Canon serves as a framework for a setting, but after that, strict adherence to and advancement of canon along an official timeline is harmful to the setting and its audience.
We’ve all been there. The campaign has slowed to a crawl, morale is low, and players are getting more and more physically violent with every session. Soon, the blood-harvest comes. As a DM, you already know none of this is your fault. However, as the sovereign of your gaming group it is your right, nay, holy duty to return the light of goodness, truth, and the Gygaxian Way to your table. Allow me to assist.
In both fantasy and science fiction, it’s a fairly common theme to pit unlikely heroes against impossible odds. In very few circumstances do we said unlikely hero train and practice for years to become strong enough to beat his enemy — in many cases, the fan has been thoroughly defecated upon and the problem needs to get solved as soon as possible. That means something really unusual needs to happen in order for the good guys to win. Are you brave enough to wield the double-edged sword to give your players this option? Will you cut your own kneecaps off? Will they beat you to death with their PHBs? Or will you achieve Total Victory?
If someone asked me for a single bit of advice to improve their roleplaying games, whether as a DM or a player, I would tell them to spend as much time as they can reading the great fantasy and sci-fi books that are out there. For the first several years that I was playing RPGs I was not an avid reader and had not even heard of many of the classics, including ones that everyone should have heard of like The Lord of the Rings. At the time I thought many of my friends were insanely creative or stricken by some miraculous form of otherworldly inspiration, but as I’ve read more and more of the books out there I began to realize that most good ideas in our RPGs have been inspired by or even directly ripped from other sources. For example, in one of the first D&D games that I ever DM’d a player showed up with a character named “Muadib” and I remember thinking that it was a very unique and interesting sounding name. A year or two later I started reading Dune and groaned when I realized he’d simply lifted the name straight out of that book.
In which Chatty shambles with the recently dead and delivers a putrid review of the best Zombies board game around… but be ready to lose to those zombies, often!
After not writing anything for nearly 2 weeks, Chatty returns with a short recap of his last Apocalypse World session where they concluded their mini-campaign. Was Shanty Town saved or was it shelled to bits?
At this point, the players really got into what Vincent Baker told me Apocalypse World was all about: Loyalties in the face of crises. With the column of Hummers and APCs heading for Shanty Town, Thunder ordered his whole gang around to go defend the home base. Raven, sitting behind Thunder on his Hog, didn’t see it in the same light and we were subjected to a spat about the importance of protecting the many against going to help the truly meaningful.
To say that 3:16 little prep is like saying that rain is wet. With the help of a few charts to pick planet names, planetary environments, alien appearances, alien powers and various NPC names, the GM just needs to add a few creative sparks to create a 2-3 hour long adventure.
Amazingly, the Gnome Airship was still intact when the PCs own ship set in formation near it (along the Melorian’s living airship, and the Warforged chaos-propelled aerolith). Viscount Daven Sakran was joyously awaiting for them, all smiles and virginal innocence under the malvolent look of our semi-railroaded Goliath Warden.
Maybe it’s because my early gaming experiences were at science fiction conventions (which definitely included plenty of outside influences) that I do like to weave in plenty of “winks” into my campaigns and lift liberally from pop culture. And yet, at the same time, I’m clearly embarassed by some of the elements that have made its way into my campaigns.