Episode 108: Being Wealthy and a Bastard

This month, Roger and Mike look for inspiration for a new campaign, and look into a very old-fashioned one.

We mentioned: Liminal at the Bundle of Holding (until 8 December), Indie Cornucopia 9 at the Bundle of Holding (until 13 December), Unknown Armies, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Restoration Britain, A GAMBLING MAN: Charles II and the Restoration by Jenny Uglow, GURPS Alternate Earths 1 GURPS Alternate Earths 2, GURPS Infinite Worlds, Sliders, Empire of the Petal Throne, the West Marches campaign (and further reading), Earthdawn, Five Man Band, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Madame Sara, Quantum Leap, Domdaniel, GURPS Action, (Stoddard prospectus article?), GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, CSI, GURPS Torg, Dungeon Fantasy RPG, Pathfinder, Cold Shard Mountains, Norđlond Bestiary (until 8 December), Roger’s Inkscape-based VTT, and Foundry VTT.

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).

Music by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com.


I haven’t finished the episode, so I apologize if this was discussed.

One option for the world / timeline / reality-hopping campaign is that the PCs are custodians cleaning up someone else’s mess. They could be working for a patron or organization, but that brings into question if their bosses are on the up-and-up. They could just be big gorram heroes; perhaps only they(!) know what’s going on and only they(!) can fix the problems. Or maybe the PCs are baddies…

  • They could be going back in time to set history right (ala Quantum Leap).
  • They could be collecting shards of a corrupting artifact that shattered into N pieces and scattered. The number of sessions of the campaign is equal to N plus a grand finale episode.
  • They could be chasing down nefarious villains and have to undo the harm they left in their wake.

Each world could have its own challenge and quirk requiring different skills, etc. It’s very episodic, but it should probably lead to a climax in which the PCs fix the root cause of the problem, assemble all the pieces, and/or turn on their patrons. Yes, The Key to Time did come to mind writing this.

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Player-characters visiting a universe of the week on behalf of a suitable patron, they might have engram sockets and be issued with plug-in memory modules to enable them with and necessary languages and moderately well-researched cultural knowledge. Or RNA memory grafts.

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I think the window of societies between strangers/travellers being intrinsically suspect and some form of not-readily-forged identification being necessary isn’t all that wide, especially if this is a campaign where the PCs are basically on their own rather than having Infinity Inc. to supply them fake letters of introfuction.

The Pyramid article of mine that you mentioned is “II&E: Helping Form Match Function” from early 2006, fortuitously available as a free sample; follow that link.


To answer one of Mike’s questions from the podcast; Pathfinder doesn’t so much do something new as deliberately not do so.

When D&D 4th edition appeared, as discussed in the podcast, it turned out to be a rather major revision of the game, with a lot of obvious influence from computer games. Pathfinder, being essentially D&D 3.75, is actually rather closer to the popular D&D 3rd edition than is D&D 4. So it hoovered up a lot of customers whose loyalty was more to the old game than to its publisher or the trademark.

Yes, I should have mentioned that aspect from the user side as well as the licence change from the publisher side as reasons that D&D4 wasn’t popular.

Does anyone have numbers to show how unpopular D&D4 was? Surely it would have done better had Pathfinder not existed and directly targeted the D&D3.x fanbase. I know gamers who switched from D&D to Pathfinder, but I also know gamers who started with D&D4. I’m sure the former outweigh the latter, but is there any hard data on it?

I’ve not seen any. I was mostly hanging around with people who already knew games, which would bias my experience.

I remember Wizards saying with great fanfare “and we’ll write an automatic DM so that you can all go on an adventure and nobody has to sit out and run it”, which seemed to me to be comprehensively missing the point. (Also they never got it working.)

“Automatic DM” could work in the context of tabletop adventure board games which seem to be exploding in popularity. But once you want to have a conversation with an NPC, it no longer works. Indeed, the defining characteristic of a roleplaying game is that you spend some time (at least) speaking as your character, in-character. This is absent not only from board games, but also some D&D tables.

Yeah, I think this was the edition that had a whole paragraph on “role-playing” - which came down to “the dwarf can talk about ale a lot and do funny voices”. Not that that was ever a core feature of the game, but…

But this is my whole role playing strategy!

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