I’m sure if you’ve spent more than a year playing Tabletop RPG’s and play in a few campaigns, you are bound to have some campaigns that… Just crash and burn horribly.
Almost all the campaigns we’ve played so far seem to be ending this way lately…!
One campaign simply abruptly ended due to boredom, starting out as a simple Lv 3 game about stopping criminals, it got pretty crazy around Lv 12 when our underdog heroes are now multi-versal travelers.
Power Creep was the name of the killer here. It became just like any battle anime. The adversities kept getting bigger and bigger until the campaign became a mere shadow of what made it great. So we just stopped.
And in another campaign, its demise was simple, yet infuriating.
A TPK. Right near the climax of the game too when the big twist was revealed!
This story comes immediately after this TPK shenanigan happened.
The players were not happy about this, they were probably incredibly salty… No, they WERE incredibly salty about that last session.
All I got to say is… “Why are you mad at me? That death was entirely your fault! You think just because you’re the protagonist you get plot armor? You think I’m that kind of GM? Have you not learned from the various other deaths you have suffered!? Well too bad!”
But what do I know… I’ve never been a player before so maybe I just lack the capacity to empathize… Maybe their anger really is justified!
Anyway, this context I felt is important for the story I’m about to tell.
So anyway, like I said, campaign? Crash and burned! New campaign time!
It’s time for everyone’s favorite: Session 0!
I explained that this time we were going to run a grimdark setting, it’s going to be open world sandbox because we’ve been running nothing but linear campaigns for so long now! (Yes… This time you can’t expect for the rails to help you, for there will be no rail for your train to travel on!!! MWAHAHAH!!!) So you’re going to make me a level 1 character. It can be anyone! Because for the first time in forever, we’re playing a game without rails!
After giving them a brief run down of everything else they would need to know, the players… err… Player began to write down his character, and as he did… He wasn’t even trying to be subtle, he just stated bluntly:
“I’m going to make a character you are going to hate! He’s gonna be so boring and have no desire to adventure that you’ll tear your hair out from anger!”
I was scared, a brief perception roll let me know… He’s serious! But I brushed it off and pretended to be fine and simply said: “Sure, go ahead! It’s open world after all, you can do anythiiiiiiiing!”
So our new campaign is inspired from Shin Megami Tensei: Persona.
I played it, so did he, and we both enjoyed it, and I personally thought the mechanics of the game would work well for an open world Tabletop RPG experience!
An open world isn’t about constructing interesting events to run, it’s about creating places and people to drive the players to seek out adventure!
So in this new campaign, my only job is to create interesting locations and characters for him to interact with, and it’ll be fun!
Since this is Persona style, the main motivation for the campaign would be the Social Links.
The players can go hang out and be good friends with the many characters that will inhabit the world and the power of their friendship will strengthen them!
I made rules for spending time, and raising friendship and created a slew of interesting characters for the players to interact with to make this campaign the ultimate tabletop dating simulator experience it can be!
So it was finally time for the game to begin, introductions are unnecessary, let’s start things off with some action!
His character (who we shall call Blank) is one of them rebellious angsty teenagers. He’s in high school or something and he’s a grade A punk! The story starts with him skipping school as usual and hanging out in his usual place.
Some other punks show up and after an intense and one sided combat…
Uhh… Nothing really happens after that.
He was serious… He really wants me to hate every hour of this game…!
I guess I should tell you about Blank.
Apart from his backstory… That’s it. He has no powers; no Persona thingie (which in this campaign is something almost everyone has and knows about), and isn’t interested in going on adventures. He’s just a very skilled martial artist with a cool sword he got from his dad or something. But otherwise he’s just a normal guy who wants to live a normal life!
I should also mention that Blank’s player is very cunning.
He can be as vindictive or as passive as he wants. Whatever will infuriate me the most at the time!
When a cutscene is happening, he’ll cut me off!
When he’s being prompted on what to do, he’ll do nothing and wait for me to talk!
And boy, his cunning really shows!
Blank’s character type of being a rebel actually works out really good in his favor and against me!
Since he is a delinquent who avoids school, who’d have thunk it! He goshdarn doesn’t go to school!
And I kind of expected him to go to school as that is where all the fun stuff is supposed to happen! It’s where all the plot related stuff are, all the characters are, everything!
In other words: He has min maxed his character to be as anti fun as possible!
All those mechanics I made? Wasted!
All the characters I worked hard to make? Ignored!
Interesting travel locations? Ignored!!!
Any semblance of a game!? NONE!
The first session was an awkward staring contest…
I asked if he could make a new character (an effective tactic to get the ball rolling! Smart move me!)
And he replied: “Okay, here’s my new character then, his name is Blank and he’s a delinquent who doesn’t go to school!”
And my heart dropped…
He used my threat against me! Now he threatens to not even play the game altogether if I force him to play a different character! I am under his heel!!! AARGH!
I was heavily considering going to the discord or community or something for advice but decided against, knowing the answer I’m going to get was obvious… Talk like responsible adults. Which already failed! My player is anything but a responsible adult, he’s a metaphorical 5 year old who covers his ears and shuts his eyes whenever he’s scolded!
I thunk long and hard.
Okay, so if this were like… The hero’s journey, then Blank would be in the first phase of the formula right? He’s the reluctant hero. So the solution would be to do something that would put him on the next step of the hero’s journey!
An inciting incident! A call to action, and a mentor that tells the hero of his greatness!
Yes… This campaign is in dire need of… A Mentor type character!
So I made: Kamino Sekai
A greedy nobleman who owns the Adventuring Guild of the town Blank lives in.
A quote that defines his character is this: “They say Legendary Items cannot be brought? I say wave enough money at people and anything can be purchased! Everything can be brought at the right price.”
He makes his adventurers do all his dirty work for him with his immense amount of capital. Even Legendary Items; items that are only supposed to be obtainable by going through quests, is something he can obtain by simply flashing his WL 9 moolah to the lowly adventurers he owns…
If you couldn’t tell… He’s the bad guy…
Yikes, dozens of paragraphs later until I get to the main conflict of the story?
I need to pace these things better…
Yet for some reason, my players, never figured this out… Until it was too late.
So the game continued on as usual. Blank, after getting attacked by more thugs (these guys were friends with the first guys he beat up. Wanted revenge or something typical like that), on his way to… Somewhere? He beats them up no problem and that is when he shows up. Kamino, clapping mischievously and congratulating Blank on his victory, surrounded in bling, and protected by bodyguards…
Yeah, how do you see this first impression and not think: “Yup, he’s a bad guy.”
Anyway, Kamino tells Blank that he’s amazing and asks if he wants to use his talents to achieve anything. Blank replies he’s only interested in living an easy life without any pain and suffering. (Very great character building btw, no sarcasm I loved this interaction.)
Kamino however was having none of that, he made his bodyguards point their guns at Blank and “asked politely” once again. Blank had no choice.
Kamino wants Blank to go retrieve some mucguffin for him that’s said to contain massive power! I dunno, probably some Legendary Item with Unfailing property or something.
Blank ‘agrees’, saying he’ll do it later.
This deal essentially marked the 2 as friends and establishes his first Social Link.
Some sort of psychological warfare happened I guess because Blank kept postponing his mission until eventually, Kamino said screw you and forced Blank into the mission.
He threw Blank along with some disposable grunts into the dungeon where the mucguffin is said to be and Blank. Obviously not amused, simply ordered the grunts to do it while he waits in the back… Which… Okay…
I thought I’d surprise him with an ambush and encourage him to get moving that way, but nope! Effortlessly beat them like everyone else who challenged him while complaining about not being strong enough to go dungeon exploring yet…
“I want Deadly 3 and Unfailing weapon lol.”
… But you’re level 1… And you already have 23 Guard and like an average attack of 25…
Anyway, the mission was a success, after that happened, Kamino just kicked Blank out of the town and left him to fend for himself, stealing all his gear and money.
And this was the breaking point for him. Not Blank, though maybe yeah, but yeah, definitely set off the player.
“He stole my stuff! I hate him! That weapon had Deadly 1! Why’s he such a jerk? Is he a bad guy or something?” Blank’s Player asked. I replied bluntly: “Yes… Yes he is… I mean… Wasn’t it obvious?” and following that was a silent moment of realization for him.
It took a while but at last, Blank was finally playing the game, surviving in the wilds was no easy task, so at least the whole surviving in the wilds part allowed me to sell the games intended grimdark atmosphere here. Thankfully, Blank was not only strong, but also smart. Surviving in the wilds wasn’t the easy life he wanted, but if he were to face a challenge, he wouldn’t lose easy!
Eventually he got his revenge. He killed Kamino and his family. (Another moment of character building, cementing Blank as a Chaotic Neutral in my eyes) and from there the campaign continues on to this day and all sorts of whacky stuff continues to happen on his potentially eternal quest: The search for a Deadly 3 weapon.
It begs the question though, why did it take so long for him to figure out he was a bad guy?
There were many tell tale signs, both subtle and unsubtle! All the clues were there, why didn’t he do anything?
Me and Blank’s Player know Japanese so Kamino’s name should’ve told him everything if his demeanor wasn’t gonna!
You see, Kamino’s full name is Kamino Sekai, if you separate Kamino into Kami no, and write his name in actual Japanese, his name reads “Kami no Sekai” which means “God of the World”. His name shows you he has quite the ego.
Another subtle thing I did with Kamino’s character was with the arcana I used to represent his Social Link, however I can understand why he wouldn’t get this as he isn’t as well versed in the esoteric and Tarot as I am.
Kamino’s Social Link was represented by “The Devil” arcana.
Which in upright position basically means “I’m Evil lol.”
Well, I think there’s a few reasons for that, some of which are partly my fault…
I think the very act of giving Kamino a Social Link softened the player, at least a little bit into believing he was an important character that he should be worried about.
After all that’s how you are supposed to treat a Social Link in the Persona games.
Secondly… Kamino was kind of untouchable at the time. Blank had nothing, no friends, no powers, just a sword, and Kamino was always protected by both the law and by his body guards. His position as head of the Adventurers Guild probably somehow skewed him as a good person despite his mean exterior… Somehow…
That’s the end of that story… Err… Wow… This was pretty long… Hope y’all enjoyed it and got a good laugh out of it.
This sounded way shorter in my head when I was just imagining it.
Goes to show fun memories are often misremembered as being shorter than they actually are.
Although I painted my table as something toxic it’s all in good fun, and a lot of the things written here are exaggerated for comedic effect.
This kind of behavior with each other is only possible because we have maxed out our social link with each other. We are inseparable. Having known each other since we were kids and have been through thick and thin. Our genuine bond allows us to act as freely as we want to each other and know no harm is ever meant. Because we truly do mean no harm.