A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

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Gladius
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A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Gladius » Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:51 pm

I was listening to an older episode of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff (aside: If you haven’t given this podcast a listen, it’s great stuff!) and had something of a brainstorm. They were talking about the modular nature of campaigns like Masks and how many of the scenarios could be run out of order from each other.

They also talked about ideas for a temporal-based campaign. I’ve talked with friends about this idea before, that you could run several linked scenarios with different characters at different eras in time, with each scenario linked either by documents left from the earlier characters (e.g., in 1920s Arkham the players play a scenario and leave a diary with their notes, and it’s discovered by modern day characters from Arkham, who then play the next linked scenario).

This also made me remember something about, I believe, Gatsby & the Great Race run at a convention with 3 or 4 different groups (in separate rooms) running the same scenario at the same time. Players started getting swapped between groups (for various reasons) in “alternate realities” and could bring information into the new group that they discovered in their other group. This has been hanging around in the back of my mind as something I’d love to do some day.

So here’s the brainstorm: what if you ran several different groups through a modular campaign like Masks, at the same time? You could allow the groups to send brief messages to each other from time to time (telegrams, letters, brief radio transmissions) with critical information that could help each other out and tie the larger story together.

Now, this would be interesting, but pretty hard for a single Keeper to do. You’d need a larger player pool, and it would be a lot of prep and planning for a single Keeper to keep all the different characters straight in their minds and give them a good experience. But what if you did it with multiple Keepers, to spread the workload? And with the rise of gaming over google/skype, finding enough players to do this would be easier.

Calling back to the Gatsby & the Great Race example, at some point you could even switch players/mix the groups up, or have guest appearances by a player in another group (e..g, Professor Ipswitch returns from Egypt to recover from his wounds in Arkham. While he’s there he can download a lot of information to the group that remained behind to continue the investigation in the US).

Has anyone done anything like this before, or know of a good campaign that would work for this type of setup? It would probably require a good bit of coordination between the Keepers, but it would allow a big group of players to play through a larger campaign in a shorter period of time. I think it could be a pretty interesting experience...

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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:20 pm

It sounds absolutely awesome. Masks would be ideal for it, but more linear campaigns like Horror on the Orient Express or Beyond the Mountains of Madness would not work so well.

And what about combining the temporal aspect and the multiple-group aspect? One party plays out a Viking mini-campaign, another covers what happens in the Colonial era, and yet another picks up the story in the classic 20s era. Some clues survive independently of what other groups do, but some evidence could surface as the actions of PCs in previous eras becomes clear. If you wanted to do some swapping of players, you could have characters appear in later eras that are a descendant of the previous ones.

"Hello, I am Doctor Von Gerard, the great-great grandson of Heinrich Von Gerard. I have inherited his journals, and I hear you may have some use for them..."
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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Gladius » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:30 pm

Yes, that's it exactly. Although you could do that with a single group of players, playing the descendants, I think it would be pretty hard for some people not to metagame and use the information they know about from the first scenario in the second - your idea of running multiple groups at the same time would avoid that, if you're playing the great-great-grandson, the only information you have are the journals he left behind.

The only issue with this is that you might want the Viking group to finish up their game before the Colonial group...but now that I think about it, you could still do this as a bit of investigative work uncovering the clues in the order they were left by the previous group. Archaeologists don't always dig up artifacts in the order they were deposited, after all...

Either of these methods would be an interesting project to take on. Just need a game/campaign that would work...too many people have either read or played Masks, unfortunately...

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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by EddyPo » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:39 pm

Gladius wrote:Yes, that's it exactly. Although you could do that with a single group of players, playing the descendants, I think it would be pretty hard for some people not to metagame and use the information they know about from the first scenario in the second - your idea of running multiple groups at the same time would avoid that, if you're playing the great-great-grandson, the only information you have are the journals he left behind.

Either of these methods would be an interesting project to take on. Just need a game/campaign that would work...too many people have either read or played Masks, unfortunately...
Red Eye of Azathoth does a lot of what you are describing. It is a multi- temporal campaign played in five different eras. I don't remember if the investigators have familial ties to the investigators before them in each chapter, but there is some kind of spiritual connection. They might even be reincarnates of the previous PCs, and retain some vestigial memory of the past eras.

It's an interesting idea.
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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Dr. Gerard » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:50 pm

Cool, I'll have to check out Red Eye. It would be complicated but very interesting. You could do it in a round; have the Vikings play one session, and then pass the new information, along with core clues that don't change, to the Colonial group when they play their first session, and then have the next group play their first session. You could also have information passed backwards in time, either by having new Viking-era information pop up that completes a timeline from the future, or by having some kind of temporal communication available that would operate by its own interesting rules.

But I'm pretty sure an actual Hound of Tindalos would hunt all of us down just for trying it.

Oh no, I've already said too much...
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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Gladius » Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:54 pm

Just stay away from the corners...Anyone live in a dome home?

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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Dr. Gerard » Fri Oct 18, 2013 4:03 am

Gladius wrote:Just stay away from the corners...Anyone live in a dome home?
Do yurts have corners, technically?
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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Riq » Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:44 pm

I've been planning something like this for Achtung Cthulhu. I've got a lot of players who can't all commit to the same evenings, but might be flexible enough to swap between evenings and scenarios.

The basic premise would be to firstly run character generation all together as a single super-group, with a couple of mates helping as part time keeper / players. This initial scenario would take the form of some kind of military boot camp in game terms, with PCs creating their civilian characters first then taking them through a regimented scenario based in a military training camp. There they would be moved around a lot from mini keeper to mini keeper (PCs who also help manage sections of the game) , with each one covering a specific training option :- from shooting ranges to strategy and tactics class rooms, and from demolitions fields to unarmed combat and sparring sessions... Etc. the mini keeper would take the role of a drill sergeant and introduce that set of PCs to a specific bit of military training. Once completed (the PCs make the right rolls and gain an extra few percentage points in whichever skill they're learning) the PCs move on to the next mini keeper for the next bit of training (combat medic, radio operator, tank gunner, etc etc).

This first session should also include snippets of information relevant to the upcoming campaign, with briefings on enemy deployment and tactics as well as background to specific theatres of operations. Lastly it would also subtly introduce the secret war (as being fought - with a slight nod to the Mythos).

Next up I've got a series of handouts in the form of some choose your own adventures for each of the players to take away with them and read through at their leisure. These mini-games are there to set the tone of the upcoming adventures and fill in space between game sessions (I envisage using this ploy not just here at the beginning, but also between sessions where there's a long gap - think of this as sort of homework, but also as a means of keeping momentum within the game).

The game will then commence with me as sole keeper for the main campaign covering different teams on different nights - though I may delegate smaller teams to meet up on an ad hoc basis with a mini keeper to run through carefully scripted side quests in which the mini keeper should be able to participate as PC as well as keeper (I'm planning this form mini keepers as a designated reader of text and technical rules master, not someone who has to develop the story more than just reading what I've provided - as they go through the adventure with the other PCs).

The game would be run on different nights for different set groups of PCs, with PC cross overs between groups occurring if a PC was to change location or mission etc (and possible communications via encrypted letter from group to group - sharing tidbits of information and clues), the story would call for at least one player from each group to move to a different night's game session at some point during the campaign (though this will depend heavily on player flexibility).

While each group can successfully finalise their part of the bigger campaign without necessarily interacting with any other group, I hope that the mixing and matching will allow cross pollination of ideas, clues and skill sets to enhance the chances of success for each team - without it appearing like I'm giving too much away or (conversely) like crucial detailed stuff is happening elsewhere in another session that players need to be somehow awRe of In order to win the game. Certainly in the overall scheme of things each group's actions within their own gaming sessions could still impact on the other groups (eg one team shooting up an enemy airbase will provide another group with respite from that night's bombing).

Difficulties:

- Timing. Getting the PCs to experience their own unique story lines independently of each other at the same time in game terms... on different nights in real life, could prove tricky, and might require significant forward planning and multi-path non linear script writing.
- Prop, clue, story and NPC management, will need to be handled with considerable care and precision.
- Being able to promptly respond to PCs going off the carefully scripted route I've got planned for them, or alternatively, making sure they stay on message without being straight-jacketed / railroaded by me.
- Keeping abreast of all plot developments, and allowing different teams to progress according to their own individual successes or failures without holding back or speeding up the other groups.

To overcome this I've started a large database on Excel with various macros that respond to player choices for each group. This is still very much a work in progress and takes into account ever realistic choice the PCs could make and link to how each outcome could impact not only their game but the games for the other groups.

In all honesty I'm not sure this is going to work... But if it does this game could be legendary - not for the storyline, as much as for the interoperability between different groups. If successful could work well as convention game fodder too.

I'd love to hear if anyone else has similar or different ideas on this, or if anyone has any helpful suggestions / can see any other big problems etc with what I've planned. I certainly like Gladius' approach of different planes in a temporal based campaign.

Thoughts on that would be a Delta Green game where each different group plays the same Cell and the same pregens with a few significant alterations. Here they're all playing a parallel universes (very similar to the TV series Fringe - with the recent split in dimensions / reality caused by a Mythos entity or event) set in the near future with different Presidents, current affairs etc. between each dimension. Different groups again would play on different nights... here the sole Keeper would play up describing some of the typically mundane things with a repetitive monotony that gently sinks into the PCs subconscious - like repeating the same mantra over and over... Then PCs can be moved around a bit between dimensions in game, and ought to pick up on the subtle background differences. It would also work if - while facing the same seemingly impossible threat in each dimension - each group overcomes a different part of the Mythos threat but gets stuck on other aspects, and only when the PCs make contact can they figure out the whole solution. If one group is doomed its PCs can then focus on trying to help other dimensions by way of (a.) keeping their campaign alive despite the prospect of failure, and (b.) the hope that if enough dimensions can defeat the threat it might not spread.

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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Gladius » Mon Nov 04, 2013 4:32 am

Has anyone run or played in Grace Under Pressure? From what I've read this is a game that needs to be run with two keepers, although the groups need to be in the same physical location.

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Re: A brain storm on multi-group campaigns

Post by Dr. Gerard » Mon Nov 04, 2013 12:00 pm

I have played in a game with a large group and two Keepers, and it was amazing. There are pitfalls, but my experience was incredibly memorable.

Are you planning to run or play in it? I'm reluctant to be too specific because it could be spoiled just by explaining the structure of the game and its trickery.
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