Posts tagged Blog Exchange
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?
This month, I figured I’d try something new. I’ve teamed up with Andy Klosky, author of Scrolls of the Platinum Warlock, to do a blog exchange. He’ll be writing a series of posts on my blog and I’ll be writing some on his. This month’s post is an interview of Andy to give you an idea of who he is. And be sure to check out my interview on his blog here!
First off, tell us a little about yourself: who are you?
I’m Andy Klosky. I’m the president and owner of the newly-created Blackfall Press, LLC. I’ve been gaming for almost 20 years and founded the Wittenberg Role-Playing Guild while I was in undergrad.
Tell our readers a little about our experiences together.
I met Will when he began attending Guild meetings at Wittenberg. While we became acquainted through a friend’s D&D 4e game, we got to know one another over the years as he took a much more active role in the Guild and introduced me to Deadlands and Savage Worlds in general.
What upcoming RPG products do you have your eye on?
I’ve really been keeping an eye on John Wick’s Big Book of Little Games, though it seems to keep getting delayed. I’m also high on Pinnacle’s Hell on Earth right now, as well as the new releases for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.
What are you playing/running right now?
I actually just wrapped up the first plot point campaign for Deadlands, called “The Flood”. My wife has just taken up the GMing reins, running Hell on Earth. I’m running a cryogenically-frozen soldier who, through some circumstance, believes that he’s Hawkeye of Marvel Comics fame. It’s a hoot.
If you could be a gaming die, which one would you be and why?
A d12. I don’t come out all the time, but when I do, there’s pain for players…
What are you working on currently?
I’m currently editing the first full roleplaying game I’ve designed: Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics. I’m also drafting a series of essays on the theory of GMing practice, tentatively called The Pendulum Method: GameMastery, Advanced.
What’s exciting about your current project?
With CSW, I’m really excited for the new rules-set. The mechanics I’ve designed–the MAFIANAP mechanic–are designed for heavy investigation and short, brutal combat. While it’s perfect for the Iron Age of Comics, it’d also be great for a mafioso-style game or a crime drama.
With Pendulum, I’m really in uncharted waters. There are tons of great resources for new GMs out there, but few for those who really want to up their game to a new level. The titular essay deals with how to structure non-linear plots in a game, so that you can build game sessions and campaigns around time travel, perspective changes, and multiple conflicting goals. It’s really something else…
Where do you pull inspiration for your games and designs?
Comics are a big influence on me right now. CSW was directly inspired by Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil: Born Again, and the like. Truth be told, even Pendulum was greatly influenced by Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four.
What would be your dream RPG design gig?
I’d love to redesign the Planescape campaign setting outside of the D&D mechanics. Give it a mechanical set built to play up the philosophical elements and the idea of “belief = reality”, while maintaining the setting elements in the City of Sigil.
What’s your favorite system?
Right now, I’m very high on the FATE-variant from ICONS. It’s simple, it’s flexible, and it’s easy to understand.
What is your favorite campaign (as a GM and as a player)?
As a GM, I absolutely loved running “The Flood”, which was quite the departure for me–I very rarely run published campaigns, preferring my own themes. My favorite game, though, may have been a 4e D&D game based on the “Tear of Ioun” adventures by Robert Schwalb. Really great role-play in that campaign.
What’s your favorite settings for Dungeons & Dragons, Savage Worlds, and any one other system?
- D&D–either Planescape or Ravenloft.
- SW–Deadlands and its variants are great, but I also like Rippers.
- Other–I love playing in the DC and Marvel comics universes, and I’d love to run a one-shot of All for One: Regime Diabolique sometime soon.
What’s a setting and/or system that you’ve always thought was underrated?
The d20 version of Call of Cthulhu really gets a lot of flak, but I actually like the rules better than the BRP version and the book itself is gorgeous.
How would you describe your GM style?
Conniving? Does that make sense? I’m always plotting, or at least laying the groundwork for a plan that will come to fruition later in a campaign. While I tend to run very extemporaneous game, I never let a player off the hook…
What’s the best advice you could give a budding GM or player?
Instigate! When the game runs down and things seem slow, do something unexpected and throw a cog in the works. It’s a game–don’t be afraid to take a risk.
What’s your ideal player like?
An ideal player shows investment. Whether that’s writing a background or actively seeking out NPCs or taking part in the formation of the narrative, an ideal player is willing to step out of the comfort of their character sheet and into a bigger world.
What’s something different that you’ve always wanted to run, but haven’t?
I pulled an idea dropped on RPG.net at one point tentatively entitled “Five Apocalypses”, centered around the five Chinese elements. I have no idea what system I’d use for this, though, and I’m not sure that the central plot would be strong enough to carry a campaign.
Who was your first character and how did they turn out?
My first character was a cyborg in the Palladium Heroes Unlimited system, which I rolled up with the help of my cousin Jason. Unfortunately, I never actually played that character; my first “real” character was a 2e D&D Elven Thief named Miron Blademonger. He did fairly well in his first time out, finding a +2 rapier!
How would you describe your player style (and is it different from your GM style)?
As much as I’d like to say I’m a “storyteller” or an “explorer”, I’m absolutely an instigator. I cause as much trouble–usually for myself–as possible. While I’m absolutely goal-oriented at the table, I’m all about the heroic “struggle”.
What’s a gaming quirk that you have at the table?
My dice get names. My “player-killer” d20 is the “Black Die of Doom”. My hideous hunter-orange d10 is “The Die of Shame” and is given to players who make bad puns at the table. My Cthulhu die refers to my tentacled “Wild Die” for Savage Worlds.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m shooting for a Summer/Fall 2013 release for Cold Steel Wardens, so keep your eyes peeled for our Kickstarter. Alternatively, check out the official Blackfall Press website at https://sites.google.com/site/blackfallpressllc/home