Second City Survival part 3: Campaign Frameworks

As presented, post-apocalyptic Chicago is a fine setting but we haven’t touched on the other elements required for a campaign. This is intentional, as the purpose of these posts is to provide you with the tools you can use to run your own games.

Part of it is simply the nature of the sandbox. Players drive the action and set their own goals. However, if we provide some sort of more specific context, we can save the PCs from the dangers of decision paralysis – a goal, even nebulous, gives them a direction to plan in.

A crowded cityscape


The framework I had in mind while conceptualizing Windy City Devils was that the PCs would be outsiders to the city, commissioned to infiltrate and explore. The Government in Isolation has no idea what the situation is within the city, only that their patrols have been turned back by increasingly forceful resistance.

Unwilling to commit to a full-blown assault, the Acting President has assigned a small group of specialists to infiltrate the city, determine what’s going on, and integrate themselves as best they can. Eventually they may be “activated” as an sleeper cell to pursue the Government in Isolation’s agenda.


Players are loyal members of one of the larger gangs or other factions. The game focuses on their lives and careers as they rise in importance, build relationships, and vie with their rivals to try and dominate the city.

This game is a bit more slice-of-life, with a focus on the PCs personal stories within their chosen hierarchy. It deals more deeply with the personalities and relationships of their faction, as well as their development both in prominence and in power.

Even more than the other frameworks, this one is heavily character-driven, perhaps more individually so.

Little Gs

As above, but the PCs belong to a minor faction, a gang or group or family with fewer than a dozen members. Maybe the PCs are the entire faction. Regardless, they have more authority, but fewer resources.

In this framework the focus is on the development of the PC faction as they navigate in the shadows of the larger groups, surviving and trying to thrive. The element of personal development is still present, but the PCs have more of an influence on how well their faction does.


The PCs are independent operators in the city, offering their services to the different factions and survivors of Chicago, choosing which allies and enemies to make. Maybe they have a larger agenda, or maybe they’re simply profit-focused mercenaries.

This is a bit of a combination of the OG and Little G setup, in that they have freedom of action, but also focus on the PCs personal development. Of course, being freelancers there’s little protection from the other factions, and no expectation of loyalty.

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