Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to create a swashbuckling campaign in no time at all

This is one post players in my present 7th Sea game might want to avoid. I don't say that because I'm going to spoil any important parts of the plot, but because I will come across as disorganized and confused.

Many bloggers have posted about how to set up "sandbox" campaigns. Personally I'm not yet a convert to that style, so I will post something different. I'm not sure what can be learnt from my experiences, but if my suggestions are not good advice I at least hope some of it might be amusing.

So. This time I had gotten a request for a game of pirates and swashbuckling. I own 7th Sea, so I suggested that. Now it was time to think of some way to start it off. Since the theme didn't fit very well with meeting in a tavern to go off and fight monsters I decided to start everything on a ship.

Now what?

Swashbuckling means a merry chase round and round and breathtaking escapes and chases, right? Ok. Then I'll start with a fight, and let them get hold of a treasure map. Either they grab it from the villain when winning the fight, or they get hold of it because he drops it. Yeah, I know. But, I figured it kind of fit the style of story. Then they might go off and try to find the treasure and I can have someone mysteriously trying to stop them, or if the go ashore to find out more I can have people chasing them and trying to get the map back.

As you might note I had no master plan. I kind of figured they would meet the villain whose map they had gotten in the end at the treasure site, but that was it.

So what you need for a campaign are three things

1. a location that reinforce the theme, a ship.
2. a villain
3. a MacGuffin, the map and the treasure

Then it might help to have a few outs for the likely roads taken, like "Somebody chasing them if they go to A and somebody chasing them if they go to B."

After this I had no idea. I did buy a pile of adventures for Flashing Blades when they were on sale at DrivethruRPG, so I figured I could somehow contrive to place them in front of the players if they went off in unexpected directions.

Now we have just began to entangle us in a few of those adventures and I have introduced a whole crowd of conspiracies and secret societies. I have a strong suspicion it will become more and more twisted, and considering I have no idea how it fits together I wonder what will happen?

What amazes me most of all is that they still haven't tried to get hold of that treasure from the map.


  1. Judging from this post, I'd say our GM styles look to be related. Most my campaigns have started out with a MacGuffin and a few loose plot-hooks (often baited with red herrings). Add conspiracies as needed.

    As for the map, I can sympathise. I have no idea how many maps, gadgets, books or items I've introduced as a way of advancing the plot, only to have the PC's toss it in a pile with the other discarded plot-hooks.

  2. Seems like that's almost a standard for 7th Sea games. Throw something at em and let them drive the plot. The current campaign I'm starting is actually going to be the Hammer and Tongs arc out of the Freiburg boxset. However, since I had some players that were new to the game (And one that sometimes has difficulty with concepts for this kind of game), I ran a game on the fly like that (Let that player use an NPC which he has now adopted as his character). However, I snagged a simple plot thread from a PDF I found of Georges Polti's 'The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations'. I highly recommend this one to any gamer as it can help someone stumped for a plot in no time.

  3. Seems like my way have worked for others before me.

    Personally I feel this game have a great potential for just meandering, but if it fizzles I guess I have more games to try...


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