Thursday, February 04, 2016

Rulebook Ruminations: Inferno

With all the World of Darkness gaming going on here at the gate for the past while, I thought I'd take time to focus on the impetus for our last campaign, Hell Bend.  I've got a lot of the books from this line, and I've wanted to take the time to let players really experience the contents of each one.  I knew the Book of Spirits would be one of the first ones I'd introduce into the setting, and I knew that Inferno would follow shortly after.

Inferno is a World of Darkness supplement that explores the nature of demonic spirits.  These kinds of dark spirits hail from the titular Inferno, or Hell.  OOOO...spooky Satan stuff, right?  Isn't that what they warned us about in the 1980's?!  Haven't you spent the better part of the last twenty years telling people gaming isn't Satan worship, Dave Bone?!  What the Hell?!

What the Hell, indeed.

I thought about how to approach this for a long time, the subject matter being what it is.  Upon first seeing this volume in a lot I bought, I thought Inferno was going to be a really hokey approach to the whole thing...but I was surprised.  I didn't find the Leveyan hokiness or a barrage of uncontrollable and largely incoherent "gothic-punk" blasphemies against Christ.  I read it anyway...and was very surprised.  What I found instead was a rather adult treatise on what evil means, on the nature of evil, and how it can be interpreted in many, many ways.

The crunch of the book is a sophisticated system governing a specific caste of dark spirits that feed on human sin, unlike normal spirits which feed on Essence.  These evil spirits are literally linked to a Vice.  It is theologically neutral in the delivery - your demons could be Judeo-Christian...or not.  Fancy a Pinhead-style once-human demonic entity?  Examples and classifications are provided...but you are encouraged to be as vague as you want as to the true nature of these specific kinds of evil spirits.

From a strictly rules-oriented standpoint, in Inferno a demon is an evil spirit that has certain qualities that differentiate them from other similar spirits.  Not all dark spirits are demons, and not all demons started as a spirit wisp.  These are different in classification than normal spirits, and in many ways have far more capacity to truly wreak havoc on a setting. In addition, because of this alternate nature, can cause some dark things to come to the fore on your gaming night.  Of course, we love black comedy here at the Wargate.

In the end, this volume specifically is NOT going to be for everybody.  It's going to depend on your spiritual leanings, and your strength of character.  I won't comment on my own personal spirituality, or that of my game group, but I will state that we all felt safe in exploring the subject and it was never an issue.  Of course, there are demonic armies at the Wargate, so who cares about a few more disembodied voices?  The demons presented in Inferno are (largely speaking) immaterial as any other spirit.  They are truly reflections of terrible things from within ourselves, unlike so many Balrogs, Pit Fiends and Bloodthirsters who are just 'roided out boogeymen.

I also would like to state that even though Hell Bend was a story chronicle about demonic entities, I have yet to write a Satanic story.  I just can't bring myself to do that.

Because Satan is really hokey.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

No Oath, No Spell (Session 4)

Jan. 24th, 9:20pm

From the Journal of Josephine Maxwell
December 23rd, 1875

Doc Jameson had just left the Yellow Rose when he found that a man with a gunshot wound and a stab wound had broken into his office.  The Doc patched him up and the man told him that "they" would be here soon.  The Doc came to tell us that the man was here, and what he had said.

We went to the Doc's office.  Soon a group of men rode in.  They were waiting outside the office so I walked out to greet them.  I invited them to have a drink, but they said they were busy.

The others from the group talked to the men.  The strangers insisted they were going to take the injured man with them.

Shortly thereafter, things take a more peaceful turn.  It's short lived, however.  The session ends with Mayor Juan Ortega sitting at a table with the leader of the strangers, reaching for a stick of dynamite the stranger placed on it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hell Bend Campaign Log

The Wargate

Hell Bend

World of Darkness Chronicle, Season 4 2015

Indian Territory
October 16, 1875

Welcome back to the Settlements, partner.

Since the events of The Rough Edge of Night, nothing has gone according to anyone's plans.  The settlements themselves are depopulated, with people fleeing the haunting and desolate landscape instead of flocking to it.  If Smokefall Ridge is to survive, the folk who seek to make that place their own must contend with the forces that have called it their home since time immemorial.

The Red Band has moved west, pursued by Ft. Grant's brave American cavalry - but the threat and memory of Indian raids is alive in the thoughts of the settlers.  In order to survive, the players must build a thriving community of like-minded "pioneers", which may prove difficult under the current atmosphere of dread.  To make matters worse, that sense of dread seems to be growing into something tangible...

Hell Bend is a chronicle for the World of Darkness Role-Playing Game.  It is set in a fictional group of settlements in the Indian Territory in the year 1875.  Players will make normal human characters, though certain merits from The Book of Spirits may be available to certain concepts.  This chronicle also makes use of the Firearms in the Indian Territory rules.

The players' success in the game will determine how many new settlers arrive in Smokefall Ridge, and what services they can provide.  The growing / dying town is key to success in the chronicle, and the peril to all the characters is very real.  In addition, influences outside Smokefall in the other settlements (and Fort Grant) may have an effect on the growth and livelihood of the town as the chronicle progresses.

The following set of values describes various aspects of Smokefall Ridge as an entity.  Law indicates the level of order in the town.  Economy describes the availability of productive work.  Culture indicates the general level of civility for the townsfolk.  Technology indicates the number and frequency of manufactured items.  Supply indicates the production of food and other sundries for the populace of Smokefall, while Goods indicate trade surplus and connectivity with other settlements.  The total of all these values indicates the Total Growth Level of Smokefall Ridge.

Smokefall Ridge 
(Population:  One Less Every Day)

  • Law: 1
  • Economy: 4
  • Culture: 2
  • Technology: 1
  • Supply: 6
  • Goods: 1
  • Total Growth Level: 15
Township Assets
  • Yellow Rose Saloon
    • Culture +1
  • Church
    • Culture +1
    • Law +1
  • North Territory Hotel
    • Economy +1
    • Supply +1
  • Freight Trader / General Store
    • Economy +2
    • Technology +1
    • Supply +1
    • Goods +1
  • Communal Corn Fields
    • Supply +2
Player Assets
  • Twin Pines Fine Horse Mall
    • Economy +0
  • Doc's House
    • Technology +0
  • Don Juan's Goat Spread 
    • Supply +3

Current Player Characters
  • "Doc" Jameson
    • A man of science, looking for the truth.
  • Ignacio Madera
    • Forging a place for himself in this savage and haunting land, Ignacio intends on breeding horses in this wide open space.
  • Don Juan Ortega
    • The Don knows that the ground will yield all he needs to build a new empire north of Mexico.  Corn and goats, what else do you need?
  • Rusty Shackleford
    • The former mountain man decided to give "civilization" a go and try his luck in the settlements.
  • Josephine Maxwell
    • A journalist sent to Smokefall to investigate the strange happenings, she intends to find a big story here in the Territory.
  • Jakey Wells
    • Moving to Smokefall after tragedy befell his family, all he wants is to grow a subsistence-level farm.
  • Caleb Tinker
    • The town's gunsmith returns after a few weeks worth of introspection on the mountain.  Smokefall is looking pretty rough to him...
  • Arthur Littlehawk
    • A native hunter who lives at nearby Snake Valley, he recently encountered evidence of the anger of the spirits.
  • "Anya"
    • A mysterious doctor from New Orleans, she has only recently arrived in Smokefall.
Deceased Player Characters
  • None (Yet...)
Disbanded Player Characters
  • None (Yet...)

Chronicle Log
Total Game Time: 60.5 hrs

The Dread
(10.04.15 to 10.25.15)
Total Session Time: 25.5 hrs

A palpable aura of unease has come over Smokefall.
More questions than answers arise from bumbling around the woods at night, but with the banishment of the horrific spirit waking folks every morning things get a little less restless.

Across the Red Earth
(11.01.15 to 11.29.15)
Total Session Time: 19.5 hrs

Halloween 1875 starts what will become a solid week of terrible realizations as the demonic forces arrayed against the settlers become apparent.
After confrontations with black spirits and possessed killers, the player group now has a clear idea of the forces arrayed against them and at least a general idea on how to defeat them.  However, the Dread is still palpable in Smokefall, and the odds may be insurmountable...

The Condemned
(12.13.15 to 12.26.15)
Total Session Time: 15.5 hrs

With time running out, the group finally gets some answers.  They aren't comfortable answers, though...but that's life in the Territory.
Round Bend has been destroyed.  The people there are lost, and the land itself is spoiled.  Folk are warned to stay away from the tainted soil, and no one mentions the place where the old town was much anymore.

Campaign Resolution

The residents of Smokefall Ridge have helped their town survive the supernatural onslaught...but now they've got real problems.  Over the next six weeks, the settlers begin to see signs of revivification in their camp as new folk start to arrive.  In a matter of weeks, the current population has increased by 50% to a little over one-hundred souls.

Now, the course for the future must be decided.  The hardy settlers immediately set to work rebuilding and preparing to weather the coming winter, making their town more secure against any extant threats.  Yet, it may be a force that is quite mundane that proves to be the true threat to Smokefall.  An insidious corruption that is creeping across the continent - a force that many whites simply call progress.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

No Oath, No Spell (Sessions 1, 2 & 3)

These sessions were originally recorded 01/03, 01/10 and 01/17/2016.

Smokefall Ridge has seen somewhat of a resurgence now that The Dread has been purged from the land.  The characters have made New Friends, and the town has prospered in the weeks since the last ruckus.  It seems that the town will survive (for now), but there is a new issue at hand.  How will Smokefall Ridge survive the transition into a new century?

Jan. 03

From the Journal of Josephine Maxwell
December 18th, 1875

Felecia the Indian Princess is still in town.  She has a boyfriend now, his name is Thomas.  They are working on the language barrier.  She says it's starting to get serious.

Jan. 10, 5:33pm

December 18th, 1875

This evening in Smokefall, a shot rang out from the Yellow Rose.  I threw on my coat and took my camera equipment out to investigate.  The sheriff and several of the deputies had begun to gather in the saloon.
Sarah and her bartender John had a man sat down in the middle of the parlor and a man's body lay on the floor not far away.  The man who shot him said that he caught the dead man cheating.  He said that he confronted the dead man, who went for his weapon and he shot to defend himself.
John said he heard no arguments, but heard a shot.  There were extra cards on the table.  Mel, from across the room, was sure that he saw the dead man go for his gun.
The sheriff asked the man to leave town.  The man gave the sheriff ten dollars for the dead man's funeral.

December 19th, 1875

I received a letter with just three letters on it, saying FNM as the return addressee.  The text said, "Don't leave yet, a Nexus is near."
Juan says that he saw his goats running in circles.  I went to go take a picture of the ring they left in the dirt.

December 20th, 1875

We all gathered at the Yellow Rose as normal.  A man from town, Mr. Hofsteader, comes in and says that he's had something bad happen on his land.  He too us out to his farm to see a cow that was cut cleanly in half, head to haunch.  There was no blood around, like the cow had somehow been drained.


A man named Mr. Blöch, who was portly looking, came into town.  He said that he was in town and his company was considering surveying for mineral.  He asked the mayor to let he and his group survey the lands surrounding Smokefall while the town accommodates them.  His group, Gladstone Energy, is from Baltimore and Chicago.  We took information for the next day's paper to announce that Gladstone Energy Co. would be in Smokefall to take surveys.

Jan. 17, 5:28pm

December 22nd, 1875

Jakey Wales met up with the doc and let him know that weird things have been happening around him.  They came to get me and tell me that Jakey thought that the eagle spirit had been affecting things in his house.

Jakey Wales decided to cut himself and the spirit made the blood spell out the word "Tohtra-Ohta".

The preacher came to tell me that there was a family on the outside of town that has a daughter that is six years of age.  The girl, whose name is Alice, started acting in a strange manner and collecting increasingly macabre things like bullets and fresh rabbit's feet.

The family had brought the girl into town to meet with the preacher and the doctor.  The Doc got a really bad feeling from the girl.

After this, there is a somewhat varied account of an attempted exorcism on the young girl, but the preacher declared it was not proper and unnecessary.  The family went home to Primrose.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Growing Into History

The club's shift in focus over the last year or so has had me pondering a phenomena I've observed.  It's been a steady occurrence since we first started considering Flames of War as a new game to invest in, but as the focus shifted away from Games Workshop it became more prevalent.  You see, as we have gotten past the GW bubble, we have actually gravitated more toward historical games than ever before.

There will always be fantasy and sci-fi staples at the Wargate, but we've added a third category - Historical games.  We might have been interested in history before, but since we've switched from GW publications to Wargames Illustrated for our hobby reading we've seen a much wider world of miniature gaming.  Since the blunders GW is making in it's final days as 300lb industry gorilla are steadily stacking up, more and more hobbyists are seeking egress from the clutches of their IP.

For many, similar games to the ones they left behind hold the draw.  Warmachine has called out to our local community as GW is slowly (but surely) rejected.  For us though, the draw has been to Flames of War and other 'real world history' games such as Hail Caesar!, Dead Man's Hand, and Ronin.  We even had to stop and take a serious look at all the options we had, researching miniature lines and rules for the American Civil War, Revolution, French & Indian War, Napoleon's campaigns, biblical history and a few others.

I'm fairly certain this is due to a 'detachment' from isolated intellectual properties that have to be explained to the casual onlooker.  Similar though it is, D&D needs little explanation, as does Star Wars.  People know what they are looking at when they see these things on the table, and seeing WWII equipment and soldiers brings an equal if not stronger familiarity.  We have found this to be invaluable to our aging demographic, but mostly because they have moved past being only interested in robots and dragons.  We have grown up, and are now interested in what inspired those things that inspired us when we were younger.  We have 'grown' into this new love of history that matches up with our fervor for gaming.  It's quite liberating, speaking as a hobbyist.

Currently, we've decided to focus on World War II's Eastern Front, or The Great Patriotic War as it's known in some parts.  Specifically, Bolt Action and Flames of War.  In addition, the Wild West has us building a collection for World of Darkness and Dead Man's Hand.  However, we're slipping in a provision that will allow us to build armies of miniatures that will be used in many different ways for several different games.

Dungeons & Dragons at the Wargate will be receiving firearms.  Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Spelljammer and Mighty Fortress will be receiving the tech upgrades, with the availability of gunpowder weapons in each campaign setting in rising proportion in that order (i.e. Greyhawk has the least availability, Mighty Fortress has all the guns of the Age of Empire).  This will encourage the building of some line infantry and other 'Renaissance' level technology without damaging the established campaign too much.  We can then use these troops for other games that would utilize the same sort of troopers.

Going further back, it's even easier to diversify this way.  Ranks of Wargames Factory Greek Hoplites represent Milenian troops from Mystara, while Warlord Games Romans represent Alphatians.  You can see where we're going with this - once you add in the myriad campaign settings of D&D and the star systems of Star Wars you can use pretty much any miniature in ONE of our seasons each year.  No more benching for years!

It's going to be a great year for modeling projects at the ol' 'gate.  We'll have some pics and articles on miniatures, paired with how we intend to use those models in different game systems and settings.  Saturday is now home to 'Project Afternoons', so lend a hand to building and painting models and terrain and help us crank out some awesome new units for all our games!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hell Bend (Session 12)

This session was originally recorded 12/27/2015.

Dec. 27, 6:18pm

From the Journal of Josephine Maxwell
November 3rd, 1875

We talked about how we were going to handle our situation.  we tried to bandage up Jakey Wales so we could take him with us.  Barton says that he doesn't want to leave until the next day.

November 4th, 1875

We left the next morning for Round Bend.  When we got to the town, a native approached us and told us that "three are in town and three have fled", referring to the demonic entities of Table Rock.  We deduced this to mean:  The Kinleys and Reverend Revenant were in Round Bend.  Farmer O'dell evidently WAS possessed, and had killed himself.  The wolf had been banished by the spirit following Jakey Wales, and Burke had left Smokefall.

When we entered the desolate town, we went to the cornfield to talk to Jed Kinley.  Jed asked if we wanted to buy some corn, so we went with him to the shed.  When the Doc saw the corn, he proclaimed the corn was made of human teeth!  The man continued to say that the corn was not strange at all.

Then Juan grabbed him and started to try to excorcise him.  They started fighting.  All of us worked with Juan to complete the ritual.  I got knocked out, and Juan ended up having to shoot Kinley.

The sheriff, Tanya Kinley and Rusty Shackleford went with her to the house, and apparently she fought with them as well.  She was stabbed, and died.

We went to go find the Reverend in the church.  He tried to coax us into the church.  We wouldn't go in, so he came out.  We looked around to see a group of three wolves.  He fought with Juan and the Doctor, but ended up getting shot.  The wolves disappeared.

We then went to the pit at Table Rock to help Barton.  When we got there, an Indian war party was waiting.  They took us to the pit where Barton lie dead on the ground.  The feeling of the demon did not seem to be there.

The old white haired indian they called White Hawk told us we could keep the town.