Archive for the ‘Dead of Night’ Category

Belatedly (I think I might have the dubious honour of being last) I’ve submitted my games for the excellent Sheffield rpg convention, Furnace, which is about 5 weeks away now. It’s all booked up already (and has been for months), so I’m afraid you can’t go even if you want to, but I thought I’d post the games all the same as they’re an insight into the goings on of my gaming world right now. So here they are, with added commentary.

Saturday morning – Lost Days of Memories & Madness

The immortal elves of the Eternal Court are masters of the world, enslaving the lesser races so that their most precious possessesions – their memories – can be harvested for the pleasure of the decadent elven lords. The greatest fear amongst the immortal elves is madness; the greatest taboo is the mention that the stolen memories of others is the path to insanity. When your civilisation is at its peak, the only way is down…

A GMless story game of intrigue and insanity at the end of the world, for 4 players.

Andrew says: you know the drill with this one – it’s a GMless (kinda) game about outscheming all the other players, stealing all their memories and being the last survivor when the world falls apart. All kinds of fun so long as players go for the throat.

Sunday morning – Dead of Night: Salford’s Lot

Salford’s Shadowgate Estate on a friday night, 4 of your best mates, 2 litres of cheap cider and a grimoire full of spells. But tonight there’s trouble brewing – magic that you didn’t call up, monsters that you can’t put down and a real, bonafide witch hunter new in town and with something to prove. Magic – it’ll get you killed. Or worse, grounded.

A horror game in the vein of the Craft, Salem’s Lot and the Covenant, for 5 players.

Andrew says: I’ve wanted to do a Dead of Night scenario with all the players as witches and warlocks for a while now, but as is often the case (and Scott Dorward is like this too, I gather) it’s not until I get a pun-filled name that the brain cells really start rubbing together. Should be fun, in any case, although sunday morning isn’t my preferred horror slot.

Sunday afternoon – Exiles (playtest)

Earth is a distant glimmer in a sea of a thousand stars, and all you’ve got on this alien shore is the close-knit crew you call family and barely enough supplies to last the month. In the face of adversity, can you survive – and more importantly, can your friendships?

A playtest of a game of family in crisis amongst the stars, in the vein of Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Universe et al, for 4 players.

This one’s new, and highly subject to change, but I’ve had a yearning to write a game that emulates all those close-knit family-esque sci-fi settings for a while now but – as is often the case – the particulars only unfolded on a recent long drive back from holiday. I’ll post the game itself up later this week.

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It was UK Games Expo last weekend, one of the UK’s newest and best games conventions, already up there with Furnace, Conception, Indiecon and Dragonmeet in my top 5 UK cons. I was there as part of the smallpress rpg booth, which this year comprised the Collective Endeavour and our Finnish friends, Arkenstone Publishing and we had a very good con, introducing all sorts of quirky games to all sorts of quirky gamers.

I was meant to be running a new Dead of Night scenario, Djinn, but a lack of players saw it remain in my bag. So I thought I’d post about the premise here all the same.

“Five friends, stuck in the middle of nowhere.
A mysterious relic, a treasure lost to the ages.
An ancient spirit, powerful and vengeful.
Five wishes, one apiece, immeasurably powerful.
What’s the harm in making one? It’s just a wish, after all…”

Of course, the monster of the piece is the djinn, the action taking place 10 years after the wish as the genie comes back to collect his due. The scenario is designed to pitch the characters against one another as much as the monster as cracks appear in the victim’s picture-perfect lives and they scramble to save their own skins. A lot of the set-up is player-driven, based on 5 questions answered during character creation (as suggested by the awesome Scott Dorward):

  1. What is your greatest regret/missed opportunity?
  2. What is the most important thing in the world?
  3. What (or who) would you be prepared to sacrifice in order to save yourself/your way of life?
  4. What are you most afraid of?
  5. What is the one thing that you never want others to find out about?

The players then have a hand in authoring their characters, their wishes and new lives, and then me and the djinn get to come along to kick it all over.

I was thinking about writing it up today and connections began to emerge with another unpublished scenario, Grendel, Alaska, not just with the close-knit community unravelling with the appearance of the monster, but also the mythological/legendary origins of the monster. I’ve got another scenario idea kicking around with a similar theme (something to do with sirens and temptation), and am pondering bundling all these modern updates of mythological monsters together as a little supplement.

Would anyone be interested in such a thing?

It’s probably appropriate that I’ve taken so long to post a link to his blog post, but the always-enjoyable Rob Barker finally posted up his threepart commentary on Furnace 2010, including an actual play report of the game of Dead of Night: Bad Signal that I ran that is far more elegant and descriptive than anything I can muster up so long after the event.

And once you’re done reading that, make sure you check out his other roleplaying game-related writings, including his dabbling with the choose-your-own-adventure adaptation of the classic arcade side-scroller, R-Type, not to mention his astute write-up of the Primetime Adventures series I started over in Sheffield a month or two back.

A guest post by James Mullen. Part 2 can be found here.

One thing can be said about the Endangered Species campaign (inspired, you’ll recall, by the Walking Dead and World War Z): it went in some surprising directions. One of the characters started as a notorious criminal, but by the end he was hailed as a spiritual leader for Europe and had tens of thousands of followers… then he lost it all and sacrificed himself to save the world. All of that emerged through the game play, as PCs responded to the initial situation and their responses created new situations, in a recursive cycle. The story boot-strapped itself from one episode to the next and we never had to insert a new plot line or force a change in the characters’ lives. Even when the story drifted from pure survival horror to political intrigue and conspiracy for an entire episode, we never broke the system and Dead of Night supported us all the way.

Risk Checks, or life & death situations, can be about more than just injury or capture; anything a character values can be placed at Risk, whether that is their reputation, their ambition, their authority or their sanity. For example, if your PC climbed to power on a ladder of lies and murders, then any threat to expose their past can be a Risk for them: they might have to use ‘Obscure’ to hide the truth or ‘Dissuade’ to put the investigators off the trail. Also, just because there is no ‘sanity check’ mechanic in Dead of Night doesn’t mean you can’t make the equivalent in your game, if it seems appropriate: push Risk Checks on players when they encounter the unworldly so that they have to use ‘Identify’ to find a rational explantaion for their experience. In a long game, it’s important to make sure that phyicial rolls (Pursue, Escape, Assault & Protect) aren’t the only source of Risk or else players will become wise to that and only create characters that focus on those attributes at the expense of everything else.

Breaking up the horror with episodes of mundane life is a good tool for keeping things fresh and avoiding ‘terror fatigue’, where the PCs just accept the situation and adopt it as the new norm; don’t be afraid to let the horror fade in & out of the story over the course of a campaign, or even a long one-off scenario. The system supports all kinds of tension and by exploring other types of threat or loss, you can give the scenes of horror more impact and significance.

The next plan, for 2011, is to run a campaign styled as a series rather than a serial: the same PCs from episode to episode but facing a new threat every week against the backdrop of a consistent world, such as Kolchak, The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

A guest post by James Mullen. Part 1 can be found here.

Playing the first ever Dead of Night campaign taught us a lot more about Bad Habits and how to get the most out of them:

First, if PCs have more than one Bad Habit each at the start of a campaign (or even a one-off), then players must be supported in making them as diverse as possible; encourage them to choose Bad Habits that showcase different, even contradictory aspects of the character. If two or more of a character’s Bad Habits occupy the same thematic ground, then opportunities for earning Survival points are reduced, but it is a very easy trap to fall into; for example, ‘Quick Tempered’ and ‘Hates Women’ are both demonstrations of how the character doesn’t get on well with others, so that PC is likely to face situations where both conditions could apply. If they had used one of those Bad Habits to show a different side of their character, they would have almost doubled the number of situations where it was possible for them to earn a Survival Point.

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Earlier in the year, James Mullen and his gaming group embarked on something that had not been done before – a campaign of Dead of Night. In July I asked him to talk about the set-up for the Endangered Species campaign, and James laid out some of the rules tweaks that he’d be using to maintain the game over a series of sessions. With the campaign now laid to rest, I’ve asked James to write a series of guest posts reflecting on how Dead of Night worked as a campaign.

The Endangered Species campaign wound up a few months ago and Andrew has kindly asked me to reflect on what we learned from the experience. If you recall, I implemented an extra rule module called Baggage, which acted as an extra life for characters, allowing them to lose something really important to them instead of dying, but it also allowed players to roll 3d10 instead of 2d10 and pick the best 2 results when they narrated the Baggage into the action. During play, we modified this slightly, adding the rule that if you used Baggage to provide a bonus but failed the roll, you immediately lost the Baggage, unless you spent a Survival Point.

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I’ve added a Downloads site to the website where you can find, it may surprise you to learn, all the various downloads that are scattered around the site – previews of games, character sheets and so forth.

Not terribly exciting in itself, but I’ve also added three new downloads: a blank character sheet that can be edited, and complete pre-gen character sheets for Dust and Unhallowed, two of the scenarios from Dead of Night second ed.

So with pre-gens in hand, Dust and Unhallowed should be runnable at the drop of a metaphorical hat. Fancy that.