I am looking for some constructive thoughts on the direction in the campaign I am GMing. Having been a GM for some 20+ years, about half way through Curse of Strahd, I got a wild hair about taking things a step further in the campaign aspect of things and decided to use CoS as a jumping off point into a larger- MUCH LARGER- concept based on Michael Moorcock's series of novels, The Eternal Champion.
The concept goes something like this: I would take my players from one RPG system to the next, hopping back and forth between things that seem cool. The list currently includes: DnD, Tales from the Loop, Achtung Cthulhu, Mouse Guard, Pathfinder, some Fate stuff, and the list continues to grow. Each time players would roll up characters, they first roll an increasing percentage of remembering the adventures from the last system- which may drive their new character a bit mad but as a payoff, they would retain some set of skills as well (ie. being able to wield a sword or pick a lock). All the while, they are being chased by or are unwittingly defeating a reoccurring villain and his lackies who are in pursuit of a particular item that leads them to a great source of power that exists within the multiverse. The story lines of each will be tweeked in such a way as to hint to the final conclusion adventure (which at this time is currently Maze of the Blue Medusa).
As I type this, I realize that I'm struggling to know what I am asking. I guess I am looking for advice on to handle the change in meta-game to effect the characters from one system to another. Is the percentage thing worth dealing with or should the remember bits and pieces as a general rule? By the way... My players are ALL IN. They LOVE IT! Even three years later they look forward to playing the next RPG system. They also know that when they return to a system they get to choose to roll a new character or revisit an old character- with permission, they can even use some other player's character.
Also, I could use some advice on when to stop adding systems and get to the end. At the moment, after playing for 3 years, I am staring at about 3 or 4 more YEARS of content/material. All the time I find or hear about other RPGs and think, "OOH that would be awesome to add in!" Like I've already talked myself into adding Tales from the Flood AND City of Mist. (DARN YOU MODIPHIOUS!!!) What criteria would you suggest that I use to keep the lid on things? One thing I've already decided is to stay away from using sandbox adventures. They are just too sprawling and can take far too long before jumping over to another system.
Anyway, I would love to read what you think. Thanks in advance for the constructive ideas.
Check out the podcast "A Beginner's Guide to Interplanetary Destruction." They finished it several years ago, but it's a multi-genre/multiverse romp with a pretty great mechanism for tying the story together, though the characters don't change from set to set. At the very least, I think it would be excellent inspiration for some of what you've listed above.
I think you'll need to give yourself a limit of "games" to run. If you don't you'll be running every new game that you and your players like with no sight of the end...While playing different games you like is fine, you asked about how to find an ending point so I say set yourself a limit of different games. Have a plan (and time line) for the opposition and then introduce your players into that timeline and try to let the game swapping develop from that time line. I think you need to run this campaign AS a sandbox, each game is a "location" on a "map" and you should come up with a way to tie those locations together plot wise (not system wise that way leads to madness ). If your players are willing to keep Out of character knowledge out of character, there's no need to have a %roll, just talk about what is remembered and what isn't...go by feel, there is absolutely no reason to make things more complicated for yourself then they already are. I guess I'm saying make sure everyone (players and GM) are looking for the same thing. This requires mature players (actual age is irreverent to player maturity). If you are all after the same kind of game then everyone should be willing to keep the meta game to a minimum and get wrapped up in this sweeping epic you've got cooking. If your players are more into numbers or "what precisely do I remember?" then it gets difficult for you because all of that info will have to be parsed and collated into some kind of system...See if your players can just go with the spirit of what you're trying to accomplish.
Good luck and I'd love to see session reports because this sounds really cool.
EDIT: After thinking about this for a little while, I wish I could play in this game...Dude, I'm totally stealing this idea, I've been trying to come up with a fun way to do eternal champion stuff without being rail roady for a long time. Oh, have something like Tanelorn in your different games, while it doesn't have to be an eternal city you really should have something like that (Hell use Tanelorn, even if the players never see it on a specific game YOU knowing it is there could be enough.)
Sometimes I'm the shark; sometimes I'm the swimmer.
It sounds like a fantastic idea to me especially if each new system is used for its essential theme/feel/mechanic(s) that bring home the new part of the story. That said I echo advice already given—limit yourself at the outset to how many new systems and how often you are shifting or else you and your group will just be rolling up new characters and the cool aspect of it may become annoying.
With your head held high and your scarlet lies You came down to me from the open skies It's either real or it's a dream There's nothing that is in between
Twilight, I only meant to stay awhile Twilight, I gave you time to steal my mind Away from me.
What criteria would you suggest that I use to keep the lid on things?
You mention Moorcock's Eternal Champion novels as inspiration, so I guess my question back to you would be: why do you need a lid? Those novels really have no specific overall story, other than the constant struggle between Law and Chaos. Segments have a story arc (Elric, Hawkmoon, etc.) but when taken together there is no real beginning or end to them and in some ways they are literally cyclical. As long as your players are enjoying the system swapping (it sounds like they are) there is no need for the basic structure of the game to end.
It seems to me, the real question is not about system but about story. I suspect you can only keep the basic plot line you have going...
All the while, they are being chased by or are unwittingly defeating a reoccurring villain and his lackies who are in pursuit of a particular item that leads them to a great source of power that exists within the multiverse. The story lines of each will be tweeked in such a way as to hint to the final conclusion adventure (which at this time is currently Maze of the Blue Medusa).
for so so long before the end will be more anti-climax than climax. This has little to do with systems and everything to do with dramatic pacing, right?
So I guess my suggestion is to step back from the coolness that you and your players seem to be enjoying of the system swapping, and instead focus on the storyline itself. I encourage you to think about ending things earlier rather than later. You can always start things up again with some new plotline; it is a multiverse after all! But don't let your main plot wear out its welcome.
I think I might try some restrictions to focus the project.
Each system, players should make the same characters, but they roll randomly to choose which character they make. For example, Susan plays Seraph, Thomas plays Trundle, and Reagan plays Rigel in game one, but Susan plays a different Rigel in the next game, Thomas plays his interpretation of Seraph, and Reagan makes an alternate Trundle.
Characters should be identifiable clones, variants whose broad strokes are similar, but whose details are different. Perhaps one player gets a "wild card" slot to make a new archetype each system; could that be the reward for good play in the previous system?
This seems to me like an interpretation of an eternal champion meta-system.
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This. Is. Awesome.
Your players are in. You have been at it for years. Is there any sign of the players flagging? If not, why stop?
If you want to be working toward an end design something like a spiral to the conclusion that can have some undetermined number of steps to get there. If players are grooving, lengthen the path, if they are flagging, shorten it. Work out some levers the players can pull on to jump ahead or some sub goals for them to get to. Maybe even some possible switches that the players can throw to change the goal.
Life is too short to be angry all the time. Smile and enjoy the ride.
Maybe different idea than op but...
I don't think they have to necessarily play the same 'character' each time. Maybe the 'soul' is the same person but each incarnation allows a different playstyle and character. For example, in mine, a player may wake up as a dog or child or superhero.
He may show some personality as the previous characters but this time he's a dog or whatever and the player can bring a different personality than the barbaric hack and slasher from the last session.
Like Quantum Leap. Youtube reference for our younger folks:
All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost;The old that is strong does not wither,Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
Also reminds me of Dr Ben Bova's Orion series.
In the late eighties/early 90's, I tried to do a campaign called "Chronojumpers" based on Orion, Voyagers!, and the idea of Valiant's Eternal Warriors.
The idea was to throw the same characters through time (and systems) with limited ability to bring equipment between times (you needed a small tech disk fueled by some unobtainium to keep it from returning to it's "proper place" and each use had a chance of the item returning).
Characters could not properly "die" as they re-coalesced like Orion for the next mission. Dying did mean losing all you carried, though, among other penalties (such as making it hard to remember previous missions, etc...)
It didn't take off. Players complained about the inability to permanently keep all their "goodies" (particularly advanced tech) and about the prospect of having to learn new rules for the next session and each after.