Building a Campaign: Thrilling Tales

I've been lucky enough to be a member of two weekly gaming groups for the last few years. There's my Sunday group, which is face-to-face (and recorded and disseminated to the rest of the world...); then there's my Wednesday "group," which is an online affair and consists of me and my two close friends from high school--the guys with whom I originally got into this whole gaming thing.

Because of the smaller group size and our nearly quarter-century of personal history, the Wednesday group tends to be a bit more loose and informal than the Sunday group in terms of how we approach gaming. This is both good and bad. The good is that the bar is much lower than with my Sunday group, which makes Wednesdays more like a relaxed hang-out. The bad is that we tend to flit from system to system and campaign to campaign and tend not to go on epic runs like I do with my Sunday group.

Recently, we decided to conduct a little experiment in correcting this oft-frustrating tendency: rotating GM slots. For 16 weeks at a time, one person takes the helm to run games. Furthermore, they will run only one system. There may be multiple games contained within this four-month period--for example, two eight-week campaigns, or maybe a 12-week campaign and a couple one-shots--but they all have to use the same system. A TPK doesn't mean the end of the GM's tenure, either. You keep running until your time is up.

Our first iteration of this plan was with D&D 5e and it went really well. I got to be a player (a rare treat in and of itself) and we weathered three restarts successfully. (In the past, after the first iteration of Alex's game fell apart that would've meant it was time for someone else--i.e. me--to run something.) We ended up with an all-magic-user group, with me playing an emo Tiefling Warlock and Tim playing an amoral Human Necromancer. It was lots of fun, and recalled our anarchic high school games. We got up to about 3rd level before Alex's time ran out. When it's his turn again, we're planning to pick up the campaign again right where we left off, sort of like a new TV show's season premiere.

We timed things nicely so that Alex's turn as GM ended right before he headed off to the UK for a month-long vacation (how's that for luxury?), which left me, the next designated GM, to cogitate about what I'm going to run.

I know the system will be Savage Worlds. At first, I thought I'd be able to run Savage RIFTS right out of the gate, but with the expanded PDFs now not due to drop until mid-July, I figured I should run something else in the interim.

After exchanging some emails and talking about options prior to Alex's departure, I settled on Thrilling Tales. We're all big fans of the "pulp" genre (as it's understood in RPG circles, at least), and Thrilling Tales was actually the first Savage Worlds product I ever bought after picking up the core book.

Alex is particularly excited about playing Thrilling Tales, and so I asked him what sort of characters he's thinking about. Here's his reply:

I was leaning towards a Man of Mystery, Captain Satan-type character.  Either that or a Mesmerist (basically a pulp version of Phloyd [a Gnome Illusionist from an AD&D campaign I ran a couple years ago]).  Actually if Tim and I did a combo Man of Mystery + Mesmerist I think that would be pretty cool.  Doctor Karma and his crime-fighting associate Floyd the Unfathomable. 

So in other words, he wants to do low-powered pulp supers, which I can totally get behind. In Thrilling Tales terms, this falls under the "Crimefighting" genre framework.

Clearly, then, I'll need to develop a city in which to set our crimefighting adventures. In my next post, I'll outline the process of narrowing down the location and beginning the process of turning it into a pulp campaign location.