[OSR ?] Has anyone done a big, multiplayer, Braunstein style campaign?

With everything else that's been tried as people have gone retro-cool, has anyone had experience doing a really old school style campaign, with the following elements:

1) A dungeon seeded campaign map, to be used sandbox style, that can potentially be mined out.

2) Campaign map and higher level NPC power players fairly static. PCs are meant to rise and rank and become the active factions.

3) Closer to 20+ players in various combinations on various days ( West Marches style).

4) Characters not necessarily assumed to be friends, but PvP element more about the race to name level and conflicts then, rather than direct, below-name-level, shankings.

Just curious. Would love to hear about how things turned out.


  • edited June 2019
    The guy who made Braunstein is here on Story Games, so yes!
    Edit: he never posted anything. wow
    But isn't the west marches sort of this too?
  • I don't think West Marches has the same goal.

    In WM, it seems more like bands of adventurers with no end goal of becoming landed powers in setting, and largely are non-hostile to one another anyway.

    I also don't know if WM can be mined out. I'm not positive, but it strikes me that limited resources are an important aspect to this whole thing.

    Also, not sure if Wesely ran the stuff as a campaign or just one offs.
  • Our campaigns have occasionally flirted with this direction. The main difference is that I have rarely had ten regular players, not to speak of twenty - that's big city numbers, outside the occasional special session. The second difference is one of degree: I don't consider it a qualitative difference, but generally like 90%+ of our play has been more PvE than PvP.

    Our latest campaign arc from a couple of years ago (the medieval Sweden one) evolved into this sort of thing in miniature: the two main adventuring parties in the campaign had incompatible ideologies and goals. They also had largely overlapping players, but different players took the leadership initiative in both parties, and we play rather hard, so the questions of trust and diplomacy were quite real. The main conflict was "amoral wizard" vs. "Christian paladin" pretty much, so classic D&D connivance in that regard.

    But yeah, Bob's list of requirements doesn't seem beyond the pale to me. Given the right circumstances (mainly, more players) that'd describe our play pretty well. I particularly think that it's a good idea to let the players have primary control and responsibility over strategic goal-setting, and that tends to naturally lead to strategic PvP of various degrees over time. From my perspective the static adventuring crew is a somewhat artificial conceit that needs to be actively maintained; sandbox play will naturally deconstruct it into a more organic arrangement. Play with enough campaign scope in a sufficiently hygienic sandbox, and this is what you'll end up with, more often than not.
  • It was really 2097's lengthy and numerous posts about commitment to pre-game, offscreen prep and general neutral GMing that got me thinking about this type of play, since those things are basically absolute musts-haves for a campaign Braunstein of this type ( with and end-goal of warlord level kingdom building and related clashes).

    I have a hard time imagining this sort of play working at all without some blorb-o-riffic, broad-but-shallow, klockwerk universe building pre-game and offscreen game state tracking.
  • I don't think West Marches has the same goal.

    In WM, it seems more like bands of adventurers ... largely are non-hostile to one another anyway.
    For what it's worth Ben certainly thought that players competing with one another was a core part of his West Marches experience. In fact, that competition eventually became so pronounced that it left the context of the game and became a social hydra that blew up the whole campaign.

    Also for what it's worth I've never been able to replicate that in my own attempts at West Marches so that may just be more of a player-base thing than a campaign thing.
  • edited June 2019
    Heh, @Jon, I was reading about your campaign while you were posting this. Good Stuff, and great post-campaign analysis.

    You may be right about the player mix and competition. When I look at Braunstein, I tend to imagine a more "theatrical" sort of war gamer, perhaps the sort that chooses something like Diplomacy not simply for the challenge of the game, but to ham up the portrayal of their diplomat.

    Otoh, ultimately, there is at least some lightweight competitiveness going on there as well, and a fair percentage of the players at least having a goal of having their character become something like a self-made noble.


    I suspect that this sort of game has to exist under very specific circumstances, and circumstances that very few of us have access to on a regular basis. Certainly, something like a regularly meeting game club, probably meeting in a physical location, is necessary. Regular work schedules for the players probably also a must, so they also have predictable off time.

    Maybe it really is mostly an artifact of a certain time period's gaming culture.
  • It's funny, I've always had the impression that the original Braunstein games were rather heavily PvP (players represent different factions, rather than an "adventuring party"), wargame-like, with elements of Diplomacy-like plotting and maybe even some LARP elements (e.g. everyone stands over a table which represents the battlefield, as the general, her courier, an advisor, a lover, a scout returning from the field, etc).

    Am I totally mistaken, or did I get that idea from somewhere, and this is just adapting the concept to a more traditional RPG-like context?
  • edited June 2019
    Really early ones def had a PvP element, and a strong one. OTOH, that seems like it was more pre-set by the scenario and goals.

    You'll find one-off convention games still being built like that.

    What I was interested in was a more early edition D&D type set up with many players, in many combos, perhaps with a stable of characters each.

    The key being, everyone has broadly the same goal for their character ( Loot to Level to Gain Name Level to Become a Landed Warlord), but other than that all bets are off. Alignment certainly suggests behavior and moral code, but is equally about what troop types and NPC allies you can get along the way ( really very much team t-shirts).
  • Maybe less "hardcore blood opera" PvP, and more separate-but-intersecting interests? It's not like everyone was fighting over the same thing and there could be only one winner.

    Perhaps Virtue Fightswell wants to clear the goblin horde out of the old ruins so as to stop their raids on the town, whereas Malefix Scorn knows the ruins contain an abandoned altar to an evil god, and wants to reclaim it for himself. They could both work together to drive the goblins out (especially when neither of them is strong enough to do it individually), but their long-term goals will find them at odds later on.

    Weren't the original Braunsteins single-session games? Changing up the timefram could definitely skew how the PvP elements play out.
  • Right! So what you're describing sounds like the way the earliest D&D play took shape (e.g. consider the early rulebooks saying that you'd have 5-50 players in your D&D game, and stuff like that).
  • Exactly

    So...has anyone here run one? :wink:
  • Have you seen this thread?


    Eero's various D&D adventures (they're linked at the top of the forum, in "what to read") seem to fit the criteria, as well.
  • Okay, now you're just not reading posts in the thread before responding.
  • Oops, sorry, @komradebob! There are a lot of threads flying around just now, but the reason I was thinking of that thread is because I referred to Adam's "City of Brass" game in there, and that might be interesting to you.
  • Aaah! That makes more sense now!
  • My Mirrorrim (City of Brass part deux) campaign was a classic megadungeon campaign with 24 players in groups of 3-6 at a time. That's where it diverges from Bob's criteria.

    Leveling was based on surviving a certain number of encounters, including dangerous traps or even really risky social encounters (which were incredibly rare). It was hard to "race" to any level, as that generally just went to whoever showed up the most often and didn't die.

    It wasn't particularly competitive. Characters were assumed to be working together and never really competing, though the occasional pocketing of treasure might occur.

    PCs rose to level 5 before we stopped. There was no intent to ever "reach name level" and build strongholds or factionalize that way.
  • @Adam_Dray

    It still; sounds pretty interesting, and pretty close to what I was thinking, save for lack of an end game.

    I would definitely expect whichever players attended most and whose characters didn't die to level up quickest.

    I saw some recent posts by a persona talking about dividing up the "building" part usually associated with the Lordly end game into lower levels as well. I suspect in a modern game that might be a far better approach to the concept.
  • I think we had 6-7 character deaths over about 30-35 two-hour sessions on Roll20. It was a city-based "West Marches"-style game in the sense that there was nothing to do in town most of the time. All the fun was in the dungeon.
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