Reoccurring Themes (or Gregory, Don’t go There Again)

I’ve been working on where I expect or hope my Pellham campaign is going and I’ve found myself looking at some familiar territory.  There are types of stories that I like.  I like alternate dimensions stories.  I like time travel stories.  I like Faery stories.  I like to use them in my games, too.  I like them a lot.  In addition to ideas and themes for my games, these stories also connect to places in Rhillmoran; places I have used again and again.  My Pellham campaign has seeds of these stories it and they are leading me back to my favorite, but possibly overused, stories and places.  I wonder if I need to break away from my favorite stories.

Castle Timeless has been a staple of my games since the 1980s.  It has been a rare campaign that did not see at least one trip to Castle Timeless.  During the Giants in the Earth and the Tasque Elzeny campaigns, Castle Timeless got a makeover.  I’ve been thinking about using Castle Timeless, because of a few throw away lines and plot point in the backstory of C5: Llywelyn’s Bane.  It, also, doesn’t help that C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness (one of the other modules slated for use in the Pellham campaign) has an often missed time travel component.  Going to Castle Timeless certainly places Pellham in Rhillmoran, but it opens up a whole can of wyrms in that it will tempt me to run a time travel mini campaign and I’ve done that time and time again.

Faery locales are going to be part of this campaign.  I’ve already placed Ardenmore in Adran Silverleaf’s back story.  So, how do I keep from retreading old ground?  My fey folk and fey realm should be different than they have been before.  This is going to be hard, since I like my fey to have a Celtic sensibility and Pellham is a Celtic-style setting.  It doesn’t help that I’ve got a “Hollow Hills opening on the Night of a Full Moon” idiom running with this, too.  I guess I’ll just have to turn these fey “up to 11” and go full bore with them.  Make them the Fey of the Fey and play it for all that it is worth.  They are capricious, enigmatic, and dangerous benefactors and patrons.  They are brave, valiant, and noble allies and villains.  Their plans and their beliefs are not easily understood by mere mortals, even if those mortals are their elven descendants and cousins.  It should be great fun, if I can play it right; I’ve misplayed this style of NPC multiple times before.

I don’t see how I can get away from alternate dimensions in this campaign.  If the PCs follow through the entire plot as devised by the modules, then they must enter an alternate dimension.  I’ve did a lot of development on this alternate dimension for a failed campaign (outside forces pulled Players away), so I may be able to make this work for me.  The provided storyline only has the PCs there for a relatively short time and the alternate dimension is completely unlike the rest of the setting, so this could easily work to my advantage.  I’ve got an “alien,” but not lethal environment into which the PCs can adventure.  It plots well and is part of the module collection, so if I use it and it alone, then I should not get caught up in a plane hopping campaign, which can really be fun.

Having covered my “big” flaws in the previous three paragraphs, I must now move on and discuss a harder drive in my gaming themes.  I want to connect this game to other games that I have run.  I’ve been thinking about placing a connection to the Shadowfell Road in Pellham or Inverness; this would open up a connection to Moytonia and I would be tempted to pull things from Barovia and the Walking Wood into Iolta and that might dilute this setting.  I really want to place a connection to Castle Timeless and I’ve already explained why that is a bad idea.  While I have not yet designed them, I know there are magical trees in Pellham and they could easily be connected to the Quan.  Even though this campaign takes place over a thousand years after Giants in the Earth and Tasque Elzeny, a connection to the Quaan would let me access Feldspar, E3 Trading Company, and Spellguard.  While a link on Thrain to the World of Terah would allow me to bring threats from the Caves of Chaos and possibly connect the PCs to the Isle of Celestia and the Dreamers, it would be bringing in alternate dimensions.

Want to know what reeks in all of this; writing out this post has given me a half dozen or more ideas that I now am interested in dropping into the Pellahm campaign.  What do you think I should do?

Game On!

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5 thoughts on “Reoccurring Themes (or Gregory, Don’t go There Again)

  1. How does one know they have time travelled or entered an alternate reality. Does their skin tingle, vision have auras, gravity feels different? Do they just step around a stone cairn and zap? Enter a cave that collapses then is whole again. Walking down a lane and the 4 season occur all around them in rapid succession. The discovery and a-ha moment would be half the fun here.

    You have a good opportunity for even experienced players who know this campaign to have discover this is not the same land they visited last. NPCs don’t have to reveal a passage of time or its alternativeness. It is a nuanced game for the PC. And if they don’t catch every clue or neat thing so be it. Maybe you can leave markers and scroll that might serve a reminders they were here before. Then they can back discover what they missed. Force them in a ring of discovery before they can proceed in the game. Which will open the question, why are we here, what has changed, what should we do, complete an unfinished quest. Which means this is a new campaign and not covering the same ground. A fugue is familiar, but original. Like the movie “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead” why are we here, what do we do.

    And for players that have never been there, it is new to them any way. So game on for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All bits of good advice. Thank you. One of my personal goals in this campaign was to try and keep it as “original” as possible. I know ,myself too well to believe that I am not given to repeating myself and by trying to keep everything in one setting and one time with very little connection to my previous campaigns and to try to generate new stories. Your call to a nuanced campaign suggests you have greater faith in my GMing than I. Hopefully, we will see a growth in my game style and learning. Thank you, again, and please keep reading and commenting.

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      • Go with repeating yourself on purpose, use it as a ploy of redirection. The PC who has been here before, with appropriate hints knows what will come next. Let him think he is in a repeat of time, until it doesn’t. You know when he is stepping off the carousel. He is now twice as intrigued; he knows the game is on.
        I have never played Castle Timeless, but maybe that would be a added feature. It is a fugue, that PCs never know when the tune changes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Curses! Foiled Again! (or Gregory Should Quit Rereading Modules) | World Engineer

  3. I think I would ask “why” things need to be different. If your Fey are certain way, then run with it – explore the similarities rather than fight it. I think all DM’s fight a battle between serving stale or otherwise unappetizing fare that they rather than their players like, and working overtime to invent new and wonderous things so that players are constantly amazed.

    I like to think that, in general, I can entertain my players with a mix of comfortable elements used in new and exciting, along with well-established, ways.

    There is a similar danger that DM’s fall prey too “connect-the-dots” – the real world is sloppy, things don’t resolved, people don’t know what happens to who, when, or where. Things aren’t neat and clean, and there is a temptation to neatly “settle affairs” and “make sense” of things as we go along. My experience is that some of the best games occur when I resist that temptation and just resolve to “figure it out later if I need to” – sometimes I do, most of the time I don’t – but I have many, many more open doors for later adventure hooks.

    This isn’t to say that I don’t think you should connect things to the rest of your campaign world – far from it! Just realize that you don’t have to overdo it, or make it nearly as explicit as we DM’s often seem to think we need to.

    Sounds good so far btw!

    D.

    Liked by 1 person

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