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Gearing up for War of the Dead
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:05 pm    Post subject: Gearing up for War of the Dead Reply with quote

After running a D&D 4E game to 30th level, taking a break with some one shots, and then finally running a bit of Savage Worlds, my group is ready for War of the Dead. I've owned it since reading Ferret and Jordan's threads and have been dying(pun intended) to run it.

First off, as prep, I've obviously read chapter 1 a couple times.

Ferret's thread has been/will be invaluable. My group tends to like to stay on the rails a bit, so that should help. Here's the thread in case someone else needs it: http://www.peginc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=28266&highlight=

His Rogue's Gallery has also inspired me to put faces and names together: http://www.peginc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=28647&highlight=

Jordan's thread has been inspirational to see just how far off the rails you can go and make it such a great experience: http://www.peginc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=29881&highlight=

I've given my players the option and they want to start the game as themselves. So they're struggling through character generation now.

I have also instructed them to create an NPC/Backup/Replacement character since the likelyhood is high at least one of them won't make it off the ship.

First game night is Sept 25th. More prep posts coming up.
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Takeda
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Generating the characters as yourselves is tough. Hard to be objective and honest without everyone getting weird. How do you tell someone that they might not have D8 Smarts? LOL!

In the Zombie survival game I'm running right now I threw them together but I was painfully careful to not step on anyone's toes. With the Smarts thing ... I honestly dodged it entirely giving everyone D6. At the end we were discussing edges, skills, stats to be sure that everyting was right. That went pretty well ... my overly diplomatic interpretation paid off. Everyone was constructed on a standard 0xp build. At the end with my 'problem solving' and encyclopedic knowledge, attention to detail, etc. it was decided without my imput that my character should have D8 Smarts.

Keep in mind that's it's a documented phenomenom that men tend to over-estimate their abilities and women tend to under-estimate same. Also it's best to give everyone basic (D4) Fighting ... based on fighting in the school yard, self-defense courses, abusive siblings, etc. It will help keep them alive for the first few sessions at least ...

Another thing is when they're playing themselves is they know what they know ... so setting up Knowledge Skills for them is kinda redundant but necessary for future character-development. Consider giving everyone a flat bonus 'X' skill points to reflect their skills that must be spent on these notable skills. I'd strongly consider keeping Common Knowledge rolls in mind. It's a great way to allow people to Know something general without having to buy a plethora of knowledge skills.

Because I'm running myself as an NPC I had to be more hand's off so my character has Know: Esoterica ... If I roll it successfully I get the Common Knowledge Roll, if not It's untrained.
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My group is fairly well grounded, and being all men, are actually being hard on themselves. Peer review is a bitch #gunbattle

Boarding passes went out a couple days ago.
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B9j13B1O9-vcajJmeTZZak9kRUU
I"m having trouble getting this to link in, sorry.

I also gave them a quick layout of the ship.
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DGMiller
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I look forward to reading your version of events. My group is at Rescue Station LeJeune (I played it as still functional for a while and it will be overrun at the beginning of our next game, our 9th week). I too gained much inspiration from the two games you mentioned, as well as several others.

If you're interested, my journal is here: http://www.peginc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=36523&highlight=

And this thread has a list (with links) of all the threads on WotD I found useful: http://www.peginc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=36203&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=20

Wishing you a great run and looking forward to reading about it!
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your link, I have been reading your thread.

We just wrapped up about 30 minutes ago. I'm thinking I'm going to send the write up to the players quick and then post it sometime tomorrow....assuming I finish tonight.

My group usually stays pretty close to the rails, not tonight, I gave them some leeway and they ran with it.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool! I am looking forward to reading the write-up as well! Smile
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DGMiller
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't wait!
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I started a new, spoiler free thread for the recap.

http://www.peginc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=366629#366629


Enjoy.
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sirdrasco
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Based off of what I was able to find, all you need is chapter 1 of the war of the dead to start running the game, no other source books an I right.

I plan to run it at my local game store every other week,
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

War of the Dead chapter 1 and the Savage Worlds Core Rules. Those two books are all you require.

There are a number of excellent freebies available, as well as a few paid supplements. And the World of the Dead setting will eventually come out - it is supposed to be set a few years after the events of War of the Dead.
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got chapter one and the deluxe rules.
Since Ferret, Jordan and others have been sharing their ideas, I thought I'd offer up any maps I make. We use maptools, so if you want the file, just PM me.
Here are the infirmary and a cabin
[img]
infirmary by jcayer1, on Flickr [/img]

[img]
cabin by jcayer1, on Flickr[/img]
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On a play related note, I do have serious concerns they're going to jump ship and skip the whole auditorium thing. I like that section of the adventure as you really start putting names and faces to people.

I forget who's game, but Treymore gets bitten, and hands his daughter off to the heroes in a very touching moment. I REALLY like that as both touching and emotional. I may have to introduce him earlier.

I would also like to torture them with Ms Hartten. But alas, I think introducing her outside the auditorium limits her influence and doesn't make her as much trouble as she is as written.

Any ideas?
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ValhallaGH
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
Any ideas?

Use a similar scene later in the Chapter.
They hole up in some town that has been spared the hordes until about the time the PCs arrive, and the community assembles in the local theater (movie or stage, doesn't matter) to discuss how they will survive this nightmare. Then the wheels come off and some old biddy leads a semi-religious insanity that starts practicing human sacrifice. Meanwhile some of the saner folks realize that the PCs, hardened survivors, are the only hope they and their families have.
Bam! All the drama, on the schedule the players dictate.

Oh, and the various roles of the owner and mercenaries can be taken by allies of the PCs. Because nothing builds tension faster than some jerkwad threatening your friends and loved ones.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
On a play related note, I do have serious concerns they're going to jump ship and skip the whole auditorium thing.


Well, here's one problem with making a mad dash for the lifeboats at this point: The power has cut out, so they're going to have to MANUALLY crank the winches to lower the lifeboats -- and those lifeboats actually have to be lowered several stories to reach the water. This wouldn't normally be much of a problem, except that by now any such activity on the deck will be a natural attraction for any shuffling bands of zombies -- so while you're operating the crank, you'll also need someone to fend off zombies.

(Of course, once the ship starts SINKING, presumably our heroes will overcome this particular obstacle in their eventual last-ditch dash for the boats -- but I suppose it's a problem that could be brought up for the time being.)

As for myself, I honestly didn't mind terribly that the heroes skipped the pre-scripted incidents in the auditorium. I really didn't care for the Ms. Hartten episode, and I don't fault my heroes when they avoid getting into obvious death-traps (such as locking themselves in a poorly-defensible place with a bunch of hysterical strangers, any number of whom might be secretly bitten and prone to turning into monsters).

If you really, REALLY want some trouble with Ms. Hartten, and the heroes make a rush for the life boats (and you can't justify making them stay on board), keep in mind that those life boats are huge and made to hold quite a number of passengers.

You could simply have a faceless crowd of fellow passengers joining the rush to the lifeboats (and helping to operate the winches and to fend off the zombies, etc.), and then you transfer some of the drama from the lifeboat to the high seas, rather than just fast-forwarding to the marina. That's what I did for my campaign, anyway.

Lo and behold, Ms. Hartten is on board. If that won't work (you introduced Ms. Hartten before, in another location, and the heroes fled, and it doesn't make sense for her to follow), then use a PROXY. If not Ms. Hartten, perhaps the matriarch of a large family (several relatives are present, and are among her "followers" -- they were on the cruise for a family reunion) who therefore has considerable sway over her brood. Or, throw in a celebrity -- a televangelist or TV psychic, or famous actor/actress who wrote some "spiritual" books on the side. He or she instantly attracts a following through the Power of Celebrity and/or by virtue of being Charismatic and/or Attractive, never mind the off-beat mix-and-match theology.


Drama on the Lifeboat: In my own campaign, when the heroes bypassed most of the action on the ship, I filled things out by having some "drama" happen on the lifeboat itself, rather than just fast-forwarding to shore.

1) Those cruise liner lifeboats hold a LOT of people. Ms. Hartten or her proxy is on board, as noted previously, plus a number of people favorably disposed toward her for one reason or another. (E.g., family or friends who went along on a group booking for the cruise, fans if she's a celebrity of some sort, or a following of people who believe in her because, by sheer dumb luck or vague wording and parlor tricks, she "predicted" a number of events and now they think she's a prophetess.)


2) Remember how Samantha (or plot substitute) the immune child gets strangely feverish and this is a plot point? Well, according to the setting rules, at least one of the heroes should have the same deal. THAT character should at some point come down with a fever as well. Perhaps call for a few Vigor rolls at a -2 penalty (failure meaning taking a Fatigue level), although the fever is destined to break after a few days on the high seas. In the meantime, however, people could get concerned about this. In fact, there could even be talk of throwing the hero overboard for the "greater good."


3) In any case, you can stage some crazy-talk with Ms. Hartten. I don't usually see a natural progression from "fundamentalist Christian" to "calls for human sacrifice," but, hey, I'll play along. If we're on a life boat, perhaps this can be muted ever-so-slightly by making allusions to Jonah and the Whale. I.e., the seas begin tossing (the hurricane) and the people are in a panic. Ms. Hartten makes this claim that since these are the End Times, they must look to the Old Testament for guidance -- and lo, it has been revealed to her in a dream that one among them has a great burden of sin. They must all draw lots, to reveal who the offender is (and she'll hold the "lots" -- perhaps some plastic soda straws, one of which has been cut short).

The offender shall be thrown into the sea to be swallowed up by a great whale, whereupon he (or she) shall stay in the belly of the whale for 40 days and 40 nights. (See? We're not doing human sacrifice here. This is just a SPIRITUAL JOURNEY for the person so selected. Wink ) If anyone chooses not to participate (and most likely most of them WILL NOT), then Hartten will have straws pulled FOR them ... and she'll be vague enough about the process that the one who is identified will of course be the one she was already certain was the sinful one who needs to be cast out. (She's a very pragmatic sort of "religious" person who is not above "helping" God with this little miracle.)

If the sacrifice isn't sufficient to end the storm (of course it won't be!) then she'll reveal that there is ANOTHER sinful person who must go. This can only go on for so long, and no doubt if she thought logically about this, she'd realize that this is eventually going to go badly for her, but she's drunk on the fervor of the moment, and the raw power of having all these scared people listen to her.


4) And of course you can always have the secretly-bitten individual (or someone who dies due to injuries, illness, ran out of meds, generally poor health, etc.) who dies and nobody immediately notices, then "turns," and we have instant mayhem, and the trauma of what to do with the survivors who've been bitten while dealing with that mess.

...

Drama on Shore: Or, never mind the life boat, and just save it for later, as per ValhallaGH's suggestion.

A perfect opportunity is at the tail end of Act 2 / Scene 3 ("Leaders of the Pack"), on page 8 of Week 8 (Chapter 1) -- or "Episode 8," following DG Miller's convention.

We have a very similar situation when the heroes are forced to hole up in a warehouse with total strangers at Jacksonville, and of course there are murmurs in the ranks, and "Samantha" draws unwanted attention. It's almost interchangeable with the auditorium situation.

Throw in "Ms. Hartten" as the rabble-rouser, and you can have your calls for human sacrifice and a big showdown where the press of civilians overwhelms soldiers who are reluctant to start shooting unarmed people. This stand-off can end in disaster just as it would have on board the cruise ship, and then you can move on to Act Three. (In this version, however, presumably the heroes have secured some OTHER place to leave Samantha in while they go on a scouting trip for medical supplies.)
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was actually thinking about it last night and got the idea that Ms Hartten makes it on the same lifeboat as the gang, so excellent idea!

I expect a fairly large shootout in the security suite(probably our first with a grid), the rescue of their significant others, during which I'll run some of the random encounters in the book(adding some NPCs to their entourage), and then the big escape scene, with lowering the boat, everyone trying to get in, etc. Of course, you never know what they'll come up with.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
(adding some NPCs to their entourage)


At the risk of bringing up stuff that might've already been mentioned:

One thing I found to be pretty useful in this campaign, with the ever-changing cast of Extras (gain some, lose some), was to give the players some reference cards with basic "survivor" stats on them. Most of the cards were pretty similar in terms of stats, based on general categories -- e.g., standard civilian, kid, soldier, gang member, hunter/survivalist/militia -- but with a name filled in. (And in my case, I included some art -- the same art for the figure flats, plus a number of custom portraits for my campaign.) This could be pretty easy to whip up in Microsoft Word or a similar program, pasting in portrait pictures from a Google image search (especially if you're fond of ascribing celebrities to "play the part" of various roles). A lot of it will just be cut-and-paste.

Or, hand-write them on index cards. That works, too. Smile I've done that on the fly.

Anyway, that way, I can entrust the players to keep track of the stats of NPCs with them -- at least, those NPCs who are competent enough to put up a fight if the zombies attack. When the PCs are in a particularly large group, I'll often hand-wave the details regarding portions of the group even if a fight breaks out: In the background, there are "several more people, and several more zombies," but for our purposes I only focus the camera on this part of the battle, where we have the PCs, some zombies, and a few representative allies (especially any "named" friends). I use that same practice at times when handling "mass battle" situations (without actually resorting to the Mass Battle abstract rules).

I had to make it clear that there were some limitations, however, and I don't know if this was just peculiar to my initial group: I had to explain that just because I give stats for the NPC to your hero doesn't mean that you "own" that character, and have complete control over it. You're just in charge of the character in fights, and the GM reserves the right to overrule anything that seems out of character. (E.g., declaring that your ally is going to make a suicide rush at a bunch of zombies, all alone, while you run the other way -- yeah, someone had the gall to try that. I invoked the GM Veto and assigned the NPC to another player from that point on.)
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Next session moved to 10/2 and it's a busy weekend. Prep is going to be more challenging than I expected.

I had planned to whip up some cards for the NPCs(especially Ethel). Thanks for the tip on letting the players know who has the final say. But first I need to get more prep done.

I'm guessing they'll fight the battle in security, they really don't have a choice. Since I have their loved ones safely tucked away in crew quarters, I'll probably run several of the random encounters in the book as they try to get to them. From there, I suspect they'll be looking to GTFOTS(get the f*** off the ship). I might look to introduce the paramilitary group. Maybe detour them through engineering for some tense moments. Otherwise, lifeboat time. With that, I really want crazy/insane activity. People everywhere, zombies everywhere, total chaos. I'll do my best to fill their lifeboat and might have to include Ms Hartten.

If they elect to listen to Kirkman, then it will be auditorium time.

I'll definitely have to build a map around security and build that encounter. And I should build the encounter on desk with the lifeboats as that will likely occur at some point. Outside of that, maybe I'll just throw together some interlocking hallways/stairwells for some quick action.

Thoughts?
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
Since I have their loved ones safely tucked away in crew quarters, I'll probably run several of the random encounters in the book as they try to get to them.


Another brainstorm: If you really want to have the Ms. Hartten episode as written, then you could exploit the fact that their loved ones are separated and off camera. As they try to make a run to gather up their loved ones, they find the area blocked off, but someone (security?) informs them that everyone in this section (who hadn't already turned into one of "them") was evacuated to the auditorium. Of course, that might go against orders the players had to their loved ones to "stay in here no matter what," but it could be that they just weren't given any choice in the matter.

It's very railroady, of course, but it's at least a legitimate sort of railroady. (The players, after all, COULD in theory simply decide to abandon their loved ones ... but that wouldn't be very human of them.)

jcayer wrote:
I'll definitely have to build a map around security and build that encounter. And I should build the encounter on desk with the lifeboats as that will likely occur at some point. Outside of that, maybe I'll just throw together some interlocking hallways/stairwells for some quick action.

Thoughts?


Well, if you're using MapTool, a thought that comes to mind for me is to make sure the deck chairs are on a layer and with permissions set so they can be moved around. You might give the heroes a chance to try to build barricades by moving things around (though perhaps they only have X rounds to mess with the environment before zombies start approaching, so some choices must be made with what things to move and how far out to go).
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jcayer
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed. Reading your reply, I have a great deal of control over them since I have a few of their loved ones squirreled away. I can move them anywhere on the ship and be pretty sure they'll follow. I wouldn't dare do it more than once though.

Now, where do I really want them to go?
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jcayer wrote:
Now, where do I really want them to go?


I guess wherever you feel that you can stage whatever events from the cruise-ship Weeks that haven't been covered already, that you want to do so you feel like you got the most out of it. The auditorium is one possibility. ANOTHER possibility is that instead of taking the heroes to the auditorium ... you take the auditorium to THEM.

I.e., instead of literally being in the auditorium, the section of rooms where the PCs' family members are holed up has been barricaded on both sides, and if the PCs show up, they're allowed in once they promise they're not zombies. Wink The whole drama previously meant to be staged in the "auditorium" could instead happen in whatever block of the ship has been secured by a group of passengers (including the family members as survivors) -- consisting of the corridors, rooms, and adjoining areas (perhaps there's a spot where the corridors join together in an intersection that is widened out as a "lounge" area with a few vending machines, play area for kids, couches and chairs (which have been commandeered for barricades), etc.

The same drama pretty much plays out except that Ms. Hartten (or proxy) is HERE instead of there, and the PCs' family members are already there. For all the know, other dramas could be playing out in different parts of the ship where assorted survivors have sectioned off areas they think are defensible against the hordes of monsters outside, and then, after being holed for a while, and nerves get more frayed, someone starts up with the crazy-talk -- and here we have Ms. Hartten.

So, there's no need per se to redirect the heroes from Point A to Point B. Point A becomes Point B. (I wouldn't want to advertise this fact, however, lest the heroes think that their decisions are inconsequential. They aren't entirely -- after all, the environment in some random cluster of barricaded hallways is going to be different than an auditorium.)
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