Multi-System Campaigns?

Branching off from another thread:
... playing a campaign in a universe that has spanned from Remember Tomorrow to Microscope to Archipelago - and looks like we're going to do a few sessions of Durance in there next.
@jdfristrom Jamie, I'd love to hear more about multi-system-hopping campaigns if you ever have a spare moment. That's been a dream of mine for a while, and I'm thrilled you're actually doing it. Is that becoming, like, A Thing That People Do?
I'm doing one of those, too. But I definitely don't believe that to be the new normal, like, at all. In fact, this is the first time I remember hearing about another confirmed specimen!
So... what's up with these? How are people organizing them? What other ways might we think about playing these kinds of campaigns?


  • I´m planning to insert an evening with Montsegur 1244 into our longlasting Ars Magica campaign.
  • edited October 2018
    I've run games using various homebrew rulesets, various OSR-type rulesets, Burning wheel, Pathfinder, a session or two of Dungeon world, and very soon D&D 5 in the same campaign world. Just pick whichever ruleset a given group finds most interesting at the time.

    If there is an interesting situation where currently active player characters are not involved, then run it as a convention game or other one-shot.

    Convert or re-stat creatures and non-player characters and magic items as necessary.


    I suppose there would be more complications if using games that give lots of narrative power to everyone; either everyone should have good knowledge of the game world so as to not break it, the game world should be surreal, or you would have to be careful about what players and cannot affect and determine.

    But with traditional games (definition: players mostly play their characters) there are no such problems.
  • I ran a Poison'd based game in a Hungarian fantasy setting. When we tried out Perseverant, one of the players brought in the sole survivor of the last game as his PC. Then we consciously used the same character as the main protagonist in our Technoir hack. So the idea of playing a person's life thru different games emerged organically. It's on hiatus right now but I want to continue it.

    The other, more equally distributed version is where you use the different games to build up and explore a setting as a mosaic. Every game is a puzzle piece in the greater picture, like a meta-Microscope chronicle.
  • OK, since I'm sort of guilty of having started this conversation... ;P

    I believe picking a different game for a sequel to one you've previously played (be it campaign or one-shot) is nothing new - I've done that a few times, I'm sure, and will eventually do that again. Same for spin-offs, like when you set a one-shot of a different game in the same world of a campaign of yours (like, when we played Dead Friend and we decided the city of Vanetys from our Freebooting Venus campaign would make for a great setting). However, what I've been doing over the last 14 months or so felt new to me when we started doing so...

    It started as a 2-player game of Leviathan Manifesto (by @James_Mullen ), just me and my partner. We liked the characters we'd made quite a lot, so we soon started adding house-rules to showcase them more, and kept playing more cases. Several episodes into the game, we'd come to a situation that threatened the whole premise of our "show", and realized the rules of the game just wouldn't resolve that (the game is about global surveillance, our setup is about two characters hacking into official government surveillance for the clandestine purpose of doing good, and the crisis was they were under threat of being discovered).
    It wasn't a matter of creating more house rules... I mean, we could have done that, but then we'd have been hacking the game into something else altogether, eschewing its premise. Thus, we decided to look into other 2-player games to segue into. First we tried using Remember Tomorrow (also a cyberpunk game, and one we were already experience with) but, instead of revolving the crisis, we ended up escalating it, with a lot of new characters and factions thrown into the mix... Then it occurred us to try using Microscope. We effectively bookended our history with "all of the previous episodes" for a starting point and "end of season 1" for an ending point, populated it with periods, events and scenes (on a tight timescale of just a couple weeks overall) and what we got was a great ending for our 1st season.
    We decided to play another game of Microscope as a prequel, to tell the story of how the main characters had met each other in the first place. Then went back to playing Leviathan Manifesto as earlier, but once in a handful cases (for a total of twice more I think) we'd insert a game of Microscope to show the resolution of conflicts LM had introduced but couldn't really handle.
    Additionally, we've thrown in a few rounds of Microfiction (game published last year by my countryman Luca Bonisoli) to branch into the life of a new character introduced as one of the main characters' issues. Currently, we're playing a game of Follow.
    All of the above are numbered sequentially into episodes and seasons, as they were a TV show - this TV show metaphor really helps keeping it all neatly arranged and organized in our minds, despite the objectively huge number of storylines and characters. Incidentally, all the games we used tend to leave enough of a written track of the events of play that I might eventually attempt to recap the whole of it.
  • I've always been fascinated by the prospect of such a "meta-campaign", but never had the opportunity to actually try it out. I'd like to someday! Hearing about people's experiences with that is really cool (thanks, Rafu!).

    I currently have an online group that rotates through a bunch of different games. We might be able to try stringing together at least a few for a mini-version of this experiment.

    (As a variation, I've always wanted to play the SAME scenario/situation through a few times using different game systems, as well; I'd have to find the right crowd of people, though - they'd have to be people just as curious about that as I am, to commit to such a strange project.)

  • (As a variation, I've always wanted to play the SAME scenario/situation through a few times using different game systems, as well; I'd have to find the right crowd of people, though - they'd have to be people just as curious about that as I am, to commit to such a strange project.)
    That is intriguing. You need a great, replayable module. Do you have any recommendation?

  • edited October 2018
    Your use of "module" makes me think you might be imagining something in the "action adventure" or wargame realm.

    Although that could be interesting, too, my main interest in this would be to use games which do interesting things with the distribution of creative authority, or say interesting things thematically.

    Mismatched games would be interesting, too - how different is a family drama (or high school comedy!) if it's played with Dogs in the Vineyard rules, for example?

    Ideally, I would want a situation created from scratch by the participants, so that everyone has strong creative investment in the premise and the characters. A module wouldn't suit what I'm looking for as well.

    Having said that, I do remember some gamers who used to play D&D modules using GURPS, which was pretty fascinating. D&D tends to assume head-on confrontation of the opposition as a typical choice on behalf of the "adventurers", whereas in GURPS being outnumbered in combat or faced with deadly threats like large monsters or dragon breath is basically a death sentence, so the approach the players had to take was completely different than what the modules tended to assume. Apparently it was a lot of fun!
  • I could see playing through Montsegur 1244 using a bunch of different systems could be an interesting experience. It already has a lot of replay value (it might be the most played one-shot game in my group) and it's nice and contained with a proper, in-fiction ending. I can see running it in Dogs, Den yttersta domen, Fiasco, Archipelago III, Psychodrame/Les cordes sensibles, and a bunch of other systems.
  • I ran a Poison'd based game in a Hungarian fantasy setting.
    Please tell me about this Hungarian fantasy setting, probably in a new thread or private message. I've recently adopted a fantasy version of the Pannonian Basin as the core of my Towerlands fantasy setting.

  • I recall someone saying they used Microscope to create a world for another (PBtA) game. I could also see The Quiet Year working to build up a community for another system... just 'ignore' the arrival of the frost giants or whatever (I can't quite recall the 'end' card/theme).
  • This is quite definitively something I've long wanted to do.

    My biggest creative agenda is mythopoeia ~ I love building and exploring and creating the fine details of new worlds and universes (it's so important to me that mythopoeia is even part of my theological understanding, tbh) ~ so the sort of meta-campaign others have described in this conversation is an attractive one.

    But I've also been interested in, like, sequential PbtA games (maybe with other games added) to capture the different feel of the various periods in people's lives. Like, what if I started a campaign with the old Little Fears game by Jason L. Blair (not Nightmares ad Other childish Things, but the original) with 6-12 year old characters all within 4 years of each other, then let them blue-book a couple years and pick up with their high-school lives with a Monsterhearts campaign that lasts until all or most of them pick up all four grown-up moves. Now that they're grown up, we blue-book the end of high school and check out their young adult lives with Monster of the Week, where they're trying to prevent an apocalypse . . . and fail, leading to an Apocalypse World game after a little blue-booking. I could even mix in some of my beloved Cybergeneration, too, in the early and high school years, tho that'd be more of a hack then multi-system.

    Has anyone ever played a game in which you use two (or more) systems simultaneously? I've a campaign idea in my head called the Tenth Billion, in which an occultist coven called the Babylon Five have developed a ritual that either allows travel to another planet/realm or creates the shared delusion that they have done so. I wrote a couple posts in the setting on my blog. My idea for it is to play the bits on Nibiru in, like, Pathfinder, say, or some other high-adventure kinda fantasy game, and the bits tracking the Babylon Five and the Tenth Billion's activities on Earth with a much more narrativist and (especially) psychological game. I would then hack in a few ways in which the events in each system could affect the other system. I've just not figured out what that Earth-side system would be ~ I'm open to suggestions.

    And the gonzo Discordian in me has also thought about playing the RPG equivalent of 1000 Blank White Cards ~ create a PC in any RPG system you want, we'll figure out how they could possibly be having wacky times together, and the system will be an in-the-moment patchwork hodgepodge of making the different things work together.
  • This might be too tangential to address, but, since it COULD be relevant to design, as well:

    Could you explain how your love for mythopoeia interfaces with your theology?

    Thinking back to the more specific, a theological basis for the existence and meaning of all things could be used as a source of grounding principles for a multi-system campaign..
  • It is tangential, and I don't wanna threadjack, so I'll just very, very quickly say that my (as yet unwritten) understanding of how the gods (and god-like things; "god" incorporates a lot of Germanic ideas, and isn't necessarily the same as the dei, theoi, dingirene, teteo, etc.) work, function, and exist draws from Tolkien's idea of Sub-Creation as theurgy, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's ideas of all of cosmos evolving together, Alan Moore's version of chaos magick, and the radical assertion of both immanent divinity and the noosphere as just as much a part of the ecosystem as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, magnetosphere, pledosphere, and biosphere.

    I know that's an awful lotta reference to an awful lotta obscure/technical things, but I did that in the interest of brevity (so as not to threadjack, as I said). I'd be happy to get into it in private messages, if anyone is interested in talking about it. Or, I suppose, in our own thread, should we desire a more public discussion.
  • @Wizard_Lizard please start a threat for that! Il quite interested!
  • I ran an AW campaign in which we used Watch the World Die to create the apocalypse, then we used a combination of straight AW with Paul Taliesin's Apocalypse:Emergence to run the main game, and after a couple sessions we played Microscope:Union to delve into the stories of the AW characters' parents and grandparents in the interim between WTWD and AW. It was super cool.
  • We've done this, though not recently, at my table.

    Kingdom (Soviet Superhero Surveillance Agency in alternate history '90s).
    Q: What to do about these out of control supers?
    A: Take control of the narrative by making a high visibility superhero team (that we direct).


    Masks: A New Generation (State-sponsored teen heroes/ propaganda stars).
    Q: How do these teens balance loyalty to state ideals and a sympathetic plot to fracture the Soviet Union?
    A: Make a deal to integrate Earth into a more powerful interstellar socialist collective.


    Microscope (collapse of an interstellar Utopian society).
    Q: When the threads that held a disparate interstellar community are broken, what new powers emerge?
    A: A tense friction between trade-based syndicates and an empire with a near-monopoly on intergalactic travel.


    Scum and Villainy (outlaw craft working as couriers for local syndicates)

    Out campaign kind of sputtered out on S&V. We couldn't figure out how to make the tech and setting we had dreamed up mix with the detail-rich playbooks. I really like Blades in the Dark, but the campaign felt incoherent when the crew could just fly away from all their problems and find a new job elsewhere. On the other hand, my attempts to reign that in felt like GM-fiat.

    I also had a really hard time with scale. They boarded a huge spaceship at one point and I didn't know how to run it. Are there a hundred guards? What are the defenses they might have? Should it feel high-stakes and cool or impossible and preposterous. In retrospect, wrapping it after Microscope would be more fitting.
  • I've also done two-system campaigns, which I've found to be easier.

    The Quiet Year (no hacking, just some agreement about the constraints of the setting before we started) -> Dogs in the Vineyard. This was pretty smooth. In Dogs, we would meet an NPC or enter a town from the Quiet Year and have a sense of what that person/place was about. Then we could just spend time on what was going wrong right now.

    Apocalypse World: Fallen Empires -> Kingdom. We established a stronghold in a particularly PvE campaign of AW:FE and then charted its fate in Kingdom. This one was neat, but it was our first time playing Kingdom and we had a hard time maintaining focus on the crossroads at hand. Our scenes kept introducing increasingly wild setting elements, rather than characters addressing a dilemma and changing. At the end, we felt more burnout than closure.

    I haven't tried it for a while, but my big takeaways have been:

    - Have an idea of why the switch is happening. The best reasons in my experience are collaborative setting creation and collaborate epilogue. My group generally prefers an actor/author stance in long-term things. We then can share directorial power for a finale, allowing everyone to focus on building dramatic moments that resonate with the campaign's history. We can disrupt the campaign's status quo because we know we're not going back.

    - All but one of your systems should be highly flexible in setting. You can take your setting-specific game as the template and play your other games with the same idioms. Kingdom and the Quiet Year work well for this (if you're willing to write your own prompts). Microscope and Follow require a strong shared understanding of setting, so that no one is policing another player's contributions, and your end-state is plausible for the less flexible systems.

    - Don't combine an open-ended system with a fixed end point. We played Microscope but had to end at "Scum & Villainy's setting". When Microscope took unexpected turns, as it does, our subsequent campaign couldn't make good on those ideas.

    Right now I'm eyeing Follow as the finale of our Torchbearer campaign. If we hit a reasonable end point, I'll float the idea to the group.
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