Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big Game Wednesday - A Distinct Lack of Staying Power

Going back over the games I ran in college, I realize I ran a lot more stuff than I thought at first. It's just that much of what I ran ended up being one-shot games. I've already mentioned the Morrow Project disaster.

One Halloween, I decided to have the guys over to my apartment where I ran a one-shot Villains and Vigilantes game inspired by a convention game I've talked about before. I had the players basically generate themselves as V&V characters, then the game began on one of our typical Saturdays on campus. As they were coming back from a meal break at Burger King, they heard sirens. Gunmen ran past them, making for a getaway car. In the process of the getaway, the players' friend Fraze was shot and lay bleeding the streets, mumbling the crooks' license plate number and clutching a mask he pulled off one of them.

Following the clues led them to a costume shop, which was a front for a secret organization known as the First Kingdom. The bad guys were seeking some source of cosmic power known as the Bloodgems, located in multiple parallel dimensions. At some point, the players encountered a guy who ran an occult bookshop, the dude who was battling the First Kingdom to protect the Bloodgems. He recruited the players to help him find the gems first, and off they went through a dimensional portal.

They awoke in a forest. The forest was very big. Or it would be more accurate to say that they were now very small. Bunnies, in fact. The bunnies had to find the old Owl, who owned the Bloodgem, while avoiding traps, a hunter, and one of their First Kingdom foes, a demonic bear. Retrieving the gem gave them the ability to open a new portal, which took them to their next world.

The players arrived in a space cantina, just ahead of an alien First Kingdom warrior named Sunbow. They learned of the recent theft of a huge, blood-red diamond called the Royal Star, and had to retrieve it with the help of the Starjammers from X-Men. Upon retrieving the diamond, their next portal opened.

They appeared in a medieval fantasy village, where a crowd of people watched a small group of heavily-armed heroes journey toward a castle. The players fell in with the heroes. One of the folks seemed to have a device that functioned remarkably like a movie camera. He told the players that he was Danny, the Documentary Filmmaker, and introduced the rest of the party: Phil the Fighter, Marian the Mage, Karl the Cleric, Thaddeus the Thief. The players noticed one other member of the group, a guy clothed all in black, dripping poison onto the blade of a scimitar.

"Who's that?" they asked.

"Oh, that's Al," said Danny.

"Al the Assassin?"

"No, he's a druid, actually," Danny answered. "He doesn't really fit in."

The heroes entered the castle and were promptly thrashed, after which the players entered to battle the final enemy, a demonic wizard. Once they retrieved the last of the gems, the portal opened to their final destination.

The game was meant to conclude the following week, but I never finished writing it up. I got too ambitious, planning to run a superpowered At the Mountains of Madness, but I let my ambition overwhelm me yet again. It was okay. Whatever I did would pale after Al the Druid.

At one point, Dragon Magazine published some variant rules for Top Secret called (IIRC) Crimefighters. It was meant to be a pulp-era game, taking place in the 30's. I thought it looked awesome and ran an adventure with it. The big bad was a knife-wielding murderer who was a straight-up rip-off of Michael Myers from the "Halloween" films. But the players never really got to that final confrontation, for in the process of trying to interview a mob boss, they got in a gunfight. One of the players then decided he would throw some dynamite that he had written on his character sheet. He storked his roll to estimate how much fuse he would need, with the result that the dynamite went off in his hand. Thus setting off the other sticks of dynamite he was carrying and blowing up the entire penthouse floor. Result: TPK, except for the one person who decided to stay with the car.

Sometime later, I think I ran the adventure again, with the group actually finishing it this time. That led into another adventure with the same characters, investigating a funeral home in New Orleans that was turning corpses into zombies, an adventure which led the party to the Caribbean and a search for Atlantis. The players wanted to continue the campaign, but I was hard up for adventure ideas, especially since they wanted to go to China, and one of the players was originally from Hong Kong. I was so intimidated by the idea of getting China completely wrong that I quit running instead.

But I still liked the idea of a pulp-style game, so I kept my eyes open for pulp-style systems. One which excited me when I first looked at it was Stalking the Night Fantastic, so I bought it and ran it.


It was a disaster.

Next week.

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