Thursday, February 28, 2008

Twisted Expectations

It should be fairly obvious reading over this gaming blog that I'm a big fan of Alternative Settings that are at once familiar, yet also twist the player's expectations around to keep them off-balance.
  • I've done a variety of alternate Ambers, mostly taking place at somepoint in the midst of the first 5 novels, and then diverting drastically. I've never done "Brand won" but I have cast Brand as a good guy a few times, vs Random and/or Eric and/or Bleys and Fiona as the villains. I've dragged reincarnation into the setting once or twice, and based entire plotlines on how abusive Oberon was when the "elders" were children.

  • Using a similar trick to that I've done repeatedly in Amber, I once ran a Star Wars campaign set in the week before Episode IV. I few sessions in, Princess Leia told the PCs the tale of how when ObiWan died, Luke raged and turned to the dark side. Yavin blew up the next session, and Han Solo went off to settle his debt with Jabba. The PCs were left to shoulder the Alliance's burdens themselves, while the evil Skywalker's hunted them.

  • I transformed an Amber campaign into an Everway campaign when the PCs failed to stop the villain and a reality storm swept across the cosmos. All the PCs died, and only one NPC from the old game remained in the new universe.

  • I bisociate on all cylinders in my current Scion campaign, so the PCs have a hard time knowing which history is real. They just spent two sessions fighting Angels and Ghosts (Celtic, Greek, Turkish and Parisian) on an island that was a self-contradicting blend of Trojan Myth and Grail Legend.

  • Stretching back a few decades, I recall a late-80s Elfquest campaign where I ran an alternate divergent tale of Cutter's quest. I guess this was the first occurance of the trick I'd later use in Amber - start "in media res" in the middle of (or shortly before) an existing story, and then make dramatic changes to the plot as the story goes on.

  • Hearts of Darkness, my multi-year LARP, was a clearly "alternate history" game. We started in 1850, in a Camarilla-less version of Vampire: The Masquerade that purposefully twisted all the "secrets" of the V:TM setting. Giovanni/Cappodocians, werewolves, and Salubri/Baali were three areas that I took great pleasure in distorting. Every couple of months we'd jump the story ahead by 10 years, and Albuquerque grew to rival New York. Eventually, PC activity led to the repudiation of The Masquerade and the open revelation of the supernatural to mortals.

  • Montaigne-based 7th Sea with heavy reincarnative plot-threads and some departures involving The Bargainers, the Sidhe, and the Syrneth.
The list goes on. I really like taking the familiar and corrupting the details.

No comments: