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The Wikipedia article on Torg describes a way that players could attempt to influence the metaplot of the default setting:

At the time of its release Torg's 'Infiniverse' campaign was an ambitious attempt at creating an interactive campaign setting. Subscribers to West End's Infiniverse magazine received response forms, through which they could inform WEG of the progress of their campaigns. Player input actually influenced the campaign setting through a 'rumor' system ('rumors' were introduced in Infiniverse magazines and published adventures, and the majority of responses would determine whether that rumor was 'true' or not).

I also found that there was a Deadlands Classic scenario called "Ghost Busters" that did this on a smaller scale: the back of the adventure had a response form that players could send in to indicate how the adventure turned out. Then after a certain date, the majority of votes would determine the true outcome and its impact on the metaplot. Specifically:

In that adventure, the manitou of a Harrowed Abe Lincoln took full control and caused him to do all sorts of mayhem. The response cards in the back of the adventure asked whether or not the gaming table killed Abe Lincoln or were able to save him. The end result was that the majority were able to save him and so the official metaplot is that he was saved in that encounter and is still kicking in the Weird West. Had the majority said otherwise, the metaplot would have been different.

I suspect that one major drawback to this system in the 90s was the fact that tabulating hundreds of response forms that were mailed in is a lot of work. But this sort of thing would be trivially easy to implement in the age of the internet (just go online and fill out a form, which would automatically tabluate the results). I'm curious to know if any company has tried this "write in to impact the metaplot" approach since the 90s (and if not, I'd be interested to hear why it's been avoided).

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not "writing in," but the metaplot of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG has been swayed in the past by the results of tournaments for the accompanying CCG, and that was in the 2000s. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Sep 23 '14 at 2:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Didn't Living Greyhawk do this? What about PFS? \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Sep 23 '14 at 3:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus I admit that I haven't played in either extensively, but it was my understanding that there wasn't any reporting about the outcome of the adventure, like "did the majority of gaming tables kill the lich or let him get away" (with the outcome of that answer influencing how later adventures would be written), which is what Torg and Deadlands did. I added a more specific example of what was done in Deadlands to the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Thunderforge Sep 23 '14 at 4:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus There's a subtle difference between an organized play game like Living Campaigns and this sort of thing -- in this, the published material is changed to reflect the events of the poll or campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Sep 23 '14 at 4:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jadasc I thought the published information for LG was changed to reflect the events of the campaign(s). But I may be wrong \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Sep 23 '14 at 6:21
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Yes, Spycraft Did with the Shadowforce Archer Campaign Setting

Published in 2002, the Shadowforce Archer setting for the original Spycraft role-playing game--originally published by AEG now published by Crafty Games--had an online (now offline) Threat Center into which the Game Control--the game's name for the game master--would enter the results of a scenario. Results of these scenarios were to impact the setting's metaplot.

Spycraft author Patrick Kapera's 2002 press release on EN World can be viewed here, yet both the linked Web sites are long since down.

For example, the scenario Shallow Graves asked Control to,

Before kicking off this serial, [...] make two important decisions, each of which should be reported back to the official website’s Threat Center with the rest of the serial results, and which affects the backstory for the Shadowforce Archer game setting.

  1. Who killed Dr. Ryan Forsythe?...
  2. How many people are searching for the truth of Dr. Forsythe’s death?...

The answer to this [latter] question directly affects several threats the agents may (or may not) face through the first two scenes of the serial, and in some cases may affect certain resources the agents may call upon during their mission. It may also spike the serial’s difficulty, raising the xp the mission is worth to participating agents.

According to Kapera the Threat Center

was a website where you could report how the various story seeds in Chapter 1 of the [Shadowforce Archer] books turned out at your table. The original idea was that we'd update with each book but the schedule turned out to be too punishing and the responses too few and far between to allow the time.

In retrospect, I think one of the problems might have been pace. Unlike a CCG or MMO, players don't tend to devour RPG content at quite the same rate (though amusingly, they tend to demand it more than they use it). Perhaps a future iteration of the Threat Center--if one were to come to pass--might involve a longer storyline and/or longer response periods.

The Shop (2003) was the last book for the Shadowforce Archer setting, and the line remains short by several splatbooks,1 despite indications that it might be revived using the Spycraft 2.0 or the long-promised Spycraft, 3rd Edition rules. How much impact actual play reports had on the setting--or would have had were the line to have been completed--is unknown.


  1. Which is a shame as I always wondered how the trade dress would have accommodated one of the missing Shadowforce Archer factions, the Guardians of the Whispering Knife.
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