This memo lists campaigns I’d be interested in running. Each idea is ranked against three axes:

  • Politics: how much will you get involved with different factions, which scheme and have non-obvious goals and motivations?

  • Roleplaying: how important is, and how often will you be, interacting and negotiating with NPCs?

  • Self Direction: how much does the campaign rely on you developing your own goals?

I also list published campaigns here. They’re a bit different in that they’re inherently less flexible than something I’m entirely making up, but that doesn’t mean they’re totally inflexible and that player agency is an illusion.

Call of Cthulhu / Pulp Cthulhu

Masks of Nyarlathotep

Your good friend Jackson Elias, an author who infiltrates and writes about cults, contacts you out of the blue in a panic. He says he’s found signs of something big, some sort of conspiracy, but he won’t go into details over a channel which could be tapped. He can’t do this alone and needs a reliable team to help him. He sets a meeting: New York, January 15th, 1925.

You arrive, but are too late. Jackson is dead, freshly murdered. A strange symbol carved into his forehead, a symbol seen in a series of other murders. There’s more here than meets the eye, you don’t know what’s going on, but you do know that Jackson found something. And now he’s dead.

  • Politics: Low
  • Roleplaying: Medium
  • Self Direction: Low

Player buy-in: The player characters have to be motivated to solve the mystery their friend left behind, even at risk of their own lives and sanity. This is a nonlinear campaign which has several major parts with clues pointing between them, and which can be visited in any order: but it’s not static, your actions in any one part of the campaign will have ramifications in other parts. This is a long and detailed campaign, you will have to keep careful notes of clues and discoveries, or you just won’t know what’s going on, and you can expect it to last somewhere between 1 and 2 years.

The Two-Headed Serpent

The year is 1933. In South America, the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay is in full swing. You’ve been employed by a humanitarian charity, the Caduceus Foundation, to deliver medical aid to civilians caught up in the war. Caduceus has flown you to Asuncion in Paraguay, from where you travelled across country, escorting doctors, nurses, and medical supplies to an aid camp deep in the jungle of Gran Chaco.

The truth, which the player characters don’t know at the start, but which their team leader will fill them in on, is that the Caduceus Foundation is a front for an organisation which battles the Cthulhu Mythos. For now, the player characters are just heroes who have volunteered to help a humanitarian charity, but soon they will be pulled into combatting the mythos.

  • Politics: ?
  • Roleplaying: ?
  • Self Direction: ?

Player buy-in: The player characters are a heroic bunch who volunteered to help civilians caught in a war, but don’t bat an eye when it turns out the organisation they joined is actually fighting more than just humans.

OSR

Veinscrawl

The dwarves tunneled into a vast chasm leading deep, deep, down, into a realm which has never seen the light of the sun, and is home to strange peoples and monsters.

Now, months later, a bustling town of adventurers and profiteers has formed along its side. Some trading with the inhabitants, others sending out parties in search of treasure. It’s a new gold rush, who knows what this strange underworld will bring?

  • Politics: Low
  • Roleplaying: Low
  • Self Direction: High

Player buy-in: The player characters are adventurers from the surface who now live in the town, making their living by heading out, exploring, finding new things, and returning triumphant. They are self-directed, interested in exploring for the sake of exploring, and motivated by treasure and discovery.

Traveller

The Traveller Campaign

A sandbox campaign set in the standard Traveller setting. This will probably be in a border region like the Spinward Marches or the Trojan Reach just because I think being set entirely within one of the vast space empires reduces the scope for small-scale interstellar politics: it’s either big-scale dukes-plotting-against-the-emperor kind of thing or power-tripping planetary governments, with nothing in between.

You will have a ship and a mortgage to pay off, or maybe a free ship from someone you owe favours to, and will need to do whatever it takes to meet those obligations. Carrying freight and passengers is easy but kind of dull, seeking out patrons to undertake missions for pay can be better but also risky. You’ll occasionally unintentionally stumble into trouble or adventure. You can follow rumours to find wealth, or maybe just disaster.

  • Politics: ?
  • Roleplaying: ?
  • Self Direction: High

Player buy-in: This is essentially a job- or planet-of-the-week / “do what you want” campaign: I’ll prepare interesting locations, people, rumours, and opportunities, and you engage with whatever seems fun. This campaign can easily transform into a more focussed one if we want.

To Boldly Go

It’s the year 2090AD, the planets of the solar system have long-since been settled and exploited, and are governed by the Planetary Consortium based on Earth, which is essentially a puppet government run by the megacorps.

Everything changed a few years ago, with the invention of the Jump Drive, allowing ships to travel an entire parsec in a mere week. The Planetary Consortium saw this as the solution to the ongoing population crisis and lack of resources, and started constructing and loaning out jump-capable starships to competent crews, funding exploration, prospecting, and research.

Now, there are a few permanent colonies in the closest suitable systems. Further out, there are exploration hubs staffed by semi-permanent crews of outcasts, consortium officials, and explorers. Exploration is dangerous and proceeds slowly, at the cost of many lives. Lucky crews have found bizarre alien creatures, they’ve found resource-rich worlds which one day will be exploited, they’ve found suitable sites for new colonies, and some have even found artefacts and ruins from ancient civilisations. Nobody has found a living intelligent alien species yet, but First Contact is the dream of every explorer.

  • Politics: Low
  • Roleplaying: Medium
  • Self Direction: High

Player buy-in: The player characters are brave (or perhaps just foolhardy) space adventurers. They risk death every time they jump into uncharted space, and are motivated by the thrill of the unknown.

The Pirates of Drinax

Drinax, once a mighty interstellar kingdom but now a bombed-out radioactive husk of a world, lies along two major trade routes and is close to two of the most significant interstellar empires in all of Charted Space: the Aslan Hierate and the Third Imperium.

The current king has an idea to recover some of Drinax’s lost glory. He needs a band of privateers and agents, who can curry favour with worlds once part of the kingdom, and also cause trouble along the trade routes between the Hierate, the Imperium, and the (much smaller) Florian League. No empire is willing to allow another to establish a large permanent military force close to their borders, but they may be willing to delegate the job of policing the space lanes to a newly-reformed kingdom which they could easily squash if it starts trouble.

The king’s plan is to bring the old worlds of the kingdom back under the banner of Drinax, stir up piracy in the region enough that the empires agree something needs to be done, and then use that to get their blessing for a new interstellar state. Of course, if they learn too soon that Drinax is behind the upsurge in piracy, it’ll all fall apart…

  • Politics: High
  • Roleplaying: High
  • Self Direction: Medium

Player buy-in: The player characters have two very different roles: negotiators and space pirates. Both of those have to sound fun. You will be able to (and are encouraged to!) hire other pirates and so could delegate that side of the campaign entirely to others, but it will take a while to get the resources (ships, funds, and crew) to do that. Furthermore, this is a sandbox-style campaign: there are several adventures, but player characters are expected to go above and beyond just those, and will need to think about how to curry favour with factions and cause trouble on the trade routes themselves.