A few years back, I designed something we called the ARSE, Active Research System Experiment. It was a system agnostic way to handle historical knowledge in RPGs. The players would encounter a mystery they wanted to solve, such as the location of an object or the fate of an expedition, and they’d do their leg work to get an appropriate lead, such as a journal written by a member of the that expedition. At which point they’d be given a selection of character sheets to pick from; they would be taking on the roles of the members of that expedition, and the storyline that played out would give them the answers they’d sought in the future. Or not, as it was possible they wouldn’t solve the mystery, the lead turning out to be a dead end.
This allowed us to experiment with different systems, settings, etc, and give players a break from a campaign, something that can prevent burnout. In theory, the system also allowed the GM to pull less punches, especially if there were more members of the expedition than in the party. One of them gets killed off, the player picks up one of the unpicked sheets and someone else has stepped up to fill in the vacancy left by the recently deceased.
That system is still something I’ve had tucked away in my toolkit, for the day when I might actually need it.
This post however, is about something a little different, thought it emerges from a similar stream of thoughts.
I’d like to do a campaign loosely inspired by both Eternal Darkness from the Gamecube, and that recent Netflix series Fear Street, with it’s 3 parts taking place in three timelines. I’m sure there are other things that fit into this mould also, but those are the two that leap to mind currently. Also, I suppose it would owe some credit towards Doctor Who, with the various episodes that took place across human history. Or I suppose even the whole Assassin’s Creed series with the whole Abstergo operatives looking back through history.
There would need to be a central threat or mystery, that the group was somehow exposed to, and having survived that, they’d have reason to seek the other groups who’d also encountered this, in an attempt to learn what they could about it.
A basic framework like this gives you reason to visit places like Ancient Greece, Victorian London, and a whole variety of other evocative places.