Posts Tagged ‘james mullen’

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.

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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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My good friend and Dead of Night contributor, James Mullen (he of the excellent Cold Fusion scenario in the second edition book and of a guest post on running a Dead of Night campaign on this very site) has started a new website, Groundhoggoth, which he describes as a “lair of good games.”

Amongst the many homebrewed micro games (many of them quite delicious) and scenarios is James’ pseudo-LARP Dead of Night scenario inspired by the The Mist. Now, whilst I’ve not had the pleasure of playing the scenario for myself, I’ve heard many a scare story about it so can recommend purely on that basis.

And whilst you’re over at James’ site, make sure you check out some of his other games – I particularly recommend Never to Die, which is best described as a “chav dungeon crawl.” Need I say more.

A guest blog by James Mullen.

I’ve wanted to run a zombie apocalypse game for a long time and the release of Dead of Night, 2nd edition seemed like the ideal opportunity to do so. The game I had in mind would riff off Max Brooks’ World War Z and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, so it would be a long-running soap opera with Zombies, spanning weeks, months or even years of the characters’ lives in a post-apocalyptic world.

It was readily apparent that no one had ever run any sort of campaign using Dead of Night before, so the question was: would it work? My experience of running and playing in one shots suggested a high mortality rate and the rules only suggest refreshing 2 Survival Points for each character who survives to appear in a sequel session. If I was going to keep the characters alive for more than a session or two, I was going to need something extra to assist their survival.

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