatly over time.

This would become the second continent in the world, and the one which ended up with the most campaigns.
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3. RPG Item: The Enemy Within Campaign Volume 2: Death on the Reik [Average Rating:8.19 Overall Rank:36]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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The Thonak Campaign (named for the big bad of the game)

The first campaign that really had a full arc actually started with just two people, more as an experiment. It went well and eventually I expanded that. I had at one point nine players at the table. That settled down into a more regular six or seven players. The campaign traced the efforts of Simlain Glantri to gather forces to fight against the Thonak. I used quite a bit of the Warhammer sense of Chaos in that. I even used some of the WFRP campaign modules, heavily adapted. That created a real sense of dread in the players, but I also borrowed from elsewhere. The campaign lasted two+ years, wrapping up in a pretty epic fight that saw a couple of PCs buy the farm. A couple of others had died over the course of play as well. I'd established that resurrection wasn't cheap-- and the PCs ended up using up some of the few items I had for that purpose. The campaign finished up, in part, because I was going overseas, but more because I wanted to be able to deliver the full arc of a story. We'd had some many campaigns that had started and stopped, and I was more pleased that we had a conclusion.
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4. RPG Item: GURPS Magic (First Edition) [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:3602]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Cairo Campaign

I studied for a year in Cairo where I eventually found a group who wanted to play some kind, any kind of rpg. I set their campaign about fifteen years after the last one. They walked around in the fallout of the destruction of the great evil. That always struck me as a reasonable question-- and one a good deal of fiction later dealt with-- what happens after Sauron's destroyed? What are the political, cultural and economic implications of that? The group heavily interacted with old PCs and ended up causing pretty potent political upheaval. That game went for about four months with regularly weekly+ play. It was a nice chance to see past history in play and manage a pretty strong story in a small number of sessions (maybe twenty).
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5. RPG Item: Elemental Companion [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:2316]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Tarakson Campaign (named for the foe from Harad)

When I got back for my senior year of college, I had quite a few things pulling me in different directions-- not least of which was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after college. I still wanted to run and after a time I started another RM campaign. In my head I had this happening five or six years after the last campaign, meaning that again the PCs of the Cairo campaign served as important NPCs in this one. That would become a real sense of continuity-- and a chance to give the players' former characters a chance to have the spotlight, briefly, again. For this game I worked mostly in the west of the continent, where I hadn't done as much work. I heavily adapted the Far Harad material from MERP and some other concepts from ICE products. The game started in one system and then I tried to move it to another, with mixed results. We had some weird switching around of PCs, people's schedules not matching up, and inter-party tension. Some of my favorite game stories came from that campaign, but at the same time it didn't hold together as well. We ended up with the last session revealing that one of the PCs had betrayed the group more than just a little, but with that particular thread unfinished. That was about nine+ months of gaming.
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6. RPG Item: Gods of Hârn [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:2019]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Pillar of Fire Campaign

I had a gaming-free year when I went off to graduate school. The only group I found at Hopkins seemed focused on Shadowrun LARP. I worked on various stuff, mostly with the idea that I was done with the Second Continent. I wanted to do something different and felt that having adapted so much stuff into that world, it really wasn't my own. I wanted to start again from scratch-- but not totally. I'd established a little that there were more continents, but I'd only just made that jump in my head that the first campaign world I mentioned was connected. I drew up a new map, with more islands and separate areas. Religion and the pantheons had been in the back of my mind so I knew I wanted to do something where religion would matter seriously. However I still stuck closely to the Harn/Lythic model for the gods-- imaging the various cults and subcults of those gods battling it out. When I got back home I hesitated for a time about running. However ICE had put out a number of supplements for Rolemaster and I'll admit that lured me back in.

That led to the first game on the Third Continent, and the strange fact that none of the continents have names other than that. I've never been able to come up with better names, and I've tried. In any case, that game saw the players running bad guys, servants of a fairly evil wargod, Agrik. It went well until it blew up in my face from inter-party combat. Despite that, along the way I managed to develop some things I was pretty proud of-- the interactions of the various cities, the large scale combat system we used, and the sense of no one being neutral about faith and worship. Oddly enough, I started out with the group escaping to Pavis, from Glorantha. At the time I took that as a fairly neutral and easily adaptable setting, mostly because I hadn't read much of the Gloranthan background. That meant I missed many opportunities.

I hadn't realized it at the time but Glorantha's essentially built on that idea of the centrality of faith and cult worship. Later when I went back to work on the Third Continent, I realized my mistake and how rich a resource that could be. I spent hours working to reconcile what I'd presented in that original Third Continent campaign with the new vision I had for how the continent operated. In part I was able to justify myself that the PCs had a particularly monomythic vision of the world and had ignored all of the crunchy detail. However it again demonstrated the difficulty of adapting material and using your own conceptions together. Over time I would work to remove outside stuff from the Second Continent campaign even as I more heavily adapted the Glorantha stuff for the Third Continent.
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7. RPG Item: GURPS Fantasy (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:1880]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Swords Campaign (since they ended up hunting down magic swords)

After we had the blow up in the Pillar of Fire Third Continent game after about a year+ I decided a couple of things. First that I wouldn't run a villains game again and second that I'd put the campaign on hiatus. I still had a number of players interested despite the inter-party friction, but I knew that it would only get worse. I said I would start it again later, but I knew I wouldn't. I could have probably moved on to a finish, we'd had three major story arcs in the campaign already and I could have just headed for the wrap up, but I'd lost enthusiasm. At that point my scorecard for complete versus incomplete campaigns wasn't good-- two complete versus four incomplete.

I eventually decided I wanted to head back to the Second Continent-- both because I wanted to run Gurps again, and because I wanted to draw from material I'd already created rather than starting from scratch. At that point I was running a game room at a store and needed regular games to fill nights out. In retrospect I probably should have been pushing more on the miniatures and ccg angle, but I had separate days and nights for that. RPGs are a hard commodity to keep a revenue stream going for. But that's an entirely different story for thinking about later.
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8. RPG Item: GURPS Grimoire [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:3831]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Elemental Campaign

I decided to run two parallel campaigns on the Second Continent. The first game would be a mix of new players and old players from the Thonak Campaign. The second game would mostly draw from the collapsed Third Continent game-- although a number of months, maybe even a year had passed since then. I had an idea for an arc which would reference the First Continent and solve a couple of problems I'd been thinking about-- primarily the removal of classic Games Workshop style Chaos from the world. I also knew that I wanted to pull back threads from the last Second Continent game-- unresolved plots, characters and settings. More importantly, and I still don't know exactly how this came to me, I wanted both games to begin with a pretty serious natural disaster-- in the end a massive tidal wave which swept the western coast. I think that was a reaction to another GM having a hurricane in one of his games and, while it had a massive landscape impact, it was more like heavy rain for those of us traveling through it.

In any case, those games got running and went along smoothly. I set up a couple of events that lay in the future and joined up the timeline for both. Then we had a set of parallel supers campaigns, ambitious but not well thought through, collapse. I took most of the players from my section of that and offered them a straight fantasy campaign, what would end up being the third parallel campaign in that set. We had some shake out among all of the games-- players switching between groups, PCs dying, some players leaving and others added over time. I managed to coordinate all three groups arriving at the same event at the same time-- they shared notes and I advanced the plot pretty significantly there. After about two years of play I wrapped up all three campaigns over the course of two weekends.
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9. RPG Item: Citybook V: Sideshow [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:2726]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Crantyle Campaign (named for the city the game took place in).

Each campaign had a very different feel to it, and they all went different places. One group focused more on one region while the others traveled heavily. Most of the PCs deaths ended up being fairly heroic and a number of former PCs appeared, some as good guys and some as bad guys, with heaps of death all around. I think they really helped define the world as a real setting, both for me and for the various players. More people gained a sense of the backstory, culture and the ethos of the setting

I chose this image because one of the three campaigns was a more static and city based one-- very different from the other two I was running in parallel. I got a lot of good use out of the various FB Citybooks there and they remain some of my favorite resources.
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10. RPG Item: Pavis & Big Rubble [Average Rating:8.33 Overall Rank:187]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Pavis Campaign

I was getting into the last third of those Gurps campaigns when I played in a terrible Rolemaster game. More properly I should say I played with a terrible gamemaster. He had that strong sense of players being in opposition to the GM-- and that the GM should do his level best to kill the PCs. That went for a while and then when we got too powerful (like level five) he rebooted, at which point I dropped out. Eventually he stopped running at all, thank god, and I offered to run a RM campaign for his players. At this point I'd decided that Rolemaster really only worked in the context of the Third Continent for me. It is easy to see the difference between something like a supers game and a fantasy game-- the genre really drives the system engine. It is less easy to read how much of a difference that system makes if you're doing straight fantasy. Rolemaster lends itself to an epic nature, even when you're doing more conventional stuff. Gurps, on the other hand, always keeps one foot in the real and the dangerous, even when the stakes are epic.

The campaign, which ended up being called the Pavis campaign, profoundly helped me change my perception of the Third Continent. I'd had time to really look at the cosmology of the Glorantha stuff and how they dealt with the constant presence of the Gods. With that in mind I slowly began changing things. I'd started out with a heavy focus on the Lythic pantheon from Harn, but gave that up-- making those cults far away and more background. At the same time I pretty literally used most of the Gloranthan adventures I had. I set it some ten years after the last Third Continent game and, at the time, imagined that it took place roughly parallel in time with the Second Continent games I was running (which meant I had four campaigns set in the same world running at the same time).

While the group traveled quite a bit, Pavis as a place became very real and important to the players. We had some missteps in the game-- I ended up introducing some side plots which took away from the main thrust of the narrative. I learned an important lesson there, don't go all over the place. If you've established a location as significant and the players have invested in it, don't drag them away halfway through. You can do that, but it should be a powerful move-- consider the raising of the stakes at the end of Harry Potter 6-- where it becomes clear we're not going immediately back to Hogwarts for the next book. We do end up going back, but their time spent away is a singular event which gives more power to the scene when they do return.

That RM was especially interesting in that it carried over from the end of my time running the game room. We moved the game to another location and kept playing for probably another year after that. I'd say we played for over two years in that game, if not longer. Its also interesting in that I've pretty consistently run for that core group on alternate Sundays since then. That's at least thirteen years, with a few breaks in between campaigns; we're on our fifth campaign right now.
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11. RPG: RPG Sandbox [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:223]
Lowell Francis
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Broken Campaign

I took a little break between the end of the triple Second Continent games. Eventually I decided to start two new Second Continent games, again trying to run parallel games. I think, in retrospect, I should have probably waited a little longer before beginning those campaigns. One game went for about a half-dozen sessions before it became clear that the player dynamic wasn't working. I like to think I'm a little better about managing those things now-- and figuring out player needs. However for the life of me I can't remember what exactly put the dagger in that game. We had some interesting characters and plots, but a couple of the players really seemed out of it-- disinterested or just generally hostile to the setting. I ended up just not running it anymore, which I think was a loss-- we had some great characters-- Mark Base's Thief "Pooky", Sherri's character Auzumel and Scott's Dwarf. I tried some homebrew rules, but heavily mechanical for these two-- a weird mash up of BRPG, Rolemaster and Gurps which didn't work very well.
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12. RPG Item: GAZ5: The Elves of Alfheim [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:737]
Lowell Francis
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Freakish Band of Adventurers campaign

The other fantasy game had a rocky start at first as well. We ended up losing over time three players, but eventually added some others, ending up with a solid table of six. One player moved over from the other campaign after it ended which added something. That game ran for a couple of years.

Timeline-wise, I'd moved things forward about thirty years from the last triple set of Second Continent games. Some NPCs existed who'd been former PCs but I ended up being lighter. I wanted to add some new stuff and I also began to very consciously began to change and eliminate material on the Second Continent which had been borrowed too wholesale from other sources. By this time I'd established a pretty clear cosmology for the world I'd resigned myself to the Lythic Pantheon there, but I tried to make some subtle changes and bring in some of the mythic flavor from the Third Continent. I'd eventually give up on that and stick with a more High Medieval and Early Modern conception of the role of the Church.

I'd begun to excise material I'd borrowed from other sources a bit here- as I'd done by taking out some of the WFRP inspired Chaos stuff in the last campaigns. Now I began to work to take a serious look at how I'd dealt with the Elves who'd been written in a kind of botched way, some influenced by the Known World treatment. So I started my process of killing off whole groups and revealing true histories (which still continues).
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13. RPG Item: The Court of Ardor in Southern Middle-earth [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:2488]
Lowell Francis
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South Bend
Indiana
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Scott's Alternate Campaign

It is also worth noting that we had another game take place during all of this-- my player Scott's Rolemaster campaign set on an alternate and very distant take on my setting. This world which had been destroyed by the actions of certain forces, notably the Ardorans. I'd taken that early MERP concept and had migrated some of the details over, marrying it to a conception of Elemental Lords.

Scott had absorbed quite a bit of the history and used it as a kind of spice to flavor his game. Though not my game and set in an alternate future, I do count it in and among those set in this world. He did a full and complete arc with it.
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14. Setting: Glorantha
Lowell Francis
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Red Emperor campaign

The chronology of the various games starts getting strange around this time-- in terms of both stopping and starting running and where we were in the game world. On the Second Continent, I'd moved forward about 60 years in game since the first campaign. The Third Continent I had in mind to be roughly parallel with that, but I wasn't completely sure about that. At first I tried to establish some relative chronology, but I back away from it. I knew that the tail end of the three parallel campaigns would be about the same time as the end of the Pavis 3C campaign-- just because events shared the thematic of a change in the relation of the gods to the world. However I wasn't completely sure on things and I worried that nailing it down too tightly would cause problems-- which in retrospect was a goofy conceit, given that I'm the only one with a full sense of the events.

In any case, after the Pavis campaign game wrapped up with took a break and then I began another campaign on the Third Continent, sticking with Rolemaster but migrating over to the new edition, Rolemaster Standard System. Scott had used it and liked it, so we went with that. This would have been starting midway through the time of the Freakish Band Second Continent campaign. However, where the FB game had jumped forward several decades, this game would only go forward a few years. I did that to take advantage of things from the Pavis campaign being still fresh in everyone's minds. I'd put some ideas into motion that I wanted to play out-- looking more broadly at the Lunar Empire and the current situation. We had some shake up during the course of that game-- a number of players moving, me booting one out, and other change ups including a pretty significant multi-month break in the middle of the campaign when I hit a burn out point. I'd say we did that campaign, play-wise for a little under two years.
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15. RPG Item: Rolemaster Standard Rules [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1870]
Lowell Francis
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Covenants Campaign

At this point my wife, decided to run a game in the setting. Her campaign ran for a pretty long time, at least a year, set on the Third Continent, primarily dealing with the role of mages (seen as anathema and outsiders there) and refining the structures I'd built. Originally I'd borrowed pretty heavily from the earliest (and least historically driven) version of Ars Magica-- at least the idea that Sorcerers, seen as dangerous, would gather into their own societies, but also have a united structure in the form of Covenants. I didn't mind keeping that borrowing, since I pretty much only used that conceit. Shari's game really helped establish a lot of key background details I hadn't concentrated on-- complete with a sense of thaumatology I'd only sketched in passing. In terms of timeline, it ran roughly in parallel with the other Third Continent game mentioned above.

The campaign also stands out as being the first "school" setting we played in. It makes sense as a trope and given how inundated we are with Harry Potter it may be hard to imagine when that wasn't a central point. It was also one of the first really, really NPC heavy/location static campaigns I'd seen in the genre. I'd done a little of that in Pavis, but Sherri took it in a new direction. She wasn't as good at at table running and management, her admitted weakness, but she could generate content and story that made me look a little paltry at times. It would also be the first and last time I got a chance to actually play in my own world-- to see my concepts and ideas filtered through someone else's perceptions. I enjoyed the game, but unfortunately it ended up getting scuttled. I'm a little loathe to comment on exactly why that happened. Some of it was the same negativity which had quashed one of the earlier Second Continent games and another campaign set outside of this shared world. We had a couple of players very self-driven and unwilling to work with fellow players. Plus we had at least one player who did her level best to piss all over the game if she wasn't the center of attention. I've seen a lot of games come to an abrupt and sudden end over the years-- many that I ran-- but I think I regret this one not finishing more than any other.
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Lowell Francis
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South Bend
Indiana
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Iuchiban Campaign

At some point around this time, I also decided I wanted to run a Legend of the Five Rings campaign. I'd always been fascinated by the samurai setting, and L5R managed to build a rich world without being tied to historical realities. That made it a better setting than the goofiness of the old TSR Oriental Adventures or even Bushido. Now, here's where it gets kind of weird and begins the first stage of my continued rethinking of the First Continent. I first have to backtrack a little.

While I was running the three parallel Second Continent games, I got the idea to sponsor a contest at the game room. I had the map of the First Continent, broken into regions, but without any development. I'd only ever run one campaign there-- the first one from this world so things were pretty open. I had people each take an area and develop a culture and history there. I had some general notes about the timeline, specifically the big bads there. People generated very interesting things-- but the split nature of it all meant that as a whole nothing really fit together. Great material, but ideas which would require a good deal of work and massaging to get into shape. Eventually, for one version of the First Continent, I'd borrow some of the ideas, but generally I set a good deal of that aside.

I had, however, kept a little section of the continent for myself, with the idea that I wanted to have something with a more Oriental flavor. At that time L5R had come out-- first in CCG form and then in RPG form. It occurred to me that I could run an L5R game, and in my mind have it set on the First Continent, but never say so explicitly. I modified some of the concepts-- what the Burning Sands actually were, the role of Fu Leng both as a corrupter and a blockade to keep the outside world away, and the nature of the Kolat as a fragment of one of the old magical groups. I ended up butchering things further by deciding I didn't like the L5R rules and adapting it into Rolemaster. Again, as I've said, I've come a long way since then.

The game went well-- I used quite a bit of the existing scenario material for L5R, including the Tomb of Iuchiban Campaign. So at least a version of Rokugan now existed in the world. We had a complete arc with that game, and then at that point I took a pretty significant break from running big things-- I think the next thing I ran ended up being a homebrew Unknown Armies campaign, which was three and then two players and lasted two years.

It is also worth noting that at one point, I did know that all of the campaigns had at least some connection to one another-- and not just in the shared world. For example, my player Dave's character from a weird modern game ended up being the founder of a major familial line on the Second Continent, due to a quirk of fate and dimensional travel. I had other linkages-- but they're not so important to me now. I like the idea of a multiverse, but I don't want to necessarily push it. It is worth enough to me to know you can trace a link, a small link, between nearly all of the games I've run. Some of them share the same world, while others have someone or something which has moved over between the worlds, quietly and subtly. I also know that based on the rule of three, there have to be two other fantasy worlds close by this one, but I've never actually dealt with that. I've hinted about it, but I don't think I've ever really go to the trouble of building one of those up. There's too much good stuff available in what I still have in front of me.
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17. RPG Item: GURPS Steampunk [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:726]
Lowell Francis
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South Bend
Indiana
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Steambuckler Campaign

I took a break from running for a time, but eventually I couldn't take that anymore. If I don't have the creative outlet of game prep, I find myself becoming frustrated and more irritable. Even doing other writing doesn't help-- there's something satisfying about the creative process and large scale construction that goes on in campaign creation that I really love. I'd begun to think about doing another fantasy game on the Second Continent, since something like a year had passed since I'd done anything in that game world. I had conversation with a player, the late artist Barry Winston, at that time in which the topic of Steampunk came up. While the genre concepts for that had been around for a while, they'd just begun to permeate out into the wider culture. "The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne" had just started to be shown on Sci-Fi channel, and I'd read the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Barry convinced me I should run and try to get back in some players who I hadn't game with for a while.

The problem, however, was twofold in adding Steampunk elements. First, I'd had gunpowder eliminated from the setting some time before. Only once in the entire course of the many campaigns have I ever handed out wishes. One of them landed in Scott's lap and he wished away black powder weapons. So, I couldn't use any of that stuff-- instead I'd use Volters, based on magic crystals, to simulate that. The other, more major problem was that if I really wanted to have Steampunk be a major element, society and history would have to evolve. I probably could have simply dropped things in, but I think that would have bothered me. So I decided to advance the timeline for the continent forward about 300 years. That was a radical decision and I worried about it for many weeks-- going back and forth before finally deciding to go for it. I think part of my worry would be how that would affect the timelines on the other continents. But I wanted the genre to feel whole and real, and I did a good deal of research about the 1700 and 1800's-- of which this new world would be a hybrid, a kind of combination of Swashbuckling of Dumas and the Steampunk ethos which we would call Steambuckler. I actually called the campaign Arcane Rails at first because I had a vision of magical railroads and travel, but I ended up not going in that direction.

The game went very well-- I went back to GURPS for probably the last time. There's much I like about the system, but the magic just doesn't work in the way I want it to. That's a real problem in a fantasy setting. I'd hoped that the new 4th edition of GURPS might solve those problems, but instead the system took a step backwards-- becoming more opaque, more mechanical, and doing nothing serious to fix the problems of the original magic rules. System aside, I was pretty happy and the campaign ran 2+ years, moving through a complete arc that made some drastic changes. We gained and lost some great NPCs and we despite the significant move forward, we had a number of connections between the PCs of the campaign and those of previous ones. I was particularly pleased with the identity reveal of the major patron as being a former PC from many, many campaigns ago.
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18. Setting: Planescape
Lowell Francis
United States
South Bend
Indiana
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Sons of the Tower Campaign

After I wrapped up the Steambuckler campaign on the Second Continent, I wanted a break to regroup and figure out. I was pretty certain I'd be returning to that world, but I knew I wanted to do something different and wanted time to figure that out. I ran a short, complete arc Mutants and Masterminds campaign. After that I decided to fulfill a promise I'd made to Dave years before-- that I'd eventually run a Planescape Game.

That campaign would be a hodge-podge and an odd beast. I looked around and tried to find a hook that interested me. At the time I had a copy of The Black Company Sourcebook. Given the amount of fighting and wars happening on the Planes, I thought it would be natural to link the two things up. I decided to run d20 3.5-- although I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out a way to handle things in True20, before they'd really come out with any True20 books but the most basic. I hadn't run D&D in years and certainly not the newer versions. But others had and we rolled along-- I kept some of the Black Company rules, like Grievous Wounds, and the like but otherwise pretty much opened things up to whatever supplements and sourcebooks people wanted to take things from. That was pretty funny. I also had people make up two characters-- stressing the idea that death would be easy. Despite that, I actually only killed a few of the PCs. Dave did a nice job writing up in character summaries that I have to see if I can find. They were unbelievably good.

The connection to the game world came in that a couple of the PCs actually came from there. In one player's case, he had a skaven-- one among many who had been sent out into the Planes in the hopes of finding another PC's character who fell into the void at the end of the Steambuckler campaign. He would eventually be located and the group would begin to piece together that the big bad moving things behind the scenes in the game was in fact The Thonak, the Chaos Avatar sundered and sent from the world at the end of the grand Thonak campaign years before. The defeated the foe before he could reassemble and descend back through the Planes to the world. Interestingly, while I'd originally planed for six sessions for that campaign, it ended up ballooning out to twelve (in part because of my extensive sidebar for a multi-session riff on Final Fantasy VI as a joke for Dave).

I should note I've been posting the old session logs for this campaign here on rpggeek.
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19. RPG Item: Players Guide [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:5941]
Lowell Francis
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South Bend
Indiana
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Prophet King Campaign

I should note in passing a short run campaign I did back on the First Continent in hopes of perhaps coming to some sense of what was going on there. I reworked some of the history and cultures there. I actually spent a long time on that-- something like 100+ pages of material. All that and all I got out of it was a six session mini-campaign.

Then I ran a short campaign for some new players. I used Storyteller as the basis (hence the Exalted item). I had the players define what their characters' roles were and then wrote up abilities based on that. At the end of each session, I'd ask what they'd like next and then wrote them up new abilities or raises from that input. That went remarkably well, but I think can only really work for a short run game.

While I was pleased with the mechanics, I wasn't so pleased with how the background worked. I ended up pretty much throwing away everything I'd written, deciding to go in another direction completely.
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20. RPG Item: Action Cards [Average Rating:8.67 Unranked]
Lowell Francis
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Indiana
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Libri Vidicos

I decided to return to the 2nd continent setting with all the Steampunk trappings. I took a little more time off and then decided to run the Libri Vidicos game. I'd been bouncing the idea around for some time, it wasn't sure if it would work. A fantasy campaign set in a school, with everyone playing young people...it sounded risky. Everyone knew and liked Harry Potter but could it sustain itself? On top of that, I opted to use my Action Cards system. I'd run it with a couple of other campaigns but I wasn't sure I could get it to work with classic fantasy.

Suffice as to say, I was wrong. That group plays together better than any I've ever seen. The players like the system and run with it. I could go on, but I don't have to. That campaigns ongoing and every player there manages to surprise me every session. Timeline-wise, that campaign takes place about eighteen years after the Steambuckler campaign.

We're just beginning their third year of school, which has taken about two and a half years of real time. I plan for the game to have five school years...we'll see if I can sustain that.

Begun 02/07 finished 12/20/2013
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21. RPG Item: River of Cradles [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:760]
Lowell Francis
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South Bend
Indiana
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More recently I started another Third Continent game. I'd originally intended to use Storyteller (having just finished running a Scion campaign for the same group). Then I thought I wanted to use GURPS and spent a couple of weeks mucking around with mechanics on that while my wife politely nodded. She waited patiently until I finally came around to using Action Cards again to do what I wanted. I then spent two pretty intense weeks building the rules modifications I wanted for that. I had three major goals for the modification: building a profession structure that echoed both old Rolemaster and Final Fantasy Tactics; retooling the magic system to make it easier to work with an understand; and adding in a crunchier method for tracking damage. That last one involved adding dice to the system, but seems to have worked well so far.

The other real question in my mind would be how much time had passed on the continent since the last campaign. I was worried about the sync-up in time between the present game of the Second Continent (Libri Vidicos) and this one. If I tried to match those, then the Third Continent game would take place 300+ years after the last campaign there which most of these players had been in. Eventually I decided to stop worrying about it and simply moved things up a couple of generations, like 80 years. That would allow the material I had for the continent to still remain relevant, but I could make some significant changes as I desired.

We've had about eight sessions of that game and it seems to be playing well. My target is about a year of play, give or take. I hope to eventually start introducing some of the larger mythic elements here soon-- a couple of the players have already cooked up a ritual plan for next time that they haven't given me too many details about, so I'm looking forward to that.

They're back in Pavis and each have a little god that they've made up- trying to build up that god's power and reputation through their own mythic actions.

Ran 6/09-9/12
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22. RPG Item: White Mountain, Black River [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
Lowell Francis
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South Bend
Indiana
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Lastly, the other current campaign I have running right now uses a homebrew and borrows liberally from the wushu genre. My conception is to reshape what I've done with the First Continent in that direction. I haven't stated that explicitly to the players, but I think that part of the goal will be to have them uncover those details and the reason why such a shift has happened. I'm not even trying to really keep the timeline of that continent in sync with the other two right now.

Begun 6/09 and put on hiatus 4/11; restarted 1/14
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