Campaign prospectuses

When I first started issuing what I called a “campaign prospectus” I understood it by analogy with a corporate prospectus. That is, one of my prospectuses in the Nineties and the Very Late Eighties was a detailed formal proposal of a specific campaign that I meant to run. I circulated them among the role-players I knew, as an advertisement and recruitment tool. Like a company promoter with a definite project in mind, seeking investors, I used prospectuses to recruit players for the campaigns that I had already planned. They often amounted in effect to formal specifications (the recruitment being a foregone conclusion) and sometimes as invitations to tender.

I discovered through participating in the SJGames discussion boards that @whswhs has a different approach. He imagines campaign prospectuses by analogy with academic course prospectuses (which I think correspond to the “course and faculty handbooks” of my academic experience). He uses them in a different context and much more sophisticated manner.

I’ll have a look in my archives and see whether I can find an example of one of my prospectuses from about 1990 to share with you all.


I would be interested to see that! My use of prospectuses is less elaborate now that I’m in Riverside and don’t have a large crowd of interested players.

My prospectuses have varied over time. At one time I handed out a list of fifty campaign ideas, all of which were single sentences, I think. I’ve often used longer ones, such as this one, for possibly my best campaign ever:

___Manse: A huge, ancient building in a vast wasteland is occupied by several groups of people, some with unusual abilities. Play will focus on factional conflicts, schemes, and the uncovering of ancient secrets. Each player will have characters from different social strata within the household and the attached village, using a form of “troupe-style play.” Emphasis on intrigue and mysteries. Rules system: World of Darkness, Big Eyes Small Mouth, or Fudge.

At my most elaborate, I did this:

_____ Worminghall. Historical fantasy. GURPS.
In 1300 A.D., students from all over Europe come to western England to study magic. A group of such students will encounter the magical arts, town and gown conflicts, and each other. Play will emphasize student life and its rivalries, and the growth of magical knowledge, but will also include real dangers and mysteries. The setting will be authentically medieval, with medieval conflicts over nationality, faith, and social roles—but expressed through fantasy themes. We’ll probably try the experiment of an initial prologue where the characters are newly arrived students, followed by a fast forward to several years on. The default character will be young, male, and Catholic, but there will be room for exceptional people to overstep their normal social roles.
You may enjoy this campaign if you want some actual history in your historical fantasy; you love schools of magic as settings; you’re interested in your character’s personality and the social texture of their life; you’re willing to start small and build up your character.

These prospectuses serve several related purposes. They let me decide which campaigns to run (each player gets 2N points to distribute among N campaigns as they like), so I can pick campaigns that a lot of people like. They let me assign players among campaigns, by putting together each campaign from players who are strongly interested in it (I’ve never assigned a player to a campaign they bid less than 2 points on, and hardly ever less than 3). And they also mean that players have seen what a campaign will be like, and have consented to it by bidding on it (they have the option of a 0 bid), and know what they’re getting into. Of course, this all works as well as it does because I have enough players to put together two or three campaigns; with players for only one campaign, the second of the three functions doesn’t apply.

But still, when I hand around the list, I don’t know which campaign I’m going to run and I haven’t done all of the setup for it. This means that I have to be ready to get prep work done quickly.

They all seem to be WriteNow files. WriteNow was an outstanding word processor, but I no longer have a computer that runs an operating system that supports it.

I’ve done a bit of investigating, and LibreOffice seems to be able to import WriteNow files. I’m not sure yet if this is confined to LibreOffice on Mac, or it’s also possible on the Linux and Windows versions. If you want to send me a sample file, I can tinker with this a bit: I have access to Macs at work.


I use a Mac, but I never thought of trying LibreOffice. Thanks for the tip: I’ll give it a try.

More info here, here and here.


I have a 73,000-word WriteNow file that I haven’t been about to open for eight years.

1 Like

I’ve used Bill’s system a few times (as written up in Pyramid v2) but now I mostly just list some possible ideas and solicit feedback. With the formal approach, the player who always complains will still complain even if he voted for a particular game; several players will say “well, they all sound good to me” and rate everything the same; and so on.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player rate everything the same. I had one player whose last questionnaire gave ratings of 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, and 3; he ended up in one of the campaigns he rated 2, as the one he rated 3 wasn’t one of the really popular ones. He was one of two players who gave both campaigns that I settled on the same point rating (the other gave three points each to four campaigns), and I ended up putting him in the campaign where I thought he would be a better fit to the other players.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone say they like every proposed campaign equally; people seem to be able to say “better” or “worse” about almost anything. (And giving people 2N points for N campaigns seems to allow them to express mild preferences.) But I suppose if one did, I’d say it was their choice not to influence which campaign I ran or which one they ended up in or who they played with. As long as I have at least two players whose top choices are different campaigns, I have something to go on.

As to “player who still complains,” well, I’ll take their dissatisfactions into account when I’m trying to decide how to run a campaign. But there’s also the fact that by voting for a campaign, they said they were willing to play in it, so I’m just going to dismiss any objection that amounts to “I didn’t agree to this.” (Of course, I do have an obligation to inform them about things that they care about. . . .) Really, if someone always complains, then their complaints don’t have much information value.

Whaddya know? Libre Office does seem to open my WriteNow files.

1 Like

Prospectus: DragonQuest 1122

This will be a DragonQuest campaign set in Europe in 1122 AD. At this time the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Germany (Holy Roman Empire) are of little account, and practical rulership in Europe is in the hands of the great vassals of the Crown in each Kingdom. In France the Duke of Aquitaine and the Duke of Normandy, the Count of Brittany, the Count of Toulouse, the Count of Flanders, the Count of Artois, the Count of Blois and Champagne, and the Count of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine are practically sovereign princes.

For the purposes of this campaign, it will be supposed that there are dwarves living in the Alps and Carpathians, and speaking German. The Welsh, Bretons, and Basques will be DQ elves, speaking Elvish, a non-Indo-European tongue. The Magyars, Bulgars, and Finns will be orcs, speaking dialects of Orcish, another non-IE language. Cloud giants live in Russia, frost giants in Scandinavia. The Irish are stone giants, and the black peoples of sub-Saharan African are fire giants. Norse, Erse, Russian, and Ethiopic are related languages of the Giantish family. Halfings need not apply.

For campaign convenience, the linguistic situation will be simplified. The Romance languages of northern Italy, southern France, and northern Iberia will be considered dialects of a single language, called ‘Latina Rustica’ (rustic latin). The Frankish of northern France and Latin itself will be considered separate but related languages. All the German dialects will be treated as dialects of a single language, except for English which will be a separate but related language. Of these, only Latin is customarily written. Other languages that might be significant include Arabic, Greek, and Elvish, all of which are written, and Orcish and Slavic (which are not).

Characters should be generated using DQ rules plus 100,000 experience points. Players may choose any result from a table on which dice are normally rolled, but aspects will not be used. Base Perception will be 8, not 5. And the skills Swimming and Climbing, identical in experience terms to Horsemanship, will be available.

There are no Sorcerors of the Mind in this campaign, and the College of Naming Incantations is closely identified with the Christian Church, to the extent that all ordained priests are members of the college. Black Magic, Necromancy, and Greater Summonings are outlawed by the Church, and practitioners are subject to excommunication. Namers who are not ordained priests are considered heretics, and other magicians are treated with some suspicion. Also, the higher levels of Healing are recognised as miraculous, so any person performing them who is clearly not saintly will attract suspicion of being in league with the dark powers.
Clearly, player characters generated under these rules will be people of great experience and prowess, and their backgrounds ought to be designed to support this fact. Experience fighting in the Holy Land in or since the First Crusade (1097-1099), or in the reconquest of Spain (since 1052) might well be justified.

At the beginning of the campaign, characters should be travelling up or down the right (French) bank of the Rhone around Epiphany 1122, but they should not be on business of great urgency or importance. Indeed, the characters should be at something of a loose end, with no compelling reason ever to go anywhere in particular.

Prospectus: Flat Black 2001 — Survey IV

Flat Black

We should call the year 2933 AD. But its inhabitants consider the destruction of Earth to be more important than the birth of Christ. They call it 580 Post Destructio Terrae.

Before Earth blasted itself to a radioactive wasteland 150 interstellar colonies were founded by slower-than-light means. Without expected support from Earth most struggled and some failed. Others burgeoned and established secondary colonies. Scattered across a hundred lightyears, human society developed along two hundred divergent lines.

In 302 PDT Tomitomo Eichberger of Mayflower developed a means of FTL travel. He grew fantastically rich on his patent. But his secret soon leaked, and the Eichberger drive was used by criminals, pirates, carpetbaggers, and conquerors as well as by peaceful traders and settlers. Appalled, Eichberger vested his fabulous wealth in a Foundation to abate the ill effects of his invention.

The Eichberger Foundation built a fleet and launched a campaign to capture fugitives, destroy pirates, and control exploitative colonialists. This brought it into sharp conflict with other interests. On 5 November 345 PDT Jorge Luis Borges, a pirate listed by the Foundation as ‘public enemy #1’ attacked Eichberger’s homeworld, Mayflower. One of Borges’ missiles carried a catalytic thermonuclear warhead into Mayflower’s atmosphere, and three minutes later Mayflower was a barren cinder. But the Eichberger Foundation’s fleet and merchantmen survived.

Borges fled to Orinoco, a colony that opposed the Eichberger Foundation in every way. The government there refused to give Borges up to Commodore Thomas Kobayashi of the Eichberger Foundation, and threatened war. Mad with grief and vengeful fury, also terrified that Orinoco would start an interstellar war, Kobayashi sent the world after Mayflower and Earth, then killed himself.

Shaken by what Kobayashi had done, the Eichberger Foundation dedicated themselves and their posterity to eternal opposition to mass death and every violent threat to peaceful folk.

The Foundation’s wider purpose brought it into deeper conflict with the technologically-advanced colonies, an array of varied conflicts known as the Formation Wars. It emerged with an effective claim to a monopoly on military use of space and an over-riding, imperial, jurisdiction in space, but conceding absolute independence to colonies within their atmospheres. During the Formation wars scores of groups fled beyond the Foundation’s knowledge, their avowed purpose to establish free colonies outside the Foundation’s power.
The Formation Wars were eventually settled by negotiation at a conference on Earth’s moon. The resulting Treaty of Luna was signed on 18 April 400 PDT, and is in effect the constitution of the Empire. It gives the Empire (successor to the Eichberger Foundation) a monopoly on FTL travel and sovereignty in space. It secures to the colonies sovereign independence within their atmospheres and the right to operate satellites for peaceful purposes out to the distance of synchronous orbit. The Empire has jurisdiction over terrorism and similar threats of mass destruction, but is subject to the oversight and consent of a bicameral Parliament of colonial representatives. And the Empire is denied authority on any inhabited world, including new colonies, except as authorised by Parliament.

One hundred and eighty years later, the Empire subsists on the profits of space industries and commerce, and the development of new colonies as real estate. It spends its vast revenues on a powerful navy, an army group of marines, various aid programs, efforts against inter-colonial crime and the flight of criminals, and an extensive program to search for lost colonies: Survey.

Eight hundred inhabited planets and moons are within the Empire’s ambit. They are very diverse, physically, socially, and politically. The total population is over one trillion, and only thirty-four million people work for the Empire.

Join the Imperial Service and see the Universe

The children of Imperial servants are born in orbital habitats, and raised in créches and boarding schools by skilled professionals: raised to dedication to the Imperial Mission. At the age of eighteen most volunteer for the Imperial Service. Colonials volunteer for the Imperial Service too: at eighteen or later, often after retirement or divorce or the coming-of-age of their children.

All volunteers are subjected to a battery of tests of aptitude, abilities, and personality type. On the basis of their results they may be offered appointments to various departments of the Imperial Service. The Navy is most prestigious, but its requirements are strictest, for naval officers must be trusted with frightful weapons. Most naval officers are Imperials born and bred. Most enlisted marines come from colonies with middling technology. The Colonial Office has many personnel from both the Empire and colonies with mid-to-high tech.
If candidates need training, it is provided. Marines receive a year of basic training and a year of specialist training, naval officers spend three years at the Naval Academy. Other specialists may train for up to four or five years at Imperial universities. Then comes one year of probationary service in the field. And if the candidate proves satisfactory a permanent appointment or commission.

Imperial servants are paid modest salaries incremented for rank and seniority. They are provided food (synthetic), accommodation (scant, unless they pay for larger quarters), full medical care, and all the uniforms they can wear. Their children are lodged, fed, clothed, minded, and educated free of charge, up to the age of eighteen. From about the age of twenty Imperial servants take eugerione, which halves the rate of aging. Retirement age is 110 (80 for enlisted marines). Pensions are based on contributions to the Superannuation Fund in the amount of 10% of salary, plus any personal contributions, plus accumulated interest.

INS Icebird

The Navy is commissioning a new Survey frigate, INS Icebird. Her mission will be to explore star systems in the deep beyond. She is to report planets and moons that are suitable for settlement, and to make first contact with any colonies or alien societies that she may encounter, establishing friendly relations and, if possible, inducing the locals to sign the Treaty of Luna. The complement of INS Icebird will consist of: (1) a naval captain as mission commander; (2) a naval crew of three astronautics officers, three engineering officers, and a medical officer; (3) nine marines—a rifle section plus a sergeant; (4) an ambassador plenipotentiary with a staff of five, from the Colonial Office; (5) thirteen Survey personnel, each competent in several fields of study appropriate to the different types of world in which Survey takes an interest, most from the Colonial Office; (6) one probationary officer (astronaut, engineer, or Survey specialist) on his or her ’prentice cruise.

INS Icebird is a small vessel, built to carry thirty-seven people and thirty-five tonnes of cargo on missions of two months to a year in duration. She is armoured lightly by the standards of the Imperial Navy, but probably as heavily as anyone else could manage. She has a single mid-sized particle accelerator, two small lasers for torpedo defence, and two torpedo launchers. Acceleration, agility, and endurance are moderate by Imperial standards, but should be very impressive to anyone else.

Quarters aboard INS Icebird are comfortable but not roomy. The marines have only bunks: other personnel enjoy luxury staterooms. Public space consists of a wardroom, a gym, and a multipurpose (conference) room, plus a barracks for the marines.

Icebird is not designed for planetary landing, but carries two aerodynamic shuttles for carrying Survey teams etc. to ground. Each of these can carry ten people in addition to the pilot, two armoured aircars, and thirteen tonnes of general cargo.

Jehannum 1995 Campaign Prospectus

Brave Music

“How sweet is mortal sovranty!“– think some,
Others– “How blessed the paradise to come!”.
Ah, take the cash and let the credit go:
How brave the music of a distant drum!

Brave Music will be a HindSight: Jehannum campaign set in the Decadent Period, initially in the remote mountain city of Charn in the province of Mela. It will follow the adventures and careers of a clique of young warriors of great ambitions but uncertain means. My aim in this campaign will be to reproduce the strange blend of cynicism and quixotry that marks Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers ¹.

Characters should be generated on five of the optional enhanced background factors, with “normal” wealth and a bonus 20 merit points in Social Standing, to reflect the fact that they are of Good Families, but younger sons or in reduced circumstances. They must be citizens of Charn, aged twenty (or at least eighteen) to twenty-five years, and active in the militia in the heavy-armed category. They should have little experience of circumstances outside Charn (perhaps a few trips to Bethan and Elmis, or two years of ephebe training in one of those cities), and if any has active military experience, it must be outside Charn.

The five player characters will make up a half-file of the militia, led by the highest-ranked warrior among them, who should work out to rank 2 or 3 (file leader or file closer). Close friends and dear comrades (perhaps some of them close relatives, or mentor and protegé), they should be such as will stick together in thick and thin: a band of inseparables noted for their mutual loyalty, flamboyance, and verve.

Within the group, each character should have his own modus operandi and personal style: grim or gallant, foppish or austere. I will need at least two characters susceptible to romantic hooks, of whom one at least should be subject to sincere but fleeting passions. One character should be an inquiring bent (or just inquisitive), one should have a passion for justice, and at least three should have some tendency to involve themselves in others’ affairs. None of the party can afford too many scruples, but if most are to be good-hearted rogues, the party will need at least one sin-eater. Vanity, quarrelsomeness, or philosophical affectations would be suitable for one character each if not hammed up.

¹ Think of the book and the ’70s British film with Michael York rather than the 1992 Hollywood fiasco.

Swords of Saint John

Campaign Prospectus

Swords of Saint John will be a Chivalry & Sorcery campaign centred on a group of characters attached to the Order of the Hospital of St John the Baptist. Action will commence on St John the Baptist’s Day (23 June) 1291. This is a time of turmoil for the Order, a mere month after the catastrophic fall of Acre, last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land. Losses in the fall of Acre were ruinous: the Master and the Marshal of the Hospital were killed, along with most of the brethren of fighting age. The Templars, the Knights of St Lazarus, and the Knights of St Thomas were similarly devastated, and the Teutonic knights were annihilated but for the Hochmeister. The orders are reeling, confused and disorganised: refugees from Acre and belated reinforcements from the West have met at Limmasol in the Kingdom of Cyprus.

The Order of the Hospital of St John the Baptist

The Order of Hospitallers is a great Church corporation. It remains wealthy despite the loss of its estates in Syria. This wealth is devoted to supporting a military effort against the forces of Islam, and also to the provision of food and shelter to pilgrims and care to the sick at local commanderies and in a chain of hospitals along the major pilgrim routes. The Hospitallers are an order of canons regular (not, technically, monks) following a modified Augustinian rule. Established by a Papal bull, the Order is immune from episcopal control and interdict, and by unique privilege it is permitted to hold public services in any interdicted church for one day in any year.

The best-known Hospitallers are the knights-brethren. But the Order also includes serjeants, serving brothers, chaplains, nursing sisters, postulants under age for ordination, and confratres—knights serving under temporary vows. And besides the members there are employees of the Order, such as mercenary turcopoles, who might also be suitable PCs.

The basic Hospitaller establishment is the commandery, with its knight-commander and its chaplain. In frontier areas a commandery will have a garrison of knights, serjeants, and turcopoles, with a complement of serving brothers etc. But in the homelands the commander and chaplain will be elderly, and the only garrison will be an elderly serjeant and perhaps a number of postulants in training. The garrison of a commandery in the homelands are responsible for recruitment and training: they also administer a group of estates of the Order, forward surplus revenue, and do charitable works on a local scale.

Commanderies in the East are responsible directly to the Master, but in Europe commanderies are grouped into priories (the prior being the knight-commander of a substantial hospital), and priories into provinces each ruled by a preceptor. The head of the Order is the Master, elected for life by the Grand Chapter. He is assisted by the Grand Commander (the Master’s lieutenant), the Treasurer, the Marshal (chief military officer), the Drapier (quartermaster-general), the Hospitaller (surgeon-general), and the Turcopolier, all of whom are elected by the Grand Chapter. (Each commandery, priory, and province has its own chapter.)

The Order admits postulants as young as sixteen, usually for training in a safe commandery. At the age of twenty the knights are knighted, the chaplains ordained as deacons, and knights, serjeants, and chaplains sent to the East for a tour of duty. Only after stipulated service against the Mahometans are they eligible for a commandery. Serving brothers and nursing sisters serve first in the East and then return to a hospital in Europe.

Daily life in the convent

The way of life in the Order of St John is monastic. The members bunk in dormitories (when available) and eat in refectories. In a large hospital there are separate dormitories for knights, serjeants, serving brothers, and nursing sisters. Chaplains and surgeons eat with the knights, but have private cells. Members of the Order receive the Sacraments frequently, saying Office in chapter every day, when possible. (Knights serving alone say 150 pater nosters instead.)

Hospitallers of all ranks spent some hours each day nursing ‘our lords the sick’ (if available). They take this service as of great spiritual importance. The sick in the Order’s hospitals eat off silver plates and drink from silver goblets: their food is much better than that eaten by [healthy] knights-brethren.

In convent Hospitallers wear black mantles with a white cross formée on the breast and shoulder. At war they wear red surcoats with white crosses.

Other Orders


The “Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon” are the other main fighting order. Unlike the Hospitallers they are technically monks. The Templars do not do charitable works as the Hospitallers do. This, and their banking revenues, makes the Templars very rich. They also tend to be proud and masterful. So they are envied and disliked. The Templars are to some extent rivals of the Hospitallers. But on the other hand they are comrades-in-arms, the best and bravest troops in Christendom. They also have an excellent network of spies in Muslim lands: and suffer from the spymaster’s usual mania for secrecy.

Templars wear white with a red cross.

Knights of St Lazarus

Hospitallers, templars, and teutonic knights who catch leprosy are required to switch to the Order of St Lazarus, which runs leper-hospitals as well as fighting. The leper knights were almost wiped out in the fall of Acre, but doubtless the Green Cross will be seen again.

The Lazarus knights wear black with a green cross.

Teutonic Knights

The ‘Teutonic Knights of St Mary’s Hospital of Jerusalem’ had rules similar to the Templars’, but making provision for hospital work, which, however, the Teutonic knights do not pursue as diligently as the Hospitallers. The Order is involved in a bloody crusade against pagans in the Baltic, where it has built a sovereign ‘Ordernstaat’. The Teutonic knights lost their last possessions in the Mediterranean with the fall of Acre, and also lost many brethren. The Hochmeister, only survivor of the Teutonic knights in Acre, is on his way back to Germany, from where it is unlikely that the Teutonic knights will return.

The Teutonic knights wear white with a black cross.

Knights of St Thomas Acon

Created by and for Englishmen, this order is neither chartered by the Pope nor immune from episcopal authority. Never large, it has been almost annihilated in the fall of Acre.

Iberian orders

Five military orders apart from the Templars and Hospitallers are involved in the Réconquista on the borders of Léon, Castile, and Portugal: the Knights of Calatreva, the Orders of St James of the Sword (Santiago, São Thiago), the Order of Alcántara, the Knights of Aviz, and the Mercedarians.

Generating characters

I expect that most characters in this campaign will be youngsters (of the usual heroic calibre) thrust to the fore by the elimination of most of the fighting-age knights. But I have also provided for clapped-out retreads to drag themselves out of semi-retirement with attributes eroded by age but more skills.


Attributes for PCs in this campaign will be generated by rolling 3d10 and discarding the lowest roll. Do this ten times and discard the lowest result. Assign the nine results remaining as you please. Then add up the PC costs of the resulting attributes. If the result is under 150, you may spend the difference normally. If the result is 150 or over you may not spend PC points on attributes, and you will have to scrounge any points you do need elsewhere.

The retread option: If you wish to play an older character dragged out of semi-retirement for the duration of the crisis, you may instead spend 125 PC points entirely as you choose. Your character will be older and have more experience points. He will also have one extra mastery slot, to a maximum of five as usual.


Aspect replaces both ‘the omens’ and horoscope. Aspect will be determined by drawing a card from a tarot deck. For 5 PC points, you may draw from among the court cards and major trumps, for 10 PC points from among the major trumps.

Social class

You may roll on the table twice and keep the roll that you prefer, and then if you wish increase social class by paying the appropriate difference between the PC costs of classes. To be a brother-knight you must be the son of a knight at least. The son of a serf would only be admitted to the order as a serving brother.

Sibling rank

Roll sibling rank normally. Note that a bastard cannot be ordained as a priest without a Papal dispensation or the aid of a corrupt bishop. Either will cost 5 PC points. Note also that the eldest son of a banneret or higher ranked lord will have other obligations, and only be able to join the Order as a confratre.

Father’s occupation

You may roll twice and keep the result you prefer.

Status in one’s family

Use any of the optional methods.

Special talents & abilities

Use the optional method (choose & pay.)

Deficiencies & defects

Use the optional method (choose & pay).


Use the historical (and fantasy) ranges, but build is d10 for human males. Instead of rolling 2d10, roll 310 and discard any die you choose. Instead of rolling d10, roll 2d10 and keep the die you choose. You may pay PC points to alter height and build as described on p. 12 of the rules.


You may let your character’s age default to 20 (40 if using the retread option). Or you may roll 2d10, keep the one you prefer, and add 15 (35 if using the retread option). Further, you may buy extra (but not sell off) years of age at 2 PC points per year.

By the rules of the Order knights and serjeants do not take permanent vows and are not sent to the East until they are twenty. By canon law a person may not be ordained a deacon under twenty nor a priest under twenty-four. But this is an emergency, and a character can get away with putting his age up by as much as two years.

Experience points

A character generated using the standard option receives 4,000 experience points plus 500 per year of age over sixteen. A character generated using the re-tread option receives 16,500 experience points plus 500 per year of age over 36.


Brother knight

This is the vocation of a brother knight trained by the Order, either as a postulant or since joining as a knight. A knight more recently joined and with more worldly experience may be generated using the standard ‘Knight’ vocation. A character following this vocation but not yet twenty will be a postulant.

Attributes: (1) STR, (2) CON

Vocational skills: All combat skills marked (K), Riding, First Aid, Leadership, Stamina

Secondary skills: Any Materia medica, Faith, Conditioning, Endurance, Latin, any Noble skills, any background skills

Brother serjeant

This is the vocation of a brother serjeant trained by the Order, either as a postulant or since joining. A serjeant more recently joined and with more worldly experience may be generated using the standard ‘Fighter’ vocation. A character following this vocation but not yet twenty will be a postulant.

Attributes: (1) STR, (2) CON

Vocational skills: All combat skills except those marked ‘K only’, Riding, Stamina, First Aid

Secondary skills: Combat skills marked ‘K only’, Faith, Conditioning, Endurance, Weaponsmithing, any Materia medica, any background skills


A confrater is a knight serving with the Hospitallers on temporary vows. This is the only status open to the eldest legitimate sons of titled nobles. Generate confratres as ordinary knights.


This is the vocation of a priest trained by the Order. A character following this vocation but not yet 20 will be a postulant. A character following this vocation and over twenty but under 24 will be a deacon.

Attributes: (1) INT, (2) PTY

Vocational skills: Faith, Theology, any Languages, any 1 Charismatic skill, Any 3 Lore Historical skills, Calligraphy & Illumination, First Aid, Riding

Secondary skills: any Materia medica, any 1 perception skill, any Combat skill marked ‘K’, any background skills


The Hospitallers commanded the best of both Greek and Arabic medicine of their day. This vocation might suit a character from the yeomanry or towns.

Attributes: (1) AGI, (2) INT

Primary skill: First Aid or Healing Arts I (Chirurgery) [-3 DF, costs 1 mastery]

Vocational skills: Any Materia medica

Secondary skills: Faith, Vetinary Arts I, Riding, any background skills


The Hospitallers commanded the best of both Greek and Arabic medicine of their day. This vocation might suit a character from the yeomanry or towns, or even a scholarly noble.

Attributes: (1) INT, (2) WIS

Primary skill: Healing Arts II (Physick) or Herbalism [-3 DF, costs 1 mastery]

Vocational skills: Any Materia medica

Secondary skills: Faith, Vetinary Arts II, any 1 language, any background skills

Nursing sister

Treat a nursing sister as either a surgeon or a physician. This is a suitable vocation for a character who has taken the ‘scholarly option’.

Serving brother

Any free man might join the Hospitallers as a serving brother. A serving brother could be a fighter, a forester, a seaman, an adventurer, or even a thief or assassin. This vocation is for a serving brother trained by the Hospitallers.

Attributes: (1) STR, (2) CON

Vocational skills: any combat skills marked ‘K’, 1 language (spoken), Endurance, any 1 Agricultural, Animal husbandry, Animal Training, Vetinary, or Craft & Trade skill, or Cooking.

Secondary skills: Faith, any Vetinary skills, any Materia medica, any Agricultural, Animal husbandry, Animal Training, Vetinary, or Craft & Trade skills, any background skills.


Generate turcopoles in the employ of the Hospitallers as common fighters. Turcopoles were often mounted archers.

Common Languages

The official language of the late crusader states was French, but most of the inhabitants spoke Arabic. Greek is the common language of Cyprus, and Latin is the official language of the Church and the Order of the Hospital. A simple créole of koine Greek, French, and Arabic called ‘Lingua Franca’ is spoken by traders and travellers in the Levant.

Player characters begin with a native language, basic knowledge in one other language, and basic knowledge of the common tongue Lingua Franca.


Member of Order

The only qualification for ordination as member of a holy fighting order is basic knowledge of Latin, and even that is often deferred.

Ordination of an Hospitaller is an Act of Faith that can be performed only by a commander, chaplain priest, or bailiff of the Order.


To be ordained a deacon, a man must be twenty years old, have basic knowledge of Latin, and be able to read Latin script. In point of law he must be neither a bastard nor the son of a priest, but this point is often waived, dispensed, or overlooked.

Ordination of a deacon is an Act of Faith that can be performed only by a bishop.


To be ordained a priest, a man must be 24, have basic knowledge of Theology, have basic knowledge of Latin, and be able to read Latin script. In point of law he must be neither a bastard nor the son of a priest, but this point is often waived, dispensed, or overlooked.

Ordination of a priest is an Act of Faith that can be performed only by a bishop.

Much Ado About Gehennum

An R-rated Comedy

Let’s get a few things straight right to begin with. When I call this campaign a comedy I use the word in its antiquated technical sense. The campaign will be free of any deep theme, it will be aimed at amusing rather than at edifying, it will involve the incidents of everyday life rather than of adventure or heroic conflict, and it will feature happy rather than Artistic endings. It will not be aimed at being ‘funny’, nor be driven by jokes or pratfalls. In other words, this is not adventure, high drama, tragedy, satire, or farce. Neither is it picaresque, even though picaresque is a type of comedy. ‘Adventures’ will be about characters getting into scrapes because of their comic quirks, and then getting out of them because they are basically okay people and the audience thinks they deserve to.

As for being R-rated, Gehennum campaigns have a feature nudity, occasional violence, sexual references, and what are quaintly called ‘adult concepts’. Also, they have a tradition of twisting, of perverting, the conventions: In the first campaign the King had had his daughter kidnapped so that his bastard son could rescue her, win her hand, and inherit the Kingdom. This was the Gehennese tribute to the fairy-tale convention of rescuing princesses, and you can expect to see more of this sort of thing.


The setting is Gehennum during the Classical Period: a set of coral-finged tropical islands on a watery fantasy world. The local race resembles the Malays, their culture has borrowed a deal of Classical Greek from the Leshy (Tolkienesque elves). The climate is hot and very wet, the flora and fauna Old-World Tropical (jungle). Technology is somewhere around Classical/Renaissance, with ram-galleys, pike phalanxes, crossbows, compasses, pendulum clocks, telescopes, excellent civil engineering, and fireworks: but no firearms. There is no plains fauna in the World: ergo, no horses.

Gehennum is an united Empire, with a weak Emperor called Regikhord who has an estranged wife called Lesterra and a daughter called Lysandra. Government is executed by a small cabinet and bureaucracy, through provincial overseers. Locally, it is in the hands of the large landowners in the countryside and the burgher democracies in the cities. Important government posts are unpaid, and can only be occupied by the rich. Social class ranges from slaves to the titled nobility, with the most important distinction being that between citzens on one hand, and slaves and free-but-not-citizen ‘metics’ on the other.

The Gehennese set great store by athletic prowess and personal appearance. Gymnastics (athletics, martial arts, swimming, dancing) has equal status with Scholastics (geometry, astronomy, music, rhetoric, dialectic) in formal education, and much higher for people who have not the leisure for schooling.

Gehennese men tend to cloister ‘their’ women if they can. A little more than the Regency English, a little less than the Classical Athenians. This is because of an obsession with cuckolding, not because sex is thought degrading. There is no taboo against homosexuality, and Greek-style pæderasty enjoys regard.

Magic and miracles are not exactly commonplace, but are not treated with great awe either. In particular, the ability of certain powerful spirits to upset the course of nature is not held to have any great ethical significance: ‘Gods’ are worshipped and receive sacrifices, but this is not Gehennese religion. The great questions of ethics, teleology, and metaphysics are addressed by mystery religions and schools of philosophy, not by priests.


The adventures will mostly concern the leisured classes of the populous city of Efyra. Efyra is a provincial capital in the west of Thelmond, the large island which which also supports the Imperial capital of Thekla. Adventures will not necessarily be confined to Efyra.


Player characters should be drawn a little larger than life: think of Benedick (from Much Ado About Nothing) or any character from Gilbert & Sullivan. They should have comic quirks, even amounting to marked character flaws. But these should not be so repellent as to make the characters quite unsympathetic. Aristotle says that comedy is about ugliness, but ugliness without pain. I think that comedy is about people getting what they deserve: in normal comedy fundamentally sound people get out of their scrapes, in picaresque (which this is not) scoundrels are hoist by their own petards.

Of course, the characters must be resident in Efyra (paid by their fathers not to live in Thekla?), and must associate chiefly with the upper classes (eupatridai and merchants). I would like at least one unconventional woman, one officer in the army or navy, one feckless fribble, one Lothario (perhaps terrified of marriage), one young man prone to attacks of True Love (“That was just infatuation… This time its different!”)…

Characters may (should) have extravagant features: I want demigods, avatars of the normally-unviable exemplars, men with wicked twin brothers, youths with leaf-green eyes, swaggering athletics champions, kukrim hustlers, leshy, naiads, ambitious divers, flyer nobles, disguised heirs to noble houses, shapeshifters, bodysnatchers, perhaps a winged sprite, unintentional bigamists…

The characters must all be friends and associates. Not above playing jokes on one another, perhaps, but certain to stand up when needed.

Game System

ForeSight/HindSight. Characters about seven background factors, perhaps plus some whim special abilities. If nothing else, a character should have a cute magical possession or trained intelligent pet (familiar?).

1 Like

These are fascinating, but longer than I suspect many of my players would be willing to read, especially if they all came up at once in a “which do you feel like playing next” manner.

They were a strictly one-at-a-time thing. I used them to recruit players for campaigns that I had prepared, not, as @whswhs does, to choose what campaigns to run.

Yes, and the difference of purpose is evident; I wouldn’t give players nearly so much information in inviting them to pick which campaign to run in. On the other hand, one purpose I don’t have is persuading people that they want to game with me at all; I always had a substantial population of people who had decided in advance that they would do so if I could find room for them. If I were trying to recruit players from a more general population, I expect I might give them more information, rather than expecting them to trust me to decide those things once they signed up.

But I do have to say this seems a surprising amount of information. I do give players that much in most campaigns, but some of it goes in to what I call a “campaign protocol”: A document spelling out what rules I use, how I intend to change them, what player characters will be like under those rules, and so on. It almost seems as if you are telling people how to create characters as a way of getting them to play. Have you found that essential, or useful, or has it been a hindrance to people reading your prospectuses? Or perhaps both?

Perhaps we need a terminology for functions - say, the thing that gets players hooked, the world briefing, who the PCs are and what they’ll be doing, and the actual character generation notes. Not all campaigns have these as formal documents, and of course they’re often combined.

Do “get the players hooked” and “give the players something to vote for and against” count as the same thing? Or do we need an added item in the list?