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The Douchey DM » Adventure Design, General Gaming, Reviews » Post Gateway 2011: thoughts on my games

Post Gateway 2011: thoughts on my games

With Gateway 2011 behind us, I now have some breathing room to reflect on the games and the prep.

I ran three games at Gateway, Ghostbusters LA vs. the Flying Spaghetti Monster; Big Red Planet Hollywood; The Tulupian Avian. I’ll detail each game separately.

The Tulupian Avian

System: GURPS (in the Traveller setting)

Synopsis to the players: An artifact of Ancient manufacture has been discovered on Forine. The object was supposed to be bequeathed to a museum on Grote, but the chancellor of Forine has had a change of heart. The party is the crew of a merchant trader that has been hired by the local duke to take him to Forine where he will try to smooth over relations and gain possession of the artifact (with the understanding that the artifact WILL leave when the duke leaves).

What was really happening: The Imperium sent a “Diplomacy-Class Gunboat” to the system, supposedly a sign of leverage, however the ship was carrying Imperial agents who went planet side, stole the artifact and smuggled it to the gunboat (the gunboat was heading for the jump point while the party was headed to the planet). The artifact was a powerful piece of psionic Ancient technology, powered by star light. When starlight from a porthole on the gunboat shined directly on the statue, a psionic burst caused the crew of the ship to die or go mad. The party traced the steps of the imperial agents to the ship, and recovered the Tulupian Avian artifact.

Things that went wrong: This game ran over by about 45 minutes. Three reasons:

  1. there was more initial role-playing than I accounted for,
  2. the party was more through than I was expecting they would be during their investigations,
  3. I tried to fit too much in the adventure.
I could have shortened the adventure and it would have come in around 3:30-3:45, but I really wanted to include the scene on the abandoned ship.
Also, though I was careful to make sure that every PC had a moment to shine and be not only useful, but necessary, there were times when a couple PCs could contribute absolutely nothing, and this was understandably frustrating.
Things that went right: Luckily, when I announced that the game might run over by 30 minutes or so, all of the players were willing to stick around, which is a good sign. I had a good group of role-players, including a father and son, which was cool. The adventure proceeded pretty much how I figured it would, just took longer than I hoped it would.
Lessons learned:
  1. Don’t try to put 5 hours of game in a 4-hour slot.
  2. Make the PCs generalists with a specialty, rather than specialists with a bit of general skills. And the pilot should have a secondary specialty that doesn’t involve the ship.
Memorable moment: The party’s engineer decides to risk going in the captured ship’s power plant section, even though it’s flooded with radiation, to see if he can fix the shielding breech. When some of the crew start acting strange, the pilot locked down all the interior door, including the bulkhead hatch in the power plant section, locking the engineer in with the radiation.

Big Red Planet Hollywood

System: Savage Worlds, in a custom scifi pulp setting.

Synopsis to the players: The players are the crew of the space patrol frigate, Corazon del Oro. They have been ordered to pick up two of the stars of the upcoming film, Blood on the Banana, from the former pirate city of Port Ceres in the asteroid belt and take them to New Hollywood on Mars for the red-carpet premiere.

What really happened: When the party docs at Port Ceres, there’s only one star there: Li’l Davey Farkle, a quick witted, yet smart-mouthed youth, who is secretly a midget Nazi who’s been under deep cover for years. The actress, the famous Marlene Albricht, a German expatriate, has been kidnapped, as der Furher is furious that she left Germany to work in Hollywood.  The party followed a few clues, and came up with some very good lines of investigation that led them to a warehouse, where they find Farkle and a bunch of Nazis.
After they take out the Nazis, they discover that Marlene was taken about a tug and made their way to Drunkard’s Cove, a secret smuggling enclave.  There they discover a secret Nazi base, with diesel powered arachnoid mechs, panzers, and loads of Nazis.  They sneak in, rescue the actress and even manage to steal one of the arachnoids.
Things that went wrong: The players BURNED through the adventure material I had prepared. At about the 2 hour mark, they found warehouse. They had come up with a few methods to find out who might be involved that I had not anticipated, and I felt these methods merited success — so I gave it to them. They found the warehouse early, so I moved Marlene to the tug boat, and provided the name of the vessel and the destination (after a couple intimidation rolls). Everything after they found the tug boat was made up out of whole cloth on the spot.
Things that went right: 
  1. The players didn’t seem to notice that the last 2 hours of the game were being made up on the fly (whew!).
  2. The players seemed to be having a lot of fun, especially in the last scene, when they raided the secret Nazi base, found the girl, stole an arachnoid and escaped mostly unscathed.
Lessons learned:
  1. Always have MORE adventure prepared than you need.
  2. Breadcrumb adventures are a GREAT way to run con games. If you need to go longer, add more breadcrumbs. If you need to go shorter, skip some breadcrumbs.
  3. Have more female PCs available. In this game, half of the players were women. This group of PCs only has 2 women characters.  Many people don’t my cross-gender roleplaying, but it’s nice if it’s an option, rather than a necessity.
Memorable quote: “I don’t know about you, but I’m keeping my spider robot. “

Ghostbusters L.A. vs. the Flying Spaghetti Monster

System: Savage Worlds, in a modern-day setting with ghosts and Ghostbusters.

Synopsis: The party is the local franchise of Ghostbusters International. They are sent out on a series of calls to various Italian restaurants. Eventually they discover that a band of hipsters are summoning some sort of other-worldly entity. This entity ends up being the legendary Flying Spaghetti Monster.

What went wrong: almost nothing. I cut one scene, as they investigated a few things I didn’t think they might, but I was anticipating cutting that scene anyway.

What went right: damn near everything:

  1. My pacing of clues was such that some members of the party started suspecting that there was going to be a Flying Spaghetti Monster at some point. This happened at around the 2 hour mark — right when I wanted it to happen.
  2. The players embraced their characters and complicated the story with their weirdness, which I rewarded with bennies.
  3. The players were innovative and kept me on my toes throughout the adventure.
Lessons learned: modular preparation is definitely the way to go. I had more planned that I used, but pretty much everywhere they went, I had something planned — except to the costume store to get pirate costumes.
Most memorable quote: “Did we just kidnap and threaten this guy because he was riding a Vespa?”
All said, the weekend was a success, though I won’t run three different games again – -the prep time was kind of ridiculous. I may run two of the same game, but not three different ones.

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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2 Responses to "Post Gateway 2011: thoughts on my games"

  1. Clan HannaNo Gravatar says:

    I gotta say, at least as far as the GURPS Traveler game, I didn’t mind the extra 45 minutes, even though I was on the most truncated time schedule. I think we all would have felt something was very much missing from the game had we not gotten aboard that starship. It provided closure for the adventure.

  2. rabaliasNo Gravatar says:

    Just to say, Nazis in space is a great idea. This is now the second time I have seen you guys come out with a “take historical thing, completely remove from its native context, add in some weird shit and stir” type game, and I love it. Will have to see if I can try something similar.

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