I week from tonight I hope to commence my first play-by-chat game in over two years. I don't yet have a fancy name for the campaign, but the working title right now is "Pirates vs. Vampires". I have not, as of yet, done a lot of preparation. In fact, the game will be something of an experiment in build-as-you-go world-building. In addition to cranking out content for this blog, I am already running two face-to-face games (a Gurps 4e Steampunk/Pulp/Dimension-Hopping mash up and Slaying Solomon). I simply won't have the luxury of detailing the world to any great degree of detail.
What I do have, however, is a simple and compelling premise. The campaign takes place in a fantastic (horrific) version of our own Golden Age of Piracy (early 1700s). The hook is that vampires rule the world from the shadows. Our heroes are privy to this terrible secret and have taken to seas for their own survival and to strike back against the commercial interests of the undead aristocracy.
For inspirations, I'm obviously going to rely heavily on the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movies for look-and-feel. I also like the aesthetic of Brotherhood of the Wolf, though it is slightly anachronous. Literary sources for swashbuckling goodness primarily include On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers and The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson.
For the vampire elements I'm going to be mostly traditional. The whole reason the characters will take to the seas is that most vampires will possess stereotypical gothic vulnerabilities. Moving water and the high seas (not to mention the sunlight of the tropics) will be problematic for them. While (named) vampires will be complicated characters with a whole host of motives, they will not (by and large) be sympathetic. No Twilight-style sparkle vampires here! Vampires have to be scary to be effective antagonists. I'll save the rest of the vampire details for a spoiler-filled post later.
Back to my lack of time to prepare...
I have various tools to help me in this. For creating fully plotted adventures, I hope to use Dr-Rotwang's Adventure Funnel (first mentioned on this blog here). Once I figure out my spoiler policy, I hope to actually post my funnels as I come up with the. Additionally, the pace of play-by-chat games make me think that I'll be able to use the Mythic Game Master Emulator to assist in running free-form sessions. It's not so much that I'd have difficulty improvising from scratch, rather I might enjoy running a character next to the players and being surprised by what happens. The Mythic GME also has some wonderful tools to help move a game in unexpected directions. When improvising on my own, I often fail to consider the really interesting cases that might otherwise arise from the Mythic approach.
I forgot to mention the most obvious tool for a GM with minimal time to prepare: Risus! Can't beat Risus for whipping up a game in a hurry.