Call of Cthulhu, (Victorian, 1890, Dickensian, Weird) “The Right Man For The Job, or Welcome to Castorhage”
Classic CoC, Victorian-era gentlemen and ladies properly going about the sordid business of saving the planet. Steampunk flavor, but with a twist: the city of Castorhage is a pseudo-London in which undead, near-human and non-human sentient species live cheek-by-jowl with Victorian humanity. It’s London but different, by way of a combination of Richard Pett and China Mieville. Think Downton Abbey crossed with Naked Lunch, with me trying out an interesting variety of British accents. Swordcanes, pistols at dawn, giant amoebas, vampires in the pub, that sort of thing. We can use old school CoC rules or some amalgam of CoC, PF1/3.5 and 5E.
D&D 5E (Greyhawk), “A Sky Afire” D&D 5E (Greyhawk, Evil Campaign), “A Dish Best Served Cold”
5E is THE game of choice for a new generation and while I’m familiar with the wireframes, I would like to delve a bit more into the ruleset. If it’s D&D, then there’s only one setting for me: classical Greyhawk. Both of these campaign ideas are APs, one for good characters, one for evil.
A Sky Afire: As the new year dawns, weather across the lands takes a sudden chill turn. The sky darkens with the shades of oncoming winter, and worry rises as regular channels of communication between nations suddenly cease. Slowly, throughout the lands claimed by the Great Kingdom, rumors spread between isolated villages, traveling by foot and horse and word of mouth, rumors that Ivid V, the immortal emperor whose armies conquered every land he set his gaze upon, has fallen in a distant land to the east. How the tyrant was defeated is unknown, but if it is true, everyone knows that a war is coming. The generals of Ivid V will strike for control, oppressed peoples will rise up in rebellion, and dangers once held in check only by fear of the immortal emperor will bring doom to the world. Those in power are preparing for the coming conflict, readying fervent armies and powerful weapons and subtle, deceptive plots, but two questions burn in their minds: who killed the immortal Ivid V; and what has become of the artifact that would let a man rule the world? Who has the Torch of the Burning Sky?
A Dish Best Served Cold: Cardinal Thorn fled to the savage north and, guided by his devil-god, met another follower of Asmodeus — a great black-furred bugbear war chief named Sakkarot. Thorn would gain Sakkarot’s allegiance by crafting him an infernal weapon — an axe made of hellfire. There in exile, Cardinal Thorn conceived how to gain vengeance and to fulfill his oath. He laughed long, loud and terrible in his icy sanctum when he realized that his plan might just work. Cardinal Thorn quickly determined that no matter how powerful he may be, he cannot undertake this intricate plan alone. He needed minions! He has decided to gather bands of followers who can each be given individual assignments and will know little of each other. He will have nine of these ’knots’ as he calls them, one for each circle of Hell. At the campaign’s start, he has already gathered eight. He seeks now a ninth — the Nessian Knot. This knot shall be more elite and ruthless than any of the others. He will recruit this knot from the region’s most infamous jail — the prison Branderscar.
Traveller Black Books (Solomani Rim) “Aboard the Gin And Tonic”
Traveller was one of the first big-time space rpgs, and I used to play it a lot back on high school. “You haven’t played until you’ve died during character creation” is their motto (and it’s because you can literally die during character creation, if you’re unlucky). But I’d always wanted to eschew the fictional Traveller universe and do one set in real space. Real stars, real distances – more Outland than Dune. I worked intermittently for decades on it, but no one ever wanted to play it. As the ragtag crew of the heavy freighter Gin And Tonic you ply the spacelanes ferrying cargo, carrying passengers, and finding adventures.
D20 Modern (Pathfinder/3.5 or Cypher System, No Magic, Top Secret), “Spies Like Us” D20 Modern (Pathfinder/3.5 or Cypher System, Yes Magic, Cthulhunic), “Protean”
Spies Like Us: Back in the days of the Cold War, the lines were clear: US versus USSR, capitalist versus communist, East versus West. Today, there are no lines. Corporations act like countries, countries act like beggars, patriots act like criminals and criminals wrap themselves in whatever flag they think will protect them. All the old rules, all those gentleman’s agreements and unwritten codes, have gone the way of the dodo and the public phone booth. But two things still remain constant – money and power. You’ve got skills, you’ve got influence, you’ve got enemies but now? Now you’ve got an employer. It’s nice to be able to put those hard-won talents and contacts to good use and pay the bills again… but who is it paying the bill?
Protean: The world you see every day is not the world that exists. The world you see, it’s normal, it’s sensible, it’s… real. But it’s not. Underneath the shell you see every day, all the things they told you about in fairy tales, that you read about in myths and ancient books and horror stories — that’s real. , vampires, magic – everything. It’s all real. That’s one thing. Here’s another: a billionaire just hired the world’s foremost sorcerer to do something and no one knows what. But the billionaire owns a particle accelerator, a crewed satellite in a very interesting part of geosynchronous orbit, and a scientist whose age is roughly estimated at 2,800 years. Your job: find out what’s going on, and put a stop to it.
Numenera (Cypher System), “The Tale of the Jade Mountain”
Installations surviving from before previous wars are scattered everywhere. Travelers speak of strange silhouettes on distant horizons, such as the Amber Monolith and the Obelisk of the Water God. What looks like a mountain or a cliff might actually be an ancient structure weathered by time. The very landscape is literally a collection of ruins upon shattered ruins that seem like nothing more than odd-looking hills or valleys. Five years ago, one that was hidden revealed itself, waking after aeons of somnolence. The land screamed and shuddered as the moon eclipsed the sun. After the tremors subsided and the day crept back, something enormous was revealed. A massive new structure, many miles in diameter, had burst up through the ground. It was expelled—or moved under its own power?—to the world’s surface. It was the Jade Mountain.
Cyberpunk 2020 1E (Talsorian, late 80s-early 90s), “Turn Out The Lights When You Leave/Rockerboy Elegy”
The sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel…He ounched deck for anyone with the New Yen, thick sheaves of it wrapped in corporate band given to you to burn holes through through dense corporate ice… ICE, from Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics, the stuff that surrounds and protects data on the net. She dealt in street pharma, synthesized drugs and fresh biologicals so new they might not even have been illegal. He was a corporate kidnapper, stealing the best and brightest minds from one zaibatsu and handing them over to another. She was a razorgirl, street samurai jacked up on adrenachrome and ready to light up your face if you looked at her wrong. Someone’s put them together fora mission: kidnap one synthtar star and bring him to Shinjuku. Alive, “Undamaged,” said the chip-voice in the cellphone, flat as a strap. “He has… something we need.”