Looking to start a group in West Bloomfield, MI


Time slot: Friday 6 - 9

Location: West Bloomfield, MI

Frequency: Weekly (aspirationally, I've got a kid and family stuff so I think we'll be doing good to get 30 sessions a year, semi-weekly though would be fewer than I would like after the inevitable need to cancel some sessions for other commitments)

I'm looking to start an RPG group that will be interested in trying different games and campaign settings. The TLDR version is that we will start by running a few games for a few sessions to see what works for the group and then choose a game for a longer term campaign that I will run longer story arcs for and alternate each story arc with a different game. I expect that we'll eventually have a primary game and then a few other games we keep coming back to when we want a change of pace.

Since I am not pitching a specific campaign I want to tell you a bit about how I run games. My experience has been that play style matters more than the plot or setting so want to give you enough information to decide if I am the kind of game master you'd work well with. I'm forty something and have been running or playing rpgs since grade school, though since I moved to Michigan I have only run or played in a few online games before deciding the format isn't for me. This is the first game I am starting up since moving here and finally decided I could with my four year old daughter becoming easier to get to bed at night and becoming resigned to the fact Covid ain't going away.

I plan to run an improvisational, low prep style. In the past I have run some deeply plotted high prep games, but I have found the best sessions were always those where I threw out the notes and improvised, with a kid I don't have time to do that kind of prep anymore so I am making a virtue out of necessity. I tend to emphasize plot, narrative, and character over combats. I rarely do dungeon crawls and tend towards a sandbox style gameplay with various factions involved that advance their plots which the characters can then act against or not as they see fit. I plan to emphasize character driven plots and collaboration between the players and GM so if you're someone that likes to add some details of your own into the game this group should be a great fit for you. If you're into super elaborate, challenging encounters this might not be such a great fit, I try to make my combats fun, and I can do a good boss fight, but a proper dungeon crawl and lots of challenging fights takes more time than I can devote to prep to get right. If you just want to show up and play your character that's fine too, in my experience I have a mix of players who get really into the game world and want to add to it and others who just want to focus on their character and the game, a mix of both types works out well.

Generally I am going to be running straight up adventure stories. I am not going to be making plot lines that are emotionally challenging or aiming for catharsis, I want to tell tales of heroes triumphing over adversity and make everyone feel like they're playing awesome characters involved in a great story. If player interest is there I might aim for something other than just spinning a simple adventure story, but that's going to be my default.

While I am not trying to delve into difficult areas, some of the settings I am suggesting do draw inspiration from darker periods of history. I've never used them before, but I think various safety tools are a good idea. Some settings might have difficult subjects such as slavery or colonialism as part of the background and if this concerns you please bring it up with me, I don't want anyone to pass on the game because they aren't sure I can handle these subjects respectfully.

So what am I going to run? I have some specific ideas below. As a GM I am intrigued by a lot of the newer story focused games, but as a player I really like crunch heavy games where I can play around with the numbers a lot, this tends to inspire a lot of character ideas I can then flesh out. I assume we'll be doing a bit of both to meet everyone's preferences.

Potential long term games

Ars Magica: I've wanted to run this since high school but never found the right group. What interests me about the game is its emphasis on troupe style play and long term advancement which gives a very different pacing from most games. Assuming new players I would probably run a relatively straightforward game of magi dissatisfied with their current covenant and looking for a new one.
With more experienced players I have a couple of ideas. One is that a covenant that was previously thought destroyed in a magical disaster reestablishes contact with the order and asks for younger magi to go there to keep the covenant going. This would have some suspense and horror themes as the players interact with some very old, very powerful, and very weird magi and learn more about what happened there.
Second idea would take place in about 1500 instead of the normal time period. Vasco Da Gama's journey to India returned with a magical item that should have been impossible under Hermetic theory. The order sends an expedition to the east to learn more about it.
Post-apocalyptic fantasy - A world I've been working on loosely inspired by by 4E games such as Dominions, Master of Magic, and Age of Wonders as well as the late Bronze Age Collapse. In this setting the gods have physical manifestations and a war between them has led to widespread civilizational collapse. Three potential campaigns within this world would be one set in Mesopotamia where local leaders were able to defend themselves through demon summoning. This would probably be an urban campaign focused on resisting this leadership. Second idea would be a steppe campaign in a Scythian inspired culture focused on finding lost magical artifacts from a legendary ruler. Third idea would be an exploration campaign with the players being Athenian exiles, my Athens would be inspired by classical Athens rather than bronze age Athens, and Athens would currently be ruled by a tyrant who relies on constructs for defense. There would also be various global enchantments in play which campaigns might develop to try to end, such as one leading to an ice age and another resulting in the dead rising if not burried in hallowed ground. Systems to run it could be D & D 5E, 13th Age, 2d20 Conan, or plenty of others.

Spelljammer - I have loosely drawn up a Spelljammer setting loosely based on the Dutch colonial period. It would take place in a single system. One planet would be dominated by goblinoids, this is the most advanced world and my stand in for the colonial powers. A halfling and gnome dominated world will be based on Great Britain, southeast Asia would be an asteroid belt, the world the players start on would have all the standard PC ancestries and would have cultures based on Africa and North America, and elves would have another distant world loosely based on China. Spelljammer technology will be a recent development from the goblinoid world, previously trade was maintained by migrating kindori which had a route between the worlds allowing for some long distance trade. There are also several worlds that were not part of this route and that start the game unexplored. Probably run it with D & D, but easy enough to use a different system if that is preferred.

Colonization campaign: You wake up to alarms blaring! Something has severely damaged the ship. You were on a sub-light colonization mission in cold sleep. The command module has been destroyed and you're a backup not meant to be woken up until landfall. The computer system is down, you don't know where you are, and the object that struck the ship appears to be artificial. You're in orbit around a planet that has artificial power sources, but no sign of anyone living that can respond to you. You have a ship full of colonists in cold sleep and need to decide what to do. For a more regular people in an extraordinary situation we can run it with traveller, for a more action oriented game a Modiphius 2d20 might be a good fit. Or something else.

Deepnight Revelation: I usually prefer to make my own stuff, but I got the Deepnight Revelation campaign on a Bundle of Holding and rather liked it. This is a deep space exploration game featuring a journey estimated to last 20 years and investigating a potential alien menace in addition to the exploration component. This is for traveller and I probably wouldn't try to convert it to something else.

Mutant Chronicles: I really like the rules for this game and have three campaign books from a Humble Bundle. It looks easy to come up with scenarios for as well.

Episodic Settings:

Urban campaign: Most fantasy epics end with the dark lord being destroyed and everything else goes back to normal. But a world threatening evil army needs infrastructure and material support. What happens with that? In this campaign players are part of a force occupying the capital of a dark lord who was destroyed by an adventuring party. The forces of good remain outnumbered by the forces of evil, who have splintered into various factions on the demise of the former ruler. The capital city features the fortress of the dark lord, but it's inaccessible due to a magical barrier, a school of magic specializing in demon summoning and necromancy, noble houses with a pecking order based on magical ability, goblinoids in vast caverns beneath the city with their own culture and society (though all the hobgoblins have disappeared), temples to dark gods, a vast water powered industrial economy, and a squabling group of "good" factions all trying to advance their own agenda of how to hold things together. This will largely be an episodic campaign featuring players responding to various problems as a group of adventuring problem solvers trying to hold things together. My original setting has a D & D style setting in mind, but I could easily run it in Shadow of the Demonlord, Pathfinder, Conan, Sword Chronicle, or most any fantasy system.

Mage: I always liked Mage and have a loose idea for a campaign based on a place of power in a small town. It would start in a sort of dungeon crawl where the characters make a few excursions into a haunted house to deal with its current denizens before claiming it as their own. From there we would expand to address the town as a whole and its various magic denizens going for an episodic monster of the week kind of campaign where players deal with supernatural threats. I would be using the Mage rules for a more generic urban fantasy setting. I think Awakening has the stronger rule set, but I think the character options in Ascencion are more interesting so would be fine with either rule set depending on player preference. I would ignore a lot of the meta plot and some of the general setting information to instead just focus on supernatural threats, though if players liked portions of the general setting I could of course bring some of that back in.

Superheroes: I've got Champions and wouldn't mind running something with it. I've got an idea kicking around in my head for insurgent superheroes in a libertarian AI dystopia where rich patent holders ruthlessly try to keep technology down for everyone but the wealthy few. Most of the world operates at a mid 20th century technology level, but the few rich people have super technology with robots doing all the work.

Shorter story arcs:

There's some games that I like, but don't think I would want to run long story arcs in. These games we would stick with for several sessions before changing to something else I can run longer term, though we could shift back in the future if players liked the characters.

Blades in the Dark: I really like this game though I don't have a particular campaign in mind. I don't think I could run a heist week after week, but I think this game would be great fun for a short break between other campaigns with a story lasting 1 - 3 sessions at a time.

Rifts: I always had fun with Rifts, but I never really felt that the rules worked well enough to run a long campaign with them. It does have a very different feel from other games, in particular its decision to not care about game balance at all. I think I'd go for a pulp adventure feel with each story taking place in a new area.

Hunter: Great game for short episodic adventures. No particular campaign ideas though.

Star Trek Adventures: Really like the rule system, I'm not a big trekkie but it works perfectly for an exploration game.

Shadowrun: Always liked the game though I don't have anything specific in mind. Probably just use it for some short runs and then see if something interesting emerges as we play. Though I've got a half formed idea about a very wealthy person disappointed that superheroes never developed along with other powers and pays a group of runners to form a Superhero team. It would be played as a bit humorous, with the players going along with it for the nuyen but probably having a wide range of opinions on the need to dress up in spandex and to have superhero names to go on runs.

To get started, my thought is to run a few games for about three sessions to get a feel for what works well for the group. We would use games with either quick character generation or use premades so we have plenty of play time. I am sure that after a few games people will want longer story arcs with more long term character development so we would then discuss and choose which games we might want to stick with longer. My short list of games to start with is 13th Age, Shadow of the Demon Lord, Fellowship, a 2d20 system (Star Trek, Conan, or Mutant Chronicles), or Fate. All of these games have some interesting mechanics that I think could be borrowed for other games as well as looking interesting to play in their own right.

After that we'll choose a few games for longer term play and see where it goes from there.
My plan is for us to have weekly meetings at my house, that's going to be easiest for me to get the kid in bed after. If six is too early we can discuss delaying it a bit or maybe ordering in food or rotating bringing a dish.

My wife doesn't like the idea of having complete strangers in the house so we'll start with a session zero in a local bar. I've got some ideas but I'm open to suggestions on the location. We'll discuss which games to start with, create characters, and go over any questions or concerns about the game.

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