My Earthdawn test game is running swimmingly. But it’s always been declared to be of finite length, running until I can figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve got a couple of ideas about what to do next:
Gritty fantasy-adventure. Might be nominally in the Exalted world, but if so it’s in a shunted off little corner that looks more like the Black Company or Bungie’s Myth. System is likely GURPS, with extensive support for culturally-specific systems. I like what HeroQuest and The Shadow of Yesterday did there. So I’d like to see stock GURPS Magic, Contemplative Magic, Unlimited Mana, Ritual, etc. all facing one another.
I do have some more setting ideas for this one: I know I want a river, with an empire in the floodplains. I know I want the emperor to have some sort of contemplative, oracular, enchantress corps. I know I want a split kingdom, with each half claiming to have inherited the mantle. I know I want a city-state satrapy of a distant empire. I know I want a handful of outcast downtrodden peoples as sources for heroes: a tribe of brickmakers in the river empire, a rough and surly race of barbarians. I don’t have a lot more to say about horselords, but I’m not particularly opposed to them either.
I do know I want an almost-all human setting. If there are serpent-men, they’re alien and inimical NPCs off in the jungle. If there are elves, they lived and died before the Sun rose on Human cities, and their places do not love the tread of younger feet.
Howard’s Conan, Nifft the Lean, Fafrd and the Grey Mouser, Asprin’s Sanctuary and the Books of Exodus, Judges, and Kings are all good sources for this.
Conspiracy Theories II. I greatly enjoyed running the first Conspiracy Theories in the 1998-2000 timeframe. It had some of the worst mechanics I’ve ever written, but managed to teach me a lot about good gaming and leave some excellent stories on the table. I’ve been thinking about doing this in GURPS, and I’ve been thinking about doing this in Feng Shui.
Even if the FS system, it would not be on the default Feng Shui setting—though it might look like that at first, I’ve got some fun ideas in mind for who’s really behind the Jade Wheel society. I’d be inclined to avoid the 4-junctures split, and start the characters out mostly unaware of the background setting. They’ve been melodramatically hooked in, but haven’t really come to understand it yet. So they may have seen sorcery, but probably aren’t Sorcerers. They may be Transformed Animals, but don’t know what that means besides funny food preferences and powerful kung fu.
My inspirations are mostly Baen authors here: Mutineer’s Moon and some alternate versions of the Darhel war.
Masks of Nyarlethotep. I’m told it’s one of the best packaged modules ever written. I’d almost certainly run it against Feng Shui or Adventure!, since it benefits from a pulpy feel over the brooding death of the BRP or d20 Call of Cthulhu.
You’ll notice GURPS and Feng Shui figure prominently above. GURPS has a lot more tactical depth, but Feng Shui has a better universal mechanic, and appears to scale better. GURPS 4 fixes a lot of the problems I had with GURPS 3, too—and I’ve got a better idea of which buttons not to push. Turning on all the combat options turns the game into Advanced Squad Leader. You can get a great gritty game with plenty of tactical meat using the Basic Combat System sometimes, the Tactical Combat System if the players care, and one or two setting-specific options.
But which setting to run? That’s hard. I’m tempted to compromise, say that one is the cyberspace of the other or something. Then I really am back to running Shadowdawn! By current best thought is to try fleshing out one or both settings with a game of lexicon (some variant with slightly looser alphabetics, I think). By adding material to the settings, I and potential players can better predict what’ll be more fun.