Monday, December 3, 2018

Living 4 Crits @ PAX Unplugged

Wow, what a weekend!

It's been 24 hours since leaving PAX Unplugged and my brain is only now beginning to process everything that happened over the past four days. I have a lot of great pictures to share, and so many great memories from our first trip to this very new convention scene. I'll get to all of those in a few moments, but before I do, I want to share my impressions of PAX Unplugged 2018:

1) This is a convention that is still discovering itself. There was so much to do, and yet, nowhere near enough. I loved the roominess of the expo hall for those brief periods when  could shop. But it was so sad to hear from people who didn't get into a single scheduled role-playing game, even after waiting in a terribly long line. I know that I'm mostly on the role-playing game scene, so I wonder if this was similar for the board gamers. I know that we can do better next year, and I plan on being a part of the change.  

2) I love Jennifer Walls and Marc Plourde. Seriously, I don't know how I'd ever enjoy a convention without my wife and someone who I consider to be one of my best friends. I still adore my wife of 16+ years, and the fact that we can share these experiences together makes me the luckiest person on the planet. If I could have my way, I'd have Marc in every game that I run, both online and in person. I think the three of us make a super-team, and when we can pull in more friends, it's even better. Thank you both for being at PAX Unplugged this year! 

3) Jodi Black saved my con experience. Hands down, Jodi (Pinnacle Entertainment Group/Carolina Game Tables) totally bailed me out when, just a week prior to PAX Unplugged, she shared a link on Facebook to event registration. This form was buried somewhere, and when I told my friends at other game companies, they had no idea that it existed. I was able to get a pair of games scheduled, one of which is now tied for "James' Best RPG Event at a Convention". Thank you Jodi!

4) Charles Ryan has absolutely incredible stories about the gaming industry, and I could listen to him talk all evening over drinks, and I wish I had just another hour to hear more about the Dune RPG that I so, so, so wanted but didn't get. Wow, that was a run on sentence, but I think it most correctly conveys my message. Somehow, someway, someday we're going to hang out more, Charles. Even if it means that I need to drive to Kansas. 

5) Other Philadelphian gamers exist. Maybe I'm just used to the Pittsburgh scene, and running the Norwin Game Knights. I pretty much knew all the big-league gamers out on that side of the state, especially those that enjoyed the same games as me. But with the exception of my absolutely awesome DCC Road Crew group at The Games Keep in West Chester, I haven't found many other gamers here on the eastern side of the state. Turns out that they are out there, and they are awesome, and I want to hang out with all of them much, much more. 

On to the pictures!


This was it: game time. The night before PAX Unplugged I felt like Rocky after running up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I know, stereotypical Philadelphian reaction to any great endeavor. 

There is no better way to start off a convention than hanging out with incredible friends. Charles Ryan, Darcy Ross, Jennifer, and I all got to enjoy a great dinner at LaScala's on Chestnut on Thursday evening. Totally relaxing, but also the calm before the storm. 

My Timbuk2 bag was pretty jammed with everything I'd need for three days. Not knowing what to expect, I had my planned games tucked away, along with enough swag for three additional games. I'd shed my Mutant Crawl Classics and Numenera stuff Saturday. I wasn't running the former, and Monte Cook Games provided the latter at the booth. By Sunday I went crazy and ditched the bag entirely! 


Marc, Jennifer, and me all ready to rock and roll! 

We were a little nervous about the first day's entrance queue system. Unlike other cons, you can't just get right into PAX Unplugged. First, there were metal detectors. Then they herded everyone into this stupid-long line, so that we could all move, practically single file, into the expo hall.

Fortunately the next day I would have an exhibitor's badge as I was partnered up with Monte Cook Games. Easy access for me!

Day 1 of running demos! I started things off running Numenera and No Thank You Evil. Would end up running the demo booth all three mornings. For Friday and Saturday I used A Festival of Iron from right here on my blog for the demo scenes. Switched things up a bit on Sunday with an adventure based all around a living whale-boat. 

Jennifer spent a lot of time helping out at the Monte Cook Games booth. Here she is, helping Cypher Luminary Darcy Ross with some of the wonderful attendees at the con. 

For lunch on both Friday and Saturday we went with Molly Malloy's at the Reading Terminal Market. The parsnip fries were a bit pricey but really good. The avocado toast was absolutely incredible!

My first scheduled event was on Friday afternoon: Stephen Newton's Children of the Fallen Sun for Mutant Crawl Classics. Such a great adventure, with a ton of meat on its bones! I was a proud backer during the Kickstarter, and definitely not disappointed. 

Our MCC crew. Three familiar faces on the right: Will, Robert, and Rob from my monthly DCC Road Crew game at The Games Keep. On the left we have Lucian giving bunny ears to a very stern looking Mike!

Fun fact: I originally had way too many players for this event. I didn't realize that people could sign up for the events you submitted. I thought GM's had to get their own players. So I rustled up a bunch of players, but then four more showed up. I was looking at twelve people! Fortunately Glowburn host and MCC Judge Marc Plourde was there and ready to rock and roll. He grabbed four of my players, gave 'em 0-level characters, and sent them to Sky High Tower. 

For dinner Friday me, Jennifer, and Marc went over to the Hard Rock Cafe. Beer and kale salad? YES PLEASE!


Saturday morning at PAX Unplugged. For much of the con, this was the scene in the expo hall. Completely open and comfortable, with lots of room to walk around and enjoy the vendor spaces. Such a relief compared to Gen Con. 

Evie, Ella, and Carrie, ready for Saturday's gaming. Ella, Carrie's friend from back home in Pittsburgh, was a veteran of our Shudder Mountains campaign and a Numenera playtester, but this was her very first gaming convention. 

Let's talk about best gaming sessions at a convention EVER. Here I pose with Sam, Dennis, Jim, Kim, Mike, and Kelly, six of my new friends in the Philly area. I've been cooking up a little setting-neutral, wedding-themed Savage Worlds adventure that I hope to have released as part of the SWAG program. I've run the adventure using Deadlands twice, but though it would be a fun twist to run it with The Last Parsec: Irongate. 

Who knew that a prison planet would be the perfect place for a charming little colonial outpost wedding?

We had so much fun, and there was so much raucous laughter that the table next to us (also Savages, playing Seven Worlds) came over during one of our breaks to politely investigate. 

Since this was a wedding-themed adventure, one of the players (Sam, selected to be the party caterer) made a very detailed menu for the event. So much creativity in that group!  

I think it's safe to say that there is now a three-way tie for first place for most fun RPG event I've ever run at a convention. 

Hey look! It's Judge Brendan LaSalle in the wild, running Dungeon Crawl Classics! Jennifer was able to get Carrie, Evie, and Ella into a really, really fun game. 

Great selfie with Judge Brett Brooks, who spent most of his time running the Goodman Games booth. By the end of the con we would get him a little help. 

I think it's safe to say that the only Monte Cook Games product that goes completely over my head is Invisible Sun. I watched the Kickstarter video, listened to a few podcasts, watched a few videos, and even took part in an interview with Monte. Still don't think I get it. But at PAX Unplugged I was super, duper close to asking Charles or Darcy the most pressing question I have about this gorgeous but mysterious product:

What's up with the hand?

Little known untrue fact: Visible Moon, the unannounced and completely unreal (as opposed to surreal) sequel to Invisible Sun will feature a white sphere containing triangle cards and a statue of a foot. 

Look, it's Jennifer working the Monte Cook Games booth scene again! Maybe she can explain the hand to me? Or better yet, maybe she should GM Invisible Sun next year?

Another night, another dinner at the Hard Rock Philly. Charles and Judge Evie joined me and Marc after regaling me with some absolutely incredible gaming industry stories. I had no idea that Charles was involved with the Last Unicorn Games Dune RPG. To this day, one of my great gaming regrets was not getting my hands on that book. Had a couple of chances on Ebay, but didn't have the money at the time. I really wish they had finished the product. 

After dinner, me, Jennifer, and Evie went over to the open play room to check out all of the board gaming. Wow, there were a ton of games being played!

We opted for something simple: Giant Jenga. I was able to pull off my patented, ultimate Jenga move: the one block rip out. That's when you just yank out the single block and let the other's drop down like Tetris. It's only worked one other time, and only with giant Jenga. But it's a killer move!

Saturday night was also the only chance I had to play in an RPG at PAX Unplugged. When one of the players in Charles Ryan's Cypher System game had to step out, I stepped in. Played for about 45 minutes before having to go get the car. But it was late, and we were exhausted. Charles is an phenomenal GM, so I need to get to his table again some time in the future. 


My Sunday morning Numenera demo had a full table and was a blast. It was great to show off the Cypher System rules to those players unfamiliar with the game, and reveal the secrets of Numenera: Destiny to fans of the original edition. 

I also had the chance Sunday to introduce a new player named Micah to the world of role-playing games. I would bet that Micah was either six or seven years old, but when his dad (Scott) sat down, he told me that this would be his son's first RPG session. No pressure! Micah was quiet at first, but quickly got into the story. I love GM'ing for kids, and love that Monte Cook Games has given us a product that let's us bring families together. 

Mandatory Judge Evie selfie.

Mandatory Cooper with Potato Cat (Exploding Kittens) picture. 

During my demos at the MCG table, Jennifer took Carrie and Cooper over for the Connect 4 tournament. I heard that Carrie did very well... 

... as did Cooper!

Obviously, you can't have DCC or MCC at a convention without Judge Evie showing up. What made Sunday super special for our resident DCC-Fanatic-Child is that she was able to help Brett out in the booth. She organized product in front, and helped chase down sales behind the counter. 

Look out, Goodman Games, I think Evie wants to do this at every con now!

Some interesting exhibitors in the expo hall. 

As well as some interesting players. We see you Marc! I think he was ignoring us. 

James and Jennifer selfie while running the Monte Cook Games booth! Charles had to step away for a few, so the two of us had absolutely full control of all things MCG for about five minutes until Darcy realized what was going on and took over. Dangit! 

I think our favorite booth at PAX Unplugged was the Carolina Game Tables. As soon as we land a house we will be on the hunt for our forever gaming table. We picked out the type (banquet sized), our colors (elm with black felt), and totally talked the ears off of Jodi and Clint Black. Kinda wish we got a selfie, but maybe next time... or when we drive down to get a table in person! 

What helped to make this the perfect booth was the Federal Donuts that Clint shared with us. So good!

I guess it's finally time to say goodbye to PAX Unplugged 2018. Here was a great farewell picture from Evie and Brett at the Goodman Games booth. 

PAX Unplugged was nothing like the other cons we've visited in the past. Gen Con is far more organized, and Gary Con is much more relaxing. But PAX Unplugged still seems like a blank canvas. We know what worked, what didn't, and how best to plan for next year's experience.

We're Philadelphians now, and PAX Unplugged is our con. We get to make a mark, help our friends run events, introduce them to our city, and meet fellow local gamers. 

See you all in 2019!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Banished to the Purple Planet - Part Eleven

Under a Weirdling Sun

Peril on the Purple Planet is an epic DCCRPG box set devised by +Harley Stroh. The adventure is a hex crawl, so player characters get to explore a completely open and lush world. Characters must discover artifacts, make alliances, battle terrifying worms, and sustain the deadly sun's rays if they are to ever make their way back home.

Care to hear about this week's banishment? Read on!

Previous Tales of the Banished

The Banished

  • Marc
    • Floyd Pink, Warrior
    • Andy
      • Ssof Rehtaf, Cleric
      • Jonata
        • Screaming Otto, Jonata
      • Frank
        • Walter, Elf

      Banished to the Purple Planet - Eleven

      Day 10
      • The party begins the evening at 10:30pm, with 3 1/2 hours of power left on the skiff. 
      • 10:45pm, the party discovers Walter the elf, trying to hitch a ride.
        • Walter the Elf, spent several days in the Mushroom forests after being cast out by the King of Elfland from his home world. 
        • The party also met Walter's sexy cricket familiar. 
      • 11pm, the party spots 13 Kith refugees slowly making their way across the desert.
        • Party approaches, but communication is challenging.
        • Ssof offers healing magic, imbued with Aristemis' glory. 
        • The wounded Kith are healed! 
        • Ssof is offered the opportunity to make a banner for the refugees, which he does with the symbol of Aristemis. 
        • The 13 Kith of Aristemis point to the jungles to the East. 
      • 11:15pm, the party continues south along the edge of the mushroom forest. They come to the scene of a great battle!
        • 145 Kith on the side of House Cotcyst 
        • 124 Kith Raiders
        • Charge! The party dives down into battle on board their skiff. They head towards the Raiders' right flank, currently under the command of a Silver Armor Champion.
        • Highlights were Screaming Otto using his Axe of Pure Scream to scare off the largest champion, and then Ssof took control of the second largest champion through a binding prayer. Also Walter's Enlarge spell manifests as the target becoming a baby and then growing back into a larger full form. Some great driving by Floyd as well, as he takes out four of the raiders by drifting into them. 
        • In the end, House Cotcyst is victorious with 122 remaining warriors, while the Raiders run off with only 74 left in their numbers. 
        • The Wingleader, Warlord of House Cotcyst calls upon the party. 
      • 12am, camp with the Wingleader. 
        • Speaks common! Learned from a small party of dwarves that he kept for a while as walking meat storage... he ate them eventually. 
        • Offered spoils, including a great deal of Greenstone Shards. 
        • Agree to take the party back to Castellum Cotcyst. 
      • 12pm, the party arrives at Castellum Cotcyst. 
        • The Wingleader tells the PC's that they must be branded with the symbol of House Cotcyst to enter. 
        • The PC's take on the Brands of House Cotcyst, and enter Castellum Cotcyst as members of the Wingleader's Warband. 


      "The idea was fully Alex." - The party describes Gastronomix's death in the last session. 

      "Considering he got eaten as his means of death, it's actually pretty fitting." - Marc continues beating up Gastronomix, this time over his name. And Alex wasn't even playing. 

      "Only one screamer in the party!" - Screaming Otto doesn't want Walter or the Sexy Cricket on board the skiff if either is a screamer. 

      In Memoriam 

      • None this session

      Sunday, November 18, 2018

      Road Crew Event - The [REDACTED] at [REDACTED]

      I really can't share much about today's game at the Games Keep in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Not because I don't want to, but because we took part in a playtest of Brendan LaSalle's adventure The Inn at Five Points. Hell, I think that even sharing that much may be too much.

      We'll see if I get struck down by the Dark Master. 

      Anyway, here's what I can say. The adventure started off at Black Sand Port, with the party invited by Princess Kaeko of Fu Lamia to join on a quest for the Explorer's Guild. The team would need to travel to the Great City, however, which mean a week or so on the road headed west. 

      That's where the adventure took place... on the road. 

      I guess that's really all I can share, this being a super-secret playtest, and all. 

      But there were a lot of quotes!


      "It's a good thing our second cleric isn't here." - Will, missing Bueno's healing abilities with a TPK nearly in process.

      "I have no healing magic. I only have fish." - Will only speaks the truth.

      Sound's fishy to me." - Now we've got Ryan joining in the fish talkin'. 

      "You never know when you need a sack of dead minnows." - Steve James the Ichtyomancer (played by Will, obviously.) 

      "I have a nine foot and eleven inch pole." - Because Steve James lost an inch.

      Ryan: "TPK!"
      Cody: "That should be the name of the adventure." 

      I wonder if the Black Crows could help with this." - Rob meant his book of Black Crows, not the band.

      Will: "Why walk when we can summon an eel escalator?"
      Cody: "Because it's slower." 

      Open Story Points

      • Who was the mysterious thief that took Marco's cursed Necromancer's Dagger, and why did she want it?

      Cast of Characters

      • Larkin, Elf, played by Shannon
        • Glassblower by trade, whose magic is derived through careful use of lenses, crystals, and light. 
        • Native of the Eastern Forest.
        • Owns a prized hen.
        • Seeks the Great Pumpkin as a patron
      • Turd Fergeson, played by Ryan
        • Faithful servant of Amon-Tor, goddess of mysteries.
        • Originally from Earth. 
        • Has possession of an endless suite of one-liners to fit every occasion.
      • Marco, Thief, played by Cody
        • Born and raised in Black Sand Port.
        • Tried to join the Thieves Guild, but was too rebellious. 
        • Learned several alien alphabets from his former Guildmaster's secret library. 
        • Partially possessed by the soul of a magic door named... Door. Door can grant Marco aid in dealing with other doors, at a cost. 
        • Had a cursed necromancer's dagger, but it was stolen by a thief at the Inn at Five Points.
      • Steve James, Wizard, played by Will
        • Earth native who left home, joined the French Foreign Legion, fell into the DCC Planet, and became a great wizard.
        • Father of Steve James II (evil Cult Wizard, RIP) and grandfather of Steve James III (lost teen who wanted to discover his family, RIP)
        • Specializes in all-fish magic (Ichthyomancer).
      • Tonya, Warrior, played by Robert
        • Badass figure skater from Earth. 
        • Wields a big-ass sword, and not afraid to cut you with it. 
      • Lars, Dwarf, played by Rob
        • Human from Earth who was transformed into a Dwarf after traveling to the DCC Planet.
        • Seeks entrance into the CCPR (Card Carrying Punk Rockers) but needs to complete three acts of legendary vandalism.
        • Wielder of the Demon's Claw, an enchanted scimitar from Fu-Lamia. 
      • Bueno, Cleric, played by Evie
        • Gender-shifting villager from Reed who was a simple hireling trying to save some of their friends from the Crimson Flame before gaining Clerical powers. 
        • Twisted worshipper of the froglike Bobugbubulz.
        • Extremely chaotic.

      Character Crematorium 
      • None this game!

      What's Next?

      Sunday, November 11, 2018

      Two Moons Above - Keeping Horror Simple

      From left to right: Jen, Rachel, Shannon, Cody, and me!

      (Author's Note: As my regular readers have already discovered, I'm deep into a full-on Savage Worlds obsession. A the time of this post's publishing, we're at the tail end of the super successful Savage Worlds: Adventure Edition Kickstarter. If you'd like to read about my take on the new game, here's my initial blog post on the topic, and then here's my vlog/livestream Q&A specifically for folks who may know very little about the incredible game of Savage Worlds!)

      Last night I tried my hand yet again at a style of game-play that typically resides outside my game mastering repertoire: HORROR. 

      If you would ask my players about my GM'ing style, I think you would hear descriptions like zany, over-the-top, outlandish, comedic, mashed-up, or weird. Now, I don't have any issues with these descriptors and I actually cherish the last one. That's probably why I'm such a fan of Numenera, which is a game that's all about unleashing the weird and bizarre. 

      Running a good horror game requires setting the proper mood and building tension. I often find this challenging as I love to keep things fun and funny and I am quick to crank these up to an eleven. I'm not saying that I can't, or haven't run a decent horror game before, but I always feel like I'm working at it, sometimes way harder than I should. 

      But last night's game went so well, and all I really did was make a few tweaks to how I usually run my games. I thought I'd share. 

      Two Moons Above

      (GM's Note: although I didn't have an official title at the time of our gaming session, since I'm considering fleshing out this adventure for future use and potential publication, I felt that one was needed for this post. Plus it hearkens back to one of my few successful attempts at running a horror adventure series: Another Sun Rises.


      My adventure was based on a single page of notes, cobbled together to describe a story that has been brewing in my head for the better part of a decade. I am a fan of history, especially alternate history scenarios. 

      One such scenario is Operation Sea Lion, which I first read about in Weird War Two: Blood on the Rhine, a D20 system campaign setting from the early 2000's. Operation Sea Lion was Hitler's proposed German invasion of Great Britain, to have occurred after the Battle of Britain. Weird War Two: Blood on the Rhine suggests an alternate campaign where the player characters are fighting in a resistance against Nazi occupation in England, perhaps leveraging English and Celtic mythology and stories.

      I kicked around the idea of using the updated Weird Wars: Weird War II setting for Savage Worlds, perhaps tossing in a few dashes of Rippers Resurrected. But in the end, while both settings offered tidbits of theming, I built everything using only the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook. 

      I offered pre-generated player characters, and if you'd like to use them in your own game here's the link. Each PC has five open pieces of backstory that the player must determine prior to the session. This way, there's a bit of customization even with some pre-gens. I think I'll be using this concept again.

      The original inspiration for this adventure was this amazing cover art for one of my favorite d20 products of all time.


      I'm not going to go into crazy depth here, but I think I need to share the basics of this adventure:

      It's October, 14th, 1940, and the player characters are hanging out in a pub in Elvington, England, just east of York. It's late. The mood is dire. Just a few weeks earlier the last remnants of the British Expeditionary Force, along with their French compatriots, were defeated and captured at Dunkirk. The Battle of Britain is in full swing, and it appears that a Nazi invasion attempt is inevitable.

      Little do the player characters realize, but the invasion has already begun. Small Nazi , angular-shaped zeppelins silently advance over the North Sea. These one-hundred foot long zeppelins are equipped with several works of weird science:

      • They are covered with angular, reflective surfaces that scatter radar.
      • Each airship has a massive, thirty-foot wide disk suspended directly beneath the craft.
      • A long cable and winch can lower a ten-foot wide cage down to the ground, releasing the airship's most secret weapon: a single WEREWOLF! 

      That's essentially the gist of this adventure. The Nazi's plan to secretly release nearly invincible werewolves into the countryside to cause chaos and carnage in England's northern towns while focusing their invasion on the southeastern coast. When you think about it, werewolves are pretty much the supreme super-soldier. They are fast, vicious, powerful, and they can't be harmed by anything save for silver. 

      Just how many silver bullets do you think are in the English countryside at any given time?

      As soon as the werewolf is released into the countryside it starts murdering civilians. The player characters must either deal with the creature or flee the village and get help. The choice is theirs. 

      The Werewolf

      I made just two tweaks to the werewolf featured in the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook.

      • The werewolf may be on a murdering spree, but he is still intelligent and communicates and coordinates via a radio with "command" located back on the zeppelin. 
      • The werewolf can only be active (in hybrid-wolf form, not human) when there is a full-moon visible. Since it's not the night of a full moon, the Nazi super-scientists have figured out a work-around to this problem: giant moonlight generators hoisted below each zeppelin. 

      I wish I had a better map for you. I don't. This is what I have. Maybe if I do anything with this adventure you will get more. The squares are buildings. That's what I got.

      Adventure Summary

      This is essentially a "one-sheet" for Savage Worlds, and so it leaves a lot to the GM to flesh out the village of Elvington. It also leaves a lot to the players to figure out the best way to deal with the problem, or escape. That said, there is an order to which the events unfold that will help move the adventure forward.

      • The adventure starts with Stephen, son of the pub's owner George, rushing into the pub screaming that the moon has disappeared. The PC's may notice that the moon (which just a few moments earlier was a waning gibbous), is no longer in the sky. 
        • Weather conditions are poor, and even though it is evening, it's still a bit overcast, so it's hard to make out any shapes in the sky which is why the zeppelins are not clearly visible even though one is presently eclipsing the moon.
        • Moments later the moon reappears, and the PC's may decide to further investigate, or just go back to drinking.
      • A few minutes later, the boy is screaming out that there is a second moon in the sky, a full moon hanging above just to the north, which doesn't make sense because it's nowhere near the ecliptic. With the haze there are no features visible on either moon, neither the real one nor the fake. Both are roughly the same size in the sky, however.
      • As the PC's go outside to investigate, they will hear a lot of the village's dogs barking, the animals unnerved by what is going on in the sky. The first sign of something "wrong" is that the dogs to the north start to bark less and less. This is the werewolf killing them. 
      • The werewolf will begin to silently enter homes and businesses, killing residents. The first sign of this will be when the PC's approach one of the buildings near where the dogs have stopped barking. The building's light's are on, and everything seems normal, however as the PC's observe closer there will be a splash of blood on the window, and all the lights will go out on the inside of the house. 
      • The GM is free to populate the village with any buildings that they see fit. For this scene I had it be a manor house. 
      • After killing off the inhabitants of three homes, or engaging the PC's once, the werewolf will attempt to retreat so that it can be extracted by the zeppelin. The second moon will then disappear. 
      • A few minutes later, the moon will appear to the south, and everything starts all over again. The werewolf will then pursue the PC's actively. 
      • A squad of 4-6 Nazi soldiers will quietly enter the village to review the damage caused by the werewolf for study. I kept them always out of reach, but they would turn on lights and could be seen in the windows of buildings where the murders previously occurred. 
        • If encountered, figure they have d6's in everything except for Agility, Shooting, Tracking, and Stealth. For all of those they have d8's. They are armed with bolt action rifles (2d8 dmg). 
        • Don't let the soldiers get caught until the PC's encounter the werewolf directly. 
      • The PC's need to either work out a way to kill the werewolf (a serious challenge given that they are just in an English country village), or flee (which will initiate a chase, as the werewolf can run at the speed of an old car on a country road). 

      At the moment when the player characters have either defeated the werewolf, or successfully outrun him as they flee Elvington, the sky clears up and dozens of additional moons appear... as well as the zeppelins themselves. 

      The invasion of England has begun. 

      New #SWADE chase rules!

      How Our Session Played Out

      In our game last night, the PC's realized that something was wrong and immediately started investigating. The PC's phoned the police for assistance, and then went outside to take a look around. They took the strangeness seriously after witnessing the murder at the local manor. The splash of blood on the glass, and the lights going out spooked all of the players except for my wife. She approached the glass and then knocked on the door. So I had the werewolf smash through the glass and slash her character (Georg Von Werther) across the back. 

      The PC's then fled to a butcher's store and armed themselves with cleavers. Running over to the pub they convinced the pub owner to lend them his shotgun. That's when the party tracked the creature to a postal office and tried to engage it armed with meat cleavers and a shotgun. 

      Their ineffectiveness at harming the beast caused quite a stir, as did the near death of Shannon's player character to a vicious attack. The plan shifted from "fight" to "escape." The team noticed that the werewolf was speaking German through a radio, and since one of the PC's was Austrian, he was able to work out that the werewolf was intelligent. 

      When the werewolf was shaken by a shotgun blast, the party ran to a nearby car. One of the PC's bravely stole the radio off of the werewolf just before everyone fled off. For the flight out of town we used the updated Chase Rules from the Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, which I thought played rather well. I look forward to using them again. To shut down the werewolf the party's Austrian musician mimicked the voice of the werewolf (a really hard persuasion test) through the radio asking for the moon to be switched off in German. The light was shut down, the werewolf stopped chasing.

      The realization that the moon, and dozens like it, were all created by Nazi zeppelins was both an awesome plot twist as well as a horrifying image. 

      Jen's character.

      My Horror Commandments

      (GM's Note: These are commandments for myself, and while I would suggest them for others who have found the Horror genre to be difficult, by no means would I suggest that these are something that work for everyone. They worked for me, though, which is why I'm sharing.) 

      I followed six, very particular commandments that I established before we started playing:

      1) Share nothing with your players about the adventure. I didn't tell them the title (of course I didn't have one), nor did I give them any spectacular backstory that would've made it seem like this was some kind of supernatural adventure. Obviously this wouldn't work for an ongoing game that already includes the supernatural, so maybe this is cheating. But it worked for me this session. 

      2) Don't let your players break the mood. This was key. One time when I was trying to run a serious Ravenloft campaign back in the mid-2000's a player decided his character would sound like Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. I didn't put a stop to his antics then, so the game died on the vine. Last night my wife was initially going to name her Traveling Musician "Blooz Traveler." Yeah, that wasn't happening. I informed her that she needed to keep things at least a bit more serious. So she modeled her trombone player after The Sound of Music. 

      3) Keep the frightening scenes just out of reach. Whenever the players witnessed something terrible they were not in a position to intervene. Save for that first scene with the blood splash on glass, the next two times they saw the werewolf, it was at a great distance. They couldn't make out just what the thing was, but they saw the victims being mutilated from a couple hundred feet away. I think this helped generate some helplessness that was a lot of fun. 

      4) Allow for occasional goofiness outside of the game, but don't let it invade the adventure. Playing games is fun, and even in a serious horror adventure, there should be room for a little lightheartedness. But I didn't let it drift into the game itself, or at least not too much. There were definitely a handful of funny sequences in game, but nothing too outlandish. 

      5) Reveal everything methodically. It's okay to crank things to a 4 instead of an 11. Be careful in how you share details about what the PC's are encountering, especially when you are using a monster. I definitely had to squash my urge to reveal too much at once. When the players first encountered the werewolf at the manor, if I had the creature reveal itself right then and there the battle would've been long and protracted and would have smashed the chance for mystery. I figured that once the party realized it was a werewolf, they would've gone straight hunting silver. Instead, they armed themselves with knives, cleavers, and the shotgun, hoping they would do the trick. They didn't. 

      6) You can crank in reverse. My typical adventure is a continuous escalation towards victory. There's a problem that appears, and the players work towards resolution. My goal last night was to offer plenty of moments where the tension deescalated. From the disappearance of the second moon, to giving the PC's time to reequip themselves, I tried to leave moments for the tension to "reset." 

      *     *     *

      So I'm tossing this back to you. What do you believe makes a good horror game? What is the best horror-themed RPG session you've experienced, and what made it different from others? If you are a GM who runs lots of horror games, how do you set the tone?