Think back to when Iron Man first came out in theaters, and Nick Fury walked out during the stinger after the credits. While it was neat to think that all of the upcoming Marvel movies might be set in the same universe, there were a lot of us that didn't dare to hope that they would actually manage to set all of the movies in the same universe and bring them together, culminating in the Avengers.
It's that kind of thinking that keeps the hope of the Impossibly Awesome Campaign alive. What is an Impossibly Awesome Campaign?
In my mind, it's the kind of campaign that has this insanely high concept running in the background that years later, while running something else entirely, the two campaigns tie back together and it become obvious that everything in all of the campaigns were part of a bigger meta-campaign arc.
I've never seen this happen, but at times, the thought of it haunts my dreams.
"Hey, We Know Those People!"
I think the earliest inkling I've seen of this sort of thing was way back in high school, when my friends and I were playing D&D and various and sundry other RPGs constantly, mid week, all day Saturday, and a half day Sunday or so. Once we branched out and more than one of us was running games, we picked up multiple campaign settings.
Then it happened. When our characters would travel the planes to other prime material worlds, or when we started playing Spelljammer, our PCs from other campaigns would have cameos in the other DM's games. It was great, even if it was extremely minimal.
But that was just the larval form of the idea. We weren't creating a huge meta-arc to tie our campaigns together, just kind of giving a wink and a nod that each other's campaigns existed in the larger scheme of things.
The actual Impossibly Awesome Campaign didn't start to really haunt my dreams until I became older, more ambitious, and far less likely to have the time and energy to pull it off.
A Long Time Ago In A Campaign Far Away . . .
While the idea has rolled around my head in various game systems over the years, the first time it popped back up in my "modern" gaming brain was likely when I was running Star Wars Saga Edition. I had really grandiose plans of seeding information about a Sith plot that was thwarted by in the Old Republic era during one campaign, that might embroil some smugglers and outlaws on the run from the Empire, not fully realizing what they had gotten themselves into in the Dark Times era, and finally, the threat that was squelched way back in the Old Republic era would come back to life and need to be addressed and defeated during the Legacy era.
Unfortunately, we only got as far as taking down the apprentice of the Sith Lord whose actions would have such far ranging effects on the galaxy before I had to take a hiatus from running games, and the Impossibly Awesome Star Wars Campaign ended right there.
Modern Fever Dreams
Once I started playing, and running, the Warhammer 40K RPGs, I started having those same fevered dreams about an Impossible Awesome Campaign, where Rogue Traders found out about some artifact that pointed towards some dark secret of the Imperium, Deathwatch space marines fought to secure anything related to the secret (and later guardsmen would fall into that category as well), and finally Black Crusade heretics would desperately infiltrate Imperial holdings, learn the secret, and have a chance to unleash the Imperium's worst nightmares upon it.
This Impossibly Awesome Campaign would also benefit from have Black Crusade as the capstone, because characters that might have fallen to corruption in Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, or Only War could end up coming back as characters in the Black Crusade game with a little bit of readjustment.
Another idea I had involved tying together a Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign with an Adventurer Conqueror King game, with the DCC game taking place about a thousand years after the ACKS game, with the players finding familiar kingdoms and bits of lost history as they realized that every few thousand years magic becomes less stable, and cataclysms and multiversial inversions are more likely, changing the ACKS baseline to match the DCC one, and allowing the DCC characters to pick up plot threads about ancient evils first laid down in the ACKS camapagin.
In the end, it takes a lot of time and effort to run the campaign at hand. Planning for future campaigns that may or may not ever happen doesn't always seem worth the effort, and having a group that remains stable enough to have enough players to recognize the payoff of the meta-campaign seems unlikely in this day and age.
I'd love to hear from other gamers that managed to actually pull off an Impossibly Awesome Campaign in this sense, the sense of a meta-campaign that tied the narrative of multiple other campaigns together, and in a deeper manner than just being set in the same campaign setting. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fully realize one.
But years ago we never thought we'd have an Avengers movie either.