I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately when it comes to tabletop games. I started a game in Pathfinder 2E earlier this year, and it should have had all the right elements: playing with my friends, a plot I was excited about, a system that I loved. But somehow, things didn’t click. Part of that was just that, after a few sessions, it became almost impossible to schedule a game; my group’s free time just… doesn’t really line up anymore. But part of it was deeper. It felt a little bit like I was spinning my wheels; I was building this story that was meant to be an epic, high fantasy, save-the-world kind of thing, and while that’s lots of fun, it’s also the same kind of story I often find myself telling.
Part of that, I suppose, is down to the nature of the game: if you’re intending for a party to reach high levels, you almost have to introduce world-ending threats at some point–your players are too strong for anything else to be a threat. However, I admit that it’s also my own fault for not pushing myself to tell new types of stories, or to find ways of challenging my group that are more personal in scale.
What I’m getting at here is that I’ve ended up taking a break from TTRPGs for the past few months because I just felt… stuck. It was too hard to get games together, the payoff when we did manage to play didn’t feel worth it, and overall I just haven’t been inspired to keep writing or planning games. Over the last month or so, though, I’ve really missed rolling dice. I decided I wanted to get back to it–but I knew that I couldn’t go back to just planning my old game. I need something new to get myself re-invigorated for the hobby.
I decided I wanted to break away from my old routine completely, just for a little while. I wanted to play with a different group than usual–fresh faces that I hadn’t gotten to play with much before (and, hopefully, that had easier schedules to work around). I also wanted to do a much different style of game than I’m used to; to that end, I’m changing my format around.
See, up to this point, I’ve largely run long campaigns that are meant to move players from level 1 (or close to it, anyway) all the way up to 20. I wanted my players to get the full experience of the class they played, and I wanted to tell huge, sweeping narratives. Most of those games never finished, but that was always the intent. This time, I don’t want to do that. I want to run something smaller. A mini-campaign meant to cover, say, three to five levels or so. A singular big, capital-q Quest with just a few side-quests and plots thrown in.
I’ve come up with three different ideas for mini-campaigns to run. This week, I thought I’d share what those ideas are. All of them are just rough drafts right now, and all of them are set in the homebrew world I’ve been working on, Seliit. The first is tentatively called ‘The Price of Immortality.’
This game is set in the nation of Astvolk, which is ruled over by a group called the Immortal Council. Every member of the Council has achieved eternal life of some kind, each through unique methods: one utilizes rare and forgotten technology to extend their life; one is cursed never to know the peace of death; one made a deal for immortality with a powerful djinn; one is a vampire; and one achieved achieved physical and spiritual perfection, allowing them ignore the effects of age.
The mini-campaign kicks off when one of the Immortals–specifically, the vampire–is murdered.
It’s an unprecedented event in the nation’s history, throwing the government into chaos and the citizens into an uproar. The players are gathered to investigate the Councilman’s death, unraveling an increasingly complex chain of suspects, motives, and conspiracies.
I like this one because it would force me to do some more work on Astvolk, which is currently one of the less narratively developed nations in its part of the world. In particular, it’d be great motivation for actually fleshing out the members of the Immortal Council. I love the idea that all of these people are very, very different, but they all share a common goal in leading the nation. There’s a lot of room there for intrigue, too–surely Council members don’t always get along! In addition to other Council members being potential suspects, there’s always the chance that some of them could try to recruit the players to help them advance personal agendas that their colleagues are unaware of.
Intrigue-based campaigns can be a lot of fun because it’s a wonderful opportunity to create a ton of interesting NPCs. A murder mystery requires a lot of red herrings, and there’s a sense of real delight I get from watching my players try to puzzle out a carefully constructed whodunnit.
Another benefit to this game would be its urban setting. There would be lots of interesting shops and locales for the players to visit, offering plenty of roleplay and non-combat opportunities. It would also be a chance for me to explore what Astvolk’s culture is like; I’ve thought a bit about the outskirts of the country, where it brushes up against (and is slowly swallowing) the Free Wilds, but what is it like in the heart of the nation? How does the Immortal Council operate up close? How do its people feel about the rest of the world? All interesting questions that I’ll certainly be thinking about a lot as I continue to refine this idea!