A Player Talks About One of My Campaigns
Last week I talked about Arkham Nights on this blog, but as part of our blog exchange, I had a guest post on Scrolls of the Platinum Warlock where I talked about my perspective as a player in one of Andy’s campaigns (also see his perspective as a GM in that same camapaign). This week, we’re switching it around and showing a player’s perspective on one of my campaigns!
In the Summer of 2011, I decided that I wanted to run a Deadlands mini-campaign. Deadlands is famous for having a very rich metaplot and, since Andy’s recently completed Deadlands campaign “Follow the Walkin’ Man” didn’t tap into it that much, I decided it would be a lot of fun to run a short campaign using the (second) biggest metaplot-making adventure in the entire history of Deadlands: The Devil’s Tower trilogy. (The Unity is the biggest metaplot-making adventure, but the time hasn’t come for me to run that one yet).
The Devil’s Tower Trilogy is a series of three adventures published in 1998 for Deadlands Classic, which I updated to Deadlands Reloaded: The Road to Hell, Heart o’ Darkness, and Fortress o’ Fear. You’ll note that in Andy’s recap below, he refers to the trilogy as the “Heart of Darkness” trilogy, which is probably a better name for it as Devil’s Tower isn’t even mentioned until the third scenario. The scenario begins with none other than Dr. Darius Hellstromme himself hiring the posse to track down the mysterious “Heart o’ Darkness” gem that has been stolen from him.
One thing I like about the trilogy is that it’s a good tour of the Weird West. The posse travels from the steel and ghost-rock powered City o’ Gloom (Salt Lake City) in the Mormon nation of Deseret to the Free and Holy City of Lost Angels in the famine-stricken Great Maze to the high plains featuring the eponymous Devil’s Tower in the wide open plains of Wyoming (which is a real-world location). Along the way they meet three of the four “big players” in the Deadlands universe: Dr. Darius Hellstromme, Rev. Ezekiah Grimme, and the mysterious Stone. Fun fact: despite being on the cover of the original Deadlands rulebook, the character of Stone was not introduced until this trilogy of scenarios.
This mini-campaign was one of my favorites because it was all about the heroes facing the impossible. Even though I set them up as Legendary level characters, every player had two PCs that died by the end (except Andy who miraculously kept the same character alive until the end of the campaign!) In the end, there was a hard-won victory, but there was definitely a cost to preventing Hell on Earth (and yes, there is a relationship between this trilogy and the Deadlands sequel setting).
And now without further ado, I turn you over to one of my players for his recounting of the mini-campaign:
A Player’s Perspective
As part of our ongoing cross-blog extravaganza, the Journeyman GM—Will Herrmann—and I have been taking a look atour experiences in one another’s campaigns. Last time, we palavered about his experiences in my “Shadows of the Cold War” game. This time around, I’ll let you in on what it’s like to be in one of Will’s games, particularly his Deadlands “Heart of Darkness” trilogy.
When Will pitched his game to Guild-at-large, I was already stoked. I had just finished running a Deadlands campaign—something of a crossover between standard Deadlands and the mythology created in Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga. My campaign had a few miscues and we lost a few players, which made life hectic, but overall I was incredibly pleased with how the game turned out and I was eager to play in the world that I had so recently started reading about. Will had not only introduced me to Deadlands, but to Savage Worlds as a system, so I knew I was in for a treat.
I’ll say one thing for Will as a GM—while he doesn’t have the fearsome reputation I seem to have gained in my years of tormenting players, Will challenges players with the best of them! Even with Legendary-tier heroes around the table, Will wasn’t afraid to pull out the big guns and let them strut their stuff! One of our first confrontations in the game was against Los Diablos: the Devil’s Own Herd of stampeding hell-cattle. These fiendish bovines took out no less than three of our five posse members, with only my hexslinging fencer and a huckster surviving!
This rigor carried through the full campaign, with intensely difficult fight scenes and equally difficult challenges in role-play. While the original “Heart of Darkness” trilogy brought several rough elements to the table, Will was ready to not only convert those elements, but toss in the occasional curveball to keep us on our toes. That’s not to say we didn’t respond in kind, of course! I’m sure Will didn’t expect us to reduce Rock Island Prison to a smoking crater, or to slice an enchanted cutlass through the skull of a certain cannibalistic reverend!
One of Will’s other strengths lies in his ability to efficiently and descriptively narrate a hectic action scene. Like myself, Will tends to favor the “set piece” fight scene over the standard dungeon-crawling sloughs of old-school gaming. In our climactic battle with Grimme, for example, numerous factions and monsters roamed the interior of the Cathedral of Lost Angels, each with varied stats and abilities. Will navigated this chaotic sea with ease, making for a fast-paced, thrilling encounter that absolutely made that session.
I do carry one badge of honor from Will’s “Heart of Darkness” game—my fencer was the only character who survived the entire game without dying! My wife’s “scrapper” fell to Los Diablos, as did our mad scientist. Our huckster died of tuberculosis and never realized it, coming back as a Harrowed in his sleep. Even our enigmatic Agent, wielding a hellfire-spouting carbine, died while in a duel with a certain undead gunslinger. However, Ramon Perez Francisco Villa-Nueva defied the odds, escaping certain death with the Heart of Darkness in hand!
While he’s off in Minnesota for the time being, I’m really hoping that Will manages to make it back for WittCon X. Gaming with him has always been a great privilege, and I’m looking forward to more opportunities to sling dice with the Journeyman GM!
[Will’s Note: Yes, I do plan on coming back to Wittenberg for WittCon X!]
If you’re interested in seeing how this campaign went (minor spoilers within), check out some of my other blog posts about my experiences running The Devil’s Tower trilogy:
- The Price of Power — Exploring the whole theme of the trilogy
- Dealing with Player Absences — An interesting solution I used to deal with an absent player
- Facing the Impossible — How I totally stacked the deck against the posse and yet they pulled through
- Thoughts on Powerful NPCS — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the NPCs in the trilogy (Or, “Why I killed the Deadlands version of Mary Sue”)
- Victory Requires the Threat of Defeat — Or, “You have six seconds to save the world. Go!”
- When You Give Your Posse Dynamite… — Need I say more?