Battling for Campaign Plot Ideas (And Losing) :(

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OK, so here is the thing. I have not DMed a game in a good....ohh....10 years prolly. I started a few and they fell through, blah blah blah. In anycase, I have been a part of a gaming group going strong for the past year, and have been elected as the new DM for the next campaign, starting next month. That is all cool and fine. In fact, I have tons of adventure ideas, NPC's, and cool stuff floating around in my head and paper. Problem is, I am at a total loss for the overall campaign plot.

Our group has a fondness for history, namely viking, tribal stuff, and celtic stuff. I also have been wanting to do a sky based campaign for years. I envision vikings sailing the skies in flying warships and such. This will be sky based though, travel to the ground world will be off limits, unreachable for some reason, or whatever (details to be decided on later). Aside from floating islands, castles, and cities of course! I do have a book from Goodman Games from 3rd edition about aerial campaigns, which has some cool concepts and ideas I will prolly use.

They also want some sort of campaign that is more horror, spooky, apocolyptic, undead, or, as one player put it, "Silent Hill" like. This is where I am totally thrown off. I really don't want to do the cliche undead / zombie theme. Or the all powerful vampire. Or 'it was all a dream'. Or even the "your the only survivors of your town, no go find others to help you rebuild the world" apocolyptic theme.

Any thoughts on how to combine a historical fantasy flying vikings with a horror theme? I am drawn a total blank this morning
Undead Vikings.

Be careful with looking for an overall plot.  You don't want to limit yourself or the players to an idea.  Its far better to make your world as flexible as you can and fly by the seat of your pants if you will. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
General: how much do the players want to contribute on the world-building specifics?

Details:

As for the apocalyptic horror, there was a thread just a couple of days ago 100 Horrible Secrets to Drive You Mad, and a bunch of ideas for Eldritch horrors came up that terrified me (especially this one), and I think you might like to take a look. Plus, the Call of Cthulhu RPG has been around a while, maybe you could get ideas from what people have done in that game and adapt them to yours?

As for the "flying vikings" theme, vikings in real life owed their dreaded strength to the fact that they rowed their own warships instead of relying on slaves: maybe yours could use airships with human-powered propellers?

As for the combination, I can totally see the campaign take the "Flying Dutchman" legend a bit more literally.

Problem is, I am at a total loss for the overall campaign plot.

Actually, that's a good thing, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise ;)

It's not your job to come up with a storyline that the players are just watching unfold regardless of what they want to happen, rather the storyline develops naturally as the players and their characters make decisions. Since the DM is outnumbered at least 3:1 most of the time, a "game" where the players aren't contributing at least 75% of what happens would probably make them feel like they were just spectating for "storytime."

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
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If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

Any thoughts on how to combine a historical fantasy flying vikings with a horror theme? I am drawn a total blank this morning

Since your group are all history buffs, and you know them and they know you and they're actually going to be the ones who have to find the idea plausible and engaging, I strongly recommend that you brainstorm with them. People tend not to suggest ideas that they don't find worthy and wouldn't enjoy seeing others pick up and run with.

Go in with your ton of ideas, that's always good, but go in with a willingness to let any player ideas surplant what you have.

And I get that they put you in charge. If they're smart it's because they realize that the traditional DM-does-everything approach is a lot of work that few people have the time to do well. But bring them back in to the creative process, and you'll save yourself a lot of time and make the game more enjoyable for them in the process.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Viking ships come floating in on the mist in the early morning, rowing the cursed ships silently through a whispering gray fog.  They come not just for gold or riches, but for recruits, stealing away children and young men.  Ultimately bringing them back to some Necropolis in the clouds to convert them into undead.

Now, these vikings are not simply ghouls, they are intelligent ghouls, and they recruit other undead monstrosities into their ranks and release them upon the towns and villages beneath.

...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
Just so we're on the same page in this discussion: "Vikings in airships" isn't a plot - it's a premise.

I recently wrote a Viking-themed one-shot. Here's the premise for that:

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Grimfjord. As far north as north goes.

It is the third year with no summer and the snow comes from all directions. The skalds and runepriests tell us that in this age, "There will be innumerable wars. Ties of blood will no longer be respected. Next-of-kin will lie together. And brother will kill brother." It is the eve of Ragnarok, when it is said the white wyrm, Fimbulvetr, will devour the last people in the world and usher in endless darkness and terror.


Here in the meadhall of Jarl Osvald, we sup on the last of our meager provisions, sure that there will be no tomorrow. We raise our horns to the honored dead, lucky to have died in the wars long before this night. The jarl's son, Tor, has brought to us the first elk anyone has seen in two years and claims the meat for himself and those that swear allegiance to him. Helga, daughter of Osvald, sister of Tor - and lover to both - waits for the inevitable conflict as lines are drawn and axe handles gripped.


Brother will kill brother this night. And Fimbulvetr is coming.



The goal in this scenario is to make it to Valhalla before Fenrir eats the sun. That's done by accumulating a number of objectives both group and personal. At any rate, if you fail, you become a draugr, forced to walk Midgard during the Endless Night.

If you wanted to do a horror/viking thing, you could do it during this timeframe where those unfortunate enough to not have died in the endless wars prior to Ragnarok are living in an ice world of roaming herds of draugrs. Remember that zombie movies aren't really about the zombies anyway. They're just an external threat that sets the stage for drama between the protagonists and their many conflicts. And of course screw historical accuracy - build in your own twists and changes to make it unique and fun.

Finally, I strongly urge you to listen to the advice given about involving the players in the creative process. A good Session Zero is required for any campaign in my view. Get together, drink some mead if you're of age, and brainstorm about all the stuff people are excited to see in this campaign. That'll give you tons of ideas to work with and comes with the players' inherent buy-in such that it will be smooth sailing from there on out. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Great help, guys! That helped me out a lot to get some ideas flowing. I actually plan to bring a handful of ideas to the table the first night and go over them. Hopeing to get the players involved a bit in the design, or at least get some input on what they do and don't like. Thanks a ton!
at least get some input on what they do and don't like. Thanks a ton!

That's 90% of it, really.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

You said travel on the ground was off-limits for some reason, perhaps the reason is that the surface world has become the silent hill world of horrors, and every so often they could venture below and get their fill of that sort of thing. Perhaps some cataclysm turned it into a scarred wasteland filled with echoes of the dying.
You said travel on the ground was off-limits for some reason, perhaps the reason is that the surface world has become the silent hill world of horrors, and every so often they could venture below and get their fill of that sort of thing. Perhaps some cataclysm turned it into a scarred wasteland filled with echoes of the dying.


This was my first thought as well.

Designating the ground "off limits" is not going to make the ground world inconsequential - it's going to give your players a burning desire to go down there, at least among most groups. And Session Zero is just likely to spread this curiosity to you as well if it's not already there.

If it's not satisfying that they aren't quite being sky vikings and undead fighters at quite the same time, maybe you can have a third layer to the world. Underneath the surface is a huge open underworld that can only practically be navigated by airship. Whatever caused the surface apocalypse could have come from this dark reflection of the sky world your characters inhabit.
This thread is now brimming with great ideas for starting points. You and your players should have loads of fun...
If you're unfamiliar with it, www.scp-wiki.net/ has thousands of articles about strange things, a great percentage of which could very easily be used for a horror campaign. Going to the top rated pages (www.scp-wiki.net/top-rated-pages) and working your way down provides some great things to drop into a campaign (in edited forms, of course).
If you go with the ground being the realm of the undead idea, I think it would be cool if the big threat was there being intelligent undead (or god of undead or something) figuring a way for them to reach the sky-cities. Portals or maybe some kind of way to climb up (fending off an undead horde from climbing up and into a city creates a pretty cool image in my head).