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Author Topic: "...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device  (Read 5726 times)

Omega

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2016, 12:37:27 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898505
Side note: Tekumel is mentioned pretty often here. Funny thing is, that I rarely hear about it elsewhere, and I move a lot.

I think Tekumel gets mentioned here alot because we have at least two major players of the original and friends of the designer. And neither seems to post much of anywhere else. Pretty quiet over on BGG/RPGG for example.

JesterRaiin

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2016, 12:57:41 PM »
Quote from: S'mon;898499
So I don't have a campaign devoid of a Big Threat, but they're not all world-ending.


I see. "World Ending" part isn't that important, I'm thinking about disbanding current global threat from my setting and replace it with... something else, I'm not sure what. I'm looking for some ideas and .

Side note: I'm reading your blogs (I pay closer attention to SS campaign), and I must say that I find it quite impressive that you manage to control 4 quite difficult and complicated campaigns at once.

Quote from: Omega;898502
1a:


Some good examples, yay! :)

I'd argue about Darksun (the Desert/Dragons) and Shadowrun (Dragons/Corporations) but I guess it's subjective point of view, so no big deal.

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1b: As a DM I've run two world-ender modules with such a theme and were alot of fun. But as a DM if running my own stuff there is none. There are threats. But not world-enders. As a player I am more or less neutral on it. LEaning to a mild dislike due to over-use by various publishers. Especially when introduced to settings that were up till then neutral. It bugs me a little.


Same here. I understand it might give players some purpose, but damn, when you read it for umptenth time, it starts to look like laziness...

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2: I prefer world-ender-less settings/plots as a player and a DM. There may certainly be big threats. But they arent going to end civilization or all life. Though I do occasionally enjoy villains that THINK this is what they are.


Megalomaniacs? Yeah, they are fun. I admit of using "reversals" a few times in the past - once a villain joining the ranks of "saviors" upon learning that he and his ambitions are nothing in comparison to really big and nasty stuff.

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3: Yes! Natural disasters, or good old fashioned war. But natural disasters are my go-to for big threats. A volcano thats imminent to blow or lava flows, stopping a flood, famine, pestilence. Famine in Far-Go for GW was one of those where the PCs were sent off to find food. Or no overall threat at all. Just exploration or putting down whatever little incidents crop up.


I see. Shifting from macro- to micro-scale. Unless... Hmmmm, did you ever run a campaign/setting where famine and starvation were omnipresent, but not in "Delicatessen"/"Soylent Green" way, but to the point where poeople lacking skills/usefulness/luck were treated purely as food source?
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AsenRG

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2016, 01:10:54 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898505
...and there's absolutely no manipulation or concealment on your part? No "roll dice... hmmmm, 19,18,19,19... Nope, the sword looks perfectly harmless, I mean, all things considering. It just lies there, on the altar, glows with bright red runes and there's, like, an aura of total darkness surrounding it, but don't they all look like that?" :D
I haven't found any need for manipulation or concealment.

I mean, when their spirits were summoned to the Celestial bureaucracy to meet a bureaucrat, and it went fine. Then somehow, someone stopped their way to the bodies, and an old hermit asked them to bring a certain specific stone with an ominous-sounding name to another hermit, suggesting they would be rewarded.
Because it totally wasn't someone hijacking their spirits to make a counter-offer, you know...who would do that:)?

They did as they were asked, and I set up a timer in my notes - time until religious wars start to break out. They'd just released the Demon of Religious Wars. This was the world-spanning threat... we didn't have one at the start.

The same player also entrusted the command of her army detachment to her student, "because she's better with logistics". The same student that she knew lacks compassion, manipulates people, uses her powers for fun and profit, and thinks her Teacher the PC only cares about the results.
Three sessions in, she noticed everybody else in the army has started erecting walls around their camps, and didn't mix with her soldiers. Her mindwiped (she never found that out), controlled by a system of rewards and punishments, soldiers with iron discipline and total lack of compassion... It was great fun when she did find out:D!
That's from the same campaign, BTW.

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Kinda? ;)
That might have been a slight understatement.

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Side note: Tekumel is mentioned pretty often here. Funny thing is, that I rarely hear about it elsewhere, and I move a lot.
You hear about what people are playing, and most people play what they hear others had fun with. Play more Tekumel, and others will imitate you. Then you'd hear about it more, too;)!


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Out of curiosity: does any of your gaming group spent considerably long time in any setting void of "The Big Threat" without succumbing to a boredom? I'm not suggesting its inevitable - I'm interested in other people's experience.
All my campaigns that pass the three-session mark last for years. From the last five that have concluded, only one had a Big Bad Evil...something, and that's the one I referred to upthread.
Doesn't seem like they're about to get bored. World-spanning disasters seem to be just a GM shortcut, not something most players want or need.

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But uncle Asen, aside of the last one each of your examples make perfect motivation for the Big Bad Evil Guy or war, and they in turn might be/become the Big Threat himself. :D
Even if the PCs become the Big Threat, it's not one I've needed to put in the setting;).
And yes, NPCs have those motivations, too. The question is, however, whether any NPC or group has the means to be(come) more than a local threat, and the answer, most often, is a resounding "nope":D!
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JesterRaiin

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2016, 01:26:43 PM »
Quote from: Simlasa;898513
(...) Are you asking for settings with no threats at all? Even Candyland has squares that will set you back.


Heavens, no!

It's just that the Wasteland IS the Threat. See, I can lead my players outside of urban environment in modern-day setting and from the perspective of their PCs, they have absolutely no reason to feel threatened. Sure, the adventure - this particular adventure - might override it (they are hunting a werewolf, be chased by some supernatural force, or even such mundane enemies as police, or some other specific conditions apply), but by default, they have not much to fear while traveling between city X and town Y.

Funnily enough this somewhat applies to plenty of other genres too, including SF and fantasy (except of combat heavy settings/zones) - IF something happens to PCs on the way, it's because the GM wants it to happen, or because they are actively looking for troubles.

Point is, there are craploads of settings quite "safe" by default.

In post-apo settings, leaving any stronghold of civilization is risky. In certain examples the land itself might kill you in addition to roaming hordes of "monsters". You KNOW that outside of "city walls", you're gonna fight for your life.

Quote from: Omega;898514
I think Tekumel gets mentioned here alot because we have at least two major players of the original and friends of the designer. And neither seems to post much of anywhere else. Pretty quiet over on BGG/RPGG for example.


Reasonable, thanks for the explanation.
I guess pretty much every RPG site/portal/forum has its own "pet game/system/setting" and since I'm still quite new here, the source of Tekumel's popularity wasn't very obvious to me. :)
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Opaopajr

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2016, 02:34:58 PM »
Pretty much everything from Japan with a Studio Ghibli look to its cover. They were fun. Would play again.
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Omega

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2016, 02:53:38 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898518
I'd argue about Darksun (the Desert/Dragons) and Shadowrun (Dragons/Corporations) but I guess it's subjective point of view, so no big deal.

Same here. I understand it might give players some purpose, but damn, when you read it for umptenth time, it starts to look like laziness...

Megalomaniacs? Yeah, they are fun. I admit of using "reversals" a few times in the past - once a villain joining the ranks of "saviors" upon learning that he and his ambitions are nothing in comparison to really big and nasty stuff.

I see. Shifting from macro- to micro-scale. Unless... Hmmmm, did you ever run a campaign/setting where famine and starvation were omnipresent, but not in "Delicatessen"/"Soylent Green" way, but to the point where poeople lacking skills/usefulness/luck were treated purely as food source?

1: In SR things like dragons and corps though are not omnipresent overarching threats. They are just one more threat amongst many and again in the early days the setting didnt have huge threats. Just lots and lots of dirty deals, schemes and powerplays that even the dragons got into without threatening all.

2: It depends. It can give a purpose. But it can also be a chore. Played one way, Tyranny of Dragons is a great epic threat. Played another and its a mess. Making sure the players are on board for the concept is absolutely vital. If I pitch a campaign like that and they say no then I move on. The current group I DM for was fine with it as they knew Id be giving them free reign to approach as they pleased. And they did!

3: In a long Gamma World campaign as a player that was essentially what my group became composed of aside from myself. We'd lose crew and pick up a villain along the way who was impressed with how they got beat and joined up.

4: One Oriental Adventures campaign went like that. A famine event hit right as the campaign started and it was pretty brutal. Though in that case the famine wasnt so much the threat as the aftermath and dealing with the people was. The DM rolled a 7 for the duration. So 7 months wherein the population was reduced by 35%. And not all was due to starvation. Then the plague hit and THAT lasted a merciless 12 months! So the survivours were reduced by 60%. Gojira and Gamera wrasslin on main street would have been less devastating.

Simlasa

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2016, 03:38:22 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898525
It's just that the Wasteland IS the Threat.
So any setting with expansive wilderness is out? Wilderness is a Big Threat? So no Westerns (Natives, bandits, dangerous critters)? Your thesis requires a tamed countryside where travel is free of danger, excepting maybe known and localized danger... contained... 'don't go in that cave' sort of things?

Doughdee222

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2016, 05:21:14 PM »
I use it sometimes, not all the time. My current campaign, for example, is a fantasy sandbox. The PCs are members of The Empire which is surrounded by potential threats. To the east is a lizardman empire which could attack. The the west are nomads in the plains who are getting restless. To the north are Viking-like tribes who want to expand their territory. To the south are pseudo-Christian nations who would love to spread their gospel to the Empire. The players have the choice to poke at any of these threats or none of them. As I noted in the other thread they are currently dealing with a "god of the undead" entity and his roaming extra-dimensional city.

In past campaigns though I have used Big Bads such as enemy nations which threaten Civilization as We Know It. My Robot Warriors campaign in college involved America being attacked by an Islamic union while Earth was being attacked by aliens. Back in high school I ran an AD&D game and the campaign was about saving the nation from various cults and threats which culminated in the Giants and their Drow allies making war on Humans.

We've enjoyed both types of campaigns.

Ravenswing

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2016, 05:45:55 PM »
Yes, yes and yes.  While my feelings on the subject isn't as pungent as Gronan's -- for one thing, I've used Big Threat plot arcs -- it's a hackneyed, overused trope.

How do you "motivate" players without one?  Quite aside from the laundry lists Asen and others have presented, part of it is just having players who don't need to be Saving! The! World! each and every game session.  It's a matter of mindset, scale and presentation.

The Enemy Of Your Nation doesn't have to be the Evil Empire, complete with sick and twisted rituals, mass murder, worship of Cthulhu, Sith Lords on the throne, and Heinrich Himmler running their secret police.  It can be plain old geopolitics: two countries fighting over the same turf, three wars in the last century, the frontier province that's changed hands after each one, traditional stereotypes, touchy national pride, and military establishments feeling their oats, because without war, how can anyone achieve glory or promotion?  And more: neighboring countries that really don't care all that much.  Naturally the security of the world hinges on the defeat of a Hitler or a Sauron, but beyond "Well, at least they're not pestering us" or "Hmm, let's see what concessions we can wrangle," what's the stake of a Spain or a Russia in the Franco-Prussian War, say?

That's how you present that sort of plot arc.
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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2016, 05:54:45 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898505
Are you willing to name some? :)
Sure.

  • My original D&D campaign had no world ending (or country ending) threats. Neither did the campaigns of anyone I played with back in the 1970s. Quests to save the world just weren’t what we ever did.
  • Glorantha, from the point of view of the Hero Wars, might be said to have world changing threats, but back in the Runequest 1-3 days supplements like Apple Lane, Snake Pipe Hollow, Griffin Mountain, Pavis, The Big Rubble, Borderlands, and Trollpak each outlined a world where the threats and challenges for the PCs were far from world ending in scope.
  • Some settings have a world ending sort of threat as part of the background, but in practice the PCs often aren’t expected to solve that problem in play. Glorantha’s Hero Wars, Stormbringer’s eventual cataclysmic confrontation between Law and Chaos, and Star Wars Emperor Palpatine all fall into those categories.
  • In settings like Star Trek where the TV shows occasionally and the movies nearly always had a save the universe this week plot, we chose to focus play on exploration, lesser threats, and political intrigue. A typical lesser threat would be a threat to the whole ship and crew, but not to a planet, the Federation, a galactic quadrant, or even the entire universe.


One complaint I’ve heard leveled against Star Trek and against Star Wars (especially some of the novels) is the repetitive and increasingly implausible galactic threats and planet destroying super weapons. Another is the fact that only the USS Enterprise or Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie seem to be able to stop any of these threats. Everyone else in the universe just seems to sit around on their ass doing nothing too important.  I think that my players and I are old enough and jaded enough by the save the world, quest based fiction we’ve read and seen that games focused on that seem implausible or unattractive to us for one reason or another.

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I'd even risk the statement, that "save the world" makes rather poor choice for early adventures, unless players (like those in your SW example) are oblivious to the Big Picture and don't realize initially they are slowly becoming part of massive story.
Save the world tends to be a poor choice the closer a game is to zero to hero since the zero’s aren’t capable of stopping a world ending threat and plausibly there should be a some NPC heroes who are at least giving save the world a try. However in a point-buy based system or a game like Barbarians of Lemuria or Honor+Intrigue where PCs start out very competent the lack of PC capability isn’t so much an issue. Lack of knowledge (and concern) about the world may still be a concern.

Even in our Star Wars campaign which ran for nearly 10 years, the Rebel PCs never stopped the Empire and were rarely (only twice out of hundreds of sessions) faced with planet destroying threats.

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Too bad, I counted on some interesting and unorthodox solutions.
I see a setting without world ending problem as the norm rather than the exception. So from my point of view there is no need for a solution because there is no problem. In fact I see a really big problem to world ending threats. What happens to all my setting prep when the PCs fail and the world is destroyed?

Is the problem you are experiencing that unless the world is in peril, the players just want their PCs to hang around corner tavern or sit in their living rooms watching holonet dramas? Or is it some other problem?

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Side note: Tekumel is mentioned pretty often here. Funny thing is, that I rarely hear about it elsewhere, and I move a lot.
You have some old geezers on this site whose memory goes back to the early days of the hobby when Tekumel was better known – in part because it was at one time one of the handful of RPGs that existed and the one with the most detailed setting. And some folks here played with the creator. And there is a really long active thread about Tekumel.

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Out of curiosity: does any of your gaming group spent considerably long time in any setting void of "The Big Threat" without succumbing to a boredom? I'm not suggesting its inevitable - I'm interested in other people's experience.
Yeah. We tend to play a lot in each setting. My current Honor+Intrigue campaign has been going on weekly since July 2012. It's not as long lasting as several other campaigns, but it is getting there. Last Friday we played session 203. There has yet to be a world ending threat of any kind. The players don’t seem bored.

The only game where world ending threats are the norm that we do play is Call of Cthulhu and there the PCs never end the threat, at best they delay it.

Quote from: JesterRaiin;898518
I see. "World Ending" part isn't that important, I'm thinking about disbanding current global threat from my setting and replace it with... something else, I'm not sure what. I'm looking for some ideas
I’d replace it with a world without a global threat. A world in which the PCs struggle for success whether that is personal, family, or community against the sort of obstacles: NPCs with conflicting goals and occasionally the environment itself.
  • Maybe they save Nottingham and the surrounding area from the depredations of the dastardly Sheriff. He’s not planning on killing everyone, turning them into zombies, ushering in the Great Old ones, or even enslaving everyone. He just wants to enforce the Norman status quo and extract the last farthing of unjust taxes from the oppressed Saxon yeomanry.
  • Or make the PCs the Sheriff, his deputies, the mayor, and the biggest cattle baron in the county and let them struggle to protect the town from hostile Indians, drought, the nefarious rail baron whose rail line is going to turn their community into a ghost town.
  • Or the PCs are a Viking family in Norway or Iceland. Their struggles with the grasping local Jarl, the family in the next fiord over who are their hereditary enemies, the vagaries of sea and storm; leading Viking raids on Scotland, Ireland, England, and France, or trading expeditions to the Baltic.



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I see. Shifting from macro- to micro-scale.
Shifting scale is one approach. Shifting focus from saving the world to maintaining or increasing one’s wealth, power, status, and influence is another. Those goals tend to be much less about saving the world. I tend to do both in the games I run.
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Bren

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #25 on: May 18, 2016, 06:14:19 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898525
It's just that the Wasteland IS the Threat. See, I can lead my players outside of urban environment in modern-day setting and from the perspective of their PCs, they have absolutely no reason to feel threatened. Sure, the adventure - this particular adventure - might override it (they are hunting a werewolf, be chased by some supernatural force, or even such mundane enemies as police, or some other specific conditions apply), but by default, they have not much to fear while traveling between city X and town Y.
The modern developed world is pretty safe. I’ve found petty theft, e.g. pick pockets to be a significant threat in some parts of Europe and any country is likely to have some bad neighborhoods, but physical violence is pretty rare in outside those areas. Outside the cities in the developed world we’ve eliminated animals like wolves, lions, and bears that pose a threat and brigandage is at an all time low. Now if the PCs travel by ship in certain waters piracy is still a valid threat even in the modern world. And in some third world countries anarchy and banditry is still an issue. But I wouldn’t expect a modern day police procedural, spy vs. spy, or monster hunters campaign would have game events driven by random monster tables with actual monsters.

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Funnily enough this somewhat applies to plenty of other genres too, including SF and fantasy (except of combat heavy settings/zones) - IF something happens to PCs on the way, it's because the GM wants it to happen, or because they are actively looking for troubles.
I use a lot of random encounters. Not all are dangerous, but brigandage is still an issue in 1620s Europe whether inside or outside of a city. And gentleman all carry swords and a lot of people are pretty touchy about their honor and dueling is a cultural norm. It is worth keeping in mind that the most dangerous thing to man is other men.

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Point is, there are craploads of settings quite "safe" by default.
Do many people base campaigns on settings that are quite safe?
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Caesar Slaad

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #26 on: May 18, 2016, 06:16:51 PM »
Quote from: JesterRaiin;898465
My questions are:

  • Do you know/play some settings void of such a threat?
  • Do your players/yourself enjoy them as much as ones with such a feature?
  • Did you develop some clever alternative to the Big Threat - a thing familiar to your world's inhabitants, that motivates some (PCs) to move their asses and travel across whole world and beyond? A word of explanation: The One Ring from tLoTR setting doesn't match the criteria, since it serves the purpose of getting rid of the Big Threat. The quest to seek Holy Grail would be the better example of what I have in mind. While it might be used as a morale boosting icon for any ruler or general, its purpose isn't to counter any specific Big Threat whatsoever.

Does it count if I sort of have such a threat, but the point is not to beat it?

My Twilight Dominion setting (totally homebrew, so no product to point you towards) is basically a mashup of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique, Doyle's Hyperboria, and the world of Den from the Heavy Metal movie. Earth's in it's twilight, the most powerful individual is The Necromancer, the Empire isn't nice, and hates you, and people cavort with dark powers. And all the plots are personal. One had the players preventing the empress from making a pact with the necromancer, not because it will save them, but because she screwed them over. Another has them swooping into a city about to be destroyed, not to save the town, but to save a love interest of one of the necromancer's minions in exchange for removing a rune the necromancer put on them.
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dragoner

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #27 on: May 18, 2016, 06:40:40 PM »
I have a "big threat" in my Traveller campaign, The Black Ships or Guild Droyne, that have conquered part of the frontier. They are alien "transhumanist", higher tech, eschatological crusaders; ie they know "God" is real (Yaskodray), but God is evil. So that they struggle against their deterministic enemies, the "Children of God", eg the colonists. Mostly they are just targets though, the players crew an attack ship, fighting behind the lines as a mixed group of mercenaries. The Black Ships are over extended, and about to be rolled back, but nobody totally knows that. There is an undercurrent of creating over all unity amongst the various states, often which have opposing aims. On top of that there is the old Imperium, now Byzantine, practicing power projection.
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JesterRaiin

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #28 on: May 19, 2016, 04:16:39 AM »
Quote from: AsenRG;898521
All my campaigns that pass the three-session mark last for years. From the last five that have concluded, only one had a Big Bad Evil...something, and that's the one I referred to upthread.
Doesn't seem like they're about to get bored. World-spanning disasters seem to be just a GM shortcut, not something most players want or need.


So far, I think it depends on both "sides" of the equation - true, good GM should theoretically be able to create vision interesting enough for players to find their own source of satisfaction, determine their own goals and such. Yet, there are parties that (for often different reasons) don't feel like becoming parts of the setting and expect for the GM to place "adventure, this way" signs.

I think it deserves a thread on its own. ;)

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Even if the PCs become the Big Threat, it's not one I've needed to put in the setting;).
And yes, NPCs have those motivations, too. The question is, however, whether any NPC or group has the means to be(come) more than a local threat, and the answer, most often, is a resounding "nope":D!


Sorry, by "they" I meant BBEEG/War, not PCs.
As for the means, well, it's up to the GM, ain't it? Local gangster, a bully really, might become turned by a vampire, find/steal a powerful artifact or simply find himself in right place, right time and become next world conqueror. It happened with a certain painter, after all... ;)

Quote from: Opaopajr;898547
Pretty much everything from Japan with a Studio Ghibli look to its cover. They were fun. Would play again.


I'm unfamiliar with that. Gonna check it. Thank you!


Quote from: Omega;898552
1: In SR things like dragons and corps though are not omnipresent overarching threats. They are just one more threat amongst many and again in the early days the setting didnt have huge threats. Just lots and lots of dirty deals, schemes and powerplays that even the dragons got into without threatening all.


I've always assumed they are meant to fill the boots of Big Threat, that everything what happens on the global scale is a result of their manipulations, is part of their schemes and that people realize that but no one might tell just what the big picture is.

At least that's how I presented the setting when I still played it.

Side note: I find the differences in the way people explain same settings/lore very interesting. It's actually damn awesome to see same world remade according to alternative power structure. :)

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2: It depends. It can give a purpose. But it can also be a chore. Played one way, Tyranny of Dragons is a great epic threat. Played another and its a mess. Making sure the players are on board for the concept is absolutely vital. If I pitch a campaign like that and they say no then I move on. The current group I DM for was fine with it as they knew Id be giving them free reign to approach as they pleased. And they did!


I take it, your campaign involved The Big Threat, but PCs weren't absolutely crucial to deal with it?

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3: In a long Gamma World campaign as a player that was essentially what my group became composed of aside from myself. We'd lose crew and pick up a villain along the way who was impressed with how they got beat and joined up.


If I may ask, he joined as a NPC, DMPC, full PC?

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4: One Oriental Adventures campaign went like that. A famine event hit right as the campaign started and it was pretty brutal. Though in that case the famine wasnt so much the threat as the aftermath and dealing with the people was. The DM rolled a 7 for the duration. So 7 months wherein the population was reduced by 35%. And not all was due to starvation. Then the plague hit and THAT lasted a merciless 12 months! So the survivours were reduced by 60%. Gojira and Gamera wrasslin on main street would have been less devastating.


Interesting. How PCs approached the challenge? Did they focus on food, or attempted to fix the world, or...?

Quote from: Simlasa;898563
So any setting with expansive wilderness is out? Wilderness is a Big Threat? So no Westerns (Natives, bandits, dangerous critters)? Your thesis requires a tamed countryside where travel is free of danger, excepting maybe known and localized danger... contained... 'don't go in that cave' sort of things?


To answer that properly, I'd have to develop a precise definition specifying what it acceptable, and what is not. I'm not looking for that level of precision. Feel free to throw a few settings you consider relevant to what I'm looking for. I'll appreciate any recommendation. :)
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JesterRaiin

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"...an ancient evil has awoken", or the Big Threat plot device
« Reply #29 on: May 19, 2016, 04:28:20 AM »
Quote from: Doughdee222;898586
I use it sometimes, not all the time. My current campaign, for example, is a fantasy sandbox. The PCs are members of The Empire which is surrounded by potential threats. To the east is a lizardman empire which could attack. The the west are nomads in the plains who are getting restless. To the north are Viking-like tribes who want to expand their territory. To the south are pseudo-Christian nations who would love to spread their gospel to the Empire. The players have the choice to poke at any of these threats or none of them. As I noted in the other thread they are currently dealing with a "god of the undead" entity and his roaming extra-dimensional city.

It looks like deadly times to live in. Out of curiosity: how did your players react to such a setting? Did they perceive it as a challenge, a window of opportunity to have truckloads of great adventures, or were they "who, dude, isn't it too much?" In addition, was the overall situation immediately explained, or did they learn about everything on the way, sort of "one threat at a time"?

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In past campaigns though I have used Big Bads such as enemy nations which threaten Civilization as We Know It. My Robot Warriors campaign in college involved America being attacked by an Islamic union while Earth was being attacked by aliens. Back in high school I ran an AD&D game and the campaign was about saving the nation from various cults and threats which culminated in the Giants and their Drow allies making war on Humans.

We've enjoyed both types of campaigns.

I wouldn't want it to become next politically themed thread, but I'm curious about that USA vs IU campaign of yours. Do you keep some campaign log by any chance?

Quote from: Ravenswing;898589
(...) That's how you present that sort of plot arc.

So, a tension, rather than immediate threat.

Out of curiosity: would you rather send a clear message about who is "the worse one", or choose ambiguous solution? You know, "Hitler, that way", or "well, you start in country X, there's a tension on western and eastern borders, but who is right and who is wrong it's up to you to find out, guys".


Quote from: Caesar Slaad;898594
Does it count if I sort of have such a threat, but the point is not to beat it?

Precisely, or even more precisely: it's up to the PCs whether they choose to go this way. If they won't then the world stays as it is: threatened, indefinitely balancing "on the verge of destruction" and such.

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My Twilight Dominion setting (totally homebrew, so no product to point you towards) is basically a mashup of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique, Doyle's Hyperboria, and the world of Den from the Heavy Metal movie. Earth's in it's twilight, the most powerful individual is The Necromancer, the Empire isn't nice, and hates you, and people cavort with dark powers. And all the plots are personal. One had the players preventing the empress from making a pact with the necromancer, not because it will save them, but because she screwed them over. Another has them swooping into a city about to be destroyed, not to save the town, but to save a love interest of one of the necromancer's minions in exchange for removing a rune the necromancer put on them.

This certainly sounds like Zothique. :)

A word, if I might: does that mean, that in your campaigns players face the Big Threat, but they can't do much about that? Sort of doomed situation where the only reasonable thing to do is to survive and at best, postpone/avoid the inevitable?

Quote from: dragoner;898599
I have a "big threat" in my Traveller campaign, The Black Ships or Guild Droyne, that have conquered part of the frontier. They are alien "transhumanist", higher tech, eschatological crusaders; ie they know "God" is real (Yaskodray), but God is evil. So that they struggle against their deterministic enemies, the "Children of God", eg the colonists. Mostly they are just targets though, the players crew an attack ship, fighting behind the lines as a mixed group of mercenaries. The Black Ships are over extended, and about to be rolled back, but nobody totally knows that. There is an undercurrent of creating over all unity amongst the various states, often which have opposing aims. On top of that there is the old Imperium, now Byzantine, practicing power projection.

I rarely hear about anybody using fulls-scale religious conflict in SF environment and the majority of such events come form Fading Suns players. Quite original, I must say.

Do you plan for PCs to have something more to say about this situation, or are they destined to observe things from the back row, so to speak? Or, even better, do your players plan to do anything about that?
« Last Edit: May 19, 2016, 04:45:25 AM by JesterRaiin »
"If it's not appearing, it's not a real message." ~ Brett