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Friday 7 November 2014

Lords of Olympus: Making up the rules for Your Multiverse

I personally quite enjoy multiversal campaigns.  And I love the idea of having Greek Gods (and their progeny) running around in universes that are unusual fits for them: medieval fantasy worlds, modern day normal earth, pulp cthulhu-fighting occult horror worlds, superhero earths, space opera, weird psychedelic universes, etc.   Generally speaking, I like to have a gamut of worlds of interest.  There may be some GMs for Lords of Olympus that will want to mix-and-match stuff more than me; I love the idea of young olympians playing at being superheroes in the marvel-comics earth, but I’m not necessarily all that keen on having Captain America come back with them to the Oracle at Delphi; I love the idea of young gods in the Star Wars universe but I don’t think I want to see a tie fighter flying over Mount Olympus. But then, some GMs might.

Likewise, some GMs might not want quite such a “multiversal” multiverse.  They may want Lords of Olympus to be just about classical mythological-fantasy universes; or they might be cool with ancient and modern, but not so much with sci fi; or they might be ok with these but not with Superheroes.
So how do you get the fit you like?

One thing I can’t emphasize enough for Lords of Olympus is that if you are the GM, it should be your game. You should make it the way you want.  Now, there are several approaches for how you can lay down your multiverse.  In the first place, if you are in the really conservative extreme, you could state right from the start that only certain types of worlds exist.  Get rid of modern earth if you want, and state that there are no earths more technologically advanced than the equivalent of the classical western world. As long as you’ve let your players know this in advance, its easy.

On the other hand, if you really want to crank up the genre-mixing elements of the game, just loosen the restrictions on the physics of the various realms.  Make it so that you can import laser guns to classical earth, or that superpowers work outside of the superhero-worlds.

But beyond those mechanical options, there’s another important choice you can make, without changing the “defaults” of the setting. As a GM, you can choose which worlds and realms to put emphasis on.  The “tone” of a multiversal game like LoO will be heavily defined by what worlds the PCs are regularly interacting with.  Want it to be more sci-fi and weirdness? Take them to weird or sci-fi worlds. Want it to be less of that? Don’t lead the PCs on to those kinds of places.

Of course, a proper LoO campaign is going to inevitably be a kind of sandbox, its very hard for it not to be unless you absolutely refuse to give your PCs any kind of world-walking powers.  So yes, this means that any one of them could end up choosing, of their own accord, to end up visiting those sorts of worlds you might not be all that interested in making a big part of the campaign.  Now here’s the thing: its pretty important, in my experience, that the players get to involve themselves where they want.  I’m not going to tell you that if you really don’t want to spend a lot of time dealing with Jedis in your multiverse, you should suddenly make them a really big deal on the campaign-level just because one of your players wants to get his Starwars-freak-on.  You can feel perfectly justified in making it a physical reality that the default in all non-SW worlds is that Force powers do nothing, Jedi mortals crossing to other realms just become normal humans (albeit ones with a likely high level of physical and psychic training), and lightsabers don’t work in all but specific high-tech realms.

That’s all fine. Even if a player really loves the idea, you don’t need to make it central to the campaign. BUT, if he loves the idea, you should at least make it central to HIS campaign, that is, his part of the game. Don’t try to steer or push him away from it, and make the things he does and things that happen on that world due to his actions important.  This matters because you WANT your players to get invested (through their characters) in the campaign and feel like what they’re doing out in the multiverse is at least personally significant.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Bent Billiard + Image Perique

(originally posted July 12, 2013; on the old blog)

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