Or at least, RPG ideas I think are cool.
Guild Orphanage Graduation Expedition
The Abyss: a massive round hole into the ground in the middle of a crater. The abyss is one kilometer across. Its depth is unknown: nobody ever made it to the bottom — or at least, no-one who did ever returned. How it got there is also unknown — the corridors that tunnel into the sides of the Abyss are filled with wondrous relics of an unknown civilisation, temples to forgotten gods and monstrous denizens. The deeper, the more risky — but the richer the potential reward.
The Guild controls access to the Abyss, and it rules the city of Osu that has sprung up around the edge of the Abyss. Each day, Guild teams descend into the Abyss in search of relics — some will return with tales of magic and danger, some… don’t return at all. Only the most elite team goes deeper than 600 meters: they are like rock stars, where most others just plod along until one day they either retire in luxury, or die to the monsters or deadly traps in the deep. To join the Guild, you have to be either insane, overconfident or desperate. The Guild takes in everyone and assumes any debts you have if you join a team going down. Whatever you bring up with you will go towards paying off you debt — after deduction of a small broker fee by the Guild…
This is not a good environment for children. But the truly deperate take their children with them, offering them to the Guild Orphanage. The kids are basically owned by the Guild: they never see their parents again, getting training to one day descend into the Abyss on a team too. The three top tiers are the training grounds, and the orphans dig up minor relics to pay for their cost of living. Once they reach the age of fifteen, they “graduate” with an exam: in teams, they descend deeper into the Abyss. Those who survive and bring back sufficient wealth become full-fledged members of the Guild.
You are a Guild Orphan. Your parents left you at the Orphanage, together with a gift of equipment. You have never seen them again. Perhaps they are now a member of an elite digging team, perhaps they are long-dead, fallen prey to the dangers of the Abyss during their first descent. You hardly remember your old life: all you remember is climbing down the Abyss almost every day, digging in the dirt to find fragments of oddly-marked pottery or intricate machinery with a forgotten purpose. At the end of the day you’d bring back your loot, and be appraised by the headmistress. A hard life, but at least you were fed and have a roof over your head.
But this year you turned fifteen: you are about to graduate! Together with boys and girls of your age, you are divided in teams. You will go further down than you have ever been, to prove you can survive in the depths. Everything was going fine: you found some worthwhile loot and managed to outsmart the monsters prowling the corridors. But then you came to a weird temple, and someone set off a trap. The floor fell out from underneath you, and you slid about a hundred meters down!
Those of you who survived the fall unharmed pick themselves up and survey their situation. You find yourself in a natural cave with several exits of dressed stone. Somewhere down a tunnel, you hear a grating noise, as if two stones are ground together… You will need every ounce of strength, wit and luck you can muster to survive the depths of the Abyss! What do you do?
Inspiration: Made in Abyss, DanMachi
System: Funnel World (which is a Dungeon Crawl Classics zero-level funnel in Dungeon World)
Design work needed: No.
Like The Sprawl, but set in Edo, during the shogunate. You play a troupe of scoundrels, each with your own role in the gang. You’d take on corrupt government officials, rob wealthy merchants who mistreat their servants, or do a wealthy family’s dirty work.
Settings are restaurants or tea houses of ill repute, brothels, city mansions, derelict shrines on the outskirts of town.
Playbooks minimally adapted — obviously no cyberware, swords and bows instead of guns. We’d have to think of a replacement for hacking, maybe carpenting?
Inspiration: House of Five Leaves and Onihei.
System: The Sprawl
Design work needed: Yes.
Like the Sprawl, but set in the Star Wars universe. You play as a Rebel cell infiltrating Empire installations for information gathering and sabotage.
It matches up almost too perfectly: the Driver is a pilot, the Hacker is a Droid with slicer hardware, etcetera.
Inspiration: Rogue One.
System: The Sprawl
Design work needed: Yes.
For years, you have felt a slight ‘pull’, as if you are drawn to some far-away place. When a large black patch appeared and nightmarish creatures could be seen there, you knew it: this is where your destiny lies. It took some time before you had gathered your courage, and when you set foot onto the Black Road, you felt the pull even stronger. You walked among the monsters, unmolested. And now, you have arrived.
You stand at the border of a ruined kingdom, which somehow feels like home. The woods leading up to the city on the mountain are crawling with monsters, and the city itself has been reduced to rubble. The inhabitants have been reduced to mindlessly repeating their daily routines. And in the halls of the castle prowl the Elders, holding on to shreds of their minds and power.
Amber is yours, if only you can rekindle the Pattern with a fresh sacrifice of blood…
So basically, a cross-over between Amber and Dark Souls. Need some design work to make combats more tactical and interesting.
Inspiration: Dark Souls
System: Amber DRPG
Design work needed: Yes.
It’s like The Sprawl: you’re a professional conducting operations. But in addition to a playbook from The Sprawl, you also have a playbook from Monsterhearts! So you’re not merely an Infiltrator: you’re a Vampire Infiltrator. (Or Witch, or Werewolf, or whatever.) Both playbooks are in effect at the same time, though obviously, the focus will shift from one time of mechanic to the other depending on the action.
In the (unfortunately defunct) campaign of The Sprawl I played in, we spent a lot of time working on what the characters did outside of the operations, and connections and bonds were formed. Using the additional Monsterhearts playbooks, you’d also get into messy relationships with the other operatives and potentially with any NPCs that are ‘generated’ by Declaring a Contact. This would add an extra layer of complexity of the Sprawl life to the PCs!
Inspiration: The Sprawl and Monsterhearts
System(s): The Sprawl and Monsterhearts
Design work needed: Probably only a bit.
Ryuutama: The Forest Shrine
During the last days of the early spring, you have followed the route towards the Low Pass across the mountain range towards the coast. As the lowland slowly rises up towards the mountains, the nights are getting more chilly and there is a nip in the air. Up here, the cherry trees are still in full blossom.
Instead of an actual pass, the Low Pass is actually a gap in the range, where two valleys on either side of the range meet. The last few days, the cart trail you have followed ran parallel to a river, following it upstream. Or at least, what once must have been a fast-flowing mountain river — but now only a small trickle is left. You have to make your way across dried-up mud to reach the water, and it is hardly deep enough to fill your waterskins comfortably.
You have reached the last village before the pass proper, a small farming village. It has gotten even smaller: the lack of water for the intricate irrigation system (a set of dykes, ditches and sluices) makes it impossible to grow crops on the outlying fields. Some farms have been boarded up, abandoned, giving the village a gloomy feel. The villagers that you have met are gloomy and moody too, concerned about the future of their village.
There is no inn at the village. Instead, there is a large campsite at the edge of the village. There, you meet several other travellers. The contrast with the village itself could not be bigger: at the campsite, there is a party every night! A troupe of minstrels have been staying for several days along with a group of merchants from beyond the Low Pass. Every day they buy another barrel of ale and the campers sing and dance and drink all through the night, without a care in the world.
This seems to irritate the villagers: not only is it noisy, but the travellers don’t seem to know or care about the plight of their village. The owner of the only General Store in the village has announced that tonight’s barrel is the last one he has in stock. The minstrels and merchants will leave the village after one last party tonight, going in the opposite directions, towards the lowlands.
I’ve tried to do this as a Play by Forum game, but it bled dry. Ryuutama is kinda “lightweight”, and it seems it’s hard to keep people interested for the longer term. I still want to run the scenario though.
If there’s something in there that you are interested in, let me know! We might be able to arrange something after all…Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.