Introduction (reprised from Part 1)
I use scenario/adventure titles all the time. Used correctly, they can put players into the correct frame of mind to react in the “right” way to the events in a scenario, conceal the identity of a villain until or hide a plot twist until the big reveal, heighten the drama of a situation and/or raise the expectations of the players. At the very least, they provide a referent ‘index’ to the events that occur in the course of the adventure. They can also add to the flavor of the campaign, reinforcing genre elements.
Many of the same methods and criteria that are used for naming campaigns are also relevant to naming adventures. Double or even triple meanings, exaggerations, heightened drama, metaphors and use of nouns, taking synopsis phrases out of context, and so on, are all valid tools to be used.
The heart of this article are a massive number of examples, with discussion of where the name came from, how it relates to the adventure, and – where appropriate – why it is an especially apt title. I’ve organized these by campaign, so that the campaign notes provided in the previous part of this series can be helpful in providing some context.
Some of these adventure titles will be discussed in more detail than others (mainly because it takes time to boil adventures down to a one-sentence synopsis, while I can cut-and-paste from more detailed summaries in next to no time)!
In part 1, I analyzed adventure titles from the Pulp Campaign that I co-referee and from the Fumanor (D&D) campaigns that I run. This time around, the focus will be on my superhero campaigns. But first, I want to discuss naming style for a moment…
It might seem obvious, but some of the best techniques are: the adventure titles that you put forward should reflect the style and genre of the campaign. That permits the titles to be part of the “buy-in” by the players into the correct mindset of the campaign. You can digress from it briefly, but that’s the general rule that should be followed.
That means that Fantasy campaigns should occasionally reference one or more Fantasy elements. Pulp adventure titles should read like the title of a pulp novel. And superhero adventures should read like the issue titles in a comic book.
Before you can access the correct style of naming for an adventure, or a campaign for that matter, you need to understand the conventions of the genre you are using.
All right, High Fantasy campaigns, if you want to get fussy. These should have a poetic or lyrical flavor, and should be dripping with a sense of wonder, a flavor of the exotic. There should still be drama in the name, but it should be relatively muted.
The more fantastic the plotline is going to be, the more prosaic the title. Save your really amazing titles for more mundane events, when you need to infuse the adventure with something more.
The reason is simple: if you use an exotic title for a high-fantasy adventure, either the scenario will fail to live up to the jaw-dropping amazement promised by the title, or a good title will be wasted gilding a lily.
Of course, avoiding predictability means that this rule should occasionally be broken, but the principle stands.
Consider an adventure in which the PCs have just returned from the dungeon, loot burning a hole in their pocket, and they intend to rest up, replace their consumables, add to their equipment, level up, and hunt around for where the next adventure is coming from.
Giving such an adventure a name like “R&R” or “Going Shopping” is literally true, but not very exciting. “The Markets of Localtown” is a little better, but still not terribly exciting. “The Perfect Button” or “Silver Threads And Golden Needles” are pretty good, with hints of the exotic, which can be used as a source of inspiration. “Bargain of a Life-time” or “Three Daggers From Wishbane” carry vague threats and ominous overtones, making them better yet, as is “The Backpack From Hades”. The same can also be said of “Abdul The Rug-merchant” – especially if Rugs are not on the PC’s shopping lists. Any of those four would be great titles for such an ‘adventure’.
Once you have the title, you can use it for additional inspiration, a foundation for a subplot that keeps the entire day’s play – and the overall shopping expedition – more interesting and less of a session of paperwork.
What might I derive from such titles, under these circumstances?
- “Bargain Of A Lifetime” is suggestive of a Faustian bargain or a deal with the devil. Free association and modern-day paranoia suggests a connection with phishing and other scams – and there we have the basis of a plot. The PCs overhear a con-man offering a bargain that’s too good to be true – are they sharp enough to detect the con, or will they be taken in? If they detect the con, will their consciences permit them to let it continue? If they don’t want to get involved, perhaps the con-man gets caught but manages to shift the blame onto one or more of the PCs? As a subplot running while the PCs are shopping for their purchases, this can enliven the whole session.
- “Three Daggers From Wishbane” suggests a matched set of blades. Making a plot out of them suggests something unusual about one of the three. Right away, this gets me thinking about the Sherlock Holmes story “The Six Napoleons” which I saw on TV recently. So what we have here is a mystery plot that can run in the background.
- “The Backpack From Hades” suggests a rather exotic cursed magic item – but if they are told the title, the players will probably reach the same conclusion and be on the lookout for it. So use a little narrative judo, and make the plotline about their paranoia – it should only take a coincidence or two. Perhaps someone, fleeing through the crowd of shoppers with the authorities hard on his heels, thrusts the backpack into the hands of a PC (mistaking him for a confederate) – and the backpack is like a white elephant or bad penny thereafter, always finding its way back to the party and bringing trouble along the way. If it contains stolen property, it might not even be a magic item at all!
- As for “Abdul the Rug-merchant”, anyone who has read the Mythadventures series will immediately recognize the name. Abdul, also known as Frumple the Deveel, is an unforgettable character from a couple of the books (and name-checked in a few more). So perhaps the other merchants cannot buy or sell the PCs the things they want (even though they have them in stock) because they all owe money to Abdul the rug-merchant, who has levied a claim against the merchants in local court, causing the magistrate to freeze the merchant’s assets. In order to actually achieve what they are setting out to do, the PCs will have to solve the town’s problem – which is that Abdul has the entire merchants’ quarter under his thumb!
The adventure titles used for a pulp campaign should be markedly different, just as the style is very different. Titles are shorter, and more melodramatic, emphasizing doom or disaster or imminent danger or mystery. After a while, they can start to sound repetitive if you aren’t careful.
In general, it doesn’t matter how minor the titular plot element is intended to be – choose a dramatic title and then, if necessary, inflate the role of that title element.
When it comes to pulp titles, nouns should rarely exist without an associated adjective (shown in italics): ‘The Crystal Skull’, ‘The Jade Empress’, ‘Pirate Ship’, ‘The Woman In Red‘, ‘The Ghost of Haunted Hollow’, ‘The Bloody Hand’, ‘The Temple of Doom‘. The exception tends to be when a plurality is used for dramatic effect – ‘Thirteen Monkeys’ works very well as a Pulp title (even though the movie is not very pulp-oriented).
The rule of thumb: Make it melodramatic, and imagine it as a book title. Does it work in that context?
Of course, if you want to talk about melodramatic titles, you have to even ramp it up a little more when you start talking about Superhero adventures! Which brings us back to where we were up to when this article started.
Some Context: A brief history of the Ullar / Ultras / Champions / Project: Vanguard / Team Neon Phi / Project: Vigilant / Solo Mini-series / Zenith-3 / Dimension-Regency campaigns
I started my superhero campaign in August of 1981. That’s slightly more than 30 years ago. I’ll say that again – thirty years ago.
The Ullar Campaign was played continuously as a solo campaign for two weeks and told the story of Ullar, a refugee from ‘long ago and far away’ whose galaxy-wide civilization had been destroyed, and his series of battles against an immortal evil Sorcerer and would-be conqueror, Mandarin. Ullar was the world’s first superhero. If the whole thing sounds reminiscent of the Superman mythos, it was! I was both player and GM, and the whole purpose of the campaign was to establish back-story for a later campaign and learn the game system. Ullar arrived at the climax of the Second World War and was driven to become a Hero by the horror of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His adventures occupied the years 1945 to 1958.
The Ultras Campaign started in July of 1981 and was played weekly for a couple of years, starting with three players, losing one of the three and adding a fourth – only two of whom had any experience at all as roleplayers. The first session ran for 20 hours straight! Its adventures started a few weeks after the Heroic Death of Ullar in 1958 and ran through until the mid-1960s. At it’s core, this was the story of two runaway slaves from an interstellar empire and a genius accountant who believed he was destined for something more. The fear and paranoia of the two principle characters, on Earth illegally at the height of the cold war with it’s rampant xenophobia, and operating without official sanction (unlike Ullar), had a major effect on the campaign. Although they eventually won some measure of public respect as Heroes, they shied away from the authorities in their confrontations with the Immortal Sorcerer, Mandarin, who had managed to survive his apparent destruction at the hands of Ullar. Ultimately, the public compared them with the extremely popular and charismatic Hero who had come before them and been idolized, and found them wanting. When they finally defeated Mandarin, ending his menace for all time, public mistrust and official dislike drove them back into deep space.
The Champions Campaign started in the first weekend of August, 1981, exactly two weeks after the commencement of the Ultras Campaign. Set in early 1970, it told of a gathering of Heroes inspired by Ullar. At times it was played weekly (14-20 hour sessions), At times it was fortnightly, at times monthly. For two years while I lived away from Sydney, it could only be played every 3 months or so – whenever I could save up enough money to return for a week or so – typically, 8-15 adventures would be played.
The first spin-off campaign from this original seed was Project: Vanguard, the adventures of a group of trouble-prone teenaged trainee superheroes established by the main group to provide the next generation of superheroes.
After a few years of play, this was followed by the Team Neon Phi campaign (about a team of UNTIL super-agents) and Project: Vigilant, a group of younger trainees.
At around the same time, I decided to do a set of “limited series” – limited-duration mini-campaigns featuring a solo adventure for each member of the original team, and for the Project: Vanguard graduation exercises. Originally intended to cover a single four-week period in game time, these spread out slightly to cover eight weeks – but took two years to actually play. The Solo Campaigns had the lot – guest characters, guest GMs, even guest game systems! Well, everything except one thing, and that followed the Solos: Ragnerok. All the spin-off campaigns shut down and coalesced with the main campaign, and the next 5 years were all about putting the pieces in place for the most ambitious phase of the campaign to date. Unfortunately, just as those pieces were about to start connecting into a bigger picture (literally, only 2 or 3 sessions before the groundwork started connecting), the campaign shut down. It didn’t fold, but the players wanted to take a year off, and then weren’t interested in restarting it when the time came.
In 2000, I started making plans to restart the campaign – not where it had left off, but in a whole new incarnation, where the original campaign was all background, all the old plotlines had been wrapped up, and there had been five years of intervening development in events. Originally, I was simply writing the story of the wrap-up to the old campaign so that the players could see what they had missed, but at the same time I had started the Fumanor campaign and the players persuaded me to reboot the superhero campaign using the old campaign as a background. This became the original Zenith-3 campaign which wrapped up in 2010 on the 29th anniversary of the original campaign.
Along the way, it created it’s own spinoff, the Warcry campaign, which I’ll be talking about separately.
Prep had long been underway for a sequel, and after taking a year to dot the i’s , cross the t’s, and polish the game – plus updating the characters to the latest generation of the game rules – the latest incarnation got underway at the start of the year with the Earth-Regency campaign.
All told, that’s something like 500 adventures. That’s a lot of titles! Too many to actually discuss them all. Heck, that’s too many to even simply LIST them all in the same way that I did for – so I’m not even going to try. Instead, I’m going to pick a few from here and there at random, but concentrating on the more recent campaigns.
The Early Campaigns
There were no titles for the first two campaigns. This was a marked difference to the third, and was how I learned for the first time just how useful a good adventure name could be.
The Original Champions Campaign
- ‘And there will be champions’ - originally a one-session fill-in adventure, this introduced two PCs and ran them through a Bank Robbery. They chose to team-up thereafter. This uses a play on the term ‘champions’ to mean ‘heros’.
- ‘We are The Champions’ - The original game was so successful that the players wanted to turn it into an ongoing campaign. With the introduction of a third PC and the first encounter with Mandarin, the team-up became a Team.
- ‘And then they were four!’ - a fourth PC is recruited.
- ‘Four into One won’t go’ - they might have been a team in name, but there was some distance to go before they were a team in reality. Disputes about purpose and direction interfere with achievement as four strong-willed individualists begin learning how to work together. This was a prophetic title, extrapolating from the behavior and relationships between the players in previous sessions.
- ‘M.E.W.S.-ings’ - for several game sessions, the players had been talking about finding a technological solution to their problems, especially where and when Mandarin was going to strike next. From a GM standpoint, credibility could not have been sustained with the Team encountering Mandarin at every turn – so they missed a couple of encounters, got it right but were too late a time or two, and staked out the wrong target a few times. At the end of the previous game session, one of the players had said, ‘what we need is a Mandarin Early-Warning System’, and the others agreed. Since this solved my credibility problem, I was more than happy to make the session all about the development of the system, finishing with another Mandarin encounter.
- ‘A cold wind blows’ - to test their theories (part of the MEWS development process) and deal with a growing lack of public confidence in the team, the Champions organize a trap for Mandarin. The title refers to the planned bait, a “Viking Scroll”.
- ‘The Hobbitlord’ - This adventure was based on the proposition, ‘What If Gollum missed at the end of the Lord Of The Rings?’ and extrapolating from there. Frodo pushed Sam into Mount Doom, claiming that he and Gollum had gone over the edge together, and took Sauron’s power as his own – though he was not yet strong enough to access it. When he did so, all the things Sauron had achieved also went away, exactly as though the Ring had been destroyed. All proceeded as described in the remaining chapters of the Lord Of The Rings, except that Frodo never chose to go to the Gray Havens. Once Gandalf was out of the way, he systematically betrayed the remaining fellowship and their allies, and took long pilgrimages to various places where he slowly mastered the lessons of evil and power. Eventually he took up the mantle of Sauron, resurrected the Nazgul (replacing their fallen leader with a corrupted Aragorn), and proclaimed himself the Hobbitlord. This was a very carefully-crafted adventure title, designed not to be taken too seriously by the players, not realizing that Frodo used it to put a fairer face on his abject cruelty and evil. As a result, they let their guards down a little, making it all the more poignant when acts of cruelty and outright sadism were performed in the name of the Hobbitlord. At the end of the adventure, they thought they had destroyed the One Ring and Frodo along with it.
The Team Neon Phi Campaign
- ‘Operation American Dream’ - Liberating US Politics from the grip of Viper. The title reflects the more military tone of the new campaign and a metaphor for American idealism.
- ‘Snakeskin & Lace’ - Destroying a Viper lab where a new Designer Drug, Lace, is being created. I’m no longer 100% sure of exactly where the title came from, but it employs the contrast between the two named elements especially effectively. I suspect that I may have been inspired by the phrase “Leather and Lace”. ‘Lace’, of course, has a double meaning in this context, being both the name of the drug and the term used for the fancy cloth, but it’s the latter that comes to mind when you hear the title.
The Later Champions Campaign
- ‘The Hobbitlord Rises Again’ - Frodo had learned from Sauron’s undoing. The ‘One Ring’ the heroes had destroyed was a fake, and the demise of The Hobbitlord was as false as the fall of Sauron had been. In due course, he rose again in a new body, that of an Orc-Hobbit mongrel… With the team now consisting of new players who weren’t there the first time around, I was able to pull the same trick a second time. Even having been briefed on the first encounter, they weren’t prepared for what they encountered.
- ‘Down And Out In Barad-Dur’ - Part 2 of the adventure, which also had other plotlines running for other players at the same time. The title draws inspiration from a movie, obviously, but actually refers to the PCs having been captured and facing imminent defeat.
The Zenith-3 Campaign
- ‘To Reach The Summit’ - The first adventure of the new campaign draws its title on the meaning of ‘Zenith’. Sadly, that was about the only thing that I got right in this adventure – it was supposed to give the campaign background and briefing, plus a couple of surprises, and a bit of roleplay. Instead it was 10 hours of lecturing by the GM that put the players to sleep. The adventure is 46 pages long…!
- ‘Flaw Enforcement’ - the second adventure in the Zenith-3 campaign draws it’s title from the phrase “Law Enforcement”. One of the problems the team had to solve on arrival was the corruption of the police force by Organized Crime under the protection of Governor Capone. I thought it only appropriate that the title of the adventure should be a corruption of the phrase that described what was supposed to be happening.
- ‘Maniac Depressing’ - Another adventure that didn’t quite work, but the title was excellent. It tells the players nothing significant in advance while being completely relevant to the plotline about a frankesteinian researcher blending human and animal DNA in a madhouse with the patients as test subjects.
- ‘Dekhay Abd Ruin’ - This title relies on the villain’s name being an English word, or a misspelling of one – which is not all that uncommon when it comes to supervillains. In this case, the villain is named “Dekhay”, but the plotline packs some extra meaning since the plotline is all about the collapse of his civilization.
- ‘Links’ - This title has a triple meaning. First, it describes the subject of the plotline, which is concerns the connections between unrelated events falling into place. Second, it name-checks the villain of the piece, a villain named Link. Thirdly and finally, Link is the missing piece in the spiderweb of connections that are described by the first meaning of the title, so he is literally the “link” that ties everything together.
- ‘Black Tom’ - One of my favorite adventure titles. ‘Black Tom’ is the name of a Pirate from the 16th century who was abducted by Aliens and plugged into their starship as a replacement part for their computer. Over time, he took over the computer, killed the crew, recruited a new black-heated crew of pirates, and – well, the rest of the story seems fairly obvious. So why do I consider this to be such a good title? Because (1) it names the villain, (2) sounds dramatic, (3) hints at his personality, and (4) is suggestive and reflective of his background. That’s a lot for two short words!
- ‘Double Jeopardy’ - This is a plotline in which one of the PCs was replaced by an evil double. As a result, the team found themselves in danger not once, but twice – the first time as what appeared to be the adventure, and the second time when the double was exposed and threatened to melt down a nuclear reactor if the PCs did not let her go. At the same time, the title was about the danger that the double was put in – and about the danger that the original was facing while the rest of the team didn’t even know she was missing.
- ‘Reflections Of Strange Lines’ -This was probably the most complicated single adventures that I had run to date, and is still one of the top two or three. I love the title because it is so mysterious and yet carries overtones (at least to my mind) of a sense of the cosmic. Parts of the initial idea for the adventure came from the way early comic artists would depict “strange new worlds” as having curved lines, obviously inspired by the notions of canals – something like the illustration above, in fact. Add to that the fact that any straight line on the surface of a globe is actually a curve, and that since space is curved, the strangest lines of all would be perfectly straight – and top it all off with a second meaning for “straight lines”, that they are the shortest distance between two points (or, in the case, between two connected facts that the PCs had to deduce), and a phrase that I had picked up somewhere: “Military men tend to think in straight lines”. Those two facts were a cthulhuesque scifi/fantay take on “Knowledge that man was not meant to know”. The final element to the scenario title was the double-meaning of “Reflections” – the literal meaning, and the one associated with remembering events. The literal meaning connected with the adventure from all of the previous influences I’ve described, which means that no mirror is perfectly flat, and that any straight line seems to bend when reflected or refracted – without changing the fact that it’s still a ‘straight line’, while the metaphoric one actually described the content of the adventure. That content: well, I might write it up in full sometime for Campaign Nastery, because I’m quite proud of it, but it exposed a part of a PC’s past that they no longer remembered, knowledge that had been blocked because it was too dangerous to know, and its rediscovery by the PCs. Once restored to the World Of Strange Lines, the PC would begin recalling the past events by association. It also explained some facets of the game universe and its history that had been hidden since the early 1990s – and required the PCs to erase the entire event from their minds at the end of the adventure.
- ‘A Noble Ambition’ - Noble was an NPC superhero who was running for President. This plotline was all about a deranged political supporter of his campaign who decided that what was needed in order for Noble to win was a wave of sympathy, which the lunatic could create with an assassination attempt designed to fail. The subtext was that the ambitions of one man – no matter how well-intended – influence others in unpredictable ways. The PCs had to find a way to stop the lunatic without violating their self-imposed promise not to try and bias the election beyond making sure it was conducted in a fair and honest manner. So the title actually refers to three separate ambitions, each of which can be considered “Noble” – and, in fact, a fourth if one includes the ambition of Noble’s rival in the election – the supervillain who had been behind almost every substantial problem that game world had, but who had only been doing what HE thought was right all along. That four-way layer-cake of meaning makes this adventure title something special.
- ‘The Case Of The Grim Gargoyle’ - One of the PCs had gone feral in a previous adventure, and it was time to pay the piper in this adventure, as he is arraigned and prosecuted for murdering the flunky of a supervillain (the same one referred to in the previous adventure). I’ve always been a fan of courtroom drama, but the opportunities to pay homage to the genre in a roleplaying campaign tend to be few and far-between. Special Prosecutor Perry Mason faced off against a young Defense Attorney Denny Crane (Boston Legal) in a Federal Court presided over by Judge Schumacher, a character I had always based on Ray Walston’s performance as Judge Bone in Picket Fences. I’m inordinately fond of the adventure, because I believe that I was able to capture the characteristics, mannerisms, and though processes of these rather notable characters perfectly, without doing any of the characters are disservice with my portrayal. The title was a deliberate homage to the naming style of Perry Mason’s literary exploits, as this list of novels will show. To complete the analysis of the title, all you really need to know is that PC in question had a body that resembled that of a human-sized gargoyle, and that the character was recovering from a bout of depression at the time of this adventure – hence, “Grim Gargoyle”. Although the connection is a visceral one, the title will never fail to bring to mind the unique personalities and plot twists of the adventure, encapsulating its essence perfectly – for me at least.
- ‘Force 13′ - Originally titled “Crochet Of Time”, which is not a very good title. The PCs are trapped in a repeating loop of time in which the planet they occupy and defend is repeatedly destroyed. The situation gets more complicated when the PCs learn they are responsible for the (inadvertent) creation of the loop in time, and that undoing it will unleash an even worse chain of events – unless they get really clever. The original title refers to the solution to the problem that I had built into the plotline – I always make sure there is at least one answer in case the players can’t come up with their own – which is why it is such a poor choice as a title. The final title refers to a scale of temporal incident, something analogous to the Richter Scale (Earthquakes), Beaufort Scale (Hurricanes), or Fujita Scale (Tornadoes). The “Celestial Typhoon Scale” goes up to 16 (and, in theory, can go even higher); the event which creates the loop in time is Force 13 on this scale, an event that had only been theoretical previously. In order to solve the problem, the PCs have to team up with their arch-enemy – the same villain mentioned in reference to “A Noble Ambition”.
- ‘The Armageddon Disconnection’ - The campaign was now building up to its big finish, and the primary purpose of this adventure was to ramp up the stakes while eliminating significant parts of the PCs support network. Much of the consequences were actually aimed at the next campaign. The title is one of those that sound immediately familiar, even though (so far as I can determine) it is completely original, and certainly was when it was first written, back in 2006. Mandarin’s Empire (refer to the original campaign, above) used to imprison its criminals using pre-programmed “Time Stop” spells contained in sarcophagi-like ‘mummy cases’. As Ragnerok approached, all but the worst criminals were pardoned and returned to the labor force. The remainder, like everything else from the Mandarin, were scattered throughout time and space in the post-Ragnerok universe. Now, one of them has been found – and the criminal is about to be released… This was another variation on the Knowledge Man Is Not Meant To Know, the criminal was an arcane researcher who went after forbidden knowledge regardless of the cost to others. When he is released, he replicates his research, causing the Universe to “quarantine” space-time, trapping the PCs and turning their temporal connection to other worlds they had influenced into lethal monofilaments of temporal energy – like the headquarters of the Parent Team. This was a team-up with another old Enemy, a clearing of the decks of NPCs that I no longer wanted to have around, and set-up for the future. The title uses “Armageddon” as an adjective to modify “Disconnection” – usually a verb, but in this case, used as a Noun. At first glance you might not recognize the significance of this, but what it is proclaiming is the cause-and-effect relationship, and the fact that in this adventure they are inverted – Armageddon is not the result of the disconnection, it is the cause. That alone is a subtle hint that there’s a complicated causality relationship at the heart of the plotline. This violates my normal rule about giving solution hints in the title, but because there is nothing hidden in this plotline’s overt events – the loop in time – things that would normally be hidden until they occur are known full well to the players if not the characters – and it’s to the players, not the characters, that the adventure title is addressed.
- ‘The Light Of Morning’ - The big finish to the original Zenith-3 campaign is a five-part adventure collectively titled “The Light Of Morning” – a reference to the dawn, to seeing the light, to the light at the end of the tunnel. The first is an allusion to beginnings, the second to understanding, which comes in the middle, and the third to endings. In this case, these terms are not used to form an overall continuity from beginning of a story to an end, but from the middle of a story to an end and thence to a new beginning, the dawn of a new day. This title is so steeped in meaning and significance that it alone would earn this adventure a reference in this list, but there’s more: A deliberate naming structure was used in the subtitles of each of the five parts that adds to, and enhances, the overall significance of the events in that phase if the adventure.
- ‘Elements Of Perpetuity’ - this part of the adventure focused attention on those elements of the team that were going to be staying behind when most of the team moved on to the new campaign setting.
- ‘Elements Of Conclusion’ - this part of the adventure focused on things that were coming to an end – goodbyes to significant NPCs and the like. At the same time, one last round of plot developments began to surface with the deaths of a reformed villain.
- ‘Elements Of Transition’ - with the third part of the adventure, we move from the ‘ending’ to the ‘understanding’ as the PCs realize that the villain of the campaign, who had seemed defeated, and to have accepted that defeat, had one final all-or-nothing plan to achieve his goals, a kamikaze run that – if successful – would have destroyed everything the PCs had fought for and won. Win or lose, he – and the PCs – would never be quite the same again.
- ‘Elements Of Resolution’ - The epic final confrontation with the villain, as still more plot threads come together to show that while the road in between may have been different if they had made other choices, this confrontation was inevitable from the moment the PCs set foot in this game setting, back in the first adventure.
- ‘Elements Of Regeneration’ - The PCs win, though it is a closer-run thing than they expected or were comfortable with. This is a campaign epilogue, exploring the consequences of the final confrontation, and of everything the PCs had done in the course of the campaign, and ending with the reconstitution of the elements of the old team into a new one, in new circumstances, en route to a new campaign setting.
The Earth-Regency Campaign
There have only been two adventures in the new campaign so far, so I can’t offer too many examples from it!
- ‘New Beginnings’ - This title doesn’t just refer to the fact of a new campaign or a new start for the team, its central action offers ‘new beginnings’ to the lives of a new PC team member, a new NPC team member, and a new (artificially intelligent) headquarters. It also marks the beginnings of a number of new relationships between the PCs and some NPCs who will become significant to them in the future.
- ‘Blood Runs Cold’ - You’re always learning. The method used to introduce the game setting to the PCs last time around was so disastrous it was almost a year before everyone found their feet. This time around, I wanted to spread things out a little more, so this adventure was deliberately designed to give the old PCs a chance to learn what their new teammates could do, and for the team to start gelling. To avoid distracting the players with all the complications of learning a new game world at the same time, this was set on one that they already knew well. The title alludes to the circumstances of the adventure, in which they confront a Vampire with centuries of skill and planning behind him. An atmospheric noir style was deliberately invoked through the adventure, mostly in the descriptions of the settings, and the title was deliberately couched in a very noir fashion to get the players into the right frame of mind.
- ‘The Gift Of Dying’ - The adventure that the players are about to start. A Christmas adventure which has as a subplot the team members shopping for appropriate gifts for each other, but the main plot will be the hunt for the hardest type of serial killer to catch – someone who mails one bomb each year, targeting the postal service. This is an adventure to let the players become better acquainted with the new game setting. The title is a somewhat poetic allusion to the actions of the villain, who was inspired by a piece of art that I came across on the internet – it’s probably copyright, so I won’t be showing it here, but do a Google Image search for “Bad Santa” and you will find it, plus some variations.
The Warcry Campaign
Warcry was a member of Zenith-3 until it became clear that – due to a flaw in the rules system – he was vastly overpowered relative to the other characters. Rather than retire the character and ditch all the plotlines I had planned for him, his player and I decided jointly to give him his own solo campaign to use as a rules development test-bed. This campaign very strongly a space opera / soap opera / superhero blend. I’m not going to explain or comment on the adventure titles, as I’m running short of time, I’m simply going to list them. Some of the titles are weaker, some are stronger – I’ll leave the exercise of identifying which is which to the reader. Note that I have revealed this list to the players, so I’m not giving away any secrets here!
- 01. Intelligence Games
- 02. Death Redux
- 03. The Nebula Project
- 04. The ‘Daughters Of Darion’ epic:
- 04a Getting To Know You
- 04b Bugs In The System
- 04c Legacy Of The Ancients
- 04d Dramune Run – this is the adventure we have just finished.
- 04e Cargo Macabre
- 04f Unscheduled Detour
- 04g Quantum Queen
- 04h Voices Of The Gods
- 04i Who Mourns Adonis?
- 04j Where Credit Is Due
- 04k An Air Of Diplomacy
- 04l The Wedding Planner
- 05. The Mists Of Avalon
- 06. The Freedom To Disbelieve
- 07. The Convention Of Cross-Time Ichigos
- 08. The Stillness Of Light
- 09. Journey To The Centre Of The Blackwing
- 10. Red Mars
- 11. The ‘To Crown A King’ epic:
- 11a Crusade
- 11b Balance Of Evil
- 11c The Devil’s Bargain
- 11d Revolution
- 11e Redemption
- 11f Epilogue I
- 11g Epilogue II
- 12. The ‘Paint Me A Picture’ Trilogy:
- 12a Paint Me A Picture
- 12b Family
- 12c Demon To The Left of Me, Demon To The Right
- 13. The Wine-Dark Depths
- 14. Time After Time
- 15. Instant Karma
- 16. An Empire Built On Trade
- 17. Show A Little Backbone
- 18. A Stroke Of Luck
- 19. A Lesson Learned
- 20. The Fastest Gun
- 21. Windows Into Yesterday
- 22. For Sale: One Chassis (slightly used)
- 23. Reflected Glories
- 24. A World Without Behemoth
There’s one more part of this series to go – a look at alien names & languages, at random name generators and how to use them, and at some other tools to help you with your naming of characters, campaigns, and adventures. That’s right, the next part will talk about Name Tools – with, hopefully, a few surprises!
- A Good Name Is Hard To Find
- The Wellspring Of Euonyms: Name Seeds
- Sugar, Spice, and a touch of Rhubarb: That’s what little names are made of
- With The Right Seasoning: Beyond Simple Names
- Grokking The Message: Naming Places & Campaigns
- Hints, Metaphors, and Mindgames: Naming Adventures (Part 1)
- Hints, Metaphors, and Mindgames: Naming Adventures (Part 2)
- Memorials To History – an ‘a good name’ extra