I ran into an interesting phenomenon when running my bi-weekly Infinity: The Roleplaying Game. The game itself was a kickstarter and is currently shipping (check out the quickstart), though that’s not what this post is about.
By default, in the Infinity RPG, characters come from very different backgrounds, from the hyper-capitalist hyperpower PanOceania or the Neo-Anarchist megaships of the Nomad Nation to the rugged backwater nations of Ariadne or the cloning vats of Aleph, humanity’s sole AI. However, as per the standard design of the game, the characters will be working together in a supra-national team, usually dealing with crises that threaten the stability of humanity as a whole. This of course results in wildly different personalities and loyalties, something the game loves to play with. You see, there’s a layer placed on top of the normal special operations, diplomatic wrangling and rooting out alien infiltrators that the game usually deals with.
Every character has a handler (or more) that represents the interests of the nation state they ostensibly are loyal to. These handlers will provide side-missions to the character and that character alone. And that is where it gets interesting.
As we discussed last week, a proper theme can really help guide you in planning a campaign. Today I’d like to talk about using theme to not guide your own campaign but to guide your players.
You see, players are tricky creatures and will subconsciously pick up on the themes you’re putting down. You can use this to both make your game more compelling and to pull the rug out from under them for a surprising upset. How to do this, well, that’s what we’ll be talking about here.
So you’ve decided to GM a roleplaying game. Awesome! You’ve got a system all picked out, your players are excited and you’ve started doing some prep for your campaign. You’re figuring out names for towns and what optional rules to use. You’ve read the rulebook again and are starting to draw up some NPCs and potential plotlines.
But now comes the hard part of creating and running a successful campaign. You somehow have to wrangle and wrestle all of your ideas into a cohesive whole and then herd the cats that are your players in the right direction to actually experience all that content you’ve made for them. And that’s not easy.
But fear not, dear reader. There are tricks to be employed, ruses to use and techniques to master that’ll make this if not easy, at least doable.