The best genre to read for creating memorable and fun roleplaying game campaigns

The obvious answer to what to read before creating a campaign for people to really involve themselves in and get stuck into would be – science fiction, fantasy, something “related”.

I really disagree.

I think the best genre to set up your own mind for the campaign is murder mystery, and specifically Agatha Christie.

1. Agatha Christie solves the problem of how to involve random people into adventures in a lot of her novels, particularly the non-Poirot / Marple ones. The stock pulp heroes and heroines she uses are “Dick and Jane” types who are drawn in through a single large coincidence or plucky normal people who have some odd event strike them out of the blue. If you assemble ten or so of these hooks, you have very memorable introductions to use.

2. Agatha Christie starts with observations of people- her hero(ine) sits there annoyed at a fellow traveller on the same bus, or with a character being fired from a job for being rude to the boss, or having just demobbed after a war, or home on leave whilst injured – or penniless after their father dies. These origins are instantly engaging and interesting.

3. Her villains range from the painfully predictable to the truly depraved, but she gets some essentials so right so often- criminals are not as clever as they think they are, they are selfish, and they like to hear themselves talk if they are psychotics. On the other hand people who do something for economic or personal reasons keep quiet. She also uses a good idea a few times- the real crime (or quest) is disguised by the murder (theft, vandalisation, threat) of someone not connected. That way, trying to solve what the victims have in common can never work.

4. Love affairs. She is always sensitive to the fact that people fall in love when thrust together on an adventure- but they don’t always end up with the one they initially fall for! Especially when that person is actually the villain!


The Secret of Chimneys

The Moving Finger

The Pale Horse

And Then There Were None

The Clocks


d20 / GOG campaign : MYTHTROPOLIS

Mythtropolis and all related images, characters and setting (c) and TM 2002, 2014 Jonathan Nolan, all rights reserved worldwide.

Thinking about bringing this back as Conundrum Book 3 or some such- and it is compiled in boxes of maps, character sheets, journals, artwork, models- the works. Tempting to use mixed media instead of inkwork for it… Hm. Anyway:


MYTHTROPOLIS, City of Heroes

by Jonathan Nolan (c) 2002

(originally published in gamebook form and on the Geocities website host 2002)

Mythtropolis is to the heroes of the World of Mystery what New York was to the heroes of Marvel Comics or Gotham to the street heroes of DC Comics.

Mythtropolis is an enormous city, second largest in the known world, with over 1,400,000 sentient beings calling it home. There are whole suburbs of the common demihuman species, as well as a substantial humanoid population in Orctown. Many of these humanoids are ‘Jamoorites’, followers of a fairly recently developed religion that preaches a strict moral code for its worshippers but tolerance for others. There are also many suburbs and sections of the metropolis where a particular class or profession is extremely well represented, with class members from level 0 up to ultimate level present in the city.

The war between the Knights Below and The Web has resulted in a lot of the very powerful people in town perishing, but this power vacuum won’t stay empty very long in such a large city.

–From the Sword and Sorcery Compendium entry on Mythtropolis:

Mythtropolis is a huge city for its world, with approximately 1,400,000 inhabitants. So large has it grown that the rest of the sparsely settled “Wild Lands” kingdom of Haranlarche that it is part of has only a fraction of the realm’s whole population in its villages, crofts and strongholds. Empire City, capital of the Eastern Empire, dwarfs Mythtropolis; not many other civilised settlements come close.

Mythtropolis is a trade port, a meeting place on the border between the nonhuman savagery of the mutated Wild Lands and the settled realms of the east. Where once barbarian herders and warriors struggled to exist on tidal flats, the colossus of Mythtropolis now gazes out to sea, guarding the sea lanes of the Dreadsea along the southern coast of Haranlarche, Kingdom of Crossroads.

The story of Mythtropolis is the story of a city whose true name is ‘Ivyriensteine’.

This is a city that has grown to the size of a metropolis, a mega-city in a sword and sorcery world. Its citizens are mostly fairly normal and average humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, lizardfolk and faeries, with the occasional battle between super-powered beings in their midst disrupting the flow of events.

Bards began calling Ivyriensteine (which had previously been nicknamed I-Town) “Mythtropolis” after demigods warred in its streets. In the process some areas of the city were permanently altered. Where they had been merely regular streets and buildings, now somehow they shaded off into other planes of existence, other modes of being. In Ivyriensteine, as in a select group of other places in the World of Mystery, the possible has become wildly improbable and the impossible is becoming likely. Such a place has a terrible need for heroes to oppose the more destructive and outright evil of the prodigies the streets of Mythtropolis produce…


Many adventurers either call Ivyriensteine home or visit it regularly to dump treasure and grab new items, weapons and armour. They also visit its gaming houses, houses of ill repute, temples, taverns and other locales. In addition there are some unique sights in Ivyriensteine that are worthy of special attention, including the huge bronze tableau of statues on the east side of town depicting the super-powered adventurers and heroes of the “golden” and “silver” ages.