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Mar

Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month March 2022- Deadlands: Damnation


If you’re hankering for terrific tales from the Weird West and a campaign with more shine than a silver six-shooter… well sir, tip your hat to March’s Campaign of the Month winner — “Deadlands: Damnation.” Designed by Basileus, GM’d by GamingMegaverse, and populated with a posse of award-winning players, it’s the real McCoy. And bully for you, we get to hear from all of ’em!

Gaming Megaverse: I just want to start by saying that the whole site was designed by Basileus! I loved “Outremer,” his previous CotM winning site, and when he offered to design the site as we were planning the game I jumped at the chance to let him go! So this award belongs to him more than myself!

Before we explore the weird and wild west of “Damnation,” we’d love to know a few bits about the folks driving the stagecoach, as it were. Some of your story is in your Obsidian Portal profile, but what else can you tell us about yourself, your award-winning gaming group, and how you got together?

Gaming Megaverse: My bio tells a lot of who I am, so I will address the group. I started playing with some people in this group in 2011 (CraigCoxson, Gaitkeeper, BlkUnicorn) 2012 (MachineGunHarry) and 2015 (Lurch6571). All of the above were regulars in our “A God…Rebuilt” game except Harry, who was an occasional guest. “Rebuilt” was usually friends of friends, but sometimes, such as the case with Lurch, found through ads that we were looking for players. Basileus I met through Obsidian Portal, but other than a guest spot I made in another game this is our first game together. We take pride in our cooperative world building and gaming- most of the enemies in our games come from the players, as well as most of the plots in general. I wouldn’t trade my group for any other- they are my friends as well! We have been online bi-weekly since 2011, and pre-Covid we would get together in person once/year for a marathon 12 hour session- hoping that will come back this year!

You and your players have wagon-loads of experience with different settings and game systems. For the tenderfoot who hasn’t had a chance to play Deadlands yet, what aspects or mechanics do you enjoy most about it?

MachineGunHarry: I like the primitiveness of the setting. You got a pistol in your hand and somehow you’re supposed to take on the impossible darkness. In some cases your character takes a piece of darkness in order to fight the rest. In a way, we all have a bit of anti-heroes in our characters. I have loved tackling the moral questions in our adventures. Will we be the badass banditos that protect the innocent whatever the cost, or will we be the bastions of civility that ushers in a new Era of modern peace. Fortunately, our group is full of both of these. This makes for good role-playing inside the group that keeps me coming back for more. While our drama isn’t on the level of a soap opera, it feels like a page from a Firefly script. And who doesn’t want a second season to Firefly…even if there ain’t a space ship? I love the exploding die mechanic that allows the little guy to have a remote chance of success. I also love the Bennie and Conviction economy. I play a huckster, a card dealing wizard, where a Bennie can be spent to play a metaphysical card game with a Dark higher power to access THEIR list of spells. So, Bennies make my character have more breadth without having to advance very high. But there is a big risk in doing so.

Basileus: Settings adjacent to the real-world like Deadlands or other historical fantasy provide a level of immersive grounding that even the best “pure genre” settings struggle with. It’s very easy to inhabit the perspective of your characters when you can say “oh yeah, we’re in Seattle, I know what that area looks like and I know what my character would want to do on a random Saturday afternoon”. So Deadlands hits the best of all worlds because you have immersive grounding, wild fantastical elements hiding beneath the surface, and a very compelling central aesthetic.

Gaitkeeper: Cowboy campfire ghost stories come to life, pun intended, is my favorite part of Deadlands.

Faeriemage: It is a completely different mentality to play a game, especially a Savage Worlds game, in which there are no races other than Human. It makes you think more about who your character is in an established world, and who they can become.

BlkUnicorn: The ability to help and enhance each other creates a group mentality I like.

What has been the most interesting or challenging moment of the campaign, so far?

MGH: The most interesting moment for me was when we sent Alphie, the 15 year old protégé, on a mission that really could have killed him. We were on a moving train, and decided that the illegal cargo in the last two cars had to be destroyed. We concocted a plan to have Dan, the huckster, do a “deal with the devil” to be able to cast Wall Walker on Alphie. We almost chose Rain, our Indian Scout, due to her better athletics. But we decided that only Alphie had the knowledge to derail the cars once he got there. With Wall Walker he ran along the side of the moving train so the guards up top wouldn’t see him. Once there he deactivated several traps, unhooked the cars, then picked the lock to reenter the unaccessible car. He pulled off some crazy rolls with several acing exploding dice. It was an epic scene. Though we are still having to deal with the repercussions of such a bold move.

Basileus: I think the most interesting parts so far have been seeing the players (try to) coalesce around what their shared priorities and ethics are, such as what to do about prisoners or sympathetic characters that don’t offer a clear mechanical advantage one way or another. This is doubly true since we have characters who come from different walks of life, and we are trying to give voice to different experiences (age, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, etc…) while being thrown together in a shared battle against supernatural evil.

Lurch6571: Trying to engage in the campaign with a character that is seemingly one minded in his purpose (GM Note- Lurch’s character is very single minded- or at least that is the appearance- his is the first character in one of my games with a secret bio).

Gaitkeeper: Most challenging moment of the campaign has been solving the riddle of the Mourning Fog. (GM Note- Mourning Mist or Fog is caused by an unsolved heinous murder.)

Faeriemage: I’m playing a teenager. Trying to straddle that gap between child and man makes for a lot of story moments where I can easily swap between a childish character and a more mature one, but dealing with how other people (players and NPCs) deal with my nominal child has made me re-evaluate how I can solve a lot of problems. It’s hard to be forceful when someone basically says, “my, aren’t you just so cute.”

What parts of the game do your players enjoy or engage with the most?

MGH: I love the fact that magic is sort of rare. It makes it more special. In fact, you don’t need super powers or magic in Deadlands to be an epic character. Even though in character we don’t always agree and play into those social dilemmas, we work well together when it counts. Our last battle with a coven of witches showed that.

Basileus: Seeing the long-term consequences/impacts of our actions on the wider world is what motivates me as a player, but I think the things that grab my attention most in the moment are the little details of how the presence of the viscerally supernatural changes the world from what we might expect in a historical setting, and then exploring how to deal with that as a player-character. It’s a good way to challenge your own experiences and explore a character’s perspective.

Lurch: It has the be the psychological aspects, mind games, intimidation and /or persuasion

Gaitkeeper: The players seem to engage with investigation the most – whether it’s mundane bank robbers or ghosts haunting Western towns.

Aside from the great aesthetics of your campaign pages, you also have a useful collection of house rules, which includes rewards for good attendance, log-writing, and an MVP award. What house rules have been most successful for you, either in this campaign or others?

Gaming Megaverse: We started with rewards with “A God…Rebuilt,” and have tweaked them through the years to fit the group and the system. The MVP, log, and attendance awards have been staples, and I recommend that everyone does it- it makes a difference in participation!

The campaign’s adventure logs are the heart and highlight of “Damnation,” and very well-written. Each author has a distinct, in-character voice that makes reading the story a real treat. What parts of the logs have you enjoyed the most?

MGH: Well, I love writing. I put on resumes and applications that I write fiction with a group of amateur writers. I love rubbing shoulders with all the other players. Some are brilliant writers, and all are passionate about creating art in the form of a good story.

Basileus: I really like seeing how other players imagine the fleshed out interactions of characters that are not their own – things like little embellishments on what a PC did that really flesh out the characters and provide a view of how other players perceive characters externally.

Gaitkeeper: The logs I enjoy most are the ones that give wildly different points of view of iconic in-game sequences.

Faeriemage: I personally love that they exist.

You’ve been involved with a lot of great projects on Obsidian Portal over the years, including this campaign. Without giving away the plot, what does the future hold for “Damnation?” Do you have any other projects going on right now or coming up soon that we should watch for?

Gaming Megaverse: The players drive my game, so outside of the big bad guy/girl (who I cannot name as they are not sure who it is yet) most of the future is unknown. The group has a delivery of a sealed letter to make that began the game in Silver City, Idaho, and are currently in Seattle- so that is the one future they know. As far as outside projects I just retired and bought a boat with my wife- we are fixing it up to sail from Los Angeles to Hawaii and then to Alaska- you can follow the progress on Instagram @TTRPGSailor.

Your gaming group is an enviable one and includes excellent writers, designers, creators, with the awards to prove it. We would be remiss if we didn’t ask your team for any gaming advice, tips, or tricks that you’d like to share.

MGH: As a player, get involved. Help as much as you can to make the GMs job as easy as possible. Do it as an appreciation for the other players. I find role playing as a way to fill my need to create. GMs, let your players create. It is so rewarding to build something together.

Basileus: Everybody has different strengths. The best you can do is find a strong central “thing” (theme, story element, aesthetic, etc…) that everyone strongly connects to, and then let each member engage with it in a way that they enjoy. Everyone may be doing slightly different things but they’re getting the most out of their own and each other’s efforts.

Lurch: Voice concerns about player style or attitude that seem to cause discord, before it becomes an issue. Be prepared to take a hiatus if the game or group seems to be dragging. Inject new players to keep the viewpoints fresh and the action changing. Change up the campaign or genre to keep players interested. Find a game system that has the right balance between ease and complexity.

Gaitkeeper: Encourage all of the players to create or design parts of every game. Get people invested, and you’ll be surprised how common good design or good writing can be – and they get better with practice!

Faeriemage: Never be afraid, as a GM or Player, to admit that something just isn’t working. Never be afraid of the RetCon. Sure, it might be weird to suddenly have one character change everything on their sheet but their name, but personality means a lot more than some would like to admit.

Well partners, the campfire’s a-gettin’ pretty low and it’s time for us to turn in. We hope you’ve gleaned some learnin’ from these old hands and we hope you get a chance to read some of their stories. If you’ve found a favorite campaign that’s right as rain in your book, well canter on down to the OP forums and nominate them (or yourself) for Campaign of the Month!

Until next time!

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'


Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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