My Campaigns’ Metaplot

After 40 years of on-and-off running of role-playing games, my GM campaign stories tend to follow a similar plot:

1.) A group of characters (the PCs) are confronted by a world-ending problem.

2.) Several NPC groups appear to help, hinder or kill the characters based on various agendas.

3.) World events gradually escalate out of control as the characters get resources against whatever is happening.

4.) The penultimate end of the world is suddenly frozen in time as a voice asks the characters to collectively decide the fate of everything, usually also determining if gods and magic will continue to exist as a power in their universe.

This plot is typically paired with some published role-playing game or adventure (The City of Greyhawk boxed set, the Planescape boxed set, the Vampire/Mage World of Darkness games, and so forth).

The “voice of choice at the end of all things” has appeared in multiple forms: the archmage Mad Aean, the supposed crimelord Demonspittle, an archfey called Auryeon the King of Lost Regrets, or most often a nameless power controlling a global mutation event locals simply called “The Doom.”

Each of these campaigns lasted about 12 to 36 weeks, with about half as many game sessions during that time. I eventually realized I could string them all together into a metaplot, a bit like Michael Moorcook’s “Eternal Champion Multiverse” idea. Here’s how this “metaplot” has turned out over the years…

THE DUNGEON OF DOOM (AD&D, 1982): A dwarven warrior named Rammal rejects Mad Aean’s call to seize divinity for himself, causing the dungeon known as Saf Ifeebi to fade like mist from the world. (Players: Todd G., Joe T.)

THE CITY UNDER ENDLESS NIGHT (AD&D2e, 1991): The sky above the City of Greyhawk turns to starless night for days, and a mixed group of city folk are confronted by an “exam” from a mysterious voice asking them to intervene against the gods. A simple thief among them chooses to end the power of the divine, causing daylight to return and magic to never again exist on that version of Oerth. (Players: Chris W., Tim, Mike G., Jeff M., Mark N., Melinda L., Jason G.)

DIRTY LIL’ SECRETS (Cthulhu/Planescape LARP, 1996): A mixed gathering of time-traveling supernatural creatures use a cosmic relic to avert multiple awful futures, but by doing so, weaken the power of magic in an alternate modern Earth. (About 15 players at Chaoticon IV.)

THE LEGACY OF HARLAND PAYNE (Horror/sci-fi LARP, 1997): A group of supernatural creatures (witch-hunters, mages, ghosts, werewolves, cyborgs, angels, a vampire and a demon) again change the future and futher weaken a modern Earth’s connection to the source of magic. (About 25 players at Chaoticon V.)

AFTER THE WORLD ENDS (AD&D2e Planescape LARP, 1999): An espionage mission involving nuclear weapons on a modern Earth becomes entangled in the multiverse-spanning Blood War between fiendish armies, leading to the order-imposing modrons of Mechanus to ask a single mortal to decide what to do. That mortal opts to destroy the Earth under an rain of radioactive fire, ending the greater technological threat to all involved. (About 20 players at Gen Con 1999.)

THE ANGRY PAST (Vampire/World of Darkness, 2007): A group of vampires in post-9/11 New York City squabble among themselves to fill a political power vacuum. A mage posing as one of the Kindred discovers forgotten Nazi fire demons and a massive undead worm have invaded this reality, leading to a collapse of rival timelines. (Players: Ben G., Jason, Johann H., Matt J., Corey C., Matt W., David Z.)

THE DOOM OF ADEUS (D&D4e, 2008): A magical corruption is mutating all life on the world of Adeus (people turning into orcs, corpses into undead). A party of adventurers are confronted by an archfey who asks them to chose how to stop the doom, but in exchange gods and magic will be stripped from the planet. The heroes chose to allow Adeus to survive but without any divine and arcane power. (Players: Jeremy H., David L., Rodney S., Barney F., Mike K.)

THE CHILDREN OF CREATION (D&D4e/Planescape, 2011): A group of planar adventurers rescue seven of 27 “children of creation” captured by various factions (duergar, trolls, elemental cults, eladrin nobles, drow and a mind flayer). The boys and girls influence a casting of the “Ritual Primeval,” creating a new private demiplane. A complete paradox time loop was created and closed along the way during the campaign. (Players: Jeremy H., David L., Rodney S., Mike K.)

THE DOOM OF OCDAE (D&D5e, 2015): A magical corruption called “The Doom” is mutating all life on the world of Ocdae (crops and landscapes transform into aquatic alien landscapes). A party of noble adventurers from lands around the continent witness the assassination of the Chosen One who was expected to stop the advance of an aboleth-led army of fish-like horrors. The heroes journey to the Vault of the Progenitors in a far eastern city and use a time-resetting wish power to return to the day before “The Doom” began, creating a new timeline that avoids the effects of “The Doom.” (Players: Eric, Tom C., Raphael C., Jean-Jacques J., Erika G., Martin R., Matt H., Michael W.)