Modern Day Mind Funk

Perhaps it’s just a singular failure of imagination on my part but I find it really hard to come up with Modern campaign ideas that don’t include magic or psionics.

Why would that be important? For me, it arises in response to the most-given advice by Dr Kromm when he speaks about starting to run your first games of GURPS. Although he mentioned it in our interview last year, it’s clearly advised in print too:

Being new to the game system really makes supernatural capabilities an iffy element to include in your campaign. I would recommend getting very, very familiar with things like character creation, skill use, combat, Influence rolls and reaction rolls, and the game’s quirks and notation, before going within 50 paces of spells, psi, super-powers, etc. I’d recommend sticking to the real world, probably in the modern day.

Dr Kromm, quoted in “How To Be A GURPS GM” (Sept 2016), page 10

The thing about the Modern Day as a setting for roleplaying is that I can think up a one-shot scenario easily enough – immediate ideas might include a heist or a police raid, for example – but I struggle with ideas for an ongoing campaign… unless I include the supernatural.

Maybe it’s the influence of old TV shows like the X Files, but I find it much easier to conceptualise Monster Hunters or Alien Investigators than I do regular folks getting up to interesting shenanigans in 2021. My imagination seems to think about the current affairs in the real world and then shy away from any ideas that look vaguely like those at about 300 miles per hour.

So… here’s a challenge for you: do you have a good solid Modern Day campaign idea that has zero magic and zero psionics, no aliens, and relies solely on grounded realistic premises? If so, post it in the comments. I seriously would appreciate a bunch of cool suggestions to kick start my next delve into GURPS. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Game on!

3 comments

  1. You could maybe have something that looks like psionics/magic, and appears unexplainable until a mid-late campaign revelation.
    That revelation could be that it’s some high level tech, a conspiracy, or maybe by then, ur familiar enough to insert a singular psi/magic able NPC to explain what’s been seen and experienced.
    Until that point, all investigations/encounters could be against cult members or operatives trying to cover up their boss NPC/tech/etc….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So, in playing with my children we have done some modern games. Mostly heist based with some longer term objective, but also espionage style. So they work for the government trying to take down some big bad organisation. Not sure how well it translates to a serious game but they seem to have enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been wanting to do a modern day “pirates in the South China Sea/Indian Ocean” game for some time now. I’d model it to one degree or another on the anime/manga Black Lagoon, where the players are members of a seaborne “delivery company” that caters mostly to criminal syndicates (I’ve been studying up on the Walking Street area of Pattaya as a possible base of operations, but a fictional city like Black Lagoon‘s Roanapur wouldn’t be too difficult to create; another potential area of interest is Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea). It would probably be easiest to run as an Action setting, probably with gun fu and maybe even chambara/wuxia (see the movie Paradox [2017] for an example of how to mix wuxia into modern action that is also directly relevant to the campaign frame since it takes place in Pattaya), but it could also be a gritty crime drama.

    Obviously, organized crime makes for a possible long-term campaign in other forms as well. The Sopranos could be a model there, or The Godfather. Some people prefer the other side of the law, of course, but I can’t stand cop shows (with a few exceptions: Columbo and NCIS being the main ones). Private investigation bureaus can be good as a frame for serial adventures, with the models there including the likes of The Rockford Files; for some reason, they don’t seem to be very popular on TV at the moment (the last major one I can think of was Castle), though I’m sure that will change. Similarly, something like The A-Team or Burn Notice can work as a frame for general troubleshooters. Leverage and its current follow-up series gives another direction to take for that sort of troubleshooter campaign, and was the basis of a licensed roleplaying game a while back.

    Liked by 1 person

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