Entering the planning phase of my upcoming Pirates vs. Vampires game, I am just starting to consider themes. Even though I will be world-building as I go and possibly using the Mythic Game Master Emulator to drive the game into unexpected directions, I would like to incorporate one or more recurring motifs. Themes are a great way to focus adventure design and they can really give a campaign a unique character.
[Spoiler Alert - My Players Should Turn Back]
In Pirates vs. Vampires I'd like to use a monster-based theme. Specifically, I'd like to feature the various "traditional" undead types from the D&D Monster Manual (edition is irrelevant). This is a game about vampires and vampires should be involved (directly or indirectly) in every story. But as we proceed from adventure to adventure, I'd like to successively move through the various D&D undead types as a way of marking the progress of the campaign. And by making a particular type of undead the focus of an adventure, I can incorporates all sorts of related thematic elements.
I've done this before with my sadly aborted Dragonspire campaign. Inspired by the Dragonlance modules of old, I wanted to create a campaign that walked through the various chromatic dragons in order of their deadliness. Of course, I only actually completed the white dragon adventures in both my online and face-to-face games. But those adventures were fantastic. Set during the height of winter, the characters ventured into snowy peaks and faced down many of frost-related challenges. Each adventure concluded with an exciting set-piece battle with an appropriately scaled white dragon "boss". And though the campaign was discontinued due to scheduling issues, the black dragon-themed adventure was going just as well.
To start things off, I think I'll start with the lowly skeleton. What comes to mind when one thinks of skeletons (especially as they relate to pirates)? Off the top of my head, I imagine a Ray Harryhausen Sinbad-esque adventure along the Barbary Coast. Images of skeleton-crewed galleys and scimitar-wielding skeleton warriors practically leap into my head. No doubt there is a vampire necromancer who is using these skeletal minions to control the Mediterranean. Already, the simple choice of a skeleton motif has moved the setting out of the Caribbean and into a Arabesque North Africa.