Well, it’s time to grow up and get serious about this wizard crap. We’re starting again in a couple of weeks, hopefully a bit more focused this time. I wrote up a couple pitches to see where the players' interests lie. One idea that seemed likely to bear fruit is an exploration/survival hexcrawl in a vast wilderness. I think I described it as “Oregon Trail with dragons” or somesuch.
In considering it further, I also had an idea that maybe I’d set the unexplored wilderness underground. The PCs would play explorers funded by a surface kingdom, chartered to explore the River Crepuscular and it’s major tributaries, and to transport materials needed to build one half of a linked teleportation gate to be used by future expeditions. Their guide swears that somewhere in the Land of Always Night hangs a sun that never sets. The hirelings tell tales of a New World below called Agartha, a strange Prester John-like kingdom of jeweled streets and magical beasts. Then again, if hirelings could be trusted we wouldn’t have to pay them to keep them from cutting our throats as we sleep.
But, maybe I’m over complicating it and “Oregon Trail with Dragons” is cool enough. I picked up Torchbearer a few weeks ago and though I'm not sold on the Burning Wheel system, I really like the harsh take on the survival aspect of adventuring. D&D has moved away from that because tracking your waterskin isn’t “epic” or whatever, but anyone who thinks survival isn’t epic needs to revisit fucking Predator.