Thursday, June 20, 2013

GURPS Cabal: How Mailanka Designs a Campaign Part I: Inspiration

As inevitably happens with me, as school wound down and work eased up, all my suppressed creative energy comes bounding forth, and I suddenly had to run GURPS Cabal.


For those of you unfamiliar with GURPS Cabal, it is Kenneth Hite's masterpiece of hermetic magic, secret history, conspiracy and weirdness.  Imagine Mage: the Awakening, only rife with rich details to its magic, and the actual oddities history would likely throw up at you, plus a very dark edge: You are not heroes fighting in the shadows to protect mankind, you are the puppet masters pulling on the strings of mankind while you delve into dark lore to expand your power.

So I know what I want to run, more or less.  As usual, I have visions in my head about interesting characters: a bratty young witch with a cruel twist to her smile; a gentleman in a brown suit, cigar in hand, as he leans back in an overstuffed chair behind which rises shelves full of arcane tomes; an angel hidden inside the body of a man walking down a busy city street, the glass reflecting his hidden glory and expansive wings as he carries apocalypse behind him;  forbidding, Sumerian runes full of the letters of their dead language and hints of a darker, cthonic reality lurking beneath the edge of the world;  maggot-fleshed Molobrians, with their needle-mouthed squeals echoing off of the insides of a sewer.

But images alone won't get my game up and running.  That'll take time and work and thought.  Time and work require attention span, and attention span, especially with my ADHD, requires a way to deal with my constant distractions, and the best method I've found is to surround myself with things that constantly remind me of my task, and inspire me to do it.  Thus, wherever I turn, I am distracted by things that bring me back to my course, and focus my attention, laser-like, on the campaign I want to build.

A soundtrack helps.  I was initially inspired by Florence + the Machine's No Light, No Light

I've added more to my personal playlist, but whenever I need to think about my game, I just turn on my playlist and already I can feel myself flowing in the right direction.

Art helps a great deal too.  When I have nothing better to do, I'll start hunting for artwork.  Some pieces are pure inspiration, and some pieces are characters that I might use in the game.

Then, of course, books.  Lots and lots of book.  GURPS Cabal is, naturally, my bible, but no matter how deeply you dig into a book, it's never enough.  It gives me a single template on demons, but mentions that there are dozens and dozens.  It talks about lost magic and ancient eras, but it doesn't really give them more than a paragraph.  It discusses the importance of Cairo and London, but there's no discussion of what interesting places or who you might find there.  You can suck the marrow dry from a book, and still be hungry.  So I must look elsewhere.  GURPS Horror will give me more than enough help for fleshing out my monsters. GURPS Thaumatology will help me give my magic even more detail and depth. GURPS Magic will help me with Alchemy and Enchantment, and I'll use it to flesh out the magic a little more. Suppressed Transmission (and the second one, and the many pyramid articles I have) will help me ramp up the weirdness, occultism and historical depth.

Oh but we're just getting started.  GURPS Illuminati and GURPS Social Engineering will both help me work out the conspiratorial angles to the game.  GURPS Action and GURPS Monster Hunters will help me work out some of the rules, so we'll set them aside for now.  And we'll dig out some fiction to read through, like the House on the Borderland, or the Dresden Files.

When I grow tired of reading and want a break, there's always the TV: the Dresden Files miniseries, the Craft, Nightwatch, Constantine, and whatever else I can find.

The idea, right now, is just to sink deep into inspiration, to soak it all in, and turn it into an obsession, because I'll need that energy for what comes next.
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