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Old 09-05-2017, 04:19 PM   #1
Apollonian
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

In an effort to better organize my GMing thoughts, I'm trying to collect examples of RPG/campaign core activities (as Robin Laws puts it) and mission statements (as Bill Stoddard puts it in a post I can't track down at the moment).

First off, can you contribute some CA/MS (lovely acronym) that have worked well - or poorly in helping you understand, pitch, and/or play a game or campaign?

Second, what games in your experience have benefited from a strong CA/MS? Which ones have suffered from a weak one? And which ones did just fine without, and why do you think that is?
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I'll start with the easy ones I've been able to think of...

D&D (and derivatives, including Dungeon Fantasy): Kill monsters, take their stuff.
Call of Cthulhu: Discover the horrible things underlying reality and go mad in the process. (Possibly holding back the darkness one more day.)
GURPS Monster Hunters: Hunt monsters in the modern day, and kill them.
Feng Shui: Be kung fu action heroes in a cross-time struggle of fists and guns!

One of the games I think does fine without a CA/MS is, of course, GURPS - the mission statement for GURPS is "You can do anything!" which explicitly denies any kind of focus. But I find that means I need to come up with a CA/MS for any campaign I run in GURPS, or it goes all mushy around the second or third adventure. (I think there's an argument for saying GURPS has a core style, call it "action realism" or something, and contrast that with Fate Core's core style of "narrative gamesmanship" or whatnot, for example, but that's not what I'm talking about here.)
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Old 09-05-2017, 04:41 PM   #2
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

I don't do mission statements based on the system, both because I run a lot of games in universal systems, and because I may very well figure out a campaign idea and run it in a system that was designed for something else. But here are some mission statements from past campaign proposals of mine:

Heartland (GURPS Horror): During the era of Prohibition, the United States sees a secret war between two factions: the Mafia, covertly allied with the Roman Catholic Church, and the vampire-dominated nativists of the Ku Klux Klan. Player characters will be anti-vampire agents of the Mafia.

Sovereignty (GURPS Supers): Player characters will be a voluntary superhuman force devoted to policing the superhuman community by restraining its rogue members.

Whispers (Transhuman Space): At the end of the 21st century, agents of a small private investigative agency deal with informational crimes, from old-fashioned copyright violation and identity theft to unlicensed cloning, nanosocialist sabotage, and mind piracy.

Junior Achievement (In Nomine): Player characters will be moderately advanced familiars, gremlins, and imps on temporary assignment to a location on present-day Earth, where they’re expected to lure young humans into sin. The most successful team will get promoted to full demonhood. Teams will come up with their own plans for temptation and carry them out.

Fixers (straight GURPS): Player characters will be, not consulting detectives, but consulting criminals: highly skilled professionals for hire by organized crime groups that need their special skills. They can have professional standards but can’t have any objection to breaking the law.

Mad Science High (Big Eyes Small Mouth): Students at a magnet school for weird science study things that man was not meant to know, invent radical new devices, and try to cope with eccentric teachers and scheming classmates.

Capital (Mage: The Ascension): Recently Awakened mages will ally to seek knowledge and power and defend each other against rival orders. Play will emphasize freeform magical feats and their tactical and covert applications—but long-term plots will focus on uncovering hidden truths and acting on them, including truths about the purposes of secretive conspiracies.

Worminghall (GURPS Fantasy): A group of . . . students will encounter the magical arts, town and gown conflicts, and each other. Play will emphasize student life and its rivalries, and the growth of magical knowledge, but will also include real dangers and mysteries.

Eloi (Transhuman Space): Player characters will be Eloi: people who have been successful enough economically to live on their investments and work only for personal satisfaction. Play will focus on social interaction on scales ranging from personal relationships to large-scale memetic campaigns, but centering on community identity and reputation.

Is that any help?
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Old 09-05-2017, 06:13 PM   #3
Apollonian
 
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Is that any help?
It is, thank you!
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Old 09-05-2017, 07:09 PM   #4
(E)
 
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

A couple of mine, although I use narrative themes as well

Kaltoi (low power fantasy) The characters are members of a largely conquered culture who are working to improve the lot of their people who are now second class citizens. The PCs operate an underground railroad and assist the last bastion of their culture/nation. Themes The power of the bard and an oppressed society.

Game of thrones, take 1 The characters are combat platforms frequently manipulated by those in power. Themes friendships in harsh circumstance, the dehumanizing effects of war.

Cyberpunk history The players run powerful and connected characters, their actions will dictate the changes that happen when the setting is rebooted. No major themes or mission statement, (this worked well without any themes etc)

Dawn of the world The PCs are ageless elves witnessing and participating in the major events of a fantasy world's history. Themes Tolkienesk lessening with time, exploring history.
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:20 PM   #5
johndallman
 
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

And a couple of mine, both GURPS 4e:

Laundry Service: Player characters are "plumbers," dealing with the smaller-scope problems caused by the attractiveness of Earth to Things attracted by large numbers of minds and computers.

Infinite Cabal: Player characters are members of Sir Isaac Newton's Royal Society Lodge of the Cabal. Your main activity is to explore the Infinite Worlds, with occasional more specific missions.
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Old 09-05-2017, 11:58 PM   #6
trooper6
 
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

Note: I think these are terrible mission statements:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollonian View Post
D&D (and derivatives, including Dungeon Fantasy): Kill monsters, take their stuff.
Call of Cthulhu: Discover the horrible things underlying reality and go mad in the process. (Possibly holding back the darkness one more day.)
GURPS Monster Hunters: Hunt monsters in the modern day, and kill them.
Feng Shui: Be kung fu action heroes in a cross-time struggle of fists and guns!
They don't help me create a character, nor do they give me any sort of specificity. I have played in a number of D&D games that had as their mission statements "Kill monsters, take their stuff" that just didn't work because the characters didn't work together. And none of the CoC campaigns I've been in presented "Discover the horrible things underlying reality and go mad in the process. (Possibly holding back the darkness one more day.)" as the mission statement. It was always something much more specific.

Anyhow, I need to procrastinate irresponsibly. So here are some of the Mission Statements that have worked well:

D&D Eberron: A great cataclysm destroyed Cyre. Each PC will be a member of the same minor Cyran noble house who were out of Cyre on a campaign at the time of the cataclysm. Now homeless and stateless, the PCs will try to gain treasure, money, and influence as they try to deal with their new position.

Over the Edge: There is a man named Barry Nuss. He is the wealthy Chief Accounting Officer of a multinational mining corporation. He lives in a penthouse in New York City and can afford anything. Make someone important to this man. You could be his wife or his husband. You could be a personal assistant, a child, someone from his past. (This game started with Barry Nuss going missing and delivering some packages to each person kicking off a mystery. It was a short term campaign that worked really well).

City of Flowers: Florence is the bright light of the Renaissance, but wherever there is bright light you will find shadows. And in those shadows is the Order of the Blue Rose. The Order of the Blue Rose are normal people who live a double life. They may be soldiers or students, merchants or musicians, nuns or noble--but they also work as covert agents for Cosimo di Medici. The agents fight against hostile forces both natural and supernatural, internal and external, brute and subtle. The Order needs new members. You have answered that call.

Dancing on the Edge: The Freetrader Dancing Madhavi is taking a long trip out of Terran space deep Vilani space for a lucrative contract, but needs crew members willing to be away from Terran space for a significant amount of time. Could that be you? The campaign will be a space merchant campaign where the player travel deep into the space of a hostile Human empire in the midst of a cold war quickly becoming hot. Can you make a fortune? Can you even get access to the black markets were Terran trade has been relegated? Freetraders are often rumored to be Terran agents? Are you one? Avoid pirates! Effect politics! Make a fortune!--or maybe barely break even. See a part of the galaxy that few Terrans have seen.
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Old 09-06-2017, 06:52 AM   #7
RogerBW
 
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

My model is "you are X who do Y". Though now that I look at it it's more "in setting Z, you are X who do Y".

Leave Not a Rack Behind: in 1930s London, you are women with magical talent who fight against supernatural threats and society's disdain.

Irresponsible and Right: in the Second World War, you are agents of MI5 Bureau 5(b) who keep Britain safe from internal and external magical threats.

Wives and Sweethearts: a few hundred years in the future, you are junior officers of the Royal Navy, developing your careers as you have spacefaring adventures.
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Old 09-06-2017, 08:00 AM   #8
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by trooper6 View Post
Note: I think these are terrible mission statements:
Part of the problem with them is that they're more quipped parodies of the central focuses of those games than an actual description. "Kill the monsters and take their stuff" is largely a 2000s-era slogan from the "back to the dungeon" marketing campaign for D&D Third Edition. It makes a funny catchphrase for Munchkin. But they don't really encompass the complete game-play focus of those games.

For pre-AD&D 2nd Edition versions of D&D, a core statement might be "wander around dungeons, wilderness, and towns; collect treasures to use or to earn experience points to improve your character." "Collect treasures" might mean "kill monsters and take their stuff," but it also might mean "steal stuff from monsters without being caught" or "take treasures out of traps without getting caught in them."

AD&D 2nd Edition changed the focus to something more like "go on quests to earn experience points to improve your character." Collecting treasure only matters if that's your quest. Wandering and mapping are downplayed in favor of fighting monsters and accomplishing missions. You don't fight monsters for the sake of fighting monsters, though: you fight them because they're between you and your objective.

That's not to say that lots of people haven't played these games as "kill the monster; take its stuff." That's just not what the designers had in mind as the core activity of these games.
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Old 09-06-2017, 01:22 PM   #9
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

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Note: I think these are terrible mission statements…
Maybe we are confusing "mission statements" with "campaign prospectuses"? Maybe I'm wrong in thinking there is a difference?
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Old 09-06-2017, 03:21 PM   #10
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Core Activity and Mission Statement examples and discussion

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Maybe we are confusing "mission statements" with "campaign prospectuses"? Maybe I'm wrong in thinking there is a difference?
My campaign prospectuses are from two to five times as long as the mission statements I provided.
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