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Sharpening up my campaign pitch; feedback appreciated


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My hope from this post is that I can get some feedback. I want to be able to establish a razor sharp elevator pitch for players to sell the world and invoke a good feel for the game I am trying to run. So please enjoy the pitch, and then post any reactions/feedback to this idea.

The end IS nigh.

The premise is of a world poised at the beginning of an apocalypse.

The Lord God Mithra, wise and all-knowing judge and king of the world has given the world many blessings and guided the enlightened believers of the world. The Lord God Mithra has sheltered the world from many ills, but the portents are coming true regarding the one thing that Mithra’s mercy cannot spare us from; the Dark Ones. Through divine inspiration the monks in the Well of Words have discovered an ancient scroll known as the ‘Trepidations of Lam’.

The ‘Trepidations of Lam’ speak of the terrible days ahead, of the coming of the Dark Ones, their nearly unstoppable power, and the inevitable ruination of the world. The scroll says that they are terrible creatures dwelling in the darkest corners of the netherworlds. When the magical auras of these worlds eclipse, the Dark Ones will be able to slip between this world and the barren and blasted realm where they dwell. Every ten thousand years these Dark Ones return to Earth to feed upon the creatures and the land, and soon, they will be returning in full force.

Terrible and powerful, the Dark Ones are beyond compassion and reason. They seek to consume. Some desire to feed on anything physical; rocks, trees, it matters not. Others want flesh, blood, and bones of those that flee from their sight. The more powerful live on pain, terror, and the dark emotions those experiences arouse in their victims. They will come, and little can be done to stop them. It is said by the priests of Mithra that these Dark Ones can be killed, but many believe that this is just talk to soothe the fears of the populous and give us false hope. But the unavoidable truth is that the magic of the world is growing stronger, and the Dark Ones will soon be able to slip through into our world. Meanwhile, the evils of the world stir. Monsters come forth from the shadows where once they were content to linger. They push and feed upon the fair people of the world. Giants come down from the mountains and hills. The boar-men of the Volg stream from the arrowgrass to plunder and burn the horse lords and nomads of the area. Spiders gather and hunt in packs in the forests tainting the True Woods. The fabled serpent men slither out of their desert lairs and wreak havoc upon the infidels of the East. But most of all, men turn upon men, with panic, paranoia and suspicion showing on many people’s faces.

The world was slow to believe that these dire warnings were true, but the signs all point to the inevitable. Long have we lived beside the ruins of the First Men, eyeing what great structures remain, marveling at their mysteries, with few ever having wondered where they had gone; drunk as we were in the power of our own nations. We assumed that they had faded gracefully into the night, but the ‘Trepidations of Lam’ speak otherwise, that they went screaming and painfully into oblivion. But some must have survived to found our world, and so we know that survival is possible and the scrolls speak of this promise too.

The priests of Mithra say that the End of Days is coming soon, and that we must make haste to defend ourselves against the coming Dark Ones. Sorcerers make wards and fortify cities and homes against possible incursion. Some have taken to trying to force their way into dwarven strongholds, only to be kept out and killed for their insolence. Others scour the ruins of the First Men, searching for clues about how to do brave the oncoming menace. The priests of Mithra and holy men pour over scriptures and tend to their flock, trying to keep calm. Leaders of men prepare the best they can while arguing over what will work and what will save themselves, and sometimes their people.

Now more and more people, and not just the faithful, are heeding the warnings the scrolls provide. However, the reaction has been mixed, given that the date of the Dark One’s arrival is estimated to be about fifty years from now. Some abandon their hopes for the future, and descend into apathy, despair, and hedonism. Others try and soldier on, fortifying their faith and contemplating what the dark days ahead will hold. The best of us prepare, and seek ways to shield others from the coming horrors. This is in this world that you are finding yourself amongst. Will you be a hero such as the world cries out for, or will you see this world as an opportunity to take what you want while you still can?

Particular questions I am interested in include:

What are the first three adjectives that come to you mind after reading this pitch (does not have to be world/game related)?

What assumptions do you have about this potential campaign, and the world, from reading this intro?

How gritty of a world does this sound like?

How heroic of a world does this sound like?

Do you feel like if you were presented with this pitch that your character could make a big impact on the world?

Does this pitch make you want to travel the world or stay locally focused?

What sort of tropes/themes/expectations do and would you have of a game like this?

Thanks a ton for your feedback!

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Some thoughts. It's obviously a good setting for a game but it was hard for me to get through on a casual reading. You can condense a lot of it. I'm a simple man and I need a game pitch to tell me what I'm expected to do in the game.

Take out the bit in the second paragraph about the Dark Ones. We know their bad news already, we don't need them described. Move Magic becoming more powerful up to the first paragraph. Move the ruins of the First Men up to the first paragraph too. The last three paragraphs can then be condensed and combined.

So we get Mithras and his prophecy, the Dark Ones and the fall of the First Men, and the rise of magic in the first paragraph. It gives us a solid idea of what the stakes are. Then follow with all the beasties leaving their haunts in the second paragraph so we know what we're fighting right away.

The third paragraph kind of tells us what our resources are. We have sorcerers, cities, dwarves, the faithful and the secrets hidden in the ruins of the First Men. We also know that not everyone is on the same page about how this should be handled. I would use this condensed third paragraph to let the players know what kind of character they could potentially play.

Questions answers:

1. dark, hidden, monsters

2. I'd expect a lot of fighting in the muck, several losses and magical artifacts that would help turn the tide. I'd also probably like to raise a small company of soldiers or an army if I were playing in this game.

3. gritty

4. Depends, I'm not sure what the question means. I expect there will be some strong magics flying around. Otherwise I don't see a way for the PCs to hold their own.

5. Big impact? No. I'm making assumptions on the resources available to me. As presented it seems like there's not much hope.

6. Either is fine.

7. Losses, gains, reversals, big magics, maybe some diplomacy. It's a big setting maguffin so I could see running parallel games with different characters all trying to solve the issue of the Dark Ones and the prophecy.

Final Note: I try to keep my pitches short because I find my players just want to play something. As long as they have some cool things to do they are happy. I pulled up an old email as an example where I pitched several games (edit to remove non pitch things).

Ravenloft (BRP) - Think Hammer Horror meets Solomon Kane. Ravenloft is a world in which Evil is a real thing that can corrupt and twist even the most virtuous individual should they let their guard down. It is full of crumbling castles and haunted estates, darkling woods, creatures of the night and other gothic tropes.

Should you decide to play this we will create characters that are all descended from or in some way related to the fallen house of Shadowborn, an estate that was once headed by a great hero, Lady Kateri Shadowborn. The estate disappeared a generation ago and those associated with it have been scattered. Alternatively, we can do something else in Ravenloft. It is just that I had some ideas for Shadowborn that I wanted to explore.

Changes: Originally published under AD&D, Ravenloft as writ contains the obligatory halflings and elves and dwarves and stuff. I'll be stripping it out for a much more humanocentric game. There are a few magic systems, however. There's sorcery and wizardry, some psychic abilities, wards and potions and such and personal magic items. All run under the BRP rules.

Itinerants of the Young Kingdoms - Rag tag heros tossed by the whims of Law and Chaos through a world of demons, elementals and a thin barrier separating it from the other worlds of the multiverse. Based on the writings of Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Champions.

A continuance of my Elric! game. K, G, B and S all have characters rolled up already. You can use them or create new ones. In the past I have let people run two characters at a time in this game. Going forward if we choose this one to play, do to the size of the group I think it should be limited to ONE character per player.

Champions of Order - Agents of Law during the height of the Lormyrian Republic, you will play the heavy hitters, the champions of Law who have fearlessly fought and shuffled off the yolk of the cruel and tyrannical Melnibonean Empire and thrown down the dominance of the Lords of Entropy. The Champions have wide latitude in friendly areas and dangerous foes outside of their sphere of influence.

This would be a pretty high powered game. Think of yourselves kind of as fantasy jedi who gain abilities through devotion through ritual exposure to the Precepts of Law and those who embody the virtues of passed heros.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying - Roleplaying in the world of Marvel Comics using the Cortex system. Loosely based on Marvel continuity, you will create a team that we will come up together at character generation. This one is wide open as to how you want to take it. I've included it both because I think it would be fun for a while and I want to try out the system.

Magic World - I'm really excited about this one. It's a reissue of the rules for Elric!, but expanded for more typical fantasy fare. If you want to play an elf or a dwarf or centaur or jabberwock this is the game you want to back. I've got a couple of ideas for this one, or we can just play loose with it. There is a small setting that comes with the book that I'll probably set the game in while borrowing from other settings as well.

Now I'm not saying this is the best way to get a player excited about the game or whatever, just offering it for comparison. A more involved write up is something I would do after I get people signed on.

Again, no worries if you don't agree with things I've written. I make it a point to be wrong at least seven times a day.


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Thanks a ton for the feedback Chaot!

To your point of being a bit long winded; I am guilty as charged. Brevity is something I struggle with setting wise. I have been pecking away at this project and am circling the 148 page mark (not including maps and spreadsheets). But world design is something I enjoy more even if it is for myself. So I will trim down a bit.

To clarify question 4) How heroic of a world does this sound like? - This may have been better put with spectrum of heroic vs. street level. Some of the issues I have ran into with players in the past is the varying expectations of how important the PCs are in the world by comparison. For example (using D&D colloquialisms for simplicity); a 1st level character expressing confusion why the Duke of Somewherestonia not taking them seriously enough to even meet with them. Of why the captain of the guard with a contingent of 50 men-at-arms and grizzled veteran of the last orc wars would not bow, scrape , and automatically take the player's side of things. The jerk in me wants to casually label this disconnect as the fault of the player and that I should jettison them like the flotsam that they are. But, I also realize that this very well could (logically) be due to a disconnect between the expectations of the players and the job I have done explaining how the world works. And aside from inserting a 'P.S. Your characters ain't shit till you can prove otherwise.' I am trying to experiment with verbiage to relay this concept more intrinsically.

And as an aside I see nothing intrinsically wrong with games where the king begs the brand new PCs to save the kingdom for him (even though he has an army, champions of his own, likely scores of wizards and their apprentices, the combined clergy of the faiths who support his rule, and a horde of conscriptable peasants). That is just a flavor of game that I do not want to run with this setting at this point.

I loved the newsletter pitch by the way! It is very much an artifact akin to the essence of this post's intent; that different player's are drawn to different concepts/pitches based on the presentation of the pitch. So essentially this is all just advertising research.

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To your point of being a bit long winded; I am guilty as charged. Brevity is something I struggle with setting wise. I have been pecking away at this project and am circling the 148 page mark (not including maps and spreadsheets). But world design is something I enjoy more even if it is for myself. So I will trim down a bit.

Don't get me wrong, I think a good amount of information is a positive. I know I like it when I'm a player. It gives me something to hang my character on. It depends one who your pitching to, I guess. Like, when I did the flyer? Every single one of the players admitted to me that they didn't read it! X(

To clarify question 4) How heroic of a world does this sound like?

The world sounds dangerous and gritty. The game itself sounds heroic. The pitch was about all of these great changes and prophecies that are going to sweep the world. Kings and hierophants might now agree with me but I would expect to be talking with them at some point, if only to stress to them how much danger their kingdom/flock is in.

Now, if it were pitched that we were nomads fending off the boar-men of the Volg and that darker hints of the coming of the Dark Ones, then I would scale down my expectations from 'heroic' to being more local. Know what I mean?

All that being said, I want to add that it sounds like you have a very rich campaign world. I hope you get a chance to put it through it's paces soon!


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So far I haven't pitched this yet, but I'm experimenting with a wiki-like structure, using an actual wiki. (example -- yes I'm posting the link again.) The "main page" contains the who, what, why, when, and how, with links to specific details should anyone be interested.

When I was pitching a "fill-in" game I offered to run several different games, with summary tables of each and links to drill down. We eventually did Tunnels & Trolls ... for one session, before the holidays hit and the group scattered. (We were sort of on our last legs anyway; two members only attended occasionally, and the fifth members changed as often as Murphy Brown's secretaries or Spinal Tap drummers. Plus I suck as a GM.)

Perhaps the pitch isn't as important as the number and quality of players.


"Welcome to the hottest and fastest-growing hobby of, er, 1977." -- The Laundry RPG
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To me, the setting seems as if it could be a real downer unless the players (and their characters) are given a clear win strategy. That doesn't mean the opposition has to be wimpy or the quest easy. But there has to be a way to beat the Dark Ones, or your campaign will be survival horror rather than heroic fantasy. Lord of the Rings: Drop the ring in the volcano. Wizard of Oz: Get the witch's broomstick. The Book of Three: Keep the magic pig away from the bad guys. The Princess and the Goblin: Rescue said princess.

So far, you haven't given prospective players any hope. If the the primary god of goodness and light says the world is going down the toilet and there's nothing he can do about it, what are the player-characters supposed to do? They're being overrun by formerly elusive and remote "normal" monsters, and the Dark Ones sound the equivalent of the Titans in Disney's Hercules. Only Herc ain't around to save the day this time.

Edited by seneschal
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To a degree I question if it is really a bad thing that there are events in the world that are beyond the control of the PCs? In our lives there are lots of forces larger than ourselves that act upon us with veritable impunity. This is certainly not to say that the PCs will not have the ability to affect the outcome. Part of the story which may be more in my head than in the pitch is that society DID in fact survive the last coming of the Dark Ones, although there was a very high percentage of the population was killed. So part of the theme is delving to find out what worked and perhaps more importantly; what did not. I am stealing pretty heavily from the Earthdawn setting, and there are dwarven settlements that survived and even prospered the last coming of the Dark Ones, the elves of the Dark Continent did not do so well. I have a timeline that I am working on covering very macro events that will occur from year 100-0 until the unrestrained influx of the Dark Ones and how seven 'kingdoms' will behave and various milestones that will occur without player intervention. But there IS a strong streak of survival horror in the campaign.

Certainly the goal is not for the world to be hopeless, although certainly there will be a percentage of the world's population that descends into hopelessness. It is the implicit hope that the players will be part of the small population that jams their finger into the shark's eye, or at the very least hopes the shark chokes on their body, so to speak. But, I also think it would be an interesting campaign to run a group that is the opposite, the ones that are content to let it burn, grab what they can and have the best ride they can until the end, it may not be heroic per say, but certainly a compelling tale.

However, thank you for the feedback Seneschal, that is the goal of this thread, to see how people react to the pitch and see about tweaking the verbiage to convey the expectations more clearly.

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If I create a campaign world to be utterly hopeless... I always make the game about surviving as long as possible against odds that are stacked against them, and trying to make the most of the last hours This could mean saving many people from the infection of parasites in your space station by setting the self destruct and defending the terminal as the hive minded creatures try to kill you and unset it. It could mean jetissoning every escape pod before you get the chance to escape so that none of the creatures get out, etc.

It could even be about spending it with who you love, if you want to go a noncombat route.

Edited by Link6746
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