I should just start making all my posts end with “Part I” as some sort of running joke.
I’m starting up worldbuilding for a GURPS game (3rd edition). I’m going to post about it here because some people might find it interesting, and I might get some necessary and useful suggestions… and finally, because I need something to write about and I have to write about this in order to get it done, so I’m working it out here in the interests of being lazy.
The conversation began with some of my last-run AD&D players when I said, “You know, this term is Game Theory and from the looks of things I’ll be able to spend some time thinking about things other than work or class in the next few months and I want to get gaming again, so are you all interested in running something and if so… what?” We started off talking about Cliffhanger, and now we’re sort of edging towards a suspense/Horror campaign.
I haven’t put together a near-history campaign in a long while. Unlike, say, Swashbuckling or some Space Opera campaign, near-history campaigns have a very neat and accessible worldbuilding aspect: you can mine historical data. With a large format printer, you can (for example) print out actual bits of old newspaper pages or maps to use as adventure seeds and props to set the atmosphere. Unfortunately, aiming at 1930 means I have to hit microfiche in the library… 1922 an earlier and there would be scads of stuff on sites like Chronicling America.
Here’s what we have so far. The year is 1930, the campaign will begin in San Francisco. There will be international flava flav, but probably not world-spanning travel (think more along the lines of The Maltese Falcon – adventure seeds allude to international intrigue… instead of Indiana Jones with parts of the campaign being represented by a red line moving across a world map). The one player that has expressed a solid idea of backstory has worked with me and we’ve settled on her being the granddaughter of Hiram Walker. This is four years after the Walker family unloaded the family distillery in Canada. Her backstory is still developing, but so far she runs a speakeasy in San Francisco (still Prohibition), and the local mob family lets her run independently because of course nobody wants to risk having their supply chain cut off by pissed off Canadians.
There will be paranormal events. The player characters (some of them at least) will likely be low level espers of some sort, and the Bad Guys will be many and varied and will range from secret societies with ritual magic to the aforementioned mob gangs and maybe the Feds or some crazy occult-seeking Nazis. The goal is to have lots of cerebral task to overcome and lots of suspense and action without turning it Indy-style cinematic (and without killing off the PCs, which is going to require a lot of work on the GMs part). Just in the little bit of newspaper browsing I’ve found tons of neat little articles that can easily tie into game threads… one of the nice things about horror-suspense type campaigns is that just about any story could be part of the greater conspiracy, so it’s easy to mine newspapers for clippings that give you interesting ideas for side plots or red herrings or perhaps insight into the Inner Circle of the Cabal.
If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments.