I haven’t thought about this idea in years, but it popped into my head yesterday and demanded to be posted. I’ve never tried it, and it’s a bit rough around the edges, but I think it has merit.
If your campaign (in any genre) features events of global importance happening in the background, and those events have an impact on the events in the foreground, this one’s for you.
In a nutshell, have several friends run the world powers in your game.
This will make the most sense with an example. Say you’re running a fantasy RPG, and your campaign setting features five major power groups: an evil secret society, a power-hungry nation, a dominant country, a rebel group within the dominant country and a mysterious threat from another dimension.
For the purposes of our example, the PCs aren’t major players in any of those groups (though they might be, later on down the road). The power plays, backstabbing, double-dealing, skirmishes and open warfare between the different groups have a definite effect on the game, though — and that’s where your friends come in.
To run this campaign, you’d choose five friends and invite them to each run one power group. They’d have some background on the group’s goals and major personalities, and on the world in general. They wouldn’t need to be gamers, although it would probably help. (And just to be clear, none of them could be players in this campaign.)
Every month or so, you’d ask these five friends what their power groups were up to. What did the secret society do about the mole that the PCs planted within their ranks? The power-hungry nation won a series of border skirmishes with their neighbor — did they move in to claim territory? The PCs found about about the mysterious threat in the last adventure. Does that make them a target?
You’d then incorporate their answers into the campaign framework, which sounds like it would offer a major benefit: unpredictability. Even you, the GM, wouldn’t know exactly what these big-picture players were planning to do next. (And you’d retain veto power, just in case it was too off-the-wall.)
The same would go for your players, who might be more likely to be surprised by what five different people decided to do than they would if you were making all the decisions.
And if one of the power groups moved into the spotlight, perhaps because the PCs became movers and shakers within that group, you could take over control of that group. The other four groups would continue to be run by different people.
What do you think of this idea?
Update: We now have a forum just for discussing — and recruiting — faction players for your game: the Evil Overlord Recruitment Bureau.