Personal Great White Whales

Anyone else have gaming ambitions they’ve been pursuing or dragging along for years without ever quite getting around to marking them off the list?

For me it’s running some proper HERO System adventures: Champions, Justice Inc, Fantasy… I dabbled when the fourth edition came out (a frightening number of years ago) but we did little more than make characters and run some of the mechanics. Since then something (possibly even something in my head) has always got in the way and I’ve managed nothing more than playing in a couple of sessions.

HERO fascinates me. It has an amazingly simple core, but there’s an awful lot of other stuff… Rules and I struggle to get along. I’m probably just worried about my friends not enjoying the game, but I’m determined to get there eventually.

How about you?


I have several vague notions of campaigns that have been sitting around not getting run for a while. Something swashbuckling on Yrth (“Pirates of the Ring Islands”). Something in the recognisable ruins of modern civilisation.

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I would still like, someday, to run a campaign of Wraith: The Oblivion. I never had any luck selling my circle of players on it.

I would like to write, as a GURPS supplement, a campaign book for the covert supers genre exemplified by the Wold Newton material, League of Extraordinary Gentlement, and Planetary. Probably with a dash of the Laundry Files for flavor, though I don’t think Stross’s treatment of supers is very good—he’s just not enough in tune with the source material.

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Years ago, I made 22 Blood Bowl teams out of cubes and two pitches, hoping to get a tournament going, but there doesn’t seem to be sufficient interest locally.


The feeling I got from The Annihilation Score was that his knowledge of comics conventions had been formed by the 1980s and hadn’t really moved on since. I’m not much of a comics fan, but it seemed remarkably old-fashioned to me.

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Castle Falkenstein is the number one for me. I’ve tried to run and play it at least six times and it’s never come together.

I really like Talislanta and haven’t gotten to do enough with that fantasy one off.

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Nobilis. I own every major edition in print. Even the one from Pharos Press. It’s an incredible read. The ideas are heady, the writing amazing, the potential…:chefkiss:

I don’t think I remotely have the chops to run it. I am not that wildly creative, that mythic, that lettered. The freedom is paralyzing, also. I’ve only ever had one other person offer to run it. We created characters. That’s as far as it got.


I have Nobilis on my shelves and plan to keep it, for the sake of its marvelous aesthetics (I don’t remember which edition, but I think it’s a book with pages much wider than the usual 8.5 inches, with some really elaborate art). But I don’t plan ever to run it. I’ve thought about the mythology embedded in it, and something about it is repugnant to me; it’s not a world I could want to inhabit in imagination. Nonetheless I admire it aesthetically.

The game I love for the freedom it gives me is Mage: The Ascension, second edition (the original second edition, not the revised one, which I see as systematically undertaking to cut back everything that made the game wonderful). I’ve run two campaigns, one set in London in 1905 and one in Hong Kong at the time of the Chinese takeover.

I have so many great white whales that it’s a wonder that I have any limbs left.

  1. I think the one that has been eluding me longest is to set some high adventure and glamorous intrigue on a version of the habitable Mars we believed in from Lowell until Mariner, the Mars described in my grandmothers’ Handbook and Atlas of Astronomy and further elaborated by Burroughs, Heinlein, and S.M. Stirling. I have sent PCs there by guncotton rocket in 1896. I have had them transported by a malfunctioning secret weapon from Flanders in 1917. I have had them stumble through mystical portals in the rainforest of western Brazil. But they keep having TPKs, or the technology and timetable for international PBVC doesn’t work out, or driving to Newcastle every month ends up to much of a chore. I really don’t think that there is anything wrong with the idea.

  2. I have a plan for a campaign consisting of the munchhausenades of a group of elderly professors emeriti who occupy the best corner of the faculty club at Walpurgis University. The idea is that each adventure should start with a frame story in which an NPC rushes into the faculty club to relate a bizarre experience, and that the PCs, in their nonagenarian phase, should try topping that with a reminiscence of past adventure until the group settles on one that everyone wants to play, and that that should then be played out as a flashback. There would be a convention that the PCs were students before WWI, assistant and associate professors in the the Cliffhangers era, and full departmental chairs after WWII. This campaign would feature negative continuity, and might be best suited for one of those newfangled narrative games that young people seem so fond of these days — but I have always backed myself to run it in ForeSight.

  3. My original idea for my usual SF RPG setting (Flat Black) was always that it was meant for groups of PCs visiting the various planets-of-the-week on private business, and therefore confronting the bizarre societies and malignant governments on a personal level. But I have somehow fallen into the habit of almost always running campaigns for Imperial servants going about official business. I’d rather like to run a campaign in which the PCs were, rather, a team of clandestine effectives of some interstellar non-government organisation, and I really hanker to run a campaign for a group of unscrupulous “artifact acquisition agents” striving to make sure that all the things that belong in a museum end up in a well-funded collection on some wealthy planet, for an appropriate fee.

  4. I have an elaborate plan to do “Star Trek done right” in my usual SF setting Flat Black, which involves four or five players each playing four or five characters — one each in the ship’s naval crew, the marines contingent, the diplomatic party, the Survey team of first-contact experts, and the senior-officers group that advises the captain. The idea is that every player gets a part to play in every phase of a first-contact story, and that everyone gets a voice in the decision-making while still able to play a lowly something-or-other sometimes.


I ran a Lowellian Mars campaign for a group of players in the Inland Empire, using the Dying Mars chapter in GURPS Mars. (A setting that always seems to me to have a flavor of D&D fantasy, with the various Martian races having evident correspondences to elves, men, hobbits, dwarves, and orcs.) I thought it went reasonably well as a “short subject” introduction to GURPS.

I kind of like the full Lowellian solar system, where the terrestrial planets are different ages, based on the cooling of the sun: Mercury is like the very early volcanic Earth, Venus is a swampy Carboniferous world, Mars is an ancient, dying planet foreshadowing Earth’s future, and the asteroids have gone all the way to death and broken up, perhaps. (One of my fancies is to have a baby with superhuman powers found in suspended animation in the asteroids . . .) Of course that leaves open the question of how the gas giants fit in, though I seem to recall reading one account that took them as a different class of bodies, intermediate between stars and planets, sort of as if they were all brown dwarfs.

H.G. Wells gave us a different Lowellian Mars, and C.S. Lewis gave a counter to it with the Lowellian solar system of his space trilogy. And I think Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” might be read as a farewell to Lowellian Mars as it was ceasing to be credible. It’s really quite a strong trope.

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I, also. But I think it calls for space travel in rocketships etc., rather than mysterious translations.

Isaac Asimov had a version of it in his “Lucky Starr” series.

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The moons of the gas giants could then be similarly “young” or “old” based on their own orbital distance.


I’ve been lucky with my GMing and playing - although nowadays I mostly just relax with RPGs, I’ve had hugely memorable gaming experiences that were satisfying on many levels, and most which crept up on me rather than being planned experiences. Consequently, as far as RPGs go, I don’t really have ambitions or worries in this department.

My white whales are more boardgaming related - I’d love to have an intense full day or weekend with a group of friends playing a heavy board game like Twilight Imperium, Cthulhu Wars, or a group that I could play through a Gloomhaven campaign with. I’d also like to be in a situation where gaming face to face was more feasible (baring global catastrophes etc.). It strikes me I’m not very ambitious, but I’m very lucky in having a group that if I want to try something, they’ll just let me experiment on them.


In terms of how people apparently thought back then, that could be plausible, at least for larger bodies like the Galilean moons. But I haven’t encountered any such suggestions in the reading I’ve done, so it would probably be necessary to make up the details.


I’d like to play Race for the Galaxy again, or Settlers of Catan . . .

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Das Schwarze Auge, die Borbarad Kampagne This is one whale we had nearly caught and… then our group of 17 years disbanded over … growing up and having stressful jobs. I have to add that we made it well over a decade into our working lives and still managed to play once a week! But at some point stress caught up with us (and other stuff happened and killed the campaign–I lost a server with a lot of data on it and my backup process was broken and so I lost the data as well, 2017 was a bad summer… so I played a lot of Pokemongo to compensate)

My partner had spent many years crafting a prequel to the campaign with the PCs angering the gods and saving the world and becoming the biggest heroes of the realm. Then the heroes retired and we all made new characters who were somehow connected to this group–a bit like their apprentices (my second character was in fact the apprentice of my original character as I keep playing wizards). It was all going to be epic beyond epic…

The ending without a finale was a bit sad especially for my partner because he had been working on that whole thing (after playing that campaign himself in the 90s) for years and it took us so long to get there and then it dies just before the end. Although at our speed it would have taken another 3 years of playing.

Nevertheless I have great memories of this campaign. My original character was named Yashima and I could talk for hours of the adventures that group had. The in-jokes from the campaign will survive for many years to come.

Maybe–at some point we get to revive the thing. I don’t know.

As for other games:

  • I’ve always wanted to run another game of Unknown Armies after finishing my first campaign. I only own 2nd edition because I lost track of the game and nearly fell over backwards when I saw that collector’s edition of 3rd in Quinns’ collection.
  • I’ve been wanting to run a one-shot of Schlock Mercenary because I adore the web-comic and the RPG seems pretty slick and funny.
  • I never got to run the Vampire:tM Giovanni Chronicles
  • There is a second edition Exalted book glaring at me from the shelf. We had a blast with a 1st edition campaign but the DM moved away and that was that… it was the only time ever I played a character that wasn’t the most intelligent (wizard) ever and it was such great fun not having to be smarter than I am… Liannah had a giant sword and she had one easy solution to just about every problem. I had never before known how great roleplaying is when you don’t have to be smart all the time. So I bought 2nd edition and there it is sitting…

Right now I lack the time and energy to get together a group for any of these. These days, I play a lot more board games…

PS: also I bought Dune the boardgame at last year’s SPIEL… I doubt I get to play it before the movie releases… but I really really want to.


We did run Dune as a pbf once…


I still have first edition and have never gotten people to play it. It never seemed worth buying later editions . . .


Our Exalted campaign was tons of fun possibly because two groups of friends came together and we all just knew the DM. We came from two different RPG backgrounds but for some reason the chemistry of the group was fabulous.

Anyway, years earlier we had played Feng Shui for a while (different group) and in Exalted the stunts and speed of Feng Shui came together with the easy D10 system all the White Wolf games have/had (? I haven’t seen any recent editions of anything) and we all liked due to its simplicity in comparison with our fantasy campaigns. The DM had some knowledge of the anime/manga style that Exalted tries to channel and it was just an all around fun experience based around epic combat and the incredible powers of the Exalted characters.

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I was in on the kickstarter for this and haven’t had an opportunity to give it a go yet either. I drifted away from the comic about four years ago but I remember it fondly and read archives occasionally.

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