Friday, November 4, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Beginnings

The start of a campaign can be a very exciting time. As a GM, you get to splash paint around a fictional universe and build the skeleton that will be used to host countless adventures. It can also be nerve-wracking as the players may completely reject the universe and it's premise - yawn, back-talk, fold paper footballs and flick them across the table to score field goals, and give off all those other little signs that the GM failed miserably and needs to go back to GM kindergarten.

I've been running a Labyrinth Lord game for over half a year now. We are getting to an exciting bit - but I'm burnt out. Mervyn runs us a Pathfinder game, and Tim is gearing up to run a 2e AD&D campaign. That's a truck load of D&D. I need a change, and since sci-fi is where my head is at, I'm setting the Labyrinth Lord campaign aside and will be starting a Star Without Number game this Saturday.

As quaint as 'you are all at the Space-tavern drinking Space-ale when a Space-stranger dressed in a Space-cloak approached you from the dim Space-corner' sounds as a beginning of a Space campaign - I just can't bring myself to punt like that. I'm a big fan of in media res - and haven't been using it near enough lately.

So below is the intro to my new game - the New Eden Campaign. If I was telling this to the group at the beginning of the game, it would be a lot shorter - but I have an unlimited amount of space on the blog - so here it goes:

You wake up as a needle stabs into your arm. Clear tubes full of a liquid that glows green like radioactive anti-freeze connect to the needle. Machinery begins to hum and it feels like fire is pumping into your veins. It hurts horribly, but your dulled, fuzzy senses suddenly sharpen to crystal clarity.

After a few seconds, you realize you are in nearly featureless coffin with glowing white walls. More needles come out of the wall, injecting you with more uncomfortable liquids. Suddenly you can move your body again. You notice a glass door near your head. Figures seem to be milling about outside. A shrill noise blares, and a red light flashes.  Somewhere nearby, a baby cries.

Memories pour in from before the interstellar coma was induced. The worlds of your home sector were poor. You grew up in poverty, raised by a destitute family in an impoverished culture. But the sector next door - the New Eden sector - contained rich worlds holding vast resources.

A voice comes from a speaker in the coffin.  "This is Captain Kobayashi of the Freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. We are still in route to Hephaestus, but I've lifted stasis for the passengers in steerage capsules early. We are under fire from unknown forces and are currently being boarded. I have awoken you to give you a fighting chance for life, should you choose to take it."

You open the glass door at the head of the cryo-statsis capsule and tumble out. You are in a steerage room. Glass doors leading to stasis capsules line the walls, with one hatch leading out. There are around thirty people in here, standing around in their underwear, looking confused in the flashing glowing lights.  A mother comforts her baby, swaddled in a pink blanket.  A man comforts the mother.

It was perhaps a month ago - you are unsure of the exact date - but some time ago, you purchased a ticket for the New Eden Sector and boarded the Edmund Fitzgerald. It was not your money. Friends, family, your village, or perhaps a crime syndicate helped fund your trip, with the expectation of being paid back soon. 

While rich, the New Eden Sector has been torn with war for many decades. But recently, a mysterious group known as the Benefactors has created a Ambassadorial Council for the sector, where all worlds can safely discuss issues with one another, giving the potential to avert war, increase trade, and benefit everyone. While it seems a difficult task, the Benefactors appear to have deep pockets - and they have been hiring qualified people in droves.

All of the confused faces in the steerage room signed up to go to Hephaestus to seek a new life and get a job with the Benefactors.  Neither you nor they were expecting to awaken so soon, or to the noises that came from the intercom next.

"The ship has been breached and the attackers refuse the communicate their demands.  We are . . ."  the captain's voice is interrupted by the sound of gun fire.  Several of your fellow passengers gasp.  Then a female voice comes on - speaking a harsh language unknown to you.  As she speaks, you notice the pink swaddled baby's mother stare at the intercom speaker, then she begins to yell frantically at her husband in the same language.  He nervously tries to shush her, but another of the passengers points at them and begins yelling angrily.

The room suddenly erupts in argument in many languages.  A grizzled old man blurts out, "They want the baby!  We should hand it over before they kill us all!"  Someone else punches the man in the face, calling him a 'dirty collaborator.'  Chaos erupts.

You are not sure what to do at the moment, but you have a sudden, gut wrenching reaction when you remember that all of your weapons were confiscated when you boarded the Edmund Fitzgerald, and that they are all safely locked up in the weapons locker somewhere else on the ship.  The day is definitely not starting out well.

That's what is in store for the dear PCs.  I hope they will enjoy it.  I'm pumped and definitively inspired to run a fast paced thrill ride of an adventure.

So get your thinking cap on and come up with an inventive and rambunctious beginning to a campaign - or just the start of a particular adventure in an existing game.  It can be really fun and refreshing to toss the players into a situation and yell 'go!'

Enjoy the explosions.

- Ark


  1. Now that's one hell of a great start to a campaign.

  2. Sounds awesome! Can't wait to hear how this goes!

  3. @Brians - Thanks. It seems to have the guys already worried and rolling up secondary characters - I'm not too sure whether that is a good or bad thing. :)

    @Cyclopeatron - Cyc! Long time no type. Glad to see you back around again. I'll definitely be giving updates on the travails of my poor PCs. Oh, and I'm thinking of stealing some of your ideas in that OD&D/Spelljammer smashup that you ran the Boy and I through. Great stuff - and freaky as all get-out.

    - Ark

  4. This sounds like alot of fun!!
    I'd be leery of taking passage on any ship named the Edmund Fitzgerald! ; )