RPGs that might have been

Yashima’s comment on “Your current RPG campaigns” started me thinking about campaigns I proposed in the past, but never got enough player interest in to justify running them. Here’s a sampler, from my past list of game choices:

___Heartland: During the era of Prohibition, the United States sees a secret war between two factions: the Mafia, covertly allied with the Roman Catholic Church, and the vampire-dominated nativists of the Ku Klux Klan. Player characters will be anti-vampire agents of the Mafia. High combat with lots of blood shed, in more senses than one. Rules system: GURPS, Big Eyes Small Mouth, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

–––Ashes, Ashes: Ghosts of 21st century people haunting the ruins of human civilization try to inspire the survivors to rebuild. Characters will have supernatural powers fitting their existence among the restless dead. Play will emphasize their struggle with despair, both as a force within their own minds and as a feature of their environment. Each player will assume the role both of a ghost and of the self-destructive shadow aspect of another player’s character. The environment will be created largely by the players’ choices. Rules system: Wraith: The Oblivion.

___Heaven’s Pearl. The ‘verse isn’t all hardscrabble colonies and tramp spaceships. The Pearl of Great Price is a luxury spaceliner travelling between the core worlds and whatever less developed worlds have sights worth looking at. Each player will have two characters: A ship’s officer, and one of the subcontractors who keep the passengers entertained out in the black. There won’t be much fighting, but lots of minor crises and intrigues; technical and especially social skills will count for more than combat. Source material: Firefly and Serenity ; Starman Jones ; The Wreck of The River of Stars. Rules system: Big Eyes Small Mouth.

____ Mad Science High: Students at a magnet school for weird science study things that man was not meant to know, invent radical new devices, and try to cope with eccentric teachers and scheming classmates. Storylines will mix action/adventure with personal relationships; style will be light but not absurdist. Rules system: Big Eyes Small Mouth.

____ And Tell the Truth: Adventures in a land where men are taught to ride well, shoot straight, and tell the truth: Ancient Persia. A campaign of the frontier, where landowners have to guard their livestock against predatory beasts and wild Scythians, and uphold the Zoroastrian values of truth and justice. The supernatural will be present and will operate according to Zoroastrian dualism, with practitioners having to choose magia (based on truth) or goetia (based on illusion). Rules system: GURPS.

_____ Omicron Polypi. Hard science fiction. Big Eyes Small Mouth. Slower-than-light interstellar travel brought colonists to a remote solar system, eighty years ago. Their descendants have spread out over five planets, linked by a small fleet of spacecraft. On the original ship, now an orbital habitat, young people come together for training as “truck drivers”—operators for space vehicles. Play will focus partly on the ongoing accumulation of skills and work experience, which will provide dramatic incidents; and partly on personal relationships among students and the cultural divergences and political tensions that surround them. Source material: Space Cadet and The Rolling Stones, by Robert Heinlein; Jupiter Project, by Gregory Benford; Learning the World, by Ken MacLeod; Planetes.

___ Blows against the Empire. Martial arts fantasy. Run in GURPS. The armies of the king of Qin are threatening all the other kingdoms with conquest—but defenders of freedom have sprung up to resist him. Player characters will be knightly warriors, masters of mysterious elemental powers, and practitioners of advanced science and technology in an alternative early China where Taoist natural philosophy is scientifically accurate. Play will focus on action and adventure, cinematically presented, but will be framed in Chinese cultural and ethical ideas of the Superior Man (or Woman). Mechanics will include the material I worked out for GURPS Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers —which I hope will be out by the time the campaign starts!

___ Fronteira. Naturalist science fiction. Run in GURPS. In the mid-23rd century, humanity has colonized and begun terraforming Mars. Player characters will be residents of one of Mars’s largest cities, at the base of the orbital elevator on Pavonis Mons, built and operated by a Brazilian megacorporation. All characters will be human colonists with no more than minor genetic or cybernetic upgrades; the setting will be somewhat conservative technologically, with no prospect of a Singularity. Play will not be scenario-based but will make up one continuing storyline, exploring the physical and cultural setting and the relationships among the characters as they work to survive, prosper, and cope with emergencies in a sometimes lethally hostile environment.

(I’ve had a lot of other ideas, but (a) I remain fond of these and (b) I’ve never gotten to run them.)

So what are campaign ideas the rest of you have played with but not been able to run?


The one that comes to mind is Never Let Them See You Bleed. Early in 2014 I was thinking that while most of the gross and obvious elements of cyberpunk RPGs had obviously not happened (Blade Runner flying cars, bionics better than the original, virtual reality as a cracking tool) there was still a strong tendency for corporations to hollow out and control government.

The “dirty grey space game” (unabashed Aliens ripoff) had just come to an end, so I made some notes about how it might go. Lots of surface flash covering up decay underneath.

The players thought it was too depressing, and weren’t interested in playing.

It now looks sadly optimistic.


I always wanted to do a Masquerade style rules RPG based on my favorite comic, Prince Valiant. Early Middle Age (around the fall of the Western Roman Empire), with Norsemen, Knights and some magical creatures, and obviously the Camelot and Thule back setting from the comics, and NPCs as Prince Valiant himself, Merlin, Sir Gawain or Boltar the Norseman Honest Trader.
Main changes were the HPs system, where you had several instead of the only one from the Vampire: Maquerade rule set, and different cultures and professions affecting the player characteristics and skills.

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I don’t remember what this means. Can you remind me?

As much as I remember (I played V:tM in the late 90s early 2000s, please give me some leeway) you had several states of health that you could move back and forwards from, but once you got to the far end, your character died.
I liked the system, but for humans I wanted it to reaching the end meaning a loss of 1 out of 3 or 4 vital points (depending on how strong your character was). As humans don’t have the ability to heal so well as vampires, I think it is more unidirectional (with healing back to “green” taking longer) but it gives a better chance of survival. Obviously the less HPs left, the more your skills and characteristics were affected by it.

Ah. From Mage I think of those as Health levels. Bruised, Hurt, and so on?

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Yes, although I never played Mage. You could say it was a way of split those levels a bit more in a way. Like having 3 or 4 chances at each before you went from Healthy to Bruised, etc… And plus the fact that in Masquerade, they did not affect your skills, as much as I remember, because you’re a vampire, and that’s cool… But here you are playing with humans, and it needed to be reflected somehow.
Anyway, that was the main rule change. Anything else was pretty similar. Perhaps I should have read Mage, though…

Though mages were theoretically human, they were actually a lot harder to hurt or dominate than mundane humans.

Is that from the inherent wonderfulness of being a mage, or powers that everybody gets? The idea that you can wield vast cosmic forces but you are still a mere blob of protoplasm, so you probably want to build your defences first, has some appeal.

(Concept-adjacent to “if you don’t visualise it right, lifting that car with magic will instead lever your brain out of your skull.”)

I don’t think it’s really made clear; I don’t recall ever seeing an explanation. I think there’s an obvious rationale for saying that mages have unusually strong wills; I don’t see any reason they should be harder to damage physically, except maybe the game designers wanting to keep PCs alive.

It makes sense that they have to be above the average human… if not… even though it can be useful in a RPG, it sucks a bit…


I bought the new edition, convinced myself it was amazing, never got it started.

Even wrote out scenarios. Mainly based on puns. (Because thats what paranoia is.)


I got a cemetery of Legend of the Five Rings books at my parents house back in Spain. All 7 clans. One adventure book. The main rule book.
Played once, one evening session. That’s it.

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As a teenager I fleshed out quite an elaborate fantasy/cyberpunk world in which all the “cyber” elements were powered by blood magic - in fact, all magic was powered by blood and the main setting was a kind of technocratic mage empire. Meanwhile, vampires were essentially bloodless and could never incorporate such prostheses, so they lived in parasitic conflict with this society.

I’m sure someone else must have published something like this by now? It hardly seems original, but I’m sure I didn’t nick the idea wholesale 25 years ago when I was developing it.

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I would have loved to have run a sci-fi campaign with my school friends based on either Blake’s 7 or Space 1999 although we were too busy having fun with the West End Games D6 version of Star Wars to play many other space settings. We did very briefly dabble with FASA’s Star Trek and Doctor Who but Star Wars was more fitting for our group. I’m not sure what systems would have fitted those campaigns best though.

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It is a matter of public record that I love Space 1999. What an amazing rpg idea!


The physics is utter rubbish, but if you grant the impossibility, the basic idea (“we pass a new planet, and have to decide quickly whether this is going to be our new home”) is a solid one. And the production is great.


(Plus the original theme tune is great.)

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If you ever want to sell it on, I’d consider it!

(Pdf only I’m afraid!)