Back at the end of August, I mentioned I was working on a campaign outline for Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. I actually finished typing up my notes and shared the resulting outline on Patreon this morning.

Download: Black Wheel Conspiracy

I’m in the process of wrapping up several big design projects, so expect to see several more campaign outlines this week. I’ve been working on outlines for Half-Life and its sequel, Borderlands, and Halo. You could call this an apology for not working more on “Future Fantasy” last month, when it was actually a theme.

If there’s sufficient interest in the Future Fantasy campaign outlines, I could probably be persuaded to put in some more work on the classes/technology stuff for running a 4e space opera/space future/used future/future-future type game.

Working on Arcanum got me thinking more about adventure and campaign themes, like “mystery” or “conspiracy.” I keep thinking there has to be a better way of telegraphing the basic themes and tones of an adventure so the players and game master are on the same page throughout a campaign.

Er, anyway. Like Fallout 2, Arcanum is a massively non-linear game. I’ve taken liberties with reorganizing — or “simply organizing” — major plot points to make the conspiracy easier to follow. A mystery is really hard to run as a tabletop game.

Players miss clues, get distracted or lost, draw the wrong conclusions, accuse the wrong suspects, and generally tend to go in the wrong direction. A game master has to know the conspiracy inside and out, and be prepared to improvise a lot to help the players find a satisfying resolution to the mystery.

The title of the outline is already kind of a spoiler — but I think it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have a title that accurately represents the content. If you run this campaign, try to keep in mind that often the most compelling mystery isn’t “who” or “how,” but often “why?”

“Why” is the only knowledge a divination ritual won’t reveal.