Michael’s recent post about his upcoming campaign has lit a fire under me to work on a couple of campaigns I’ve had on the backburner for a while. He always tells me I should post about my game sessions, campaigns and the prep I am doing but I always fear this will be of little interest for the majority of you. But I can’t stop thinking about this campaign and I guess a blog post is a good place as any to start organizing my ideas. Hope you like them and they may inspire you for your own games.
The children played near the long wooden tables where the villagers had dinned not long ago. Sundown was coming and they ran down the field towards the crops. The celebration meant that harvest was drawing near and many of these children would soon have little time to play. Their cries of joy were suddenly silenced when they saw the old man. He stood a few feet from them, seeming to have come out of the corn, his beard wild and unkempt, and his frame thin and frail, tanned by the sun. But it was his eyes that scared the children. They seemed to dart to and fro, always looking at things unseen. His laughter crackled and one of the younger boys sobbed.
The older children had been taught to respect the elders and some of them picked up the younger scared ones and tried to leave but the old man would have nothing of this. “No, stay children, stay… Come sit here in a circle, now in a circle… Let me tell you a story, a story of the time before the valley, before the community, before the war.”
Despite the hesitation and the fear gossip might have installed on the children, none of them could pass up such a story. It was rare indeed for any of the adults to speak of this. Even the scared ones wiped away their tears and sat in a circle around the old man. The sun was setting beyond the corn fields, beyond the mountains ringing the valley, and it painted the sky red as the old man began his tale…
“I remember the time, the time before the war. We lived in villages of glass and steel, much larger than the eighty odd houses huddled around the town hall and the great house, and there were many more of us. Well not all were like us. Some looked different, spoke differently or believed in different things. Not only where there horseless wagons dancing around the houses of glass and steel, but great metal birds made by man flew across the sky and travelled beyond the clouds to the stars.
And then there was war, the skies were sundered and the seas burned. The great villages of men were torn down and the survivors killed each other for the scraps. And there were worse dangers, things we had forgotten about…”
The old man suddenly fell silent, night had come and the children were all mesmerized. Under the moon the old man’s eyes and hair seemed to glow. He mumbled something, sat down among the children and snapped out of his daze. “The cold came soon, and the darkness that would not lift. The founders all came together and decided to leave it all behind. To seek refuge in the wild, the forgotten lands, and came here to the valley. We all gathered and signed the compact, agreed to come together in the great house and select those amongst us best suited to lead. We plowed the fields mined the hills beyond the swamp and in the end reaped what we sowed…”
He rose with a jump, startling the children. Agitated he began to speak faster and faster, almost incoherently. “We tried to hide, to leave it behind but they would not stay away and then they were tempted and the compact, the compact was broken and remade, sad, and the light the blue light…” The distant night sky flared up, blue as if lightning was coming from beyond the mountains and the old man began to laugh. But the laugh was tainted with sadness and desperation, and a few of the children though they saw his tears as he ran back into the corn fields.
The idea behind this campaign is a little different; it’s less Mad Max and more The Village. The players are the younger members of a community of survivors that hid in a valley and created a sheltered community. They cultivate the fields; make ethanol fuel to run simple generators, make gunpowder for the weapons they manufacture and the leaders of the community enforce order under the authority given to them by the compact, a document signed by the community founders. All is not well, for reasons unknown to the players some families left the compact some time ago and took over the far side of the valley, taking control of the mines. But something has happened to them and they are spoken of only in hushed tones.
There are limited medical supplies and the community relies on a healer whose craft he or she passes down to their apprentice in secret; the sick are treated in the great house in the utmost secrecy. The great house is also the place where the elder members of the community gather around the book of the compact and make the decisions for the village.
This is my basic concept for the game, it still needs to be fleshed out, establish some specifics, but that’s what I‘ve got so far. What do you think? Have any suggestions? I hope to post more about it soon…
I usually don’t like short fiction as the introduction to a game world… but that really hooked me. I really dig the village vibe as an alternative to traditional takes on post-apocalypse.
Victor thanks! I was going for a different type post-apocalyptic game. Too many of the ones I’ve played the players are out in the wild with no sense of community, here I want them to have a sense of the familiar from where they can start to explore the valley and maybe then the world around them.
I tend to write fiction for my games, my players also write fiction for their characters, so it’s a back and forth things. What do you do for campaign introductions?
Man, you are a lucky GM if your players are willing to write fiction for their characters 🙂 My comment about short fiction was more directed to published settings and rule-books – because frankly, it’s rarely as interesting as what you wrote (there are exceptions of course – I really liked the wanderer’s journal from the original Dark Sun boxed set back in the day).
Starting a campaign I like the mechanical parts of the characters to be settled beforehand, then I ask each player what their character’s personality is like, and if there is anything they absolutely have to have/not have in their history. Then at the first session I give each player a little package with some maps of places they know, some kind of mechanical benefit due to their background (like a regional feat or Pathfinder’s traits), and a little sketch of their personal history leading up to the first adventure (with lots of hooks tying into the campaign and reasons to adventure with the other players). If there is anything they don’t like in that package, all of the facts presented are completely up for debate (it turns out you aren’t the Baron’s daughter, you’re just a dead ringer for her and you hate how you’re always being mistaken for that brat…).
I like the idea of individualized packages, and the back and forth of ideas. I do some of that but it tends to be more of the players bringing their ideas. At the table all but one of my seven players write some fiction for their characters, and the one that does not always discusses some pretty good ideas with me. I give out XP and other perks for writing a character story, finding images and bringing minis to the table if we are using them for the game. Thanks for sharing.
Edited the post and did some corrections, I do too much writing and blogging tired late at night. Hope this makes it more understandable.