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The Douchey DM » Misc » Thoughts on Gateway Con 2011 – Post Game Reflections

Thoughts on Gateway Con 2011 – Post Game Reflections

Stu and I apparently had the same idea which was to publish our reflections on the games we ran. Cool.


General Thoughts

Running three very different games in three very different systems is really more than I should probably do. I say this not because I disliked running the games, but because the sheer volume of game prep may have left me feeling less prepared or at least more pressed than I normally want to feel when I’m running a game. I am Mr. Overprepare when it comes to setting up games. I like to have more information than I will ever possibly need and I don’t think I was there this time.


What goes into game prep?


  • Synopsis of the game
  • Outline of the game
  • Scene list for the game
  • Additional information about the people, places and things surrounding the game
  • Characters (PC’s, NPC’s, Monsters of note)
  • Maps
  • Minis (for the player characters at least)
  • Props
  • Prizes


So what did I run at Gateway?


  • Surgeon (Savage Worlds – Horror Murder Mystery)
  • Sleepers (Hero System – Near Future Espionage Thriller)
  • Bone Temple (Pathfinder – Fantasy Adventure)




Game System: Savage Worlds (Deluxe Edition)

Genre: Horror

Play Testers: Gina, Stork CADave, Stu, Kimi

Players: Patrick (Mouser), Krystel, Jim, Katie, Robert, Fray


Synopsis (players)

Jack the Ripper has been murdering women in White Chapel now he has murdered the daughter of a wealthy merchant who has gathered the player characters together to hunt down the man who killed his daughter.


What the characters don’t know

First of all they do not know that the Ripper is actually in their midst. He (or she) is actually one of the player characters. Which one was chosen at random at the beginning of the game by the players though they did not know that at the time. Each character also has a fatal flaw (Drug Addict, Vivisectionist, Jeckyl and Hyde, Cannibal ,Werewolf and Pedophile) they do not know (though they might as players assume the others have some flaw as well). In fact one player in particular was asking himself (I found out later), “If I’m this screwed up how bad are the other characters?”


What went right

The players were awesome. They all jumped into their characters and played their hindrances and problems completely. The characters followed the trail to the soup kitchen where the murdered girl volunteered and talked with the people there. Then they followed the trail to the site of the most recent murder and from there to the sewers where the Ripper had lured them to finish them off. Unfortunately this is sort of where the wheels came off the wagon though I’ll get to that in a moment. After the play test and with the advice of Gina, Stu, Stork, CADave and Kimi I revisited the characters a bit and those changes worked amazingly well, though they did lead to the party’s downfall.


What went wrong

The ultimate thing that went wrong was that the game ended in a TPK. Not one of my doing so much as one of the player’s doing. I had added a fight in the sewers and during that fight the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde character drank the formula and entered the fray. The problem was that in so doing she also went berserk which meant that she couldn’t tell friend from foe. When the bad guy fell she turned on the party and caused the werewolf to “wolf out”. They immediately went picnicking on each other and well the rest is pretty much self explanatory. Another thing that went wrong was totally my fault. I did something out of sequence though it doesn’t happen on screen as it were but it actually threw off the rest of the game though I don’t think anyone noticed but me. (whew)


Lessons Learned

Never assume that the players have the same understanding of the ramifications of character attributes that you do. I didn’t think the characters would actually embrace their flaw and own it quite so completely. Another lesson (from something that went well) Interludes are a great way to move from one scene to another.



I had a lot of fun with this game all the way around. My favorite moment was when each player realized what was wrong with their character.




Game System: Hero System 6th Edition

Genre: Espionage Thriller

Play Testers: Gabe, Don, Jeremy, Jonathan, Riley and Brian

Players: Casey, Bruce, Tyler, Andy and Mike


Synopsis (players)

The characters wake up to find themselves in what appears to be a hospital with no knowledge of how they got here or why they are even here. It also seems that they are being held prisoner though why is anyone’s guess. The players did not have access to their character sheets at this point. It was not until a bit later that they were given this information. This was done entirely to heighten the sense of disorientation and mystery for the players.


What went right

Again totally awesome players, Tyler in particular really jumped on the disads for his character. It seemed to me (I would be very interested to talk with the players about it) that the mystery at the beginning made the actions and abilities (a very acrobatic and kick ass cheerleader for example) much more poignant. The combats were fun and interesting and prompted a lot more mobility out of the player characters than I’ve seen in a lot of combats. It might have been in part because of the terrain for the biggest fight.


What went wrong

They burned through the entire adventure in right at 2 hours. Which is really interesting to me because the play test went right at 3.5 hours. I think this has a couple of causes. First the players knew the Hero system much better than the play testers did. Second, the players had a very no-nonsense attitude to the whole thing and were much more interested in getting out. I also gave them a piece of information (map of the facility) that the play testers did not have.


Lessons Learned

Always have more content than you think you will need. You may not need it, but have it just in case.



Despite the short duration I have to count this game a success for two reasons. The players seemed to have fun with the game, and two of them have asked me if I was going to do a sequel. Yes I am. I hadn’t planned to when I wrote it but I’m going to run the sequel at OrcCon 2012.


the Bone Temple


Game System: Pathfinder

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Play Testers: Gabe, Don, Jonathan, Riley and Brian

Players: Patrick (Mouser), Krystel, Kurt, Katie, Gina and Maire


Synopsis (players)

Some unknown evil force is drawing people and monsters alike into the Storm Fang Mountains and then they are disappearing. The characters must enter the mountains and track down the source of this evil and destroy it.


What went right

Wonderful players with lots of energy. They followed the trail very smoothly and did pretty much exactly what I was expecting along the way. I was a little concerned that they might take a militant stance with the gypsies that I’d created but they didn’t so that went well.


What went wrong

We ran long. One comment I got from a player (who’s experience is more with 4e than Pathfinder) was that combat was not intrinsically faster in Pathfinder than it is in 4e. I’m planning to do a comparison and run the same set of combats in several game systems and see how they time out. Data to follow. I removed an entire section of content and we still went over by almost an hour.


Lessons Learned

Don’t assume that players will read the character sheet the same way I do. One player didn’t grasp until the very end that her character had multiple attacks because the system that she is most familiar with uses the same notation to mean something very different.



This game started out life as a Fantasy Hero game but translated to Pathfinder very well. I was happy with the imagery and the players seemed to have fun with the game.



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Software developer, gamer, ice hockey player, sometime musician.

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