Unless I'm misstaken, Project Synapsis was the first campaign I ran in the Age of Information. At this point the rule book was still under revision and I remember quite a lot of the gear lists grew rather substantially during this campaign...
SetupSet in the gnomish city of Noravon with some 75 million inhabitants (mostly humans) the initial plot was for the characters to be recruited by remnants of the Order of the Falcon (an order of assassins and spies from previous Centuria ages, still active in the city) and given high-profile clandestine missions to accomplish. The whole setup was fairly inspired by the Shadowrun setting - though unlike Shadowrun there's less place for sword wielding samurai and magic is not so overtly used.
This is usually how I begin a campaign: with a concept idea with some thought through realism. I choose a mission approach because its easier, from a story perspective, to handle players not being able to join a particular session.
The next big obstacle to tackle is group cohesion. From my experience the best roleplaying requires a balance between internal conflicts and cooperation. Obviously you don't want a group that will tear itself apart from internal strife (at least not for campaigns...) - but equally bad for story telling is a group where everyone just stick to their role and never interfere with the others. But yeah; its usually the conflicts that become a problem...
In this campaign there was an additional dimension to this issue. As the characters were recruited by the Order of the Falcon it seemed likely that a) the Falcons did a thorough job in assessing the people they planned to recruit b) the Falcons would pretty much kill off any team that did a poor job. Thus I felt it very important to get the group cohesion as right as possible directly from start.
The obvious path to achieving this would have been to let the players in on the story and have them design their team together - but I didn't want that. I find there is too much roleplaying to be had and experienced in that first encounter between players to take it away. Also the uncertainty about what business they are getting involved in adds for better playing.
The route I took was to run a single player mission with each of the players right after they finished creating their character. Not only did it give me good intel on each character but also gave each player a chance to test out their skills and really find out what their character was good at. It took more time obviously, but was worth it all the way.
Playing the game
Quotes and comments
"...One of the most difficult jobs we've made but we pulled it off perfectly. At least until we reach the vault; Ratman forgets to reach for his scramble grenade and Sun informs everyone that the guard turrets activates if they detect elevated anxiety."
"It was fun that everyone was so engaged in their characters and regularly posted texts where you got an insight into that character's life. Many were quite secretive, but the texts kept the door open for us to watch."
"We are to kidnap a gnome protected by heavy security. How do we solve it? We exploit his passion for avatar games and pretend to offer him a place in the big league. He practically comes running to us after having ditched his own life guards. We capture him without leaving a single trace."
"My best memories are the relationships between the characters. How Deco tried to control the group by ordering Ratman to take off his hat. I remember Deco hiring Sun to surgically implant a drop stabilizer in his body, done in her storehouse. I remember Loric's reoccuring scornful comments to Ratman, Sun's and Loric's tech race and Dai Kau's mystical relationships."
"Deco is the character I have felt the most for. Thanks to a great depth in private as well as professional life he became alive. Drugs, the monobike, the flat, the secret locker, the contacts and the feeling of endless city around him and how he was but a drop in the ocean was epic from a roleplaying perspective."
"Remember that half [of one] mission was for the group to prevent Loric from blowing things up. The other half Loric used to invent the computer virus 'Sesam' which could later be used to open all the gates in the area so we could merge with the crowd and just walk out with everyone else heading home from work!""Ratman is the most vivid character I've played. That he had a family which he loved and wanted to give a better future gave him huge depth and complexity. It also made it challenging to play the character as he lived a double life. Also it was impossible to put everything he earned to improve the character. I remember when we got a big paycheck and everyone else planned what cool stuff you should buy. I bit my lip and placed almost every credit in the children's education savings account."
"I remember scenes where we drove detours to shake pursuers, long planning meetings in the secret hideout and cleanout of autos we've used."
"I remember Ratman's promotion. Fun in a personal way. With an upcoming promotion at the security corporation Mashnar, Ratman's life is being reviewed by a very thorough gnome. Afraid that his double life would be exposed, Ratman calls in his colleagues which plant evidence that the gnome is stealing corporate secrets from Mashnar. The poor devil was gone very quickly."