These are my early campaign plot notes. Warning: This whole post is likely tl;dr for you.
The source material for The Land of the True Game campaign provides a wealth of ideas for GMs. In fact, I think the plotting and organization of the novels is not very good (especially after the fourth book) and I’m not sure I would recommend the series to any sci-fi/fantasy fans as novels. (Although I have a lot of nostalgia and affection for them.) However, the imagination and creativity shown in the many, many different concepts that are introduced in the series still makes them great source books.
Even if plot isn’t always their strong suit, I can extract what I’ll call “mysteries of the world” and use them as campaign and adventure plot points. I have puzzle-loving players, and as the GM I really like the style of campaign design where I settle on the answer to some mysteries at the start of a campaign or adventure, then the climax of the session involves the players figuring out the mystery.
As a GM, I will not (EVER!) show this list to the players. Instead, they will think they are in a TL3 magic / high fantasy setting. I will work toward revealing these things as adventure plots or rewards.
Roughly, the campaign plot reveals will work from the top down.
Mysteries of the World
- The Immutables (a group of anti-psis) are real and have an organized society and government that has the ability to deactivate the talents of gamesmen. Since the PCs will be gamesmen, the immutables are likely to be important NPCs and meeting them could be a key plot point that foils/aids the adventurer’s plans. The Immutables were created by The Council and occasionally does work for them.
- The Council is a secret group of gamesmen. It is real and does in fact sit above the demensnes. Just as the rumors about it state, it rules the world. (At least the world of gamesmen.) The council is allied with the Magicians (see below).
- The council is likely to work against the players. Their goal is to maintain things as they are.
- Barish and Vulpas, two strange-o religious ex-wizard dudes from 1,000 years ago, are actually still alive and running The Council. They have achieved immortality by figuring out some of the planet’s secrets as well as some of the technological secrets of the Magicians (see below). In fact, Barish and Vulpas are magicians, or anyhow they were magicians before setting up their own “council” deal.
- This isn’t actually a TL3 fantasy society, it’s actually ~TL9 sci-fi society where most people (the gamesmen, pawns, and immutables) have regressed to TL3.
- This planet is actually an alien planet colonized by humans from “Home” (perhaps Earth?) over 1,000 years ago.
- Creatures with star-shaped skeletons are indigenous (that is, aliens) while other creatures are colonizers (humans and horses). This explains why there are words, myths, and stories about creatures that don’t exist — these creatures were native to “Home” but never imported here (or they died out). Example: dogs.
- There are two main systems of magic because one came from “Home” with the human colonizers (termed “talent” in setting lore or in GURPS game terms Psionic Powers), while the indigenous flora and fauna have a different system — termed “Wize-Art” or planetary magic.
- One group of humans (The Magicians) still has a functioning, advanced (~TL9) technological society with nuclear weapons, bio-engineering, computers, trains, spaceships, and interstellar communication.
- The Magicians are allied with The Council but they don’t always see eye-to-eye as the magicians are not gamesmen and most Magicians see “talent” (psionics) as monstrous.
- The purpose of the magicians was to establish a research colony to study everyone else. That’s why they are so secretive and they don’t like to mix with gamesmen. In contrast, the Council is made up of gamesmen and rules over gamesmen.
- As part of their research on genetics and psionics, they create monstrous creatures to study. Sometimes these escape or are let loose. That means in this world monsters are real, and this explains why you can meet some pretty terrifying dudes on the road late at night.
- The Gifters — usually thought to be storybook villains used to scare children — are real. They are a group of traders who do the bidding of The Magicians in the world of the gamesmen, usually via giving technological gifts. The gifters were created by the Magicians so that they wouldn’t have to journey out in the land of the gamesmen directly. Gifters are thus mostly TL3 gamesmen Traders who can also possess Magician TL9 technology.
- Giant creatures once ruled this planet. The “wind carvings” at Waeneye are actually the bones of extinct dinosaurs. Particularly talented necromancers and Wizards can raise and control them. Sounds like an adventure seed there!
- Sentient indigenous alien beings exist on this planet.
- The Agirul is a powerful informational ally or contact — but probably not an entire adventure. Perhaps knowing The Agirul could be a reward?
- Shadowpeople are also potentially interesting allies and could also motivate plots.
- Eesties are godlike alien creatures only interested in meditation. They could motivate a variety of plots. There are some big secrets associated with the Eesties that can really shift the players’ view of the world:
- Whoops, this isn’t a ~TL9 sci-fi space colony society after all, it’s actually a TL12+ superscience alien society the humans colonizers bumbled into.
- A faction of the Eesties thinks that human colonizers are bad for the planet and wants to kill all of the humans. Battling this faction could be a great series of adventures.
- Some features of the planet thought to be ruins or historical human settlements are actually abandoned alien settlements (of the Eesties). This explains why the proportions of the buildings are so weird.
- Stickies also exist but they are located only at the bottom of one damp canyon so it may be that the players will never encounter them.
- Dervishes are a rare kind of human gamesman. Most gamesmen know little to nothing about Dervishes. In fact, they are a religious order (or cult?) who have discovered the sentient aliens on this planet and have dedicated themselves to becoming as much like the alien Eesties as possible. They are allied with the wizards. The Eesties ignore them, much to Dervish chagrin.
- Wizards are a well-known kind of human gamesman who have dedicated themselves to researching the planet’s secrets. They actually all work together via a secret society. They also know about the aliens. They are allied with the Dervishes. There are some cool secrets associated with them:
- People never know what talent wizards possess. The secret there is that most people who call themselves wizards don’t have any talent. They learn the planet’s magic through apprenticeship training and people mistake this for talent.
- Some gamesmen who don’t call themselves wizards are actually secretly wizards in addition to whatever type of gamesman they appear to be. While “wizard” is thought to be a gamesman’s talent, it’s actually more like a club or a secret society. Being a secret wizard can be very powerful — it means you can have both talent (psionic power) and also knowledge of the planet’s magic.
- Lom (the setting word for the entire planet) is actually a single sentient, magical being with a consciousness.
- Wize-art (the magic wizards know) and planet magic comes from talking to Lom
- Elementals are real and communicate with Lom — they act as a communicative bridge between Lom and the aliens (and now, the humans)
- Dream crystals are actually the nervous system of the planet. When you taste a dream crystal and experience thoughts in your mind, these are messages the planet is sending to parts of itself.
- Lom has decided after 1,000 years of humans that humans are a bad idea, and it’s now trying to eradicate all humans with bad weather and poisonous dream crystals. Sounds like an adventure plot to stop this!
It’s a lot to keep track of, even if you’ve read the books. If you are a little lost, I wouldn’t worry about it. However, if you are curious and in case it helps you, I drew myself a chart to try and keep all of these factions and secrets straight.
(Click to enlarge.)
I know it’s a messy diagram but it makes it clearer to me that some of the factions are particularly powerful because they get high technology plus two kinds of magic (The Council) whereas others get nothing (Pawns).